Bells and Whistles: What Vehicle Options Do I Need?

By Max Glasner  Published Aug 29th, 2016


 

bells and whistles of buying a car 

Bells and Whistles: What Vehicle Options Do I Need?

 

 There was a time when car buying was simple. You picked one of a handful of models on the market and you picked what color you wanted it in, or in the famous words of Henry Ford when speaking of the Model T, “You can have any color you want – so long as it’s black”.

Fast forward to today and car buying can be a sea of options and features that, while useful, can be expensive for what could be limited utility. Let’s look at some of the most popular options and what to consider when checking the box on the order form.

 

Sensors

 

By federal mandate, rear view cameras are soon to be standard on all vehicles. Many customers have taken this as reason enough to eschew sensor packages. If I can see it, why do I need to hear it? In terms of additional options, sensors are fairly inexpensive, running between $100-300.

Having additional audio cues, especially in areas like the front can be extremely helpful in maneuvering and parking modern cars which have increasingly less visibility due to stricter safety standards dictating the design of the body shell. Note that some sensors must be purchased as part of larger tech packages.

 

Navigation

 

Why would I need navigation in my car if I have my phone? A pretty strong argument among car buyers, especially when navigation packages can add a no-way-insignificant chunk of change to the price tag (between $500-$1,200 in some vehicles). Some cars have systems that are primitive and outdated compared to the always updating and connected phone apps we use daily.

In my experience, however, customers have told me the number one thing they regretted when buying a car was opting out of navigation. Your phone can do a great many things, and with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay the issue of not being able to use the screen is fading fast, but there are some valid use cases for having an always-on, always-ready system that doesn’t use your phone’s battery and data.

 

 Sunroof

 

You either love sunroofs or hate them. In my entire history of selling cars, I never met someone who had a take-it-or-leave-it attitude about them. It’s easy to see why it’s divisive when the option can easily break an extra grand on the final line, but when people want them they refuse to accept a vehicle without one. Do you actually need it though? The most popular use case for one is to leave it popped open to vent out hot air when parked, which could easily be accomplished by cracking a window.

You may be the exception who loves to feel the wind in your hair and have the sun on your face or moonlight in the cabin but the majority of owners with one will operate it only a handful of times during the vehicle’s lifetime. If you really want to experience the open air, you might want to consider a convertible if it’s available, but that is an even more adventurous and significant decision.

 

Remote Start

 

Depending on the make and model, this feature may be outright included or could be had for very little added cost. Picture yourself walking through the parking lot in the middle of the night, you reach into your pocket and, like magic, your car springs to life. It beckons to your call. While this really helps validate your new purchase in how slick it is the novelty can wear off pretty quickly for some people.

Remote start systems do have a less-romanticized function that makes it all the worthwhile: the ability to get your climate just right. No longer will you have to endure a freezing car in the start of the morning or a convection oven at the height of the afternoon (I hear you, sunroof owners) because all you have to do is push a button on the remote a few minutes before going out to the car. Truly we are living in the future.

All the options that I have described above fall into the ‘nice to have’ category. It’s not looking for 4WD or a V8 engine. It’s not having room for two children and their entire soccer team or just two seats for a weekend cruise. These are options that, if you’re interested, you can keep an eye out when walking a dealer’s lot. At the same time if a vehicle has options which are a little extra than what you wanted then you may find a dealership can be very flexible in offering you more bang for buck to take the one they have over the exact one you want. This list hopefully helps gives some arguments to live with these extras if the price is right, or to let go of some things you don’t actually need.