Oh Please, more fees?
January 20, 2012 10:30 PM   Subscribe

California Used Car DMV Fees: dealer was supposed to pay dmv fees on my new (used)car but they lowballed the estimated fees on my receipt...now I get a letter from them asking for the difference. Is this legal?

So I just bought a new car in California. It was a used car in great condition and I love it blah blah blah. It was a trade-in Toyota purchased from a large and reputable Honda dealership and bought as-is. I was assured when I purchased it that all DMV stuff would be taken care of on their end and paid the DMV paperwork prep fee of 29 bucks...and signed off on their "estimate" of $15 for DMV fees (which in retrospect sounds ludicrously low - but I thought..."hey, inside dealership-dmv connection!") Now I get a letter from the dealership basically saying, "oops! we mis-estimated the DMV fees and they will actually cost $168 so you owe us $153."

Now, I ran a check on fees at the DMV website and they are right...registering this vehicle, which was originally out of state (adding to the fees) is exactly $168 so I know they are not necessarily trying to gouge me...but at the same time I feel that it may have been intentionally disingenuous on their part of estimating a DMV fee of $15 in the first place.

Is this sort of thing standard practice? Should I roll over and pay it or am I justified in trying to get them to absorb the cost? They also sent a letter saying the car would need a VIN verification (which is free at the dmv) before I could get my title, tags and plates...another thing they didn't mention.

I realize this is probably standard, but it feels shady coming from a rather reputable dealership after they repeatedly assured me I wouldn't need to go to the DMV (and I even called the dmv and based on a few questions they agreed that the dealership would handle things).
posted by jnnla to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total)
Do you have the paperwork from the dealership? Did you actually agree to them covering $15 of whatever the DMV charges would be, or did they actually state (in the contract you signed) that it would cost you only $15? You should reread very carefully what you agreed to. IANAL, but it seems like you may have gotten screwed by not double checking their numbers... I've never had registration, etc fees cost as little as $15. Have you?
posted by two lights above the sea at 10:37 PM on January 20, 2012

The basic title transfer fee in California actually is just $15 for a used car already registered in California. Registration fees "carry over" with used car purchases here: if a car is already registered in California and sold, say, 7 months after yearly registration fees were paid on the car, the new owner gets 5 "free" months of registration before having to fork over the next's years' registration fees.

That, as you've noticed, isn't the case with an out-of-state title transfer and registration, where all fees are due at once shortly after the sale.

It sounds like the person who gave you the estimate on DMV fees at the dealership mistakenly thought that you were being sold a car already registered in California. This may have been as trivial a mistake as someone checking the wrong box. It doesn't reflect well on the dealership, but it sounds like an honest mistake.

Pay the fees.
posted by eschatfische at 10:51 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: As stated above...I signed off on their "estimate" of dmv fees in the contract. Yes, I too thought it was low at the time of purchase but, again, as mentioned above, I assumed they knew what they were doing which I realize is where people generally make their errors when buying used cars :) At any rate...they estimated fees would be $15 and I paid the 29 dollar fee for them to process the paperwork. Generally when you pay people to do paperwork for you you assume they know what's up. In their letter they admitted that they goofed on their estimate. Again, my question still stands...is this sort of thing standard practice?
posted by jnnla at 10:52 PM on January 20, 2012

... although it would not necessarily be inappropriate to ask for a refund of their $29 paperwork processing fee to make up for the inconvenience of having to deal with the incorrect estimate.
posted by eschatfische at 10:54 PM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks eschatfishe, that's some helpful info!
posted by jnnla at 10:54 PM on January 20, 2012

In a sortof similar situation once (not car or DMV), I told "them" "This is your fault; the new charge looks correct, but this is your fault, not mine. I'll pay half of it." And I did. And that was that.

And that's how *I* would handle something like that again, just to be done with it.

Car dealers, especially used car dealers or departments, are infamous for trying to get more money after the sale. Even if it was their honest mistake (HAHAHA) it is their fault. Paying a little of their "request", in this instance, should close the matter. But I wouldn't pay all of it.
posted by caclwmr4 at 11:06 PM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

it seems to me that the additional registration cost is specifically for the car being out-of-state, something that the dealer should have accounted for when they were selling it. it's their job to ferret out these little charges before selling you the car. now that they missed one, it's their job to get you to pay it.

unless language in your contract specifies otherwise i'd refuse to pay.
posted by lester at 4:37 AM on January 21, 2012

Pay minus the $29 if you're feeling friendly.
posted by saraindc at 4:51 AM on January 21, 2012

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