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Beware of High Priced Dealer Add-ons, Accessories and Protection Plans

It is common practice for dealers to attempt to sell pricey options and add-ons to a consumer at time of contract or during the delivery of a new or used vehicle. Such items typically include road hazard tire and / or wheel protection, special waxes or paint protection, interior fabric / upholstery / carpet stain protection, extended warranties, pre-paid maintenance or service plans, special wheels, gold accent packages, wood / carbon fiber / stainless steel or other special interior treatments, LoJack, remote starter, window tinting, and a host of other commonly over-priced items that quickly amount to thousands of dollars of extra costs at the time of purchase. I have even had clients come to my office and were unaware that they were sold some expensive and unnecessary add-ons or lied to and told that they must buy extended warranties or even life insurance to qualify for financing, which is untrue. Caveat Emptor  (let the buyer beware) must be on the consumer’s mind at all times while being hustled through the aggressive and sometimes intimidating sales process by a host of well trained and experienced sales people. Also do not go alone through this process, but rather bring an experienced friend or relative or even a professional car shopper to help you negotiate a better deal and avoid costly mistakes.

While some dealers do offer bargains, such as buying discounted pre-paid maintenance plans, and some drivers who are very hard on their vehicles or drive on rough roads with lots of pot holes may benefit from road hazard protection plans for their tires and wheels, most of the items referenced above are grossly over priced and inefficient purchases. I wish to briefly describe some of the misconceptions about the main common dealer add-ons and after market equipment as follows:

LoJack: While years ago this was likely more beneficial then today due to many cars having factory installed navigation systems or other vehicle location systems such as General Motors’ OnStar system, vehicles having those systems can be located frequently by the manufacturer or its provider of services, and therefore a costly LoJack type system of about $1,500.00 is unnecessary for those vehicles. Moreover, given the fact that most consumers will never suffer a stolen car and their deductible for theft is less then the cost of installing a such location system, it is simply not a cost-effective purchase. I have also been told by some consumers that they wished that their stolen vehicles had not been located since the chop shops caused so much damage to their cars in quickly removing expensive items ranging from tires and wheels to airbags and practically every major component of the vehicle and that the rebuilt vehicle just was never the same.

Paint and Upholstery Protection: It is ridiculous to pay perhaps $500.00 to $1,000.00 for a dealer to apply a so-called super wax or fabric protection to the car when you can easily wax the vehicle or spray a fabric protector on the upholstery (cloth seats and carpeting) yourself for under $50.00 or just be more careful not to allow food and beverages to be spilled in your vehicle.

Extended Warranties: Since many owners of vehicles and most every lessee of vehicles trades in or returns the car, van, SUV, hybrid, or anything else on wheels before the expiration date of the factory warranty, which is typically between three (3) and five (5) years, there is no sense to prepay for a warranty that you may likely never use. More importantly, dealers fail to tell the consumers that they have the right to purchase the factory warranty anytime before the expiration of the original factory extended warranty, and therefore it does not make good financial sense to prepay for a warranty three to five years ahead of schedule. However, if you did, then you should also know that you have the right to cancel the warranty at anytime and you should be entitled to a pro-rated refund of the premium (for example, should you cancel the extended warranty before the original warranty expires, then you should receive a complete refund). Also, I cannot stress strongly enough that consumers should only purchase extended warranties from the manufacturer of the subject vehicle and not mostly unheard of warranty companies that all too often dishonor claims and have more exclusions then inclusions in their policies, which is further addressed in my other tip and advice entitled “Used Car Extended Warranties.”

Remote Starters: This is one of the most unnecessary and perhaps dangerous extravagances ever added to automobiles for a variety of reasons. Foremost is that after-market remote starters could give rise to a manufacturer voiding the warranty or disclaiming other problems that otherwise would have been covered by the original factory warranty, especially items involving electrical systems or onboard computers.  Of even greater importance is the fact that improperly installed remote starters can be extremely dangerous and cause a vehicle to lunge into operation without the driver. I personally witnessed on May 8, 2011 while attending a car show at the Captree Boat Basin on the South Shore of Long Island, New York, the unattended rapid acceleration of a unoccupied runaway Mazda vehicle which the owner accidentally remote started while in gear (yes, someone foolishly installed a remote starter in a standard transmission modified car without the necessary safety overrides) and the vehicle raced through the crowd, knocked over a series of motorcycles like bowling pins while the owner chased after the vehicle and somehow managed to get behind the driver’s seat moments before it hit a curb and became airborne and then quickly submerged in the water between two (2) commercial fishing vessels!  Thankfully, the owner escaped drowning with only minor injuries and no one else at the crowded car show on that early Sunday morning was injured. Therefore, if you must waste money on your vehicle, then perhaps do so with an aftermarket exhaust system or tinted windows rather then a remote starter.

All options: Do not be hesitant to negotiate the suggested prices for any vehicle and the options or add-ons as most everything is negotiated and 5% to 20% savings can be had just by asking or starting to walk away.