There are few moments in life that are as exciting as buying a car, especially if it’s your first. At this point emotion and excitement can easily take over from logic. Salespeople at car dealerships are well aware of this, and will often try to upsell you on add-ons and trim options to make more profit off the sale. The decisions you make at this point can have real financial consequences, both in terms of what your car ends up costing you and what its eventual resale is when you sell it on.
So here are eight things that really don’t matter when you buy a car.
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1. Crossover trim
Don’t have the money to buy yourself a 4×4? Don’t worry, auto manufacturers can help you dress up your car so that the average person won’t be able to tell the difference. You can elevate your suspension, get faux roof racks fitted, put mud guards over your tyres and do all sorts of other things that will do little to compensate for the fact that your car is, in fact, a front wheel drive with a one litre engine. If you’re offered this kind of trim, turn it down. It costs money, accomplishes nothing and adds little, if any, resale value to your car.
2. Racing trim
Racing trim can include anything from rear spoilers to custom sports rims on your car. While this kind of trim can make your car look like a mean machine, it’s once again about style rather than substance. And to make matters worse, the more of this stuff you add the more the pool of potential buyers dwindles. When it comes to racing trim remember that less is more, and that whatever you invest in it won’t be returned when you sell the car.
3. Tinted windows
Nothing says ‘I’m definitely not trying to sell crystal meth’ to the local constabulary like heavily tinted windows. Unless you have some practical, pressing need to make yourself invisible while behind the wheel, and don’t mind being pulled over more frequently than more transparent drivers, skip the dark tints. Dark tints not only don’t add value to your car, they can actually make it difficult to sell for its book value in future.
4. Enhanced audio systems
If you feel the need to share your favourite track with everyone in a five block radius, then chances are you’ll want to get your car a supercharged sound system. The problem with these systems is they can cost a fortune but have little impact on your car’s value. However, if you do want to jack up your sound system, go with the manufacturer options. Highly customized sound systems can interfere with your car’s factory systems and settings and lower its resale value.
5. Keyless entry and ignition
Keyless systems are finding their way into an ever-increasing number of cars, and are typically offered as an optional add-on when buyers are customizing new cars prior to purchase. This type of convenience says ‘premium’ but will save you about five calories of effort every day. And when the time comes to sell your car, the person you’re thinking of selling it to probably won’t see freedom from the tyranny of keys as any sort of meaningful benefit and is unlikely to pay extra for it.
6. Special paint jobs
Many auto manufacturers charge extra for cars in certain colours and finishes. Typically the colours involved here are the type that make your car stand out more. Which means they’re the same type of colours that will put off the majority of second hand car buyers. Special paint jobs and finishes can add as much as 10% onto the sales price of your car without increasing its value whatsoever. So stick with the standard factory colours and finishes. And don’t be tempted to add racing decals or custom spray-paint jobs to your cars unless you have no intention of selling it at book value.
7. Out-of-league trim
There’s a certain logic to buying an entry level, cheap vehicle and then attempting to convert it into a luxury vehicle by adding leather seats, electric windows, a sunroof and larger wheels. This can provide you with a more pleasurable driving experience, but the only effect it’s likely to have on the car’s book value is to decrease it. That’s because the greater the deviation from the factory standard, the less likely someone is to buy your car, even if it has plush finishes. Conversely, and unfairly, if you buy a luxury car without many of these features, it’s likely to lose resale value.
8. Telematics tracking devices
You may decide to install a telematics tracking device in your car to ensure it can be tracked in the event of vehicle theft, or used to generate lower insurance premiums. While these are good reasons to use tracking technology, just bear in mind that you’ll absorb the costs associated with this, as telematics devices add no value to your car in the resale market.
Instead consider that there are also solutions on the market that turn your smartphone into a powerful telematics device for free.