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Mark Phelan: Buying a new car? Watch out for $2,000 hidden fee in footnotes

Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

How much for a pound of car?

Destination charges were relatively stable for years, but Consumer Reports found they increased at 2.5 times the rate of inflation since 2011, from $839 to $1,244.

Destination charges on vehicles I’ve tested recently range from $945 for a Mazda 6 — a sedan that sold so slowly Mazda dropped it from the 2022 lineup — to $2,000 for a luxurious Jeep Grand Wagoneer that’s nearly certain to be one of the fall’s hottest rides.

The Grand Wagoneer is a lot bigger than the 6. That could account for some of the difference, but it’s not three times bigger. Dollars to donuts it’ll be more than three times as popular, though.

Comparing destination charges for the new 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross subcompact SUV and the 2021 Corolla sedan further undermines any correlation between destination charge and vehicle size.

The sedan’s destination charge is $1,025. The Corolla Cross SUV — based on the same architecture as the sedan and 6.7 inches shorter — carries a $1,215 destination charge.


To be fair, the Corolla Cross weighs 215 pounds more than the sedan.

I’ll do the math: $190 more to ship an extra 215 pounds works out to 88 cents per pound. At that rate for the whole car, the sedan’s destination charge would’ve been $2,571.

It’s easier to draw a line between the charges and the vehicles’ likely popularity. Compact sedan sales are falling. Small SUVs are booming.

Correlation isn’t causation, but here are a couple more numbers: The Ford F-150 — America’s best-selling vehicle roughly since the invention of the wheel — carries a $1,695 destination charge. Compare that to $995 for the Cadillac CT5 sport sedan, a slow seller built on one of the first assembly lines GM idled when the semiconductor crunch hit.


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