You’ve picked the perfect new car, but before you sign on the dotted line what extras, if any, should you fork out for?
You may be offered anything from parking sensors and blind-spot warnings to a better entertainment system and heated seats. Some extras could improve the safety of your car and potentially even save you money down the line. But if your car is decked out with every possible gadget, it may become more at risk of theft, which in turn could lead to a high car insurance premium.
We consider what types of extras you should seriously consider – both when buying a new car or when adding modifications later – and which you can live without.
Use a car configurator tool
Before you go into the showroom and start any negotiations, try the car manufacturer’s online ‘car configurator’ tool to get an idea of what extras are on offer and at what price. This can help you eliminate any extras that are too expensive or not really worth it.
Also bear in mind that if you opt for an unusual combination of options, then the car may need to be built to order, delaying delivery.
Choose features with longevity
When you decide on additions to your car, think about how long you’re likely to keep the vehicle for, as well as how quickly the technologies may date.
Vix Leyton, car expert at Carwow, says: "Built in Sat-nav systems are likely to date quickly, as mobile technology is moving at such an extreme pace, so you may be better served long-term buying a mount for your smartphone - these are easy to find and excellent value, and allow you to access multiple route planners.”
“Smartphone connectivity is a great option to future proof your vehicle. Android Auto and Apple Carplay allow you to connect your phone directly, and use a suite of their facilities alongside navigation, from making hands-free calls, to playing your music from Spotify,” she adds.
Always let your insurer know
If you add a new feature to your car, then tell your insurance company. This is because the addition might affect the price you pay for your insurance.
For example, tinted windows and personalised number plates may change the price of your insurance.
This is not the case for all modifications and extras. Ella Hastings, chief executive officer for tyre comparison website Motokiki, says: “Certain modifications shouldn't affect your insurance if they are designed to improve safety and decrease the risk of an accident – parking sensors for example.”
In fact, features like parking sensors are popular and can help to improve car resale values.
Make personal choices
Of course, when weighing up the cost of an optional feature, a lot depends on your own personal priorities.
For example, heated seats will keep you warm in the winter and a heated windscreen will save you time de-icing your car, but you’re only going to get use out of these extras when it’s really cold. That said, they may be worth it if you despise the cold.
“Always think about how much you’re willing to pay for a perk, and how much you’ll actually use it,” Vix says.
“Some extras exist to offer you an extra layer of reassurance, like parking sensors, but, if you are a proficient parker, then you can probably confine a reversing camera to your nice-to-have rather than essentials list,” she adds.
Consider resale value
As previously mentioned, get what you need for your own lifestyle. But also bear in mind resale value.
Which? suggest that upgraded stereos are among extras that don’t hold their value. They often come with a four-figure price tag, which you’re unlikely to recoup when it comes time to sell, according to the consumer group. You also probably won’t be able to test them out to hear the sound quality before buying.
On the other hand, What Car? says that metallic paint is often sought after by second-hand buyers, which normally adds to a car’s resale value.
Vehicle valuation specialists CAP also say metallic paint is one of the most commonly purchased options.
Match the options to the car
If you’re thinking about resale value, then try and put yourself in the mind of the next owner of your car.
A feature that might be expected as standard in a high-end vehicle but be an unnecessary waste of money in another.
For example, CarBuyer says you won’t recoup the cost of leather seats if you order them in a small car such as a Ford Fiesta. But they’re essential in a BMW 5 Series.
If you’re going to upgrade one extra feature, make it AEB
AEB, or autonomous emergency braking, monitors the traffic conditions ahead and automatically brakes the car if the driver fails to respond to an emergency situation.
Cars with this system have a 38% reduction in real-world rear-end crashes, according to Thatcham Research, which wants it to be mandatory in new cars, like seat belts are. The system doesn’t often come as standard in many cars but is well worth adding.