Don’t forget the rustproofing

Auto dealers in Washington state would like to be legally authorized to stick it to you further:

Auto dealers, who have seen their sales decline for more than a year, want the Legislature to let them triple the fee they charge customers to process paperwork.

The new “documentary service fee” would be as high as $150, up from $50 today. Such an increase could let auto dealers statewide pocket as much as $100 million to $150 million, money that would go straight to their bottom line. Those figures assume dealers will sell 1 million cars and trucks and that all dealers would charge the maximum fee allowed, as most do.

Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, said she sponsored Senate Bill 5816 at the request of the Washington State Auto Dealers Association and its 328 dealerships, and one of her former constituents, Mary Byrne, former owner of Nissan of Fife. Byrne now is a partner in Advantage Nissan in Bremerton.

I suppose mandatory extended warranties that don’t actually cover anything were considered beyond the pale in Olympia.

And actually, the doc fee is a relatively recent arrival in Washington:

Until 2003, Washington auto dealers got nothing for processing vehicle registration forms and other documents related to the sale of new or used vehicles. But the Legislature that year approved a $35 “doc fee,” which one state lawmaker characterized at the time as “extortion.”

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, who was then and still is chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said auto dealers threatened to oppose the 5-cent increase in the state gas tax the Legislature approved that year if they didn’t get the authority to charge their customers the extra fee. Dealers were upset by the 0.3 percent sales tax on vehicles that also was part of what was then a $4 billion tax package for state highway, bridge and ferry projects.

Then-Gov. Gary Locke signed the fee into law in 2003. In 2007, the Legislature boosted the fee to $50 at the urging of Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle.

If $35 was extortion in 2003, what’s $150 today? Hope and change?

Incidentally, Oklahoma permits something called a “processing fee,” and I quote from an actual retail purchasing contract:

This Fee is not required by law. It is an optional fee charged by our Dealership to cover our costs for providing administrative and documentary services in connection with this transaction and in carrying out the requirements of all applicable laws including, but not limited to, costs associated with processing applications.

In other words, you can theoretically get out of it, if you know it’s there. And now you do.

(Seen at TTAC.)


  1. Tom »

    4 March 2009 · 9:37 am

    Bought a car three months ago, and after beating up the dealer thousands of dollars on the price, they wouldn’t budge on the “doc fee.” What’s the point?

  2. CGHill »

    4 March 2009 · 11:06 am

    Indeed. I figured I’d done enough damage by getting $1600 off the price they wanted plus a new battery as a condition of sale that I wasn’t going to grumble about $50.

    Until I finally read the thing over and it was $198. But by then, I was weary of the whole experience, which presumably is what they count on.

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