Car Upgrades

Car upgrades can be an excellent way to boost the appeal of your new car, but you should be careful before signing off on too many upgrades to your vehicle. Before you know it, the price of your car will skyrocket.

Why Upgrade Your Car?

Simply put, car upgrades can make your driving experience more enjoyable and, in some cases, safer. Also, unless you're getting relatively unnecessary upgrades, negotiating for car upgrades with your dealer during the buying process can actually cost less than having the upgrades applied “aftermarket," or later on down the road.

Commonly Available Upgrades

First, understand that most car upgrades come with price upgrades; there are ways to negotiate for car upgrades, but don't set your heart on getting them all for free.

Now, let's take a look at some of the most common dealership upgrades around.

Cosmetic Upgrades

Basically, a cosmetic car upgrade is one that makes your car more visually appealing or cosmetically protected. These kinds of upgrades are purely based on personal preference, and may include:

  • Window tinting.
  • Chrome-plated wheels.
  • All-season floor mats.
  • Splash guards.
  • Pinstripes.

Other kinds of upgrades that might automatically come with a vehicle, or have to be special ordered, include upgrades such as leather interior, heated and cooled seating, and entertainment packages.

Safety Upgrades

Safety upgrades work to protect you and/or your vehicle in some capacity. Note that while some safety upgrades might be unnecessary to you (such as towing packages, which could come with your car insurance), others might benefit you (such as anti-theft devices, which could lower your auto insurance rates).

Common safety upgrades include:

  • Anti-theft devices such as alarm systems.
  • Vehicle-tracking systems.
  • Nitrogen in tires.
  • Wheel locks.
  • Towing packages.

Of course, some safety upgrades are even more robust, such as navigation systems and tools like backup cameras. As with many car upgrades, you can find these types of safety upgrades already installed or special order a vehicle with them installed.

Warnings to Consider

Although they sound attractive, you might want to avoid some of the following often unnecessary and pricey upgrades when buying a car.

NOTE: This is by no means an all-encompassing list; in fact, even some of the upgrades listed above could be deemed unnecessary and pricey depending on your wants, needs, and budget. The following is simply a sample of some of the more common upgrades a dealer may try to offer you.


These days, most new cars don't need rustproofing; they leave the factory already rustproofed. Plus, sometimes rustproofing a vehicle can void factory warranty conditions because the rust-proof undercoating is added by a third party and not the factory itself.

Fabric Protection

Similar to rustproofing a vehicle, adding fabric protection to the upholstery and other interior parts of today's vehicles is often unnecessary. Given their level of quality, most interior types can be easily cleaned if done so in a timely fashion. Also, skipping fabric protection prevents contact with the extra chemicals.

Paint Protection

Although they boast a shiny, long-lasting barrier against the elements, generally paint protectors aren't necessary. Today's automotive paints are more durable than ever before and do a much better job of withstanding the elements than they did in the past.

VIN Etching

This one's a little trickier. VIN etching, a process that etches your vehicle identification number onto your vehicle's glass, actually can deter thieves (or at least make it more difficult for them to profit from or dispose of stolen vehicles); thus, some law enforcement and even car insurance agents recommend VIN etching.

However, VIN etching at the dealership can run you hundreds of dollars. This might sound like a fair price to pay given the benefits—until you find there are plenty of easy, effective, and less-expensive do-it-yourself VIN etching kits available.

So, when it comes to this one, it's best to gauge your comfort level.

Service Contracts (AKA Extended Warranties)

This is another tricky “car upgrade," and one that should be based on personal need and comfort.

Often misnamed as “extended warranties," third-party vehicle service offer additional “bumper-to-bumper" protection; however, some experts advise that a little research can go a long way. For example, if you buy a car with excellent reliability reports, chances are low that you'll ever need that extended service contract, which may cost thousands of dollars.

Instead, consider taking the money you would have spent on an extended warranty and applying it toward regular, routine maintenance to keep your vehicle running properly.

Of course, service contracts aren't always bad. If you would like the added protection, visit our Extended Warranty page for more detailed information.

Negotiating Car Upgrades

So, you've given it some thought and decided on a few car upgrades. Some vehicles you look at already have the upgrades you want; others don't and will need those upgrades added. The trick is negotiating a fair price for those upgrades, whether or not they're already on the vehicle.

  1. Do your research before signing any sales contracts. Could you get the window tinting cheaper at an automotive shop? What about the pinstripes? Or the floor mats? Always check local businesses and their prices, and use these prices as tools when you negotiate with the dealer.
  2. Don't be shy about playing dealerships against one another. Shop around with various dealerships, and ask about the car upgrades in which you're interested. Get prices, and then move on to the next dealer. Use these prices as ways to eventually get the lowest price possible.
  3. Work toward the “yes." Generally, the dealer will start high, so you should start low. Eventually, the two of you will work toward a middle ground, or the “yes." Remember, if you can't meet in the middle, move on to another dealership until you find a price within your budget with which you're comfortable.
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