Not so long ago, choosing optional extras to be fitted to a new car was a guessing game. Unless a dealer had a similar car with fitted with similar options for customers to view, you’d place ticks on an order form and hope for the best. Today, the online car configurator means drivers can easily judge whether larger wheels look better, or if a panoramic sunroof and tan leather upholstery is a better bet than a regular sunroof with black leather trim.
Online configurators are big business. Car companies invest huge sums of money in making them as realistic as possible, because they can make huge sums of money from selling customers optional extras. And the list of those extras is as long as your arm.
Sometimes those options are a good choice. They’ll make driving safer or more comfortable for the owner of the car. But just as often, they’re a waste of money, costing hundreds or even thousands when ordered but worth precious little when the time comes to sell the car.
That’s the view of Rupert Pontin, the Director of Valuations at Glass’s Guide, the organisation that has been monitoring the values of used cars since 1933 – long before there were such things as optional extras.
Glass’s cautions buyers to think before they upgrade. It says that typically, the original cost of any option falls in value faster than the original cost of the car. It’s also better to invest in a higher trim level than to pick a basic car and pile on the options.
So which options are worth adding to a new car? Here are five wise buys.
Sat nav: the option that’s a step in the right direction
Satellite navigation is an essential option if you are buying a car with a posh badge from the prestige sector, says Rupert Pontin of Glass’s Guide. “Having an upgraded sat nav with a larger screen and better mapping will add value for cars in the upper reaches of the market.” That means if you’re buying an executive car or large SUV, future buyers will expect it to come with navigation, and will be prepared to pay for it.
However, before drivers order sat nav on their supermini or city car, they might want to reroute. With more affordable cars, buyers are happy to install their own portable sat nav unit, or use their smartphone. So the original £700 cost of, for example, optional sat nav and digital radio with a basic 5inch screen in the Ford Fiesta – the UK’s best selling car – is unlikely to add to the car’s resale value in three years time, compared to a Fiesta without the system.
Larger alloy wheels: upgrading will bring buyers round
Bigger alloy wheels will mean a bigger price for your car when the time comes to sell it on. Why? Because buyers are suckers for good looks, and “after the body colour, wheels tend to have the biggest impact on the appearance of a car,” says Rupert Pontin.
This means, however, that increasingly, the nation’s savvier drivers are forever grumbling under their breath about the stiff ride comfort of their car. Larger wheels and tyres usually result in a rougher ride over Britain’s broken roads.
Panoramic sunroof: lights up the price of a used car
For wow factor, the panoramic sunroof is hard to beat, says Rupert Pontin. “It makes a vehicle look more appealing but also adds to everyday driving, providing extra light in the cabin. It is a definite plus point.” It also means that it lights up the price of a used car.
Increasingly popular on all types of car, the panoramic sunroof will either be a piece of glass fixed in place, or it will be glass that opens up, or lastly a fabric roof that slides back in a sardine-tin arrangement. With glass items, it’s a good idea to make sure that your car has air conditioning, as on even a modestly warm day the cabin will get hot.
Bluetooth and smartphone sync: get yourself connected to more buyers
If your car doesn’t come as standard with Bluetooth sync or any integration for smartphones, then order it as an option. Rupert Pontin says this has become an essential feature for most drivers, be they busy executives, young mums or newly qualified drivers.
“Being able to access phone functions and music through the car while on the move is seen as a deal maker or breaker. The better the phone integration, the faster the sale,” stresses Pontin. So get yourself connected.
Air conditioning: chill out in the knowledge it will add value to your car
Such is the demand for air conditioning from new car buyers, that it’s available either as standard or an option on most cars on sale today. However, more affordable cars will make you pay for it, but it’s a sound investment, says Rupert Pontin of Glass’s Guide: “It is very difficult to sell cars without it.”
At the same time, larger, more expensive cars should come with automatic climate control, which adjusts the air flow to maintain a set temperature. If you smart Audi or BMW doesn’t have it as standard, it is important to fit it as an option, says Pontin.