Cars

Why do I have to pay extra fees on top of paying list price for a new car?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader who’s dismayed by the current state of new car buying.

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Q. I took your advice and decided I would pay the list price for a Toyota Avalon touring model, but the dealer (in Massachusetts) wouldn’t budge on the additional fees of $670. I couldn’t believe that I was willing to pay full price and they still were not happy with their profit. I found the same at another Toyota dealer with over $600 for documentation fees. What a disgrace. I also looked at a Lexus ES and the dealer wants to include in the list price of the vehicle an added $295 fee to put nitrogen in the tires. Does that mean every time I am low on nitrogen I would have to go back to the dealer? Your thoughts on all of this.

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A. Unfortunately, cars selling at list price are here to stay – at least for the foreseeable future until dealer inventories improve. Regarding documentation fees, they are, in theory, non-negotiable. These fees are usually preprinted on the purchase and sales contracts. The reason is that if one person pays the fees and another does not, it is considered a discriminatory sales practice. In the days of full dealer lots, you could ask the dealer to take the fee off the cost of the car. Depending on sales, commissions, and possible dealer incentives, some dealers would adjust the price. Regarding nitrogen tire fill, it is another profit center. If you do have nitrogen in the tires, you can add regular air (which is 78 percent nitrogen). Nitrogen is a drier air and less likely to seep out of the tires over time. Being cheap, I would never pay for nitrogen.

Q. One day while driving our 2020 Honda Civic the check engine light came on, the air conditioner shut off, and I couldn’t shut the engine off. I went to the Honda dealer and a visiting Honda trainer tinkered with the car and got it to shut off. Since then, the car has been fine. I wrote to Honda and opened a case but have not heard back. I’m concerned this could happen again. Your thoughts?

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A. From your description it sounds as if there is a faulty ignition switch. The trainer who was on site probably did some basic diagnostic testing, including looking for fault codes. I’m guessing there were no diagnostic codes which would lead me to believe the ignition switch is at fault. The issue now is that the car is operating normally, and the dealer and Honda won’t try to fix something that isn’t malfunctioning. I would continue to email or call Honda at their corporate office and see if you can get a field engineer to look at the car.

Q. Should I replace my tires with the same tires that came with my Acura when I bought it new? They were Continentals and served me pretty well.

A. If you were happy with the performance of the factory tires, certainly using the same tires wouldn’t be a mistake. If you do a lot of winter driving, perhaps consider a tire made by Michelin called the CrossClimate2. These work better than traditional all-season tires and don’t wear as quickly as a dedicated winter tire.

Q. In one of your recent articles, you mentioned some cordless tire inflators that you carried in your vehicles and felt were effective. Can you tell me which one you like?

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A. In our family vehicles I keep a portable jumpstart pack rather than jumper cables and a portable air compressor. In one car I have a compressor marketed by Slime tire products that plugs into the 12-volt outlet. It works well and will inflate a flat tire in about five minutes. The other is by WORX and it uses their 20-volt battery (which I also use on a leaf blower). A simple-to-use unit, you set the pressure, hook it to the tire valve stem, and it shuts off when the tire is properly inflated. Flat tires and dead batteries are two of the main reasons AAA assists motorists. Having both these items in the vehicle can make most drivers pretty self-sufficient. 

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your car question to [email protected] Listen to the Car Doctor podcast at johnfpaul.podbean.com.

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