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Car Dealership Add-ons: Are They Worth It?

Car Dealership Add-ons: Are They Worth It? (Part 1)
Table of Contents

A new car is likely one of the most valuable items you’ll purchase in your lifetime. Purchasing a brand-new car is exhilarating, but it’s also expensive. When you’re at the dealership, excitement and the sheer volume of information you have to digest can make some details confusing. Even when you’ve done your research and managed to negotiate a fair price on your new ride, you may end up paying more than you bargained for. As you head to the finance office with a car salesman, you likely think the hard part is over. Unfortunately, you and your wallet might be in for a surprise if you don’t know about car dealership add-ons.

Dealer add-ons are products designed to protect or enhance your new vehicle. Yet, these extras can cost you thousands. Dealer add-ons are added to the vehicle after it reaches the lot. Some are already installed and can slip past you. Others are items the dealer tries to sell you. Most often, car dealership add-ons are over-priced and fail to provide the services they promise. When preparing to buy a new car, beware of these dealer add-ons that aren’t worth the cost.

Car Dealership Add-ons Offer Extended Warranties

When you’re sitting in front of your contract, pen in hand, an experienced car dealer will offer you an option to avoid trouble down the road. Extended warranties provide you with coverage for the failure of different parts of your car after your manufacturer’s warranty runs out. They might also include maintenance and repairs jobs performed at no charge. Unfortunately, these warranties are often overpriced and include many exclusions that limit coverage as well as where you can get your vehicle repaired.

There’s no reason to purchase an extended warranty at the time of your car purchase. Most often, shopping around for an extended warranty before your manufacturer warranty expires will likely cost less and offer the protection you need.

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Paint and Fabric Protection

A fresh shiny coat of paint and that new car smell is enough to make you want to keep your new vehicle looking pristine forever. The offer to protect your paint from minor scratches and dings and avoid stains on your new upholstery will likely sound tempting. Your car dealer might even mention a warranty for damage to paint or upholstery.

Unfortunately, the cost of these add-ons doesn’t add up. Instead of paying hundreds for protection from your car dealer, you would likely spend less buying a bottle of upholstery protectant from your local department store and paying to repair any minor paint damage that occurs. Routine washing, waxing, and cleaning your car’s interior is the best way to keep your vehicle’s paint and fabric like new.

Car Dealership Add-ons Include Gap Insurance

Everyone’s heard those commercials that promise your new car begins to depreciate as soon as you drive it off the lot. Gap coverage is designed to pay the difference between what you owe and what your vehicle is worth in the event of a total loss. Car depreciation actually does happen and some leasing companies require you to have it. However, you don’t have to purchase it from your car dealer. Like most car dealership add-ons, gap insurance from a dealership is likely to be overpriced. If you need gap insurance, talk to your independent auto insurer to see if you can get adequate coverage at a cheaper cost.

Key Protection

Modern car keys are like mini-computers that your car can’t work without. Car dealerships even include a price tag on the keys of some newer vehicles to show their replacement costs. While it might seem like a good idea to pay a couple of hundred dollars to protect your $500 key, adding that cost to your car loan means you’ll be paying interest on that cost. Furthermore, you might be able to purchase cheaper coverage from your insurer, and key failure will likely be covered by your factory warranty.

For most drivers, a few dollars spent on a tracking device that can be linked to a smartphone is more than sufficient and could save hundreds.

Roof Rack Accessories

roof rack as car dealership add-ons
A bicycle roof rack on top of a car

If your activities require large equipment, then roof racks or crossbars might be an essential accessory for your vehicle. However, factory roof racks might not be the best way to meet these needs. After-market accessories fit vehicles just as well as factory models and cost considerably less. As a bonus, you can move generic racks from car to car, and you don’t have to replace them when you buy a new car.

Window Tinting and Clear Film

Of course your new car would look great with tinted windows, and clear film is effective when it comes to protecting that shiny paint from minor damage. Window tinting can improve the appearance of your vehicle, protect the car’s interior, and may be necessary in some climates. However, you may pay too much for it if you get it at the dealership. Auto window specialty shops have professionals that will install the same options without the markup, Often, these shops will offer a comparable warranty to back up their work as well.

Car Dealership Add-ons Offer Nitrogen for Tires

These newer car dealership add-ons might fool unsuspecting drivers. Nitrogen-filled tires are supposed to be less susceptible to temperature-based expansion and reduction. It’s actually used by race car drivers for that reason. However, the truth is that most drivers won’t even notice the difference. A “nitrogen upgrade” can cost you over $100, and might be bundled in with other costs so you don’t notice. Routinely checking your tire pressure will help you avoid costs and provide you an opportunity to check for wear and damage.

Rear Seat Entertainment Systems

When you have young children, this option seems like a sanity saver. However, built-in systems are expensive and lock you into the technology for the life of your car. Your children will likely outgrow the system and be using their personal devices in the car before long. You can save cash when you opt for inexpensive tablets and headphones to keep the kids happy. As a bonus, you can eliminate those arguments about what to watch in the car.

Car Dealership Add-ons Include Window Etching

While this might sound like a fancy engraving technique designed to enhance your vehicle’s appearance, it’s actually a measure to prevent theft. VIN etching is a procedure that allows you to make an adhesive plastic stencil of the car’s vehicle identification (VIN) number for your window. The stencil is treated with a special solution that chemically burns or etches the number into the glass. VIN etching can actually be a deterrent to thieves, it’s not worth paying hundreds to have the dealer take care of it.

VIN etching from your car dealer could cost $150 to $300 when you can buy a DIY kit for $20 to $40 online.

Car Alarms and Tracking Systems

When you’re making payments on a car, it’s in the dealer’s best interest to protect their investment. Some dealers even install security systems on every vehicle in the lot. While security systems have advantages and may even result in discounts on your auto insurance, a dealer-installed system may be significantly overpriced. Be sure to shop around at car electronics retailers to get a firm understanding of the cost of an alarm system.

If you don’t want an alarm or tracking system as a dealer add-on, make sure the dealership removes the system in its entirety or provides a significant discount that compares to your researched price.

Credit Insurance

Another add-on to protect the dealer, credit insurance will be advertised as something to protect your family. If you die or are disabled, credit insurance will pay off your loan. The coverage may require a large upfront payment that provides coverage for the length of the loan, or have a fee that’s included in your monthly payments that decline as the loan balance declines. When these payments are added to your loan, you could be paying a significant amount of interest.

Credit insurance could be a good investment. However, your insurance provider may be able to offer comparable coverage for a more reasonable price.

Windshield, Wheel, and Dent Protection

All car dealers know that the appearance of a new vehicle is important. Protection packages offered by new and used car dealers include plans that cover the car’s glass, or tires and wheels. Often, these plans are expensive and include many conditions and exclusions.

When considering any insurance purchase, it’s crucial to research the providing company and whether the cost of the policy will offer a reasonable return. After all, a policy that costs more than repairs would be a waste even if it was used. Furthermore, your existing auto insurance will likely cover many of the same damages, making the coverage redundant.

Tire & Wheel Packages as Car Dealership Add-ons

Most car enthusiasts recognize how a high-performance set of wheels can change the whole look of a vehicle. Aftermarket wheel and tire packages are often installed on vehicles before they reach the showroom. To the average car buyer, the difference might be overlooked as an included perk. However, the cost of these pricey add-ons will be included in the car’s addendum stickers and can add thousands to the price of your new car. Even worse, the custom tires and wheels may not include the same warranty protection as stock wheels and tires.

If you choose to get aftermarket wheels and tires, make sure you research the cost of the package outside the dealer to ensure you’re getting a fair price. Tire stores and online retailers often offer the exact same packages at a significantly lower price.

Delivery Fees

While it does cost money to get your car from the factory to the dealership, this is not a cost you should have to absorb twice. The cost to ship your car is typically referred to as the destination fee. Yet, some dealerships charge that fee and a delivery fee as well. The car’s destination fee is already included in the sticker price and will be listed on the car’s addendum sticker next to the price. If you see a separate delivery fee listed, ask to have it removed unless the dealer can offer a good explanation of what the extra cost is for.

Car Dealership Add-ons FAQ

Are car dealership add-ons worth it?
Close up of unrecognizable salesperson using a tablet in a car showroom

How Can I Figure Out if Dealer Add-ons Have Already Been Installed?

Any dealer options already added to a new or used car should be listed on the vehicle’s addendum sticker located right next to the MSRP sticker that shows the full price of the vehicle. Also, make sure to look over the prices included in your contract before signing. If you’re unsure about any of the listed costs, don’t be afraid to ask questions and request changes.

How Can I Get Important Benefits Without Overpaying for Car Dealership Add-ons?

Some car dealership add-ons are frivolous extras that have little to offer. Others provide value that you might benefit from in the future. Yet, many of the protective options designed to save you money are essentially insurance policies that can be obtained for a better price from your independent insurance agent. Before you purchase a new car, talk to your agent about the cost of protection and what you should avoid at the dealership.

How Can I Prepare to Avoid the Extra Costs of Add-ons?

Do your homework before visiting a new car dealership. Decide on the vehicle you want to purchase, and calculate the dealer’s true cost, so you can be prepared to negotiate a fair price for your dream vehicle. If you locate a specific vehicle at a local dealership that you hope to purchase, give the dealer a call to ask about pre-installed add-ons before you arrive to negotiate the price of the car.

Can I Get Pre-Installed Car Dealership Add-ons Removed?

Sometimes. While some accessories are permanently installed, many are temporary. You can identify add-ons you don’t want and ask for the dealership to remove them along with the added cost.

How Can I Avoid Getting Cheated by Technical Terms?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your car dealer will use technical language and terms that make items seem important or even mandatory. Ask for clarification of any cost you don’t understand. It’s important to note that no add-ons should be required for the purchase of a vehicle. Just because the car dealer asks “which” extended warranty you want instead of “if” you want one, you shouldn’t feel forced to purchase.

Carefully read your contract and final invoice and demand that any car dealership add-ons you didn’t approve be removed. If a dealer adds these products to your invoice without your permission, he has committed fraud.

Avoid These Car Dealership Add-ons

Don’t get suckered into paying for things that you don’t really need or could obtain at a significantly reduced price point. Contact the independent insurance agents at LoPriore about how to adequately protect your new car without paying excessive prices for dealer add-ons.

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