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Buying a Car: Why Do So Many Options Come in Packages?

If you’re interested in buying a car, you’ve probably discovered that many desirable options are often lumped together in large, expensive packages. In other words, you can’t just get heated seats: You have to get heated seats along with a sunroof, an infotainment system, a power lift gate and keyless entry. Why is this, and is there any way to avoid it? We have the answers.

Manufacturing Simplicity

Although a cynic might say the reason manufacturers combine popular options into packages is so they can make more money, this isn’t strictly true. The major reason this is done is to streamline production processes, which can actually make the cars — and the options — less expensive than they would be otherwise.

Consider, for example, the wide range of options available on cars today: adaptive cruise control, automatic headlights, power lift gates, infotainment and navigation systems, heated this and ventilated that. There are so many permutations and combinations that it would be virtually impossible to build each car to most customers’ expectations. It would be even harder to order all the necessary parts required for each option because you’d never know exactly how many cars need to be built with each one.

With option packages, however, that changes. If 80 percent of a certain car is ordered with an option package, an automaker can easily plan volume and production for all the options in that package, and that makes production more efficient, simpler and less expensive. The result is cost savings for the customer and a higher production volume for the automaker.

Extra Profit?

With that said, however, there’s no doubt that bundling options helps manufacturers increase the price of their vehicles and therefore make some extra money. A driver who wants heated seats, for instance, might pay an extra $2,000 just for a package with those features — even if he or she doesn’t really want the items in it. In turn, the automaker likely gets a large discount from its parts suppliers for selling so many options, which allows for more profit they wouldn’t otherwise get from a driver who just chooses heated seats. Still, it’s important to understand that additional profit isn’t the only reason automakers bundle options.

Can You Avoid It?

If an automaker offers a $2,500 option bundle but you only want one small $250 option, is there any way to convince them to sell you the option without the bundle?

Almost always, the answer is no. Manufacturing processes are usually set in stone, and most automakers won’t make an exception for single customers — unless they’re a low-volume, high-luxury company such as Rolls-Royce or Aston Martin.

But sometimes it’s worth noting that you might not even want the option without the package — even if you think you do. Option packages often include several highly popular features that will increase your car’s resale value later while providing more comfort and convenience in the meantime. As a result, we usually suggest going with the flow when it comes to buying a car with option packages — especially since they’re essentially unavoidable in today’s market.

Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More

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