Car Dealer Options & Accessories: Are Any Worth It?

When you buy new or used from a car dealer, you could drive home with more than a new set of wheels.  A number of options and accessories could come along for the ride, bundled into the monthly payment.  They can add up, so consider them carefully.  This should help you decide what’s right for you.

Rustproofing and undercoating.  Cars our parents and grandparents bought years ago were far more prone to rust, so rustproofing and undercoating became popular ways to try thwarting the tin worm.  Even then, results varied greatly.  Cars today are much better protected and have longer warranties.  Regular washing, including rinsing of the undercarriage and wheel wells, should do just fine.  
Extended warranty.  Speaking of warranties, the rest of the car is often covered extensively also.  When considering an extended warranty, look closely at the details.  Some warranties only kick in when the pre-existing factory warranty expires or limits are reached.  They might carry deductibles.  You may also be restricted to use certain dealers or shops for warranty repairs.

Paint protection.  Like rustproofing and undercoating, newer cars resist showing their wear better than ever.  The clearcoat finish is there for a reason, protecting the paint.  Regular washing and waxing is probably all the paint protection you’ll need.    

Alarm.  Late-model cars come standard with various degrees of anti-theft systems, though some buyers want the peace of mind with afforded by a full-on alarm.  Infamous for their random panicking, they have to be installed by a qualified tech either at the dealer or an aftermarket shop; proceed with caution.  You could also consider a more subtle tracking system.  

Window treatment.  Window tinting can be an attractive and practical option, and a dealer should be knowledgeable in the tint gradients allowed by local law.  Just compare quoted prices against those of a reputable aftermarket installer. 

Window etching. Window etching is a process that permanently marks glass with your car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) to deter thieves.  However, the VIN is already visible from outside your car (lower corner of the dash, driver’s side).  Plus if a thief really wants your car for parts, not being able to resell the glass is a minor detail in the grand scheme.

Pinstripes and graphics.  Like a tattoo, only for your car.  And we all know tats never come with regret.  Unlike ink, these can be removed easily but often exaggerate paint fade on the rest of the car.  Highly subjective, so give it a lot of thought.

Winter tires.  The benefits of winter tires could fill a page on their own.  Even on all-wheel-drive vehicles, they add extra measures of control when the going gets tough.  The main consideration here is the price offered by the dealer on a wheel and tire package.  Compare against local tire shops or online retailers.

Key replacement.  This covers the cost of making a replacement key for your car.  The value of this depends on how many keys come with your car if buying used, not to mention the cost of replacing a key on your particular vehicle.  If you have a separate fob for keyless entry and a traditional, outer-cut key, key replacement coverage might not be cost-effective.  Center-cut keys and more complex systems incur higher costs for duplicates, so the coverage could benefit you if the limits are reasonable for the price.  

Upholstery treatment.  Sometimes it’s easier to keep the outside of your car clean than the inside, especially with a family.  Some vehicles come with fabric protection from the factory, while for others it’s easily added on your own with a can or two of protectant from the store.  Combine this with regular vacuuming and spot treatment of messes when they happen, and you’ll have all the protection needed.

Infotainment systems.  The lack of infotainment in a vehicle can be a deal breaker.  Parents need to keep kids from getting too antsy on road trips with gaming and DVD options, and even lone commuters appreciate satellite radio and navigation systems.  Weigh the costs of portable components against integrated systems, and then the installation costs of the dealer versus an aftermarket shop.


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