Buying a car is exciting, but it’s also confusing and stressful. You might think that the confusion and stress would end once you find the car you want and settle on a price. Even after you’ve gotten that far, however, the process can be nerve-wracking because once you’ve negotiated a price, a dealer will ask you to make choices about expensive add-ons and options. When you’re under pressure, it can be tempting to pay extra for everything the dealer suggests, so that you won’t have regrets down the road when problems arise.
Some add-ons really might make sense and might be worth paying for, but many do not. The best way to make sure you don’t agree to pay for add-ons that you do not need is to know what makes sense for you before you visit a dealer. Here are five dealer add-ons you should think twice about before you agree to buy.
When you’re signing up to pay for several years on a brand new, shiny car, it’s tempting to pay for ding protection. Ding protection covers the cost of dealer repairs for small dents and scratches (generally limited to less than four inches long) for an agreed period of time after the sale. It really does seem like a new car gets its first ding the minute you drive it off the dealer’s lot, and if you’re worried minor cosmetic issues, the peace of mind that comes from ding protection may be worth it to you.
On the other hand, a three-year ding protection plan can cost as much as $650. If money is no issue, and if you’re concerned about small imperfections, ding protection may be worth it to you. Keep in mind, however, that ding protection plans typically don’t cover large dents. It’s wise to do a little checking around and find out what it really costs to have small scratches buffed out and touched up before you make a decision about ding protection.
Fabric protection is an option you might want to pass up. Dealers typically charge several hundred dollars to spray a stain-protection formula on the seats and floors of a new car. You can buy Scotchgard Auto Interior Fabric Protector at stores like Kmart and Target for around $10 a can. Scotchgard will provide the same kind of protection as the formula dealers’ use. If you like to drink your morning latte on your way to the office, think about investing in a $10 can of Scotchgard. It’s true that when you pay for dealer fabric protection, the dealer covers the cost of removing stubborn stains for the first few years. On the other hand, for a few dollars, a can of Spot Shot Carpet Cleaner will even take ink out of most vehicle upholsteries.
Paint protection is another dealer add-on that probably isn’t worth the money. Applying a good coat of wax will do as much good as dealer paint protection, and the easiest time to apply wax when your car is brand new. You’ll save a lot of money by buying a polymer-sealant car wax and an auto parts store. You only need to wax once a year, and don’t forget that the paint on a new car has already been sealed by the manufacturer.
Unless a car is very old, in most climates rust-proofing usually isn’t necessary and it’s not usually a cost- effective add-on. Today, new vehicles are manufactured to resist rust. Almost every new car comes with a manufacturer’s rust-perforation warranty, which makes dealer rust-proofing unnecessary. Save your money on this one.
Dealer-maintenance plans cover regular, periodic maintenance, including fluid changes. If you pay for a maintenance plan, you won’t have to bother budgeting for regular maintenance, and it’s generally the case that the price of a maintenance plan, if you pay for it up front, is less than the ordinary cost of routine maintenance from a dealer. However, any time you add-an option to the financed amount of your vehicle purchase price, the add-on is much more expensive than you think.
While a dealer maintenance program may cost less than the same services purchased individually from the dealer, it may not cost less than the same services from an outside repair shop. Do a little checking around before you decide to buy — and especially before you decide to finance — a dealer maintenance plan. When you’re negotiating about price, it may be worth asking whether the dealer will toss in a maintenance plan for free to make the deal work. More and more automakers are including free maintenance programs with new vehicles. Volkswagen, Volvo, Scion and BMW all offer some form of free maintenance and other manufacturers are following suit.
Extended warranties are probably the most confusing and most tempting add-on offered by most dealers. Before you decide to pay for one, read Your Guide To Extended Warranties. Remember that all new cars come with manufacturer warranties, and many manufacturer warranties are now five years long. Also remember that you can purchase an extended warranty after the sale; you don’t have to decide before you buy. There are lots of independent warranty companies out there competing with automobile dealerships for your warranty business. A dealer’s extended warranty isn’t always best deal. Frequently, a dealer’s extended warranty is more expensive than the same warranty purchased from an independent company, and dealer warranties generally cover only repairs made by the dealership.