Dealer Fees: What’s the Real Out-the-Door Price of a Car?

August 10th, 2017 by

Purchasing a vehicle can be frustrating.

“Oh, thank you for that valuable information! How could I have known that without your boundless pool of wisdom?”

There’s no need to be rude about it, random person I made up for this weird joke.

But seriously, it seems practically impossible to anticipate the various costs you can face when buying or leasing a car. Between dealer fees and county charges, it’s easy to feel like buying a car is similar to purchasing fries and later being told you have to pay a small salt fee as well as a modest tax on the box they came in. But we’re here to make sure you’re never blindsided by the numerous costs that come up during the car-buying process. In fact, we enlisted the help of our finance director, Stephen Krepps, to ensure that you have access to the highest-quality information available regarding vehicle financing.

Dealer Fees Image

Vehicle Price

This is the most straightforward cost associated with purchasing a vehicle—so straightforward that we debated whether or not to include it; but hey, we’re here to provide all the information we can, so here it is: The vehicle price is the cost of the vehicle that’s generally posted in one of its front windows as well as on its corresponding webpage.

And for those considering taking a vehicle without paying for it, please don’t. We’ll just end up calling the police while a sales manager chases you around the parking lot.


Unless you purchase a vehicle outright you’re likely going to finance a vehicle, and—as a result—end up paying interest. This is generally a small monetary amount added to your monthly car payments based on a predetermined percentage rate. Interest rates are significant because they have the ability to affect vehicle costs more than some customers realize. Therefore, it’s best to account for interest rates when you’re shopping for a vehicle instead of just considering the vehicle’s price. If you want to see monthly payment estimations based on varying interest rates, head on over to our payment calculator and play around a bit.

Dealer Fees Interest Graphic

DMV and DEQ Costs

DMV costs are typically tied to licensing, titling, and registration. This is where dealer fees really come into play; instead of going to the DMV yourself, dealers will often handle DMV processing for you. Dealers then mail you your new plates and registration forms so you don’t have to experience any of the hassle inherent in vehicle paperwork. The costs associated with this processing are referred to as document fees and electronic filing fees. In some locations, dealers can use these fees to excessively increase their profits, but fortunately, these fees are incredibly well regulated in certain states. For instance, as of this article’s publication date, you shouldn’t be charged more than $150 for document and electronic filing fees if you purchase a car in Oregon.

It’s also possible—depending on the age of the vehicle you’re purchasing—that you will need to go through a DEQ inspection and pay the associated costs to ensure your vehicle is considered safe and ready for the road. DEQ inspection prices vary by location, but they shouldn’t set you back much more than $20. And luckily, according to DEQ, you will only be charged if your vehicle passes the inspection.

County Charge

You may also have to pay an additional fee depending on your present county. For instance, Multnomah County has a small charge associated with vehicle registration in order to pay for Portland’s new Sellwood Bridge. The final cost can vary depending on the DMV’s registration fees and whether your vehicle is new or used, but the county charge shouldn’t exceed $80.

Acquisition and Disposition Fees (Leases Only)

When you lease a vehicle you’re often required by the manufacturer to pay acquisition and disposition fees. Acquisition fees are linked to the administrative costs of processing a lease and are generally paid at the beginning of the lease term. When your lease comes to an end, you’ll likely be required to pay the manufacturer a disposition fee to pick up and inspect the vehicle before it’s returned to the showroom floor.

That’s about it when it comes to the out-the-door price of purchasing a vehicle. We hope you enjoyed the read and that you’ll be able to use some of this information when you’re shopping for your next car.

Posted in Finance