Add-on Options for Your Car

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Which extras are worth paying for, and which should you skip over?

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Our cars are more advanced than ever, at least in their most well-equipped guises with all the options for the car included. However, not everyone can afford a top-tier trim of an economical model, let alone a luxury nameplate. More often than not, we have to pick and choose between optional packages when building a new vehicle. But how do you ensure that your money is being well-spent? The last thing you want to do is add a few features that look really cool only to later discover that you could have opted for some after-market accessories that do the same job for less.

Modern Car Options and What They do

Vehicles today come with a lot more standard features, many of which were once considered luxury options in the past. However, if you have a limited budget, you may still find yourself looking at a sparsely outfitted model and considering some add-ons to bring it more in line with what you envisioned your new car to be. Options can include a variety of aesthetic improvements for the exterior or interior, various comfort features, or even added tech like driver safety aids. These can usually be added as standalone features or in bundles, depending on the manufacturer, at extra cost.

Pros and Cons of Add-on Options

  • Extra customization
  • Get access to advanced features
  • Less expensive than upgrading trim levels in some cases
  • Options are often bundled into packages rather than sold separately
  • Pushes up the total price quickly if you go overboard
Keyless Entry
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Options You Should Consider Getting

With so many potential add-ons available, how do you know which to take seriously, and which to skip over? Here are some of the more standard dealer add-ons that many consider to be necessary:

  • Keyless entry and ignition - Getting in and out of your car in a quick and efficient manner may seem like an inconsequential thing, but it is more than just a quality of life improvement. Moms and dads doing the grocery shopping for the entire family can attest to how helpful this feature is, just as a hands-free sensor for the trunk can be. But, it also allows you to get into your car quickly in crisis situations when you cannot afford to fuss with a door lock. Some of the most high-tech cars also allow you to use your phone as a key or even to start the car. So long as the correct security measures are in place, this opens up a variety of avenues in convenience, allowing you to grant access to your car to selected, trusted individuals even over long distances.
  • Infotainment - You'd be hard-pressed to find a new vehicle without at least a rudimentary infotainment suite. However, standard features generally include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. BMW only recently added the latter as standard. Still, most require an activation fee, which is not included in the upfront costs. This, along with features such as Wi-Fi, require you to weigh the cost against the benefits.

  • Advanced driver aids - Safety and security are really not something you should skimp on. US legislation already requires that every car must have a backup camera installed as standard. This includes every model from 2020, 2021, and beyond. But there is a lot more on offer in this area nowadays. This includes blind-spot monitoring and a rear cross-traffic system, which use similar technology, as well as surround-view monitors. The latter can be a bit pricey, though.
  • Self-driving car systems - This is a relatively new feature on certain cars. Tesla has done much work to pioneer and perfect this concept, but other brands like Volvo have also developed their own software, such as ProPilot Assist. Though still quite novel and unrefined, this will likely be a common option of future cars, especially in the electric market. The price is currently quite prohibitive, but as semi-autonomous cars become commonplace, we expect to see it drop to more affordable levels.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

What Dealer Options to Avoid

While extra options may be shiny and attractive, not all are as worthwhile as they seem. In fact, many are quite frankly a waste of money. With the expansive auto market in the USA, a little confusion is to be expected when shopping for a new vehicle. If you do so in person, salesmen will no doubt try to sweet talk you into speccing on some pricey but ultimately useless additions to push up the sale price. Similarly, online manufacturer sites make every little bauble sound impossible to pass up. With that in mind, here are some of the dealer options to avoid:

  • Extended Warranties - Most standard plans cover the average ownership period, but if you feel obliged to take an extended warranty plan, do your research. Dealer-offered warranties such as this tend to be overpriced.
  • Nitrogen in tires - The minor benefits this adds does not make up for the extra cost asked of you by the dealer - you can fill your tires with nitrogen elsewhere for much cheaper.
  • Rear-seat entertainment systems - These are usually extremely expensive, and since most modern families own tablets, or other interactive appliances for the kids, systems such as this are generally not worth the thousands of dollars they are priced at.
  • Seat or paint protection - Most manufacturers make use of high-quality materials, both within and without, so they are unlikely to scuff or stain from everyday activities. After-market solutions are significantly cheaper, too.

FAQs

What are options on a car?

Any feature added on to a standard build that increases the base price of a vehicle is generally considered an option. These generally take the form of comprehensive packages that are built to improve a model in a specific area. These include appearance packages, as well as safety and security, or advanced tech packages.

Do car dealer add-ons increase the value of your car?

As a general rule of thumb, adding anything above the base spec to your vehicle will impact its value. However, it is often the case that what you spend to install the options is not recouped in the event of a sale. Add-ons that are not seen as essential or useful are usually money wasted rather than value added. Thus, you need to think about the future, too, when considering optional features.

Which car options are worth the money?

In terms of what will positively affect your life or add value to your vehicle, the list is relatively short. You cannot really go wrong with added safety and driver aids, so blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and forward collision avoidance systems are always a safe bet. Certain conveniences are welcome additions, too, such as keyless entry for your car and push-button start. These are often quite cheap to add, assuming they do not come standard already.

What is the difference between car options and accessories?

Whether at a dealer or when shopping online, you are bombarded with loads of extra stuff to tack onto your car. The more impactful changes are generally made by the options, which are often sorted into packages. But, there are loads of little odds and ends you can throw in, too, such as additional cupholders and storage bins, cargo area nets and covers, and even roof rails to tow hooks. These are all added individually, which means you might be tempted by their low costs, but stacking on several quickly pushes up the total price, so beware.

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