Just how much will that new car really cost?
The short answer: The car may cost more than you anticipated. And even more than you negotiated. Way more.
The average price of a new automobile has risen to $30,369 in 2012 from $29,882 in 2011, according to TrueCar.com. And in many instances, hundreds or perhaps thousands of dollars go to features and fees that often aren't mentioned by the dealer until after the buyer has the impression the negotiating is over. "It enables the dealer to enhance their gross profits on every car they sell," says Earl Stewart, the owner of a Toyota dealership in North Palm Beach, Fla., who has lobbied to reform his industry.
That's not to say the extras aren't worth it or the fees aren't justified. But the pros suggest that buyers, before committing, always ask for an "out-the-door" price -- a price that includes all of the add-ons, before mandated sales taxes and license fees.
This will give you a basis for comparison when shopping for a better deal with another dealer. What's more, whenever you're presented with the final sales contract, look at each line item to see how that out-the-door price was arrived at. It's possible some items could still be negotiable.
With that in mind, here are some of the major expenses a car buyer is likely to see on the final invoice, and what experts say buyers should know about those items. Consider it a "road map" to the auto-buying experience. Happy shopping (and negotiating).—Mr. Passy is a reporter for SmartMoney.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.