Dealer Prep Fee Scam Exposed

Everything you ever wanted to know about the "Dealer Prep Fee Scam" but didn't know who to ask. This scam goes by many different names within the retail car sales industry which include "Excessive Prep Fee Scam," "Make Ready Fee," or "Vehicle Prep Fee."

vehicles ready for the car dealer prep fee scam |

When a new car or truck arrives at a dealership from the manufacturer it must be made ready or prepped by the dealer for sale. Most car dealers will charge you a dealer prep fee for this service.

So how does a dealer prep fee become a scam? exposes how this fee allows a car dealer to nickel and dime you to death by using one of the most profitable car dealer scams associated within the car buying process.

What is a Car Dealer Prep Fee?

A dealer prep fee is a set amount charged by a car dealership to cover the cost of making a new vehicle ready (prepped) for sale, when it arrives on the lot from the manufacturer.

Dealers normally charge an excessive amount for this service. It can be anywhere from a $500 to a few thousand dollars depending on the dealer. Realizing the profit potential, some dealers have started charging this excessive fee on used cars also.

When a dealer receives a new vehicle from the factory they must remove the protective plastic coating covering the inside and outside of the vehicle, check the fluids, install fuses, road test 3 to 10 miles, wash, wax, vacuum, put on the antenna, and install the license plate holders.

Manufactures normally allot 2 to 3 hours for dealer prep to be performed at a dealership and most dealers are compensated by the manufacturer for the service. However a dealership with a good prep department can have it done in a little under an hour. The same is true for used cars also depending on any parts to be replaced.

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When a Dealer Prep Fee Becomes a Scam

Not quite sure if I would call this a dealer scam. A dealer prep fee is more like an "excessive fee" charged to a customer. A dealer prep fee becomes a scam when a dealer excessively marks up the fee well over the cost. Some dealer's add a pre-delivery or dealer prep fee on every used car they sell also.

This is justified by telling the customer the used car must be prepped for sale when it's purchased from auction or taken in on trade. Although a dealer will spend money to bring a used car up to retail sales quality, these charges were deducted from the vehicle at the time of purchase and then are already added to the cost of the car.

A dealer's make-ready department must follow a specific process set by the manufacturer to prep a new vehicle when it arrives from the manufacturer. There are specific tests, inspections and steps the manufacturer wants to ensure the dealer performs before making a vehicle ready for sale. The best way to make sure a dealer does this correctly is to pay them for it.

If you inspect the M.S.R.P. sticker on any new car, you'll find the manufacturer's statement about the dealer prep fee. It's normally located under the total suggested retail price or in fine print somewhere near the bottom of the sticker. The statement will read something like this:

Manufacturer's Preparation Fee Statement

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price Includes Manufacturer's Recommended Pre-Delivery Service. Does not include dealer installed options and accessories, local taxes or license fees.

This fee is built into the new car's price from the manufacturer. So if you're paying for it in the price of the car. Why pay it again to the dealer?

Some dealers have fought to have this statement removed from several manufacturers' M.S.R.P. stickers. The statement may now be listed on a separate sticker or will be listed on the dealer's purchase agreement.

A dealer can charge any additional fees they wish. It's not considered illegal as long as the dealer discloses the fee or any other fee to you on the purchase agreement. It's up to you if you're going to pay it or not.

Most car dealerships, including my own, will have the make ready fee pre-printed on the purchase agreements. This gives most car buyers the illusion that the fee is mandatory and must be paid if they want the car. You would be surprised how many people don't even question a dealer prep fee and just skim right past it.

How Much Does a Dealer Make From Excessive Prep Fees

If the dealer has a $595 vehicle prep fee on every new car they sell and they average 225 new cars a month. They will make $133,875 in prep fees alone and this is on top of any other profit made from the sale of the cars.

What if they don't get everyone to fall for the excessive fee? Let's say half of the people refused to pay the fee and they only sold 127 new cars with the added charge. The dealer will still make an additional $75,565 for the month. This is why car dealers attach a make ready fee to every new car they sell, it's all about the numbers.

How a Dealer Prep Fee Affects Your Payment

I want to show you how the dealer prep fee will affect your payment. If you decide to look past this excessive fee and not refuse to pay it, you'll cost yourself some money. The example below demonstrates how much a $595 dealer prep fee will cost you in addition to your car payment and the total over the life of your car loan.

How Much the Dealer Prep Fee Costs You

$595 at 7% x 48/months = $14 per month or $672 total
$595 at 7% x 60/months = $12 per month or $720 total
$595 at 16% x 48/months = $14 per month or $816 total
$595 at 16% x 60/months = $14 per month or $840 total

As you can see the more a dealer charges, the more it will end up costing you. Especially if you decide to finance the excessive fee over the life of the car loan.

How to Avoid the Dealer Prep Fee Scam

Familiarize yourself with more car dealer tricks of the trade here.

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