What Is a Reconditioning Fee on a Used Car?

Used-car dealers may charge you a reconditioning fee to cover their costs of getting cars ready for sale.

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A reconditioning fee is an added dealer charge you might find when buying a used car. It’s intended to cover any costs the dealer incurs to make sure a used car is showroom-ready, from mechanical inspections to detailing.

Are reconditioning fees legal or negotiable?

Reconditioning fees are legal, but that doesn’t mean you should pay them. Dealers can charge whatever they want for a reconditioning fee, and it’s not uncommon to find them ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

The good news: Reconditioning fees, like most dealer extras, are negotiable. Ask the dealer for a breakdown of the reconditioning fee to see what kind of work was done to prepare the car for sale. If the work was minor but the fee is high — for example, if they’re asking for $1,995 but replaced the floor mats only — that’s a good sign it’s a bogus charge.

🤓Nerdy Tip

There are many dealer fees that you can negotiate, but some nonnegotiables include taxes, title fees and registration fees.

However, when it comes time for negotiation, don’t just haggle down the reconditioning fee or other individual fees. The best way to negotiate is to focus on the out-the-door price, or the total amount you’re paying for the car. This simplifies the negotiation process and keeps you focused on the true price of a car.

Why do dealers charge reconditioning fees?

All dealers incur reconditioning costs, but they’re often built into the dealer’s asking price for a vehicle, rather than as a separate charge.

Some dealers opt to add a reconditioning fee to the bill because it allows them to advertise a lower asking price online, which doesn’t include fees. It’s a tactic to get you into their dealership, since the asking price is lower than that of other dealerships.

However, once you arrive, you may find that the out-the-door price is the same — or more — compared with what other dealers are asking.

Some car-buying experts recommend avoiding dealerships that charge reconditioning fees altogether. But remember that the out-the-door price is what matters at the end of the day, so it’s worth comparing prices at multiple dealerships to find the best deal.

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