Trim The Fat

By Sharon Naylor

September 4, 2013 6 min read

When you're working through the process of purchasing a new car, you'll be presented with a number of extras to raise the bar on the quality of your vehicle. Experienced car salespeople know how to present those indulgent little extras in such a way that you begin to feel that you absolutely must have seat warmers in the backseats or a navigation system that speaks to you in French. Don't get sucked into buying extras you don't need.

Almost anything can be added to your car later on, and usually at a lower price than a dealer offers at the time of your signing. So never allow yourself to feel rushed into signing for a pricey extra that's a complete nonessential -- even if your spouse or kids have become enamored with that option. Take your time, think it over, and you might find yourself avoiding paying a lot of money for the most common extras that car buyers don't need:

--Expensive navigation systems. Yes, nav systems are terrific, and high-quality systems can save you time on your commute, alert you to traffic snarls and give you good notice of an upcoming necessary lane shift. While navigation systems are becoming less expensive in new cars, many buyers are opting to use the high-quality navigation systems they already have on their cellphones. An expensive navigation system with voice recognition, integrated with existing cell technology, is on the market now and at high costs. So think about whether you need a navigation system beyond what you probably already have on hand.

--CD players, especially changers. Compact discs are practically outdated technology, so don't pay extra for a player, even if you think the low cost would give you entertainment options. Many cars do offer CD or DVD single slots to pair with sound systems or as a premium part of a navigation system, but this may be a nonessential. Choose a satellite radio subscription instead.

--DVD or streaming-TV entertainment systems. Now that kids can watch their TV shows and movies and play games via their handheld devices, you don't need a pricey TV/DVD system embedded in your car's backseat area to keep kids occupied. You can save more than $1,000 by skipping this option.

--Voice command systems. The technology in some systems still isn't clear enough to enable you to give your car spoken commands. Like cellphones, some cars "mishear" your orders, which can be annoying.

--Leather upholstery. If you love leather, by all means, order it. But some cars charge a hefty fee for real leather seats. Some companies are pushing their synthetic materials that look as good as leather but wear better and are less expensive to manufacture.

--Power-folding seats, doors, trunks and tailgates. You just wave your foot under your bumper, and your tailgate door opens. It's designed for ease and simplicity when your arms are full, and the technology will likely be standard in a few years. But for now, opening a door on your own is doable. And it saves you $1,000 and up, say the experts at Cars.com.

--Fabric and paint protection. Stain protection can cost hundreds of dollars via the dealership, while Scotchgard auto interior fabric protector is available at every big-box store at about $10 for a 10-ounce can. Resolve spray also can take out any spills and stains. Paint protection won't offer more than a good coat of wax, and your car already comes with sealant from the factory, so these are extras you don't need. The same goes for rustproofing, which is covered by vehicle production and rust prevention warranty plans.

--Maintenance plans. You pay a fee, and your regular oil changes and other maintenance are covered. But you have to take your car to the dealer, which may not be convenient. Some plans don't work out in your favor when you add up the fee and then compare it to what it would have cost to have your regular mechanic do your oil changes. So consider this plan a possible don't-need.

--Extended warranties. The experts at Edmunds.com say, "While they can provide some added peace of mind, they don't make sense for all drivers, especially those who tend to trade in their cars every three years or so. Sometimes the original factory warranty is all you need, especially given that some carmakers, including Hyundai and Kia, are now offering five- or 10-year warranties."

--Alarms. Don't pay hundreds of dollars for a new alarm, when your car's lock system likely already has several warning and alarm signals.

As mentioned, you can add accessories on your own later. According to Foresight Research's recent study, 25 percent of new car buyers plan to modify their cars within the first year of ownership. As for how much they spend, 44 percent of all car buyers spend at least $250 and intend to spend more than $1,800 on performance, comfort, appearance and security accessories. Save the upgrades for later, when you can look into each type of technology separate from the emotional process of buying a car.

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