Dealer Add-ons For Your Car

By Sharon Naylor

August 9, 2012 7 min read

That gleaming new car you're interested in could be even better with a number of attractive, high-tech upgrades. Before you succumb to temptation, or impulse-buy sales tactics, however, there are a number of important questions to ask about any upgrades you'll add to your vehicle purchase.

The first thing to consider is how upgrades will impact your ability to resell or trade in your vehicle later. Aaron Gold, About.com's guide to cars, says: "Spending money on your car can actually decrease its value. If you do have your car customized, stick to nonintrusive upgrades such as new wheels or an upgraded stereo that won't require extensive rewiring or cutting up the dashboard. Save the old parts so you have the option of returning your car to its original condition before selling."

Here are some of the top upgrades and essential questions to ask about them:

*Nitrogen-Filled Tires

This pricy service is said to provide better tire performance, better wear and improved gas mileage.

Questions to ask:

--What are the average figures of improved gas mileage for this make of car using nitrogen-filled tires?

--Are there any safety hazards involved with having nitrogen-filled tires?

--Where would I go to have my tires filled up again?

--How much does having nitrogen-filled tired improve my car's resale value?

*Over-the-Air Upgrades

Today's car software and operating systems can be upgraded via computer system, such as through cellphone 3G or 4G systems. Cars with computer screen dashboards are often more likely to offer this service, and high-end luxury vehicle brands are launching instant high-tech upgrades currently.

Questions to ask:

--How does the online software upgrade work?

--Do I need any special equipment, or is it a simple USB stick plug-in or an automatically uploaded new version that I approve via text or email?

--How long does it take for the new version to load, and does my car have to be running during the upload? (Some models of cars and over-air upgrades require the car to be running for over 30 minutes.)

--Will my dashboard screen change appearance and functionality every time an upgrade is loaded?

--Will I need to reset anything each time the upgrade is loaded?

--What are the extra expenses associated with this system?

*Interior Cabin Air Filters

These high-tech air filter systems purify the air you breathe while driving in the car, removing allergens and dust, and blocking particles from your car's ventilation systems from reaching you. When air filters are clogged, your car's mile-per-gallon efficiency decreases.

Questions to ask:

--What does it cost to upgrade the car's interior air filter system?

--Does the car dashboard need to be cut or remodeled in any way to accommodate the air system?

--Does the air filter system for this car work on ionizers or on filters that have to be replaced often?

--How often do filters have to be replaced?

--Where can we buy these air filters, and what do they cost? (It's important to know if specialty air filters are only available at your car dealership at very high prices, or if you can find them on a budget online or at car-care centers.)

*High MPG Tires

Tires designed to perform at increased miles per gallon are a top choice in car upgrades, as owners seek to save money on fuel. According to Consumer Reports, "a tire's rolling resistance can add or detract an additional one or two miles per gallon" of fuel.

Questions to ask:

--What is the cost per tire, and which tire brand names do you provide? (You'd then research online to see whether you can locate less expensive brand-name high-MPG tires.)

--Are customers seeking pre-owned cars asking for high-MPG tires?

--Have there been any recalls on this brand of tire? (Of course, do online research yourself on this important fact.)

*Navigation Systems

Navigation systems are seen more often in new cars, sometimes offered as a standard tool on the dash, and upgraded navigation systems are now more in demand. Some buyers are accepting the $1,000 or so extra charge to have a navigation system added to their dashboards.

Questions to ask:

--Which modes of communication are available: text, spoken or tone indicators?

--Does this navigation system alert us to traffic delays and detours?

--What is the warranty on this navigation system?

--How new is this navigation system? (Research online to find out whether this is indeed a next-generation system or an outdated one that will decrease future selling value.)

--Does this navigation system also provide information about the vehicle's operating systems by communicating with the car's software?

*Sound System

Many new cars offer excellent sound systems but lack MP3 connections, and some drivers may want higher-quality speakers and sound system elements, plus additional speakers in the back of the vehicle.

Questions to ask:

--What is the brand name of the sound system?

--Where will the plug-ins/jacks be located? (It's a common complaint that plug-ins are often situated in inconvenient places inside the car.)

--How many plug-ins will be included?

--Are there any rebates or promotions on the sound system? (Car dealers know how easy it is for you to have a sound system installed in your car as an aftermarket buy at an electronics store, so they and manufacturers sometimes offer attractive incentives to add this perk on to your purchase.)

--Where would you get repairs or replacement parts? (Some dealers, especially at high-end car companies, provide free maintenance on select car features.)

Additional upgrades like premium upholstery merely require questions about its care and repair, while more customized upgrades such as pinstripes and spoilers require more careful consideration since they may create trouble reselling. Plus, many locations forbid tinted windows for security reasons, resulting in fines.

It's a smart idea to speak with a car-savvy friend to get his or her list of essential questions to ask. And you might even bring that friend with you to the dealership for in-the-know questions and negotiating power, plus insight on what you do and don't need to buy with your upgrades. Remember that you may be able to get any upgrade you'd like in the aftermarket, which may be priced lower.

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