by David Wood
A vehicle is a major purchase for any household, and some people take the plunge and buy a new car thinking it will be a good investment. Unfortunately, that is seldom the case unless the vehicle becomes a collectable antique. For most cars, once that vehicle is five years
old, it has automatically lost 75 percent of its value. Not very comforting to
the bank account.
Additionally, that smiling car salesperson will offer you optional features that could either turn into a real investment or something that means nothing if you later sell the car.
Vehicle options are a gamble for most consumers because for most of us, the choice of an additional feature is based on what we want, not based on things that will retain their value. Manufacturers have also learned the best way to sell additional options is by packaging them together, so you'll get a few things you want and a few that are meaningless to you.
Which options are worth the money? Research says that power windows, power locks, power seats, cruise control, and air conditioning zones such as for backseat occupants are options that have been found to hold their value and help when you sell or trade-in the car.
Other smart investments are leather seats, tilt steering, and rear entertainment systems for a potential buyer with children. However, you could probably save money on the rear entertainment system if you buy an aftermarket product.
Another aftermarket item that will be offered by a dealer is a navigation system. You're typically better off purchasing a portable GPS system that allows you to move the device from one vehicle to another. A device installed by the manufacturer or dealer of the vehicle is expensive, and if it breaks down, that means an automatic trip back to the dealer for repair.
The options where you will lose are likely the extras offered by your dealer, usually right when they are making the sale. Rust proofing, paint sealer, and fabric protector are favorite ways for the dealer to make a serious profit, all which adds to the total financed cost of the car and are a waste of money.
Be careful that the dealer doesn't charge you for "window etching," a service that can cost hundreds of dollars but one that you could do yourself for less than $30. Window etching imprints your vehicle identification number on a window. This allegedly will help in case your vehicle is stolen, but is useless if a thief breaks that specific window. If you want the window etched, by a do-it-yourself kit.
Many items that were once considered "options" are becoming more standard in vehicles, such as power windows and power locks. Your job is to know exactly what you want before you enter the doors of a dealership because once you are under the spell of an experienced salesperson, you can easily be taken for a ride.
David Wood is an investigative reporter with CarComplaints.com, an automotive complaint resource that uses graphs to show defect patterns, based on complaint data submitted by visitors to the site.