Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About a Dealer Doc Fee


New or used, the price on the window of that shiny car is seldom what you pay out the door. You should always plan on title and license fees, a destination price (if it's a new car), applicable sales tax and the documents fee, which is often referred to as the "doc fee." Some dealers add additional charges for things like VIN etching, preparation fees, you name it, which is why we recommend determining the final out-the-door price on the car you want and negotiating on that number alone.

Final Fees & Negotiating Tips

Doc fees can have a lot of names: conveyance fees, processing fees or service and handling fees. They can make a real difference in the final price, too, and where you buy your car can have a big impact. We've seen a dealership in greater New York charge a $75 doc fee while a New Jersey dealer wanted $349 — for similar examples of the same used SUV. That's because New York state has a $75 maximum for doc fees, according to the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association. New Jersey, like 34 other states and the District of Columbia, has no such cap.

Which states cap doc fees? We combed through state laws and called dozens of dealer associations, DMVs and other governing groups. Here's what we found.

  • Alabama has no cap on doc fees, according to the Alabama Department of Revenue.
  • Alaska has no cap on doc fees, according to the Alaska Auto Dealers Association.
  • Arizona has no cap on doc fees, according to the Arizona Automobile Dealers Association.
  • Arkansas calls them "service and handling" fees and caps them at $129, according to the Arkansas Automobile Dealers Association. Dealers cannot charge a separate doc fee.
  • California calls them "document processing" fees because of the association between doc fees and government charges, the state's DMV told us. California caps the fee at $65 if the dealer hasn't partnered with the state to provide on-site registration services to the buyer. If the dealer has such a partnership, it may charge up to $80.
  • Colorado has no cap on doc fees, according to the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association.
  • Connecticut has no cap on doc fees, according to the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association.
  • Delaware restricts what's called the "doc fee" to 3.75 percent of the vehicle's value, but it goes to the state in lieu of sales tax, according to the Delaware Automobile and Truck Dealers' Association. Dealers can charge processing or administrative fees (what other states would call a traditional doc fee) and there is no cap on that, the state's DMV told us.
  • The District of Columbia has no cap on doc fees, according to the Washington Area New Car Dealers Association.
  • Florida has no cap on doc fees, according to the Florida Automobile Dealers Association.
  • Georgia has no cap on doc fees, according to the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association.
  • Hawaii has no cap on doc fees, according to the Hawaii Auto Dealers Association.
  • Idaho has no cap on doc fees, according to the Idaho Automobile Dealers Association.
  • Illinois caps doc fees for 2014 at $166.27, according to the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, but that's subject to increase each year.
  • Indiana has no cap on doc fees, according to the Automobile Dealers Association of Indiana.
  • Iowa has no cap on doc fees, according to the Iowa Automobile Dealers Association.
  • Kansas has no cap on doc fees, according to the Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Kansas City.
  • Kentucky calls them "processing fees" but has no cap, according to the Kentucky Automobile Dealers Association.
  • Louisiana caps doc fees at $100, but a bill that awaits Gov. Bobby Jindal's signature could raise the cap to $200 by year's end, according to the Louisiana Automobile Dealers Association.
  • Maine has no cap on doc fees, according to the Maine Auto Dealers Association.
  • Maryland caps doc fees at $200, but that will increase to $300 in July 2014, according to the Washington Area New Auto Dealers Association.
  • Massachusetts has no cap on doc fees, according to the Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association.
  • Michigan caps doc fees at $200 or 5 percent of the price of the car, whichever is less, according to Michigan's Department of State. The state adjusts the cap every two years, and the next adjustment comes in 2015.
  • Minnesota caps doc fees at $75, according to the state's Office of the Revisor of Statutes.
  • Mississippi has no statewide cap on doc fees, but the Mississippi Motor Vehicle Commission told us the state has seven districts with individual caps set at 25 percent above the district's average fee.
  • Missouri caps the doc fee at $199.99, according to the Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Kansas City.
  • Montana has no cap on doc fees, according to the Montana Automobile Dealers Association.
  • Nebraska has no cap on doc fees, according to the state DMV.
  • Nevada has no cap on doc fees, according to the Nevada Franchised Auto Dealers Association.
  • New Hampshire defines "documentary fees" as those used to process vehicle titles and other paperwork with the state, and they're capped at $27, according to the New Hampshire Automobile Dealers Association. Dealers can charge administrative fees to cover their own processing costs, however, and those are not capped.
  • New Jersey has no cap on doc fees, according to the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association.
  • New Mexico has no cap on doc fees, according to the New Mexico Automotive Dealers Association.
  • New York caps doc fees at $75, according to the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association.
  • North Carolina has no cap on doc fees, according to the state's DMV.
  • North Dakota has no cap on doc fees, according to the Automobile Dealers Association of North Dakota.
  • Ohio caps doc fees at $250 or 10 percent of the price of the car, whichever is less, according to the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers' Association.
  • Oklahoma has no cap on doc fees, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission's Motor Vehicles Division.
  • Oregon caps doc fees at $75 if the dealer processes the documents by paper or $100 if it processes them online, according to the Oregon Auto Dealers Association.
  • Pennsylvania caps doc fees at $112 for manual processing and $133 for online processing, according to the Pennsylvania Automotive Association, a dealer group.
  • Rhode Island caps doc fees at $200, according to the Rhode Island Automobile Dealers Association.
  • South Carolina has no cap on doc fees, according to the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs.
  • South Dakota has no cap on doc fees, according to the South Dakota Auto Dealers Association.
  • Tennessee has no cap on doc fees, according to the Tennessee Automotive Association, a dealer group.
  • Texas has no cap on doc fees, according to the Texas Automobile Dealers Association.
  • Utah has no cap on doc fees, according to the New Car Dealers of Utah, a dealer group.
  • Vermont has no cap on doc fees, according to the state's DMV.
  • Virginia has no cap on doc fees, according to the Washington Area New Auto Dealers Association.
  • Washington caps doc fees at $150, according to the Washington state attorney general's office.
  • West Virginia caps doc fees at $175, according to the West Virginia Automobile & Truck Dealers Association.
  • Wisconsin has no cap, according to the Wisconsin Automobile & Truck Dealers Association.
  • Wyoming has no cap, according to the Wyoming Automobile Dealers Association.

We'll try to answers any remaining questions.

What's a doc fee, anyway?
Doc fees cover the cost a dealership incurs to process a vehicle purchase. In other words, they pay for all the paperwork (and personnel) involved with selling you that shiny new ride. Doc fees originated when dealerships separated their Finance and Insurance departments, commonly dubbed F&I, from the rest of the dealership around the 1960s, Seung Min "Mel" Yu told us. Yu is an independent automotive consultant who's owned Chrysler and Volkswagen dealerships in Wisconsin and Michigan. The dealership's departments — sales, service and so on — made money off various parts of the transaction. The F&I department, meanwhile, took on the processing side — but had little revenue to pay for itself. "That's basically where the documentation [fee] was created," Yu said.

Is it charged for used vehicles too?
Generally, but that's up to the individual dealer.

If there's a cap, can dealers elect to charge less?
Yes, but that's up to the individual state and dealer. "It depends on what that state law says," Sherralyn Peterson, an incentives consultant who works with GM and Ford dealers across 21 states, told us. "Some state laws say you have to charge everybody the same amount, so if it says that, then you really can't deviate."
What if I lease a new car? Do I have to pay doc fees on that, too?
Yes, Peterson said.

I live in a state with sales tax. Is a doc fee taxable?
It depends. California, Illinois and Arkansas specify their caps as taxable; Iowa says doc fees are not taxable. Each state has its own laws.

Do all shoppers at a given dealership have to pay the same doc fee?
Usually. "Most dealers now are real cautious about being consistent with all their customers," Peterson said. "I see most dealers charging the same amount." Still, some states have unique fees for certain buyers. Michigan and Ohio stipulate lower doc fees for anyone who buys an especially cheap car. Some automakers stipulate unique fees for certain buyers: "When I had a Chrysler store in Wisconsin, I was charging $135," Yu said, but for customers with a family-and-friends or employee discount, he was allowed to only charge $75.

Are doc fees negotiable?
Doc fees cover real costs, so it depends on the dealer. "If you have someone that's irate about [the doc fee] you have to figure out a way to somehow" adjust it, Peterson said. "And there are ways." Even if a dealer won't budge on the fee, remember that the out-the-door price typically is negotiable, so a reduction somewhere else could account for a steep doc fee.
What if I live in a different state from the dealership?
You pay the doc fees based on where the dealership is, not where you live, Peterson said. That differs from sales tax, which you pay based on your residence.

Why don't more states cap doc fees?
In a perfect world, all dealers would charge similar doc fees — and no one would be out of line. Unfortunately, some dealers charge excessive amounts. A 2012 investigation by Phoenix's KNXV television station found local dealerships charging as much as $499; Peterson said she's seen fees range from $100 to $500. That's why dealer associations encourage moderation. The Iowa Automobile Dealers Association cautions "every dealer that charges an unreasonably high doc fee is putting the dealership — and all Iowa dealers — at risk for an investigation." Bill Sepic, president of the Wisconsin Automobile & Truck Dealers Association, told us "the dealer has to have documentation of what makes [the doc fee] reasonable." And the Texas Automobile Dealers Association told us that although Texas has no cap, the state imposes a $125 "safe harbor" provision — essentially if dealers charge $125 or less, they're unlikely to be investigated.
Editor's note: State laws often change each year, so bear in mind this information is current as of June 2014. Call your local DMV or state's consumer protection agency for specific information.

Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

By Kelsey Mays | June 10, 2014 | Comments (31)



Doc fees are an absolute abomination to me. It's the dealerships nickel and diming customers because they call it a fee and the customer reluctantly caves in. The real costs of processing a car sale? A few stamps and some clerical time do not equal the exorbitant fees that some dealers charge. But then they try to justify it by throwing stuff on to the vehicle like window tint and pinstriping and lifetime car washes.


FL may not have these kinds of fees but it does have something called "the dealer fee", $700, added to the cost of the vehicle. It's for sweet nothing!

Troy S.

I think all states should cap the "Doc Fee". Sadly though, stealerships will simply find another name to call the fee and we'll have to pay anyway.

Doug and Linda K

We were shocked to see that Truck Junction in Sarasota Fl. didnt tell us about this fee of $399.00!!!! This is just bad business. We have bought 2 other trucks from them in the past and this is how they treat repeat customers!!! BEWARE!! They tried to screw us too with the price and our trade in!!
We will spread the word not to deal with them!!

Any Person


It's very informative article. Thanks.

Reggin Amabo

I have an MBA - So with that being said back office operations are still considered as part of the COST OF DOING BUSINESS.
Do you expect to pay extra for a "Receipt" at a food store - do you to pay extra at the Barber or Hair Salon for a "Sweep-up" for cleaning up the clipped hair? Do you wan to pay extra to have nn injection Needle "Removed" once it has been inserted?
This just goes to show the complete lack of Business Competence on the part of most Dealerships.

Scott Amano

For those os you comparing the DOC fee to going to the gorcery store, do you have to fill out a dozen or more forms when buying groceries? Those forms are either required by state or federal law or they have been put in place to protect the dealership form frivolous lawsuits arising from various state and federal court cases. The states allow the DOC fee because it has been proven that dealerships have to ahere to more laws, rules and regulations than virtually any other industry that sells to the general public. You fill out more forms when buying a car than you do when buying a house. These forms, for the most part are required tby law.

Gene Newman

whatever cost of doing business is should be included in the price of the vehicle not as a added on processing fee. In regards to all the paperwork I've seen F&I managers complete them in minutes using the programs developed to do so. It is a way to generate EXTRA profit. DO NOT PAY A PROCESSING FEE.

L.R. Chaney

A Dealership in Huntsville, Al., is charging me $600 doc fees! Isn't this an outrageous fee? What can I do?

J Anders

Is it a good idea to look at the Sales Order, and then ask for the price of the car to be changed and reduced by the same amount as their Doc fee? Walk out while after they got to 1 signature left!

mark Krmlich

I have bought several homes and never have I filled out more paper work for buying a car. And how hard is it to type out a form. My doc fee was 400. When I asked for what it was because they have a latte bar. I told him I would buy my own latte for 4.00 not 400. They did make me a latte on one of the days we were haggeling, need to send their guy back to latte making school it sucked. Its a rip off pure and simple. Why as Americans do we not demand our law makers make laws against this as well as the exorbitant fees bak charge for a nsf fund even though people supposedly have overdraft protection. Since there are no laws against ripping people off everyone is getting in on it. Why are we allowing others legal permission to rob US citizens. IT NEEDS TO STOP.

Frank Marshall

Let me give you low down on the real reason for dealer doc fees. It may have originated with the F&I dept not being profitable in the 60's but this is not the reason for it's existence today. Reason 1: Ask any salesperson who's been in the business when he's away from the dealership and he'll tell you he hates dealer doc fees more than his customers do. The reason? It's a fully disclosed front side pack that has the benefit of reducing salesperson commissions. Here's how it works: A salesperson is paid a percentage of the profit between the sales price and the vehicle's cost to the dealer. The doc fee does not add to the profit or the percentage the salesperson is paid on, but if a dealer decides to discount the vehicle to make a customer happy, they discount the difference between the cost and the sales price, and then tack the doc fee back on top of that. The result? The salesperson makes a smaller comission. If the doc fee was $300, and the sales person makes 30% of gross profit, discounting the doc fee could save the dealer $90 in commissions. Reason #2: It creates a stronger position of negotiation and has a psychological benefit. Dealers don't mind there being a point of contention in negotiating. They can give up the extra fee without discounting the vehicle and thereby appear they are making a concession and pleasing the customer without hurting the bottom line. Reason #3: Another benefit is it allows the dealer to advertise lower prices without profit suffering. A dealer can take the high-road and say he doesn't charge doc fees, but unless he advertises his prices higher, he is not playing on a level field when trying to attract customers to his door vs other dealers.

Andres Santalla

Gator Dodge Chrysler in Melbourne, Florida charged me $695.75 plus $49.00 for a total of $744.75 in "fees". But they did say say "thank you for your service" on the way out when they realized I was a retired disabled USMC Veteran.

Tom Seckinger

To call dealer document fees an abomination or a ripoff or whatever term you may use is pointless. As the article points out, some states are capped and most dealers will not deviate from this figure. So my guess is the contention comes from those in one of the uncapped states. If this is the case, leave. No sense making a big deal over $300 or $400 when you are spending $20,000 plus on a vehicle. If you are unhappy with the fee, ask the dealer nicely to either reduce the fee or reduce the car by this price. If they do neither, buy a vehicle somewhere else. There are too many dealerships to be mad at the few who still play the 1970's games.


So the high sticker prices on the car itself isn't enough money? When u buy a car from the individual they don't ask you to "pay for the time it took them to get the car ready for sale". Even if they make $50 an hr. Just think if a dealer advertised a no fees sale & actually did some work for free they might sell twice as many cars at the next dealer.


I haven't paid a doc fee in 40 years of auto purchases. I settle on a price for the vehicle and when the dealer gets to the doc fees, I tell them to wave it. They usually do. If not, I tear up the paperwork and walk out the door. Only once have I failed to get a call asking me to come back in and the fee will be waved.


Totally incorrect. There is no legal requirement or manufacturer requirement for a doc fee. No one has to pay it. A doc fee is simply the price of the vehicle separated into two parts.

All costs to a dealer are, by definition, included in the price. Anyone who states otherwise is lying or ignorant.


A couple things:
1) Yes, a "doc fee" is exactly like a cash register recipt fee would be. It would be charging you about 1% of the total cost for doing something they are legally required to do.

2) Businesses respond to the consumers. If consumers don't freak out over the "doc fee" and just pay it, businesses will keep using them. When you negotiate, just tell them you are negotiating the "out the door" price, which is going to include all the fees they add on. My salesman, that I always use, reminds me of the doc fee at the start of every conversation. Why? Because he is honest and doesn't want to surprise me or "trick" me into agreeing to a price without all the info.

It all comes down to how hard a dealership is either A) Trying to be open and honest or B) Trying to obscure things. Some dealers work really hard to make the math easy. Some work really hard to make it confusing. Which one do you want to deal with in six months?


One thing regarding these scam doc fees. A dealer will likely state it is required by law to charge the fee to everyone. The dealer will likely have the fee printed on the sales contract.

This statement is inaccurate and misleading, not a surprise for a car dealer. The truth is if a dealer charges the fee to one customer, the dealer may find it necessary to show it charges to every customer. The dealer is ,however, not required by law to charge the fee to any customer.

The reason the dealer may want to show it charges the fee always is to avoid a law suit. Say one customer pays and the other signs a contract without the fee. The customer charged the fee could sue the dealer for disparate treatment. So, sharp dealers list the fee on every contract.

But that does not mean a customer is required by any law to pay the fee. A sharp customer will reduce the selling price of have the dealer increase the value of a trade vehicle to compensate for the fee.

And always remember, a dealer really does not provide any service to the customer equal to the value of the doc fee. All dealer costs are include in the price. A dealer has many costs such a wages, rent, office supplies, insurance. The dealer does not attempt to charge those costs outside of the price. So why do they employ the doc fee scam? Simple, they know people do not understand cost accounting. And, of course, the use the word fee to suggest the cost, not fee, is legitimate. Dealers know if they referred to it as doc cost, many more people would contest the charge.

Don't be the person who pays too much for a vehicle by not contesting the doc fee. Contest it. A walk away if a dealer will not deal. Always another dealer.

It's important to note too if you are thinking about Buy vs. Lease, make sure that you have all of the information- no hidden fees or contract agreements!


They did that in the RE industry when money was every where and they called them Doc fees, compliance fees and so on basically they are BS fees. The documentation used to sell you an overpriced car or used car is very minimal and part of the cost of doing business for a dealer. And really that cost is MINIMAL. And besides who cares it's a few pieces of paper PRESS hard three copies. Every "fee" you pay goes toward that dealership making a bigger profit on that POS car. Bottom line is that fee goes to the sales person - yup. Oh and stay away from dealer sold "GAP" insurance too another scam. Call your insurance agent they will tell you the same thing.


I've been in the car business my entire life and to all the people thinking they get the doc fee "waived" They are mistaken. If a dealership is charging a doc fee they have to charge everyone the same exact fee to the penny or they are in for some serious problems. Dealerships can however lower the sales price and put the doc fee back in to balance the bottom line out to make you happy but the doc fee has to be the same for each customer. I agree with the fact that a lot of these doc fees are ridiculously overpriced but a small doc fee in my opinion is understandable to cover some of the overhead of running a business. You the customer are going to pay to cover overhead no matter what you buy otherwise its not beneficial for the business owner to sell whatever products or services they are selling. I think the fact that this fee is itemized is what really aggravates people but you have to remember it is 100% non-negotiable. But expressing your unhappiness regarding this fee maybe give you some leverage on getting some extra $ taken off the top line but in no way shape or form can they legally remove the doc fee without putting themselves at risk for some huge problems and fines.


Also, the sales person does not receive $1 of that doc fee. It goes straight to the business.....to the cost of running the business and supplies etc. It is a way to itemize profit to go towards the cost of running a business and paying that businesses bills before paying the employees. It actually hurts the salesperson if they agree to "waive" the fee because they then will deduct that amount from the profit and put the doc fee back in because if they do charge the fee they have to charge it to everyone. And Gap insurance isn't a scam. Each situation is different and if you are in a situation where your car is worth more than you owe you do not need it but if you put no or very little money down on a brand new car you are already in the hole when you drive off the lot turning your brand new car into a used car. I actually utilized Gap insurance on a vehicle that was totaled out and had I not had it there was a difference of $7500.00 from what I owed on my loan and from what the insurance gave me for my car. Had I not had the gap insurance I would of been responsible for paying that money to the bank even though I no longer had a car. Gap insurance paid the $7500. balance to GMAC that my insurance company shorted me. Its not for everyone and every situation but like every insurance policy you have it in case something happens to cover your butt. If your insurance company will cover 100% of your loan then you don't need it but at the time I had state farm and they only paid what the vehicle was worth...according to them.

mike a

I was charged $150.00 last night at a Ford Dealership. I told the guy about this and he just smiled.

I think these fees should be ate by the dealerships.

And if they do have to charge, at least make it small..say $50.00

Tim NN

No wonder they're called Stealerships.. They add all kind of mark up, usually once you at the end signing papers.

I hate dealers, NOT all of them, but some are real sneaky and straight up liars.

Tim NN

So what about my cost to get to drive in to the Stealership, the paperwork that I have to do, drive to DMV and register the car, inspection, should i start asking for a lower sales tax ? come on this is ridiculous!!

Just add everything to the total price of the vehicle and if i agree that's the price i want to pay..

But this is their sneaky way to make make the price seems low, kind bait and switch that dealers LOVE to do.


In the state of Missouri a doc fee is illegal according to state law. I know because I used to work at a dealership in Missouri.


GA is the most ridiculous state to buy a car in. From 6% tax for sales now the state gov't is protecting dealerships even more with an ad valorem tax based on the value of the vehicle. Meaning that private sellers cant sell their cars cheaper because tax applies to purchases from them as well. And since there's no cap on a doc fee, so a standard big dealership charges $599 for "doc" fee. So every car you look at add roughly $1500 to get your total.


Nothing more than a rip off.

I tore up a sales contract for a new diesel pick up over this clown fee.

Tore it up in front of the salesman then told the sales manager to shove it.

Cecil Saxon

Processing fees, DOC fees are all a cost of business to the dealership. The MSRP and profit derived from such covers their cost of business. I don't pay them, and by that I mean they are either waived or taken care of by reducing Vehicle cost or increasing trade in. I don't care what they say- do it or I walk. I am not tied to any car sale. Walking is the customers final and loudest rsponse.

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