You've selected the car that perfectly meets your needs, but you still have some tough decisions to make. Which options are must-haves for your lifestyle, and which ones are simply indulgent wants?

The good news is carmakers have added numerous perks to their standard equipment over the years, and luxuries like backup monitors and Bluetooth connectivity are becoming common on modern vehicles. Nonetheless, additional options that aren't standard can add thousands of dollars to the price tag. Different trim preferences and option packages save money over adding specific features individually, but they also inflate the total cost with items you may not want or need. Here's what to think about:

Safety First

Features like anti-lock braking, hands-free Bluetooth, and backup cameras have become more standard, but are not always included so you’ll want to consider spending your upgrade dollars on them if they aren't. You may also want to look at options for systems that alert you if you exit a lane, automatically adjust cruise control, and activate the brakes if a collision is imminent.

Luxury Items

Only you can decide how important leather seats and other luxury options are to you, but it's possible to predict how potential resale buyers may behave when it's time to trade up or trade in. In general, adding luxury items to a subcompact or entry-level car is unlikely to add much value. Conversely, skimping on nice features for a luxury sedan could make the car less appealing to future buyers.


Swapping out the stock wheels for shinier wheels is a factory option that could cost less at the time of purchase rather than later. However, a larger wheel diameter also means a larger tire, and that means greater ongoing expense for tire replacements while owning the car.


Few experts recommend a sunroof as they effect aerodynamics and hamper the structural integrity of the vehicle, but it's hard to deny the appeal, especially in comparison to the cost of an expensive convertible. Carefully read reviews written by longtime owners to find out if sunroofs on your model are prone to leaking or other issues.

The view of a sunroof in a car from the bottom of the driver's side door

Climate Control

Although air conditioning is almost always standard in today's cars, other climate control features, such as heated seats and steering wheels and temperature control zones, are rarely included without additional charges. Consider the weather where you live to decide the importance of these features.

Navigation Systems

The touchscreen experience is nice, but many in-car GPS systems roll off the factory floor with maps that are already dated, and few systems match the user-friendliness of most smartphone apps. Consider investing in an inexpensive smartphone mount for hands-free driving, or check to see if the stereo supports Apple CarPlay® or Android™ Auto, both of which display smartphone navigation apps on a built-in display.

A man's finger using the on-screen navigation system in a new car

In-Car Entertainment

Costly built-in entertainment systems keep kids happy on long car trips, but tablets accomplish the same feat at a much lower cost. Download digital copies of their favorite movies and TV shows to these devices to keep them entertained as the miles roll by.

Color and Cosmetics

Some carmakers charge extra for certain color schemes or adornments like stripes or ground effects. Paying extra for a favorite color or other enhancement is a personal choice, but be warned that any look considered too wild or eccentric could impact the resale value.


Assuming you don't have a need for exceptional speed, do some online research to view the opinions of owners on standard engine power before upgrading. Additionally, all-wheel drive offers traction and stability but can reduce gas mileage and impact performance. Think about your year-round daily driving conditions.

Roof Racks

Although roof racks might be essential for long-haul drivers and outdoorsy types, this type of equipment is often much more expensive as a dealership option. Go online to research aftermarket solutions for the vehicle you're considering.

Two bicycles sitting on a bike rack on top of a vehicle

Other Helpful Tips

Do your homework before you go to the dealer to purchase. Many manufacturers' websites have interactive "build your car" features that let you experiment with adding specific options or trim levels to the total price. If you're considering higher-end options, be sure to test the car on the road. Go for a test drive to make sure the stock engine has enough power, and if you're wondering if the premium stereo is worth the extra cash, test drive cars with both types of systems.

Is navigation an absolute must, or do you worry more about comfy leather seats? Share your top auto features with us on Facebook.


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