Skip to main content

You know what really grinds my gears? Bad stick shift drivers.

Alright, dad jokes aside, I’ve had it with “junk fees” tacked on to car prices. I’m talking about a high “administrative fee,” or a “loan acquisition fee,” or a “destination charge” that is the same no matter what destination the car is shipped to and should have just been rolled into the MSRP from the beginning.

And I’m not the only one. The Federal Trade Commission went to battle with dealerships over these hidden car buying fees. At the end of 2022, MotorBiscuit reported that low advertised prices and “hidden fees” had reached bait-and-switch levels. The FTC proposed that all dealerships must advertise the out-the-door price of their vehicles. This price wouldn’t include taxes and government fees such as registration, but it would be a lot better than getting hit with a surprise $1,995 destination charge.

Car salesman reads off a clipboard during a phone call in a dealership.
Car salesman | Pranithan Chorruangsak via iStockPhoto

This makes perfect sense. We should live in a world where you can pull up two ads from different dealerships and compare the actual prices you can expect to pay. You shouldn’t drive to one dealership because of a lower advertised price, only to find out you’ll be paying thousands more in hidden fees. But it seems that such a world is too much to ask for.

Here’s the scoop: the FTC did pass a ban on “junk fees,” announced in December 2023. It’s part of a four-prong plan to make the car buying process more fair. The feds cracked down on fees, markups, and non-negotiable ad-ons. The ruling (Combatting Auto Retail Scams) was all set to go into effect in summer 2024. So far so good.

Then the dealerships got involved. Both the National and Texas dealers associations petitioned the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. And in January 2024 the FTC paused its junk fee ban.

The dealer associations argue that the FTC is outside its jurisdiction, citing “an abuse of discretion.” The FTC, for its part, argues that its new rule, “does not impose substantial costs, if any,” on dealerships not engaging in bait-and-switch tactics.

The implementation of CARS has been delayed. Let’s hope this is just a minor setback, and that we get hidden fees under control soon.

Next, find out which automakers are charging monthly subscription fees for standard features, or learn more about the FTC’s proposed rules in the video below: