BUYING A CAR IN 2017
(WITHOUT HAVING HEADACHES IN 2018)
Even the cheapest of today’s vehicles come standard with many things that have been options in the past. Also in the past, options and colors were offered individually. Today, there are far less items on the options list since most items have been put into packages. This allows three things. First, the cars are easier to manufacture. Second, the manufacturer can force buyers to accept options that they would not normally buy. Third, dealer stock can be lower and still have most available color and options combinations.
Most vehicle manufacturers have a model of each vehicle that they set up with the options that most buyers are looking for. When you look through the brochure, that model will be evident by the standard equipment list. It is usually the bottom model or the next one up. Then, there are maybe three options packages that are available for each model. There may be a few individual option items, but very few.
When deciding what you need, it is important to look at your life. The features and options that you require will be dictated by what you use. Recognize that all else is “nice to have”. Do you get in and out of your vehicle a lot? If so, you will probably use features like power windows, power door locks, and keyless entry to a great degree. If you do business in your vehicle, you will probably have use for leather interior and power outlets. Do you travel to many places? That might indicate that a navigation system or trip computer would be of use. If you spend a lot of time around construction, make sure you have a full size spare or run flat tires. If you are an anvil salesman and carry a trunk full of samples, be sure to get a heavy duty suspension. If you carry little kids, be sure that the vehicle comes with universal car seat hookups (the LATCH system).
What you do not want are tons of options that you will not use. Problem is that if something breaks, you must fix it, whether you use it or not, before you sell the vehicle. The vehicle is less valuable on the used market if something is broken than if it is not there at all. In today’s vehicles, there are many features that are added just to make the vehicle seem heavily optioned (read: expensive). Things like steering wheel radio controls, trip computers, dual zone climate controls, and back up sensors were invented for perceived problems and conveniences. If you do not look behind you before you back up, you are going to hit something, back up sensors or no.
Take specific precautions about deciding on leather interior. Back in the early days of autodom, leather seats were provided for the chauffer, whose driving position was outside the cab and without a roof. The persons being chauffered, who were inside the cab, had mohair or some similar material covering the seats. Leather is hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and very slick, which is a problem when trying to stay seated in the same place in a turn. That is not the worst of it. The worst part is that the “leather” that is used in too many of today’s cars is so cheap that it is coming apart before the car ever leaves the dealer’s lot. Most of today’s cloth seat materials will last just as long as, if not longer than, the leather seating materials. One more thing. Many “leather interiors” only have leather on the part of the seat where the average number of anticipated occupants will sit. The rest of the identical looking surfaces are vinyl. The car will be worth more on the used market with the leather interior option, but the car will be more comfortable without it. The high end Swedish, German, Japanese, and British luxury cars and the Ford King Ranch trucks have very good quality leathers. Just be careful with the rest.
Many options on today’s cars, like so many on yesterday’s cars, are imitations of items on race or luxury cars. Aero packages and rear wings are intended to make the car look more sporty, and some (as in, very few) of them may even benefit the car’s handling at speeds around 100 miles per hour. Most just make the cars harder to wash and easier to damage. Carriage tops and gold plated grills may look rich, but if you look at the really high dollar cars of today, you will not find a carriage top or a gold plated grill on any of them. By the way, most "gold package" items are not gold plated. They are brass plated or painted.
Bottom line: Look at options realistically. Beware of options that are “cool”.
On many of the new car window stickers, dealers tack options of their own on to the cars for extra profit. Most of these add-ons will be shown on a separate window sticker which resides beside the manufacturer’s window sticker. Although special side striping and gold plated grills, name plates, and wheel covers may appeal to some buyers, please understand that, in general, they do not increase the value of the car on the used car market.
Another favorite dealer add on is a group called protectants. Paint protectants, interior protectants, undercoats, the list is endless. They might even be called “environmental protection” to throw buyers off. All are worth very little or nothing. The buyer can Scotchguard cloth seats in 10 minutes with a $5 spray can of Scotchguard from almost any store, but the dealers want hundreds of dollars for exactly the same spray can. When faced with a dealer tag, the best thing to do is to tell the salesman that he can either delete the price of these options from your negotiation, or find a car without those items. Most will drop the cost of the dealer added protectants, at least.
Some buyers must personalize their cars, and factory or dealer options may not be enough. The aftermarket options manufacturers cater to this market. They offer so many different items that if enough items are added or modified, the car will become unrecognizeable, which may be good or bad to a particular buyer. Some items can (or are supposed to) alter performance, looks, aerodynamics, protection, feel, utility, sound, and/or lighting. Two things to consider about these items are that first, the quality of these items varies widely, and they vary by the aftermarket manufacturer, not by the marque of car that they are made for. Do not assume that the aftermarket items that are available from a particular aftermarket manufacturer for a Cadillac or Lexus are of any higher quality than those items available from that manufacturer for a Kia. Second, remember that aftermarket options and add-ons are worth little or nothing on the used car market. Although you may find exactly the right buyer who will pay for customization, the used car market in general does not recognize any modification as adding to the value of a car, and in most cases, modifications will decrease the value of the car.
DEALER INSTALLED CUSTOMIZATION