• Factory- and port-installed options included on window sticker
  • Dealer-installed options listed separately
  • Not all options warranted or factory-approved

For new-car shoppers, the sheer scale of choices can be overwhelming. Even shoppers who narrow their lists to two or three models still must decide how they'd like their vehicles equipped. That often means choosing options, a process that's not always as straightforward as it may seem. Sure, choice is good. But it's also helpful to understand the three types of options -- factory-installed, port-installed and dealer-installed.

Factory- and port-installed options are simple to understand. Just as their names suggests, these include equipment that automakers add to a vehicle either at the factory or, for cars imported from overseas, upon arrival -- literally, at the port. Both are automaker-approved and included in any applicable new-car warranty. Both factory-installed and port-installed options are also listed on the window sticker that's required for all new cars. Finally, the automaker controls pricing for these options, so factory- and port-installed option pricing will not differ from one dealer to another.

Dealer-installed options are very different. First, these extras do not have to be approved by the automaker. They're also not usually covered by an automaker's factory warranty. Dealers can pick and choose which accessories they want to sell and can even set the prices themselves. Those prices are not listed on the official new-car window sticker. Instead, they're typically listed separately, often on a second window sticker that the dealer applies.

When shopping for a new car, you may find a vehicle that includes some dealer-installed options that you don't need. In this case, you may ask the dealer to remove the item and delete its cost from the total price. The dealer may or may not honor your request. If the dealer chooses not to remove the item, you have two choices: Take the vehicle as is (with the dealer-installed option) or refuse to pay the extra cost. Just as with any negotiating point, the dealer may accept or reject the offer.

Certain dealer-installed options are rarely necessary but often overpriced. That doesn't stop some dealers from adding them to pad profits. Common examples claim to protect the vehicle: rust-proofing for the undercarriage, clear coat protectant for the paint and stain-proofing for interior upholstery. Dealers may charge significant premiums and claim that the protective products have already been applied and cannot be removed. In this case, buyers should refuse to pay for them.

Of course, a dealer may or may not accept that negotiation, so the buyer must ultimately decide whether or not the extra money for these dealer-installed options is a deal breaker. Either way, a little knowledge about the different types of new-car options at least helps shoppers better understand their many choices.

What it means to you: Dealer-installed options are not typically approved or warranted by automakers. They're also not listed on a new-car window sticker.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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