Useless car extras revealed

Don’t get taken for a ride with expensive or unnecessary new car options.
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03.Ones to consider

Some accessories can be useful and appealing additions to your car, but you’ll probably get them cheaper — sometimes a lot cheaper — at auto stores rather than through the dealer. There are some extras, however, that must be factory-fitted, or you might just want the convenience of having the dealer supply and fit the option for you. Also, dealer and factory-fitted accessories are usually covered by the vehicle warranty. It’s your call.

  • Floor mats help keep the carpet clean, but do you really want to pay anything from $70 to more than $100 for them when you can get aftermarket car mats for $40 or less? The same applies to seat covers and boot liners.
  • GPS navigation Factory-fitted dash-mounted systems offer bigger screens and integrated functionality and are less easily stolen than portable models (although car thieves sometimes target these high-end systems and cause extensive damage to the dashboard in the process). You might also be forced to get your software and map updates from the car manufacturer.
    Some manufacturers and dealers also offer portable GPS systems, but they’re usually cheaper elsewhere. For example, Ford offers a Garmin Nüvi 760 for $799, while the same model is available from retailers for about $640. See our test on GPS systems.
    Headlight and bonnet protectors are really only useful if you often drive on unsealed roads.
  • Nudge and bull bars aren’t necessary for typical city driving. But if you opt for one, a factory-fitted bar has the advantage of having been tested with the vehicle’s airbag system — the bar affects the vehicle’s behaviour in a collision. If you go for an aftermarket nudge bar, ask the supplier if it’s compatible with the airbags in your car.
  • Premium sound systems can make travelling much more pleasant, but have a listen to the car’s standard system first. It might be all you need, especially if it already has a CD player and MP3 player connection.
  • Roof racks and roof luggage boxes are almost always cheaper aftermarket. A set of roof racks plus roof luggage box would cost about $1270 from Holden or Ford; you could get comparable roof racks plus a luggage box from Rhino Rack or Thule for about $700 to $800. See our test on car roof boxes.
  • Special suspension, such as sports (firmer springs and lower ride) or country suspension (with increased ride height), is useful for some drivers, but test-drive both the special version and the standard suspension so you know what you’re getting before you commit yourself to this option.
  • Towbar Get quotes from a couple of independent towbar installers to compare with the dealer price. As with other options, the dealer price will probably be higher.
  • Window tinting is already standard on most cars. Do you really need even darker windows?

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