Considering dealer extras when purchasing a vehicle

The sticker price on a vehicle for sale offers a good outline of what the buyer is paying for. This information will include the standard equipment, the price of any optional equipment, and costs such as the delivery charge to bring the vehicle from the factory to the dealership.

Even with this information, you may be surprised by some of the extra costs involved in the sale, such as sales tax and licensing fees. You may also be presented with a number of dealer extras and have to decide whether you want to pay the additional money for these benefits.

Understanding what is offered in the dealer extras will help you make a decision that is right for you. It is also important to research the vehicle you are buying to determine what is included.

Some features or accessories won't be negotiable, since they were included with the vehicle when it arrived at the dealership. Doug DeMuro, writing for Autotrader, says a dealership won't be able to rip out an infotainment system, replace leather seats, or make other substantial changes to the vehicle. This process would require the dealership to spend a significant amount of time altering the vehicle, mar its appearance, reduce its value, and leave them with cast-off items that cannot be resold.

Dealer extras are usually listed separately from the standard and optional equipment in a vehicle. These may include aftermarket items that can be more easily removed, such as roof racks and chrome wheels.

The dealer may offer several extra items as well as a variety of services. These can include window tinting, wheel locks, pinstriping, road hazard warranties, and more. These features are sometimes bundled together, meaning you'll have to pay a higher price and won't be able to purchase a desired feature on its own.

If you want any of the extras that are being offered, it might be a good idea to roll them into the cost of your purchase. While you may be able to find the same service for a lower price elsewhere, you'll save time by having it completed prior to the sale.

Buyers can easily be frustrated if they choose a vehicle only to discover that several unwanted features are included as non-negotiable add-ons. Philip Reed, senior consumer advice editor at the automotive site Edmunds.com, says you should first check to see if your preferred vehicle includes any dealer extras and find out what their cost is. If you ask to see a vehicle without the unwanted extras and find out that none of their inventory is outfitted this way, you may want to check with other dealerships to see if you can find a vehicle without the extras.

Consider your driving habits, vehicle coverage, and your plans for owning the vehicle when deciding whether to purchase the dealer extras. Extended warranties will cover mechanical problems and other issues beyond the manufacturer's warranty. This coverage can be useful if you plan to own the vehicle for a long time, since it will offer extra protection down the road.

However, the extended warranty is only worthwhile if you think you'll own the vehicle for longer than the period of the manufacturer's warranty. DeMuro says you should also find out what is included in the coverage, since you won't want to pay extra only to find out later that the warranty doesn't apply to a certain issue. Kamil Skawinski, writing for the financial site Bankrate, says another option is to skip the extended warranty and put the saved money toward scheduled maintenance, which will help keep the vehicle in good condition.

Dealers may offer gap insurance to protect you against paying money out of pocket if you get into an accident in the early part of the loan. This is the steepest period of vehicle depreciation, so your loan will likely be worth more than the vehicle's value for several months. Gap insurance covers the difference between the outstanding loan balance and what the insurer will pay. Joann Muller, writing for Forbes, says this coverage can also apply if you trade in the vehicle while you are still underwater on the loan.

This dealer extra can be useful if you are planning to trade in the vehicle within a few years, since it will protect you if the vehicle's value has dropped faster than expected. DeMuro says it is often worth it to pay the extra cost for gap insurance, but only if the price is right; if it will put you out several thousand dollars, it is better to keep that money.

Other coverage looks to guard you against burdensome loan payments in the event of unexpected trouble. Christine Davidson, writing for the credit union VSECU of Montpelier, Vt., says these include credit life insurance to ensure that your family doesn't have to pay the auto loan debt if you pass away. Credit disability insurance is similar, in that it covers your loan payments if you become disabled.

These policies can be a good safeguard against unforeseen calamities. However, you should make sure your existing insurance policies don't already offer this coverage. You might also want to shop around first to compare different policies.

The oft-derided undercoating procedure to protect the vehicle against rust is another common dealer extra. Skawinski says this process is often unnecessary, since modern vehicles are typically built to withstand corrosion. Rustproofing or an anti-perforation warranty may be worthwhile if you are particularly worried about the damage from winter deicing applications, though.

VIN etching, which inscribes the vehicle identification number onto the glass, is often recommended as a way of deterring thieves. While this protection can be useful, you'll also have to decide if you are satisfied with the vehicle's existing anti-theft technology. You might also be able to find a do-it-yourself kit for less money or see if your police department offers the service.

Fabric and paint protection are sometimes offered as dealer extras. These services often come at a steep price and can be completed on your own through the application of an upholstery protection spray and regular washing and waxing.

Dealer extras can be convenient and offer peace of mind when purchasing a vehicle. They can also save you the time of shopping around for the feature or coverage. However, you shouldn't feel pressured into purchasing any features, items, or coverage that you don't want.

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