• North Carolina car buyers pay more for certain fee on vehicles, study shows

    By: Jason Stoogenke

    Updated:

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Fees are expected when someone buys a new vehicle and Anita Field said she has paid her fair share.

    "You got to have a car to get around so what are you going to do?” Field said. “You're damned if you do, damned if you don't."

    The auto group Edmunds said, when it comes to documentation, otherwise known as doc fees, North Carolina's average of $599 is one of the highest in the country. 

    South Carolina's doc fee is $350, and California's fee is $80.

    "North Carolina's a rip-off, as far as cars are concerned," Field said.

    Dealerships use doc fees to cover their costs for certain services, such as applying for refunds and rebates for the buyer, communicating with the driver’s insurance company, verifying balances on a trade-in or securing out-of-state titles.

    Some states cap doc fees but North Carolina doesn't. 

    Dealers can charge as much as they want for doc fees.

    The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles said that choice is up to the individual dealers.

    "So, what they'll do is, they'll advertise a very low sales price and that gets people's attention, but then they make up for it at the end with the fees," Edmunds spokesman Matt Jones said. 

    Once potential buyers test-drive a vehicle, agree on a price, discuss options and sit down to sign the paperwork, many are hesitant to back out and start over. 

    Buyers should do three things:

    1. Know what the extra fees are, including:

    • Highway use tax
    • Property tax
    •  Registration fee
    • License plate fee
    • Title transfer fee
    • Doc fee

    2. Ask how much the doc fee is specifically. Ask early in the process; don't wait until you're about to sign the paperwork.

    3. Use the fee to negotiate the price and try to offset the fee. Some dealerships will negotiate while others will not.

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