Most consumers do research online before deciding which car to buy. Generally, this entails visiting automakers’ websites and configuring the models they are interested in. Unfortunately, some brands have designed their websites in a way that makes it confusing to determine exactly what the total cost is.
I will start by saying that this isn’t a new problem. I’ve discussed this in previous posts, dating all the way back to 2017, but it’s an issue that has persisted, and it shouldn’t be this way. When a potential buyer builds a car on a configurator, they should know what the total MSRP is going to be. Some brands still have a bad habit of doing funny business with the destination (freight) fee to make the car seem cheaper than it actually is. Honda and Toyota both have configurators in which the MSRP in the upper right corner is not quite the total price, with the freight fee added on the summary page to give you the total. So unless a consumer goes to the summary page, they may be under the impression that their car costs less than it actually would.
For example, a consumer may think a 2021 Toyota RAV4 XLE Premium Hybrid would have a price of $32,500, but the actual price is $33,675.
At least Toyota and Honda give you the full price somewhere, even if finding it isn’t intuitive. The worst offender of this destination fee disclosure, or lack thereof, is BMW. The Bavarian brand seems to follow Audi’s lead from awhile ago, just straight up hiding the destination fee in a question mark mouse-over link above the MSRP. The car below is not $84,150 it’s really $995 higher for a total price of $85,145
Is $995 really going to make a difference to someone spending BMW money? Probably not, but there is no reason why BMW can’t just accurately include the destination charge in the total like they used to, or like other luxury brands do.
Jeep probably has the most confusing application of this. The monthly rebates and programs are subtracted before the destination fee is added on.
The whole concept of the freight or destination fee is silly, to begin with. Of course, the car has to be transported somewhere and it’s not like the customer can opt-out of that fee by picking it up at the factory. Almost every other product that is produced and shipped has the transportation cost baked into the total and not a separate line item.
I get that buyers generally don’t pay sticker price for vehicles, and that most folks are more focused on monthly payments, but car buying is enough of a hassle as it is. Consumers should be able to clearly and easily understand what the MSRP of a product is before they engage with a dealership.