Hidden Fees on Big Ticket Items

by Emily Guy Birken · 5 comments

You’ve been eyeing it for months. You have finally saved enough money to take the plunge, and you couldn’t be more pleased with your purchase. But wait, can someone explain this extra charge? They didn’t mention it in the commercial!

This has happened to all of us. After researching and saving for whatever newest gizmo you are interested in, you find that there are “hidden” fees behind your purchase. Unfortunately, there’s not a great deal you can do to stop these fees, but it does pay to go into these purchases with eyes wide open. Here are some of the unexpected costs of some popular big-ticket items.


Cell phones are probably the worst culprits in the hidden charge game. It is not enough to pay for the iPhone or Android, you will also have to pay for the calling and data plan. While it is obvious that cell phone companies will charge you for usage, it can still be a bit of a shock how much that usage will cost you. Make sure you understand exactly how much your bill will come to each month before you sign on the dotted line. Two years is a long time to be paying more than you anticipated—or getting less than you wanted from your phone.

E-readers are also a little misleading. We’ve all seen the commercials touting the $139 Kindle from Amazon. However, that price only pays for the device. Each book or magazine subscription also costs money. On the plus side, it is possible to find many books offered for free, including wonderful classic works of literature. In addition, Kindle plans to allow readers to transfer content from one device to another (i.e., lend books to friends) in the same way that Barnes & Noble’s Nook device does. For insatiable readers, it might be a better bet to revisit your local library.


Owning a car is never a cheap proposition. Between fuel, maintenance, insurance, parking and depreciation, car owners pay a great deal more than the purchase price for the privilege of owning a car. On top of these issues, purchasing a new car can throw you for a loop with all of the unexpected fees. Dealer and manufacturer fees—both legitimate and not-so-legitimate—are never mentioned in the car ads, and can add a hefty sum to your purchase price. Remember that no matter how high pressure the sales environment, you always have the upper hand as the buyer. Feel free to walk away.

If you’ve tried to book a flight recently, you’ll notice that airlines seem to be charging for everything these days. It costs extra to check bags, choose a seat, even enjoy a tiny baggie of peanuts. When flying, be aware up front of all the fees associated with the ticket price. The great deal might turn out to be more of a burden once you’ve added in all the fees. Being realistic and flexible are the only ways to combat the growing surcharges associated with flying.

At the end of the day, it pays to do your own research before you buy any big-ticket item. That way, you stay on top of your own finances.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • khatlady says:

    Internet for $19.95. but, it’s that price if you carry a certain service. Then, you need to pay extra for the device to capture the signal. The $19.94 turns out to be $42.10.

    It is like you are dealing with thieves everywhere.

  • SavvyYoungMoney says:

    With cars, sales people will also try to sell you additional warranty, factory packages, etc. It definitely caught me by surprise when I had to buy my car. It’s not really a hidden fee, but you just have to do your research and understand what additional services people can try to tack on.

  • Randy Addison says:

    Cellphone bills are the most unexpectedly high bills that you need to pay every month. Well, as for my case, I go for prepaid services so I can go No No whenever I don’t need the services.

  • KM says:

    I think the true “hidden” cost is how they try to make money off you by convincing you they are actually saving you money. Case in point: when I was buying my current phone, they kept saying how if I sign up for a two-year contract, the price of the phone drops dramatically (but it’s still nowhere near zero); what they didn’t mention though, until I saw it myself, was that the price of the monthly plan with the contract is $20 higher than the per month flex pay. A simple calculation revealed that I would actually save $240 by paying the phone’s full price. AND I have no contract, so I can switch or stop whenever I want to. Just do some math and pay attention to the fine print before committing to anything.

  • Bargaineering says:

    It’s not so much “hidden” costs as it is understanding the total cost of something, including recurring costs like monthly service plans and whatnot.

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