Car buyers should question documentation fees

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP)- The 22News I-Team has received complaints from consumers who say they question the validity of “documentation preparation” fees that some auto dealerships tack on to a sales contract.

The State Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation suggests consumers demand an itemized list of fees on a contract before buying  a car.

The state surveyed over 180 car dealerships in 2011 and found that many auto dealerships charge “documentation preparation” fees.  The fees ranged in price from $45 to $399 and the list of reasons for the charges were varied.  Some dealerships claim they have to charge for document storage, administrative costs, contract preparation, some said they are required by law and several even claimed a Homeland Security charge.

Usually the fees are tacked on at the end of the  negotiation process, when buyers are ready to sign.  Many car buyers overlook the fees as the cost of doing business.

If a salesperson tells you the fee is for title or registry purposes, they cannot charge more than what the registry charges and they must be noted separately in the contract.

Massachusetts currently does not require or regulate documentation fees and dealerships can charge whatever they like.  Sometimes the fee is negotiable.  But if it is the dealership’s standard practice, they cannot waive the fee by law.  If they charge one person they have to charge everyone.

To view the survey results use this link: and type in the words “documentation fees survey” in the search.  It will come up as “MS EXCEL Sheet 1.

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