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Are extras from car dealers worth it?

What to know before you get sucked in by car dealer extras.

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When you buy a car, dealers will usually throw in some extras, either for free or at an additional cost. Some of these can be good value for money while others are better off avoided. The challenge is knowing which is which and picking out the important extras that are right for you. This guide has tips and tricks for finding the right extras at a lower cost and goes over 30 of the more commonly offered car extras, explains what each of them is and answers the age-old question on everyone’s mind: am I getting taken for a ride?

The list of car dealer extras

The extraWhat is it?

Should I get it?

RustproofingExtra protection from rustNoManufacturers already rustproof cars right off the assembly line.
Fabric protectionSpray coating to protect fabric and leather interiorsNoIt’s cheaper to buy a can of fabric protector and do it yourself.
Extended warrantyA longer warranty periodNoThe car already has a manufacturer’s warranty. Extended dealer warranties are typically overpriced and carry very restricting terms and conditions.
Paint protectionA protective coating for the car exteriorNoIt’s cheaper and equally effective to DIY with wax or something similar.
Anti-lock braking system (ABS)Automatically pumps brakes to prevent them from locking upYesShould come as standard with most new cars and is worth paying extra for.
Bluetooth integrationWireless hands-free mobile phone integrationMaybeUsually worth it if you plan on using it.
GPS or satellite navigationAn electronic map that uses satellite and GPS dataNoIt’s cheaper and just as good to get an aftermarket system.
Prepaid maintenance plansPay for your future car maintenance in advanceNoIt’s inflexible, typically overpriced and often with strict conditions hidden in the fine print.
Bull bars or nudge barsProtective bars for the front and/or rear of the carMaybeDoing it aftermarket is cheaper, but doing it as a dealer extra is easier. Installation can be technical and tricky.
Extra airbagsExtra airbags for the sides, passenger seats and elsewhereMaybeCould be a good option if you frequently carry passengers, but may not be worth it otherwise.
Rear view cameraRear view camera for reversing and parkingMaybeExtremely useful for cars with poor rear visibility, like many SUVs, but good for all vehicles. However, you might not find it worth the cost.
Extra tintingBonus tinting to darken the windows and keep the interior coolerNoCars already come with some tinting, but this is a potentially convenient option if you want extra. However, dealer tinting may be of poor quality and it’s typically cheaper to go aftermarket instead.
Headlight protectorsCovers to protect the headlightsNoNot necessary unless you frequently drive off road or on dirt and cheaper to do it aftermarket if you want it.
Floor matsFloor mats for your carMaybeDon’t pay too much for these, but don’t underestimate how handy they are for keeping the interior clean.
Roof racksRoof-mounted luggage racksNoIf you want a roof rack, do it aftermarket. This is cheaper and gives you more options.
Special suspensionModified non-standard suspensionMaybeGo for it if you like it and don’t mind the added cost. Always test drive with and without it first, because it’s not for everyone.
VIN etchingVehicle ID numbers etched onto the windows (makes the car a considerably less tempting target for theft)NoDealers will overcharge you for this. DIY VIN etching kits are much cheaper and easy to use.
Car alarm installationA car alarm or an extra alarmNoLoud noises are not necessarily a good anti-theft system and you can be fined for broken alarms that keep going off. If you really want one, it’s cheaper to do it aftermarket anyway.
Premium sound systemA higher quality sound system than the default modelMaybeCan be worthwhile if you’re an audiophile or you spend a lot of time on the road, but default sound systems are often more than adequate.
TowbarA rear-mounted bar for towingNoUsually cheaper with more options if you go aftermarket instead. Might be worth getting as an extra if you know you want it and you know you’re getting a reasonable deal.
Ceramic brake padsAdvanced, durable and heat-resistant brake padsNoMakes no real difference except in some of the most powerful and hard-driven cars.
Colour stitchingDifferent colour thread used for the stitching and the seats (a purely cosmetic extra)MaybeIf you have to think about it, it’s probably best to opt out. If you like the look and don’t mind the cost, go for it.
Aux connectionNow a fairly standard feature that lets you connect your phone or MP3 player with an aux cordYesVery useful if not already included and if you know you’ll be using it.
Heated seatsHeating systems inside the seatsMaybeAn enjoyable comfort if you think it’s worth the cost, but far from essential in Australia.
Audible reverse sensorsAudible warning system indicating how much room you have behind the carMaybeAn easy and intuitive way of knowing how much room is behind you. Particularly good for bigger cars but less useful if you have a rear view camera.
Bundled insuranceAdded insurance policies, such as life or car insurance, often thrown in with car loans or new vehiclesNoASIC has found that insurance from car dealers is usually poor value.
Panoramic sunroofA larger sunroof for more light and sceneryMaybeWorth considering if you know you want it and can justify the cost. If possible, take a test drive with and without it before deciding.
Adaptive cruise controlAdvanced cruise control that can adjust speed to match trafficMaybeHighly recommended for those who use cruise control a lot, but not strictly necessary and potentially expensive.
Nitrogen inflationExtra nitrogen in your car tires for improved performanceNoNitrogen inflation does have performance benefits but you are very unlikely to notice them. It’s also much cheaper to get this aftermarket if you really want it.

car salesman at dealership

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Tips for choosing the right extras and paying less

  • The cost of extras can add up quickly. There’s nothing wrong with flatly saying no and standing firm.
  • Remember that car dealers tend to make a bigger margin on selling extras than on the sticker price of the car itself. The extras sales pitch is usually an inevitable part of the sales process today, so it pays to come prepared. Know what you do and do not want before heading in.
  • Read the fine print. If you ever go for dealer finance, an extended warranty, bundled insurance or any other contractual car extra, do not sign until you are 100% clear on everything that’s there. “That’s how they get you” is a cliché for a reason. The same rule of thumb also applies to highly reputable car financing providers.
  • Extras barely add anything to resale value. They tend to depreciate fairly quickly and you can’t assume the next buyer will want the extras you’ve chosen, let alone be willing to pay more for them. When considering resale value, it’s more accurate to leave the value of extras out entirely.
  • If an extra is available both through your dealer and aftermarket, it will typically be cheaper to go aftermarket and you might also have more options. The main advantage dealers can offer here is convenience and ease.
  • For extras that affect the car’s handling, like advanced suspension systems, it is generally advisable to test the car with and without these extras before you buy. Just because a performance extra costs more or delivers improved performance doesn’t necessarily make it any more enjoyable to drive.
  • If you’re negotiating with a dealer who keeps talking about how much an extra is valued at and what a great deal it is, even though you don’t want it, try asking for a discount on it. They will usually say no, but this can be a good way of making your priorities clear to them.

How to decide between dealership finance and a car loan

What you need to know about dealer extras and car insurance

Make sure you know how different extras, including aftermarket modifications, impact your car insurance.

  • Even non-performance extras like an advanced sound system or xenon lights will typically increase the cost of your car insurance. This is because they raise the value of your car on paper and cost the insurer more to repair and replace.
  • Performance extras like suspension or engine modifications can have an even more significant impact on your insurance. Not only do they raise the value of your car on paper but, depending on the insurer and the nature of your mods, they might bump your car into a high-performance, high-risk category and cause a big increase in premiums.
  • If you’re under the age of 25, consider going easy on the extras. The premium loadings for being a young driver can compound the points above.
  • Safety extras, such as VIN etching or adaptive cruise control, may be able to get you a car insurance discount. However, different insurers recognise different features and you cannot assume any one extra will always get you a discount.

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Images: Shutterstock

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