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What New Car Fees Should You Pay?

Fees Chart Reveals Costs Upfront

  • Check the Contract

    Check the Contract

    Don't be caught off-guard by unexpected fees. Plan ahead by using our car-buyer fee chart. | July 30, 2013

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You skillfully negotiate the price of your new car and you think you're getting a darned good deal. But when you see the contract, it has fees you hadn't planned on paying. Where'd all this stuff come from? Are these new car fees legit? has created a chart with all the basic car-buying fees. In addition, we show how sales tax on trade-ins and rebates is handled (both differ from state to state).

What New Car Fees To Expect
Most commonly, there are three categories of car-buying fees: vehicle registration fees, sales tax and a documentation fee or "doc fee."

Vehicle Registration Fees
This is the amount charged by the state to register the new car, assign a title (legal proof of ownership) and cover the cost of license plates. The dealer provides this service for you, saving you a trip to the DMV or registry, and the money goes to the state. It's good to know ahead of time roughly how much this will set you back.

Sales Tax
Sales tax on a new car amounts to more than most people expect. For example, at 8 percent, sales tax on a $20,000 car will cost you $1,600. Cities and counties will frequently add a quarter percentage point so the amount you pay can vary within a state. In the chart, we provide the maximum amount of tax that can be charged in your state.

Doc Fees
Dealerships charge car buyers documentation fees to cover the cost of completing purchase-related paperwork. In states where doc fees are not regulated by the law, some dealerships will sell a car at a very attractive price but then add a hefty doc fee when it draws up the contract. If you refer to our chart and see that doc fees are not capped in your state, you should find out early on in the buying process what the dealership charges. If it is high (anything over $100) you will need to negotiate the car's price more aggressively to offset this fee.

Taxing the Trade-in
In many states, if you trade in your old car you can get a nice tax break. Here's how it works: If there is a "Y" in the "Trade-In Sales Tax" column of your state, you are only taxed on the difference between the new car and your trade-in. So, if your new car costs $20,000 and you are getting $7,000 for your trade-in, you will be taxed on the difference, or $13,000. If sales tax in your state is 8 percent, this will save you $560. If there is an "N" in the column, it means that you will pay tax on the full amount of your new car purchase and the trade-in has no bearing on the sales tax you are charged.

Taxing Rebates
Increasingly, consumers use cash rebates from car manufacturers to offset the price of new cars. How does this affect the sales tax you pay on your new car? It varies from state to state. Look at the column labeled "Are Incentives Taxed?" If there is a "Y" in this column it means that sales tax is calculated before any customer cash rebates are subtracted. Say you have agreed to pay $20,000 for your new car but there is a $4,000 customer cash rebate. Depending on the state you live in, you will either pay tax on the full $20,000 (which, at 8 percent, would be $1,600) or on $16,000 (at 8 percent it would be $1,280). The difference is $320.

Other Car-Buying Fees
There are two other car-buying fees that frequently arise and that buyers should know about: dealer fees and advertising fees.

Dealer Fees: Some dealers write other fees into the contract and give them official-sounding names: "S&H" or "Dealer Prep" or even "Shipping." Find out early what fees you will be charged and negotiate accordingly. Before you sign the contract, ensure that no additional dealer fees have been added.

Advertising Fees: Sometimes buyers look up invoice prices on Edmunds and find they don't match the invoice price given by a dealer. What's going on? There is probably an advertising fee involved. If the car's invoice lists an advertising fee, this is an actual charge made by the manufacturer to the dealer and you should pay it. However, some dealers will add an unofficial advertising fee into the sales contract, perhaps claiming they are offsetting the cost of their own advertising efforts. If you encounter this dealer-added advertising fee, you can challenge it or treat it as a dealer fee and negotiate a lower purchase price on the car to offset the additional charge.

How To Use This Chart
Using the information provided below, you can estimate the fees charged on your new car purchase. If you know what you are paying for the car and any rebates involved, you can calculate sales tax and how it will be charged. It will also tell you the way the tax will be charged if you have a trade-in. If the doc fees are unlimited in your state, you should call the dealer to find out what it charges. Ask if there are any dealer fees other than "tax, title and doc fees."

While this chart will be valuable in generating an estimate of additional fees, don't expect to calculate your final cost to the penny. Registry fees, in particular, are difficult to calculate. And some states have nominal charges (less than $40) for local environmental laws. Still, this chart will tell you roughly what to expect and help you budget accordingly.

Note: Doc fees vary by dealer and are difficult to obtain, but updates this information as it is made available. Verify the amount of all fees with the dealer before finalizing a purchase agreement. You can do this by requesting an out-the-door price with a breakdown of all fees. If you have any questions along the way, please reach out to the Live Help team for free assistance. 

State Maximum Sales Tax (%)1 Average Registry Fees Charged Trade-In Sales Tax2 Are Incentives Taxed?3 Doc Fee4
Alabama 10.50 $484 Y Y No limit
Alaska 7.50 $77 Y N No limit
Arizona 11.73 $551 Y N No limit
Arkansas 11.00 $31 Y Y No limit
California 10.75 $249 N Y $80
Colorado 10.40 $550 Y Y No limit
Connecticut 7.00 $100 Y Y No limit
Delaware 0.00 $904 Y N No limit
District of Columbia 6.00 $94 N Y No limit
Florida 7.50 $167 Y Y No limit
Georgia 8.00 $35 Y Y No limit
Hawaii 4.50 $99 N Y No limit
Idaho 8.50 $84 Y Y No limit
Illinois 10.75 $131 Y Y $164
Indiana 7.00 $38 Y Y No limit
Iowa 7.00 $363 Y N No limit
Kansas 9.80 $36 Y N No limit
Kentucky 6.00 $19 N N No limit
Louisiana 11.00 $49 Y N $50
Maine 5.00 $44 Y Y No limit
Maryland 6.00 $99 N Y $100
Massachusetts 6.25 $73 Y N No limit
Michigan 6.00 $236 N Y $190
Minnesota 7.88 $401 Y N $50
Mississippi 7.25 $23 Y Y No limit
Missouri 10.49 $58 Y N No Limit
Montana 0.00 $513 N N No limit
Nebraska 7.00 $86 Y N No limit
Nevada 8.10 $48 Y Y No limit
New Hampshire 0.00 $55 Y N No limit
New Jersey 7.00 $89 Y Y No limit
New Mexico 8.69 $45 Y Y No limit
New York 8.88 $75 Y Y $75
North Carolina 3.00 $50 Y Y No limit
North Dakota 7.50 $65 Y Y No limit
Ohio 7.75 $44 Y Y $250
Oklahoma 11.00 $93 N N No limit
Oregon 0.00 $58 Y N $50
Pennsylvania 8.00 $50 Y N No limit
Rhode Island 7.00 $56 Y N No limit
South Carolina 9.00 $27 Y Y No limit
South Dakota 6.00 $44 Y Y No limit
Tennessee 9.75 $64 Y Y No limit
Texas 8.25 $78 Y N No limit
Utah 8.35 $173 Y N No limit
Vermont 7.00 $48 Y N No limit
Virginia 5.00 $29 N Y $250
Washington 9.50 $52 Y Y $150
West Virginia 6.00 $27 Y Y No limit
Wisconsin 5.60 $64 Y Y No limit
Wyoming 6.00 $591 Y N No limit

1. Maximum Sales Tax
Often, you pay a combination of state, county and local taxes. This is the maximum tax you could be charged.

2. Trade-In Sales Tax
If there is a "Y" in this column it means that you will pay sales tax on the difference between your new car purchase and the value of your trade-in. This is a savings to you. If there is an "N" in the column, it means that you will pay tax on the full amount of your new car purchase and the trade-in has no bearing on the sales tax you are charged.

3. Are Incentives Taxed?
A "Y" in this column means that the buyer will pay tax on the purchase price before the manufacturer rebate is applied. Dealer incentives are not taxed.

4. Documentation Fee
This will tell you if the documentation fee is limited by the state and what the maximum amount is. If there is no limit to the documentation fee, dealers are allowed to charge whatever they decide is appropriate. In some cases, this fee might be negotiable.

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Most Recommended Comments

By pnwson
on 05/22/11
10:25 PM PST

A few months ago I read an online article that contained a list of tips to help people buy a used car. One of the tips was to be wary of "doc fees" that can get added to the price of a vehicle. Now it's a couple months later, and after exhaustive research and a couple of casual forays out looking at cars, I went out tonight to test drive a car that I really felt would be the car for me. The test drive went fine; the car was really tight, everything seemed to work. It was a used car with 86,000 miles at a major brand dealer. So we went inside after I indicated my interest in buying it. That's when I was told that in addition to the advertised price, there was a $499 doc fee. This on a six year-old vehicle. My jaw literally fell open, and I flatly refused to pay it. I actually felt insulted that they would even try to make me. Now if I were buying the latest "must have" brand new car like a Chevy Cruze or Ford Focus then sure, I would probably be stuck paying it. But I did have options, namely all the private party sellers in addition to hundreds of small-name used car lots. THEY hopefully wouldn't be foolish enough to stick me with such a ridiculous fee. The end result was that I got them to drop the base price (because just like this article states, they refuse to drop the doc fee) to eliminate the effect of the doc fee, plus another couple hundred dollars. It was all I had been looking for in the first place, but it felt like I had to pull someone's teeth out to get it.

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By mzzda
on 06/23/11
4:14 PM PST

In New York the doc fees have gone up to $75 as of 06/23/11. I confirmed this with the DMV and Atty General's office after Bay Ridge Nissan illegally tried to add a doc fee of $398 on top of the sale price. Call the DMV, they'll tell you they've had issues with this dealer. I'm posting a full review as well.

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By reuben_ahmed
on 11/20/11
7:32 AM PST

Did pwnson say the Chevy Cruze or Ford Focus was a "must have" car? LOL!

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