Car Buying

Buying a Car: Should You Avoid a Base Model?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro August 2015

Although cars frequently offer upgrades to give drivers access to more advanced technology, many shoppers don't want all the frills. However, some people caution against picking a bare-bones base model when buying a car; instead, they'd suggest getting something that'll have more appeal when you go to sell it. Is that good advice? Should you avoid a base model when choosing your next car? We have the answer.

It Depends on Your Plan

We don't like answering questions with "it depends," but that's exactly the situation here. Whether you should avoid a no-frills base model very much depends on your exact situation, from the car you choose to how long you want to keep it. We'll explain what we mean.

Short Term vs. Long Term

If you don't plan to keep your car too long, buying a no-frills base model may be a bad idea. You'll have to resell it soon, and if you've skipped some key options that many drivers will like, you may have trouble finding a buyer. In order to sell your car, you might have to price it lower than others, which means you'll lose more money to depreciation than expected.

On the contrary, if you plan on keeping your car a long time (more than 6 or 7 years), getting a no-frills base model may not be such a bad idea. You probably won't lose too much additional value when the time comes to sell (relative to a seller who has a well-equipped car), since most drivers looking for older used cars are more concerned about mileage and maintenance than features and equipment.

Simplicity Can Be Good ...

If you're interested in buying a car with few features and extras and plan on keeping it a long time, we certainly don't want to talk you out of it. There are many reasons why simplicity can be a good thing. For instance, a car with fewer features has fewer items to break. It also has fewer tricks to learn. You don't have to worry about trying to shut off a sensor, programming a system or learning an entire infotainment system in order to perform simple tasks that wouldn't be a problem in an older, simpler model.

... But Technology Can Be, Too

We also think drivers should give some thought to a higher-tech car, even if they think they don't want to own one. Much of today's latest technology is hugely beneficial to drivers, offering a wide range of safety advantages that simpler models just won't have. Examples include automatic braking, lane-keep assistance features and blind spot monitoring systems that make it easier to change lanes.

As a result, here's our advice: If you plan on keeping your car for a while, don't be scared to go for a model with fewer features and gadgets, but we suggest you try out the features you're turning down so you can be absolutely sure you don't want them.

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.
Buying a Car: Should You Avoid a Base Model? - Autotrader