Why do I have to pay additional costs on top of the list price for a new car?


AAA Northeast Automotive Physician John Paul answers a question from a reader dismayed by the current state of new car buying.

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

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

A. Unfortunately, list price cars are here to stay – at least for the foreseeable future until dealership inventory improves. Regarding the application fees, they are, in theory, non-negotiable. These fees are usually pre-printed on purchase and sale contracts. The reason for this is that if one person pays the fee and another does not, it is considered a discriminatory sales practice. Back in the days of full dealer lots, you could ask the dealer to deduct the fee from the cost of the car. Depending on the sales, commissions and possible dealer incentives, some dealers would adjust the price. Regarding nitrogen tire inflation, this is another profit center. If you have nitrogen in the tires, you can add regular air (which is 78% nitrogen). Nitrogen is drier air and less likely to escape from 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 went off, and I couldn’t turn off the engine. I went to the Honda dealership and a visiting Honda trainer tinkered with the car and knocked it out. Since then the car has been fine. I wrote to Honda and opened a file but got no response. I fear it will happen again. Your thoughts?

A. From your description, it looks like there is a faulty ignition switch. The trainer who was there likely performed basic diagnostic tests, including looking for fault codes. I guess there weren’t any diagnostic trouble codes that would lead me to believe the ignition switch is faulty. The problem now is that the car is running normally, and the dealership and Honda won’t try to fix anything that isn’t working properly. I would still email or call Honda at their headquarters 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 satisfied with the performance of the factory tires, using the same tires would certainly not be a mistake. If you drive a lot in winter, maybe consider a tire made by Michelin called CrossClimate2. These perform better than traditional all-season tires and don’t wear out as quickly as a dedicated winter tire.

Q In one of your recent articles, you mentioned cordless tire inflators that you carried in your vehicles and found to be effective. Can you tell me which one do you like?

A. In our family vehicles, I keep a portable starter 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 inflates a flat tire in about five minutes. The other is from 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 why AAA assists motorists. Having both of these in the vehicle can make most drivers quite self-sufficient.

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Automotive Physician. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive industry and is an ASE Certified Master Technician. Email your question to [email protected] Listen to the Car Doctor podcast at johnfpaul.podbean.com.

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