Are dealer-fit options worth the extra cash?

By Daniel Gardner, 17 Nov 2017 Car Advice

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car dealer options

Does investing a little extra cash with dealer options improve the new car ownership experience?

You’ve pored over the brochure, picked your paint colour, engine, drivetrain and body style and now all that’s left to do is sign on the line and wait for your shiny new car to arrive, but wait. There’s more, says the sales consultant.

Virtually all dealerships will have a range of options you can add to the bottom line to either customise, enhance practicality or protect your new car before you pick it up on delivery day, but are any worth considering or simply a deal-sweetener for the dealer?

couple with scary ghost car

Here are some typical options you may be offered when ticking the boxes on a new car order form and whether they are worth the extra investment of your hard-earned cash.

Paint and upholstery protection

Gone are the days when non-metallic colours oxidised and faded in the harsh Australian sun with all modern paint now adopting the ‘clear over base’ method. This means all paint should last fresh from the factory with nothing more than normal care.

Optional paint protection packs differ from one dealership to another but most claim to apply a protective treatment that adds an extra layer of defence from dirt and abrasion. Without an exhaustive test of each, it is impossible to establish the benefits but with a visit to your local car care store and a little elbow grease, you can achieve the same results.

Ask how the preparation works and see if similar products exist off the shelf and you could save yourself a few hundred dollars.

It’s a similar story with leather and fabric protection. Modern upholstery should stand up to daily use and wear for the life of the car but some extra lustre can be applied with aftermarket products if you are prepared to do the legwork.

The important thing to remember is that paint and interior finishes are covered by the vehicle’s warranty and any degradation not related to damage is covered, which neatly brings us on to the next item.

Extended warranty

On the face of it, an extended new car warranty can only appear to be a good thing right? But it comes down to the details that you must examine carefully before handing over extra cash.

A warranty is only as good as the items it covers and while the mandatory new car warranty is comprehensive, the extension may not cover as much. Make sure you find out what is covered for your extra cash but as a general rule, an extended factory warranty is worth more than a dealer warranty.

Some dealer warranties require your car to be maintained by the dealer who provides the extension which will be voided if you choose to have your car serviced elsewhere, whereas a factory warranty is more flexible and allows you to have the car looked after by any authorised dealer or workshop.

Read the terms and conditions carefully and consider if the extension is worth it, especially as so many brands now offer five- and seven-year warranties as standard.

Floor and boot mats

In almost all cases, adding a set of protective floor mats for the passenger and boot areas is a great idea. Not only do they make cleaning the vehicle an easier task but will keep the fitted carpets looking like new.

Aftermarket mats are an option for a lower price but they rarely fit as well as the original equipment and the real deal is always a better match – especially when it comes to selling the car.

Paint protection film or guards

If you intend to cover a lot of highway or unsealed road kilometres, paint protection film and a bonnet shield might be worth considering. The special clear film is almost invisible but applies a durable layer that can prevent a surprising amount of damage to your pristine paint. When you sell the car or simply want it looking like new again, the film is simply peeled off revealing the untouched paint below.

Some dealers will offer the option but it is rarely applied in house, with a nearby specialist enlisted to complete the work. With a little research you can get the same work carried out and often for a lower price.

As for tailored headlight or bonnet leading edge guards, the same applies as with floor mats. It’s best to stick to original accessories for the best fit and finish, and that’s where the dealer can help you out.

Tow bars and roo bars

Unlike some other accessories including roof bars and dog cages, tow bars and roo (or bull) bars can be a little different thanks to Australia’s unique automotive environment.

In some cases, the original equipment tow bar might not comply to Australian standards and a local supplier will be contracted to produce the uprated version. If this is the case, you might be able to shop around and find the same kit from the supplier at a reduced cost. It’s a similar story for roo bars.

Aftermarket 4x4 specialists can often offer a wider range of options compared with a dealer, giving you more choice for your exact requirements.

Tinted windows

Window tinting is another service available from specialists and if you don’t mind doing your own research, you might be able to save yourself some money here.

window tinting

If you do decide to go it alone however, make sure you ask for all of your options including the correct colour options to match your car and personal preference – not to mention the right level of UV protection - and always make sure you are not asking for a shade darker than is legally permitted for road cars.

Top tips

If you are buying a high value or prestige car subjected to luxury car tax, all additional accessories will be added to the purchase price and you will pay LCT on these as well. However, if the dealer agrees to allow you to return and have the parts fitted after you take delivery of the car, you will not pay LCT on the extras.

Don’t be afraid to use dealer options as a bargaining chip. If you have your eye on a couple of big-ticket extras such as a larger set of wheels but the sales consultant is driving a hard bargain, it’s worth asking for a couple of options to be thrown in to help close the deal.

Whatever options you are considering, always do your homework and be sure you know exactly what the dealer is offering in return for extra payment.