2009 Spring Car Guide
green mountains and blue sky with a silver gear shift in the foreground
Add-ons can help or hurt car's value

Not long ago, optioning out a new car was straightforward. If you wanted to add some extra value, comfort and convenience to your ride, you opted for an automatic transmission, cruise control, air conditioning, power steering, power brakes and a decent AM/FM stereo with cassette. If you lived north of the Mason-Dixon Line, you added a rear-window defogger, intermittent wipers, a bigger battery and an engine-block heater to the mix.

Although these options remain popular with consumers, today's car buyers also have a dizzying array of aftermarket accessories to consider such as:

  • Multi-gigabyte in-car navigation.
  • DVD entertainment systems.
  • Back-up cameras.
  • Heated or air-conditioned leather seats.
  • Performance suspension packages.
  • Alloy wheels.
  • Satellite radio.
  • Intelligent keys.
  • In-vehicle Bluetooth technology.

All of this equipment has the potential to make life with a new car safer and a lot more fun. But which of these pricey add-ons can help maintain your car's value -- or even increase it and which ones can actually diminish the value, making your car less appealing and harder to sell?

Reason to personalize "The whole notion behind vehicle personalization or customization is to make your vehicle fit you, its owner, like a glove, and to really make it meet your individual needs," says Peter MacGillivray, vice president of events and communications at the Specialty Equipment Market Association, or SEMA. MacGillivray says the average U.S. consumer spends about $2,000 on optioning or modifying their vehicle within the first year of purchase.

"Rims (custom wheels) are probably the most popular, easiest and best aftermarket upgrade," says Adam Simms, general manager of Toyota Sunnyvale in Sunnyvale, Calif. "They're an option that not only positively impacts the performance and handling of any vehicle, but they immediately add value as well."

Consumers are also spending increasing sums on mobile electronics that garner a return on investment at selling time.

Aftermarket GPS navigation systems, for example, are very popular with today's drivers because they are more flexible and better designed than the systems installed by carmakers, says MacGillivray. Not only do these highly portable "stick-on" units afford you tremendous flexibility -- you can use these units interchangeably among various vehicles -- but they also generally come equipped with such built-in, state-of-the-art features as Bluetooth connectivity and other technologies that simply make them considerably easier to use and update.

"In a state like California and others where the law requires the use of a hands-free device when making a telephone call, a Bluetooth enabled GPS unit comes in real handy," MacGillivray adds, noting that the majority of the GPS Systems that were factory installed last year lacked this functionality.

Aftermarket stereo systems are also desirable and value-enhancing options, provided they are installed professionally and don't cause any problems with the vehicle's electrical system, says Simms. The same goes for in-car DVD entertainment systems.

Add-ons that enhance

  • Appropriate-size alloy rims/wheels with lower-profile tires.
  • Navigation systems.
  • Mobile electronics, such as in-car DVD "infotainment" systems, satellite radio and premium stereo packages).
  • Factory-installed or vehicle-appropriate aftermarket leather seats/leather interiors.
  • Sunroofs/moon roofs.
  • Intelligent keys (free you from having to turn a physical switch to start a car, and they also automatically configure a car's seats, mirrors and radio stations to the preference of the specific driver).
  • Appropriate body kits such as bed-liners, fascias, grilles, step-bars, running boards, brush-guards, fog lights, taillight treatments and legal window tinting.

"Leather has long been considered an option that would increase the value and desirability of almost any vehicle, and a sunroof is also something that will increase resale value for almost any car," says Chris Voss, purchasing manager of the Schaumburg, Ill., franchise of national automotive retailer CarMax.


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