Don’t Get Suckered Into Paying For These 25 Useless Things at Car Dealerships

Regardless of whether you buy a new or used car, the dealer may try to load you with add-ons and accessories of all kinds - and they'll probably tell you that the monthly payment will only increase by a few dollars if you fold it into the cost of the loan. In truth, add-ons can quickly add hundreds or thousands of dollars to the sticker price. Some could be merchant add-ons trying to slip past you. Others will try to sell you immediately. Before buying, find out which auto add-ons you do not want to buy from the dealer.
Last update: February 3, 2020
VIN etching
The dealer may tell you that by stealing the vehicle identification number (VIN) in the windows, your car can be restored and traced if it is stolen, even if thieves remove the VIN from the metal plate on the windshield. This could be the case, provided they don't just drive with pleasure or take it down to sell it for parts. Etching chassis numbers isn't necessarily a bad idea, but don't pay the dealer hundreds of dollars for this service if you can get a DIY kit from Amazon for around $ 20.
Express code marking
Express code marking is an anti-theft / recovery system that is similar to VIN etching. Invisible labels that can only be read with ultraviolet light are attached to important parts of the car. If it is stolen, law enforcement officers can trace the car or even individual parts back to the owner. Edmunds reports that this service - which doesn't work like chassis number etching for most cars stolen for driving fun or for use in other crimes - can cost $ 400.
Wheel locks
Wheel locks and wheel nuts are another dubious and expensive anti-theft device with which you should not be persuaded. The idea is that when thieves steal your rims or hub caps, they see a locking mechanism and move towards a softer target. The truth is that they are little more than a nuisance to everyone except the most incompetent thieves. They are usually made of softer metal that wears out or even peels off. Ultimately, it's just another key you need to lose - you're more likely to lock yourself out of your own wheels. According to Edmunds, traders typically charge $ 189.
Entertainment screens in the back seat
At a time in the not-too-distant past, entertainment displays in the back seats pioneered long road trips, especially when it came to nervous children. In the past decade, however, they have become obsolete using personal handheld devices such as tablets and smartphones. Your rear seat passengers - even the little ones - are almost certain to have their own customized entertainment systems in their pockets, which will save you $ 1,000 to $ 2,000 for one unit, according to AutoTrader.
Roof rack accessories
Factory cross members and roof rack accessories cost more than aftermarket brands and only fit this special vehicle. If your surfing, kayaking, or street adventures require roof storage, brands like Thule and Yakima cost less, work just as well or better, and can be removed and adapted to almost any vehicle you buy in the future - all without a large dealer premium.
Key protection
Losing your car keys has always been a problem, but with remote entry and remote starting devices, laser cutting, and high-end trailers, this is not only an inconvenience today, but also a significant hassle. Replacing sophisticated key systems, especially in luxury cars, can cost hundreds of dollars that your auto insurance may not cover - and dealers know. Some dealers offer key protection, a separate insurance policy just for your keys. That too can easily cost more than $ 100, making it an unnecessary expense for an unlikely event. Instead, put the money in a savings account, which you should do anyway to budget for unforeseen glitches like losing your keys.
Windshield protection
ACE Group is one of the many companies that offer car dealers windshield insurance to sell to their customers at a premium. Their website says "Maximize Your Profits". Yes, windshields can break sometimes, and yes, they're expensive. However, the truth is that modern resins can repair the most common cracks and windshields rarely need to be completely replaced. If you are really worried, budgeting repairs like broken windshields is better than handing over money to your dealer as an add-on for a service you are unlikely to ever need.
Be prepared: 20 questions you need to ask your car dealer before buying
Tire protection
As with protecting the windshield, the opportunities benefit the dealer with extended tire guarantees. Almost all tires come with prorated guarantees that cover handicraft defects that are very rare. Your dealer may be trying to sell you an extended warranty that covers the pro rata standard guarantees, such as those not applicable for $ 10 per tire. First, some tires offer more comprehensive warranties, and even if they don't, the cost of a new standard tire isn't particularly high considering the $ 40 you didn't spend on unnecessary protection.
Dell protection
Like protecting windshields and keys, a long line of little-known and sometimes dodgy third-party companies offer dealers a dent and dent cover as an upsell to urge their customers. These companies sell the plans for $ 300 to $ 500 to the dealer, who then sells them to unsuspecting buyers for $ 600 to $ 1,500 - pure profit without work. The dealer also has no further responsibility and does not help in processing claims. You get an 800 number that you can call to deal with a company you have probably never heard of. You will likely be able to say little or nothing about who repairs your car, and you will almost certainly learn that there are many that are not covered.
Credit insurance
Your dealer could also try to persuade you to take out credit insurance, which comes in the form of credit life insurance, credit disability insurance, involuntary unemployment insurance, and credit property insurance. They all serve the same purpose: to continue making car payments if you lose your job, become disabled or die. There are few reasons to take out credit insurance and many reasons not to do so. If you think it's right for you, almost always better buy through your own insurance company with no dealer premium. It is also illegal for dealers to tell you that they cannot sell you a car or approve a loan unless you purchase this optional cover.
GAP insurance
Guaranteed property protection insurance (GAP) is less fraudulent than the aforementioned “coverage plans” that traders often push. If you add up a car shortly after financing, your insurance company will compensate you for the value of the car, which, thanks to the depreciation, is often less than what you owe the loan. GAP coverage is designed to fill this gap, and in some cases it makes sense to buy it - but buy it from your insurance company. If you buy it from a dealer, it will almost certainly be more expensive, and again you are dealing with an unknown company that you have never heard of, if you ever need to benefit from it.
Extended guarantees
As with GAP insurance, extended guarantees can serve a legitimate purpose. In almost all cases, however, it is better to put this money in an interest-bearing savings account that is reserved for repairs. Extended warranties are designed to extend your coverage beyond your bumper-to-bumper warranty, which is typically three years or 36,000 miles. The truth is that much of the cost goes to the seller's commission, most people never use it, and it costs more than the price of an average repair.
Car alarm systems and trackers
Most cars are equipped with security systems or even trackers. If not, retailers often try to sell them as an add-on. In many cases, this is because dealerships are installing alarms to prevent theft on the dealership property, which means that it is already installed in the car. Instead of uninstalling it and letting you drive off your car, this upsell lets you sell cheap alarms and trackers for a premium and also bill you for the installation. You are almost certainly better off buying a system yourself and paying a much lower installation fee to your local mechanic.
Paint seals
Modern cars are given factory paintwork that withstands the elements - they have built-in sealing and rust protection properties. Paint protection can cost several hundred dollars and is almost never worth the cost. Wash your car regularly and your paint will last the life of your car in almost all conditions.
Fabric protection
The same rule applies to fabric and upholstery protection, which is applied by the manufacturer and built into the vehicle price. According to Edmunds, this service can cost $ 195 or more. If you really feel like you need extra protection because you have a dog or messy kids or whatever, spend a few dollars on a bottle of Scotchgard, which the retailer offers anyway.
Tires filled with nitrogen
Another trending add-on is nitrogen-filled tires, which your dealer will tell you that they are less prone to temperature-related pressure expansion and reduction. It is also said to bleed from your tires more slowly than normal air. Edmunds reports that his own research has shown that it makes almost no difference in real conditions and that the service costs around $ 100. Normal air is free - or nearby if you are in an emergency and need to stop at a gas station.
Insider Secrets: 23 Things Car Dealers Shouldn't Know
Window tints / clear protection
You may be in the window tint or clear UV protection market, but don't let the retailer sell you as an add-on. There is a possibility that they will not do the work themselves and will instead award it to the lowest bidder. Of course, you do not reap any of these savings - the difference is the mere profit from the dealer. When reviewing online reviews for local service providers, you're almost certainly paying less for the work of a company whose reviews you have researched yourself.
Door edge protection
You can buy a DIY door edge protector kit from Amazon for less than $ 10. However, according to Edmunds, traders typically charge $ 169. Theoretically, door edge protection devices prevent vulnerable door edges from flaking and scratching. The truth is that modern colors can withstand most of yesterday's damage. However, if you want to be reassured, this is a simple, cheap, and tool-free do-it-yourself job.
Exhaust tips
Exhaust tips modify the exhaust pipe of your car to make the exhaust sound throaty or scratchy - they can be modified either up or down. Aside from being pretty disgusting - although many people clearly think they look and sound cool - they don't cost anywhere near the $ 149 that Edmunds is likely to charge, according to a retailer. They are also cop magnets, even if this type of exhaust modification is legal.
Service and maintenance packages
Service and maintenance packages are not always or even usually a rip off. Dealers make a lot of money in their service departments and of course would love to sell and service a car for you, both during the warranty and beyond. This is an incentive for good service, as is the fact that good service means that you are more likely to come back and buy your next car there. The problem is that when you buy a car, a lot of information has to be processed yourself and you can choose the service plan at any time. If they offer you a maintenance package, ask for the details in writing, say you're going to think about it, and take a few days to review and decide if it's worth it.
Improved floor mats
Your dealer might try to persuade you to use "high performance" or "all weather" mats. Normal floor mats are often delivered as standard from the factory. In this case, the dealer may not be able to remove them to get a discount. However, this is different from upgrading to a more robust version at the price of hundreds of dollars that you may pay for a full set of custom, laser-measured mats from a company like WeatherTech. If you need generic high-performance mats, you can easily find them online with a two-digit price tag.
Appearance packages
The most common and expensive retailer add-ons include so-called "appearance packages", which are often in the form of pinstripes or other graphic designs. While it seems to come from the manufacturer, dealers - especially used car dealers - can add them themselves, try to pass them on as standard, and charge them outrageously. Edmunds reports that he sees release packs for $ 279. Jaloplink reports that they cost up to $ 2,000.
Mud flaps
Passenger cars do not need dirt traps, although your dealer will tell you about paint and chassis corrosion. Those who have them often find that they catch and trap sand and salt, which causes more corrosion than they prevent. Large trucks are an exception, but not most standard trucks or SUVs. Find out if your state needs them for SUVs or standard trucks before letting a dealer explain why you can't do without them. If you really want them, like so many add-ons, you'll find that you can buy them and install them cheaper elsewhere.
Trunk shells
Luggage compartment trays are form-fitting, rubberized loading areas for your trunk or the back of your hatchback or SUV - they are sometimes delivered with raised loading blocks. They protect against spills, tears, and other damage and are certainly not a bad idea - provided you pay around $ 200 for one online or at your local auto parts store. However, what you shouldn't do is let a dealer persuade you to buy one of them for over $ 700, which is not uncommon, according to MotorTrend.
Color change valve stem covers
You may find a dealer who promises magic in your tires in the form of color change valve spindles that change from green to red when your tires need air. All this for a bargain price of between $ 40 and $ 100 for a set of four. First of all, most new - or even new - cars are equipped with low tire pressure indicators on the dashboard. Even if this is not the case for you, the two tools that have always worked - your eyes and a pressure gauge - serve exactly the same purpose.
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