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Buying a Car: Do Options Improve Resale Value?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro

When you're buying a car, you have to keep a lot of factors in mind -- from monthly payments and interest rates to colors and features. You also have to consider your car's resale value, since you'll eventually want to trade it in or sell it. Should you stock your new car full of options and equipment in order to get more money for it later? We don't think so, and we've explained why below.

Options Don't Help

When it comes to options and additional features, the simple truth is that they almost never make a difference when you're selling a used car. For proof, check out AutoTrader's listings for virtually any popular used vehicle that's more than a few years old. What you'll find is that condition, mileage, accident history and overall quality matter far more to used car shoppers than items such as sunroofs, larger alloy wheels or sport packages. In fact, once a car is two or three years old, those add-ons have no effect on a used car's sale price.

Why Not?

Why don't options help your resale value? There are many reasons for this, but primarily it's because other things matter more to shoppers who are looking for a used car. As we mentioned, vehicle condition, mileage and accident history are all far more important to the average shopper than a car's features, and most shoppers will pass up a well-equipped, used car with high mileage or major accident history for one with fewer features that's in better condition.

Another reason options won't improve your resale value is that many used car shoppers expect certain options to be included on nearly all vehicles they consider. For instance, consider heated seats. While you may have paid $500 extra for them when you bought your car, most other shoppers likely did the same. As a result, instead of increasing your car's value, this decreases the value of cars that don't have the feature. The same can be said of other popular options such as sunroofs, alloy wheels, leather upholstery and automatic climate control.

Don't Go Cheap

OK, so you shouldn't load up a new vehicle with options just to improve its resale value. But we also strongly advise against skipping out on all options entirely. Like we said, used car shoppers will expect the vehicles they consider to come equipped with certain features -- and if your car doesn't, you might have difficulty selling it.

So what's the right move? If you're concerned about resale value, we suggest you focus on features everyone will want when you're buying your next car, and don't worry about adding custom features such as painted accessories or aftermarket wheels. This way you won't spend too much up front, and you'll ensure an easy sale when the time comes for you to purchase a new car.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
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Buying a Car: Do Options Improve Resale Value?