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Buying a Car: What Dealer Add-Ons Should You Avoid?

If you buy your next car from a dealership, you’ll probably meet with the dealer’s finance and insurance (F&I) manager. F&I managers are an important part of buying a car because they can help get you financing. But that’s not the manager’s only job. The F&I manager will also try to sell you various dealer options or accessories, many of which we don’t recommend choosing. We’ve listed some dealer add-ons you should especially avoid so that you don’t waste your money.

VIN Etching

Many dealers will tell you that VIN etching is a theft-prevention tool. The way it works, they say, is that the dealer will etch your car’s VIN into a corner of the vehicle’s windows. Thieves will stay away from your car because it can be readily identified as stolen by law enforcement.

This claim isn’t necessarily untrue. VIN etching can be a theft-prevention measure, and some insurance companies even give discounts to drivers who have it. The problem here is cost: Most dealers charge you $300 or more for the feature while do-it-yourself kits are often $50 or less. As a result, we strongly suggest that you skip buying the feature from the dealer. If the car you want already has VIN-etched windows, insist that you won’t pay their retail cost for it.


You won’t find many dealers still offering rust-proofing, which is a common add-on that doesn’t have any real value, but some dealers do make it an option. We strongly suggest that you decline.

The main reason is that rust-proofing is now included on all new cars, and dealerships won’t be able to add better rust protection than what automakers have already put on each vehicle in their own factories. As a result, we suggest you decline this one. If it’s already included, insist that you won’t pay for it.

Fabric Protection

Another option that we strongly suggest you avoid is fabric protection. This isn’t a warranty against future spills or even a promise to clean or repair any damage you do to the interior. Instead, fabric protection — or fabric guard as it’s sometimes called — is simply a material that the dealer will spray on your car’s interior to protect the fabric. We think that this is almost never a good idea because the spray won’t last long enough to prevent damage. Instead, save your money for a good cleaning product in case you spill anything.

Extended Warranty

In nearly all cases, we advise against extended warranties. This is primarily because most modern cars offer exceptional reliability, so a warranty will rarely be worth the extra money that you pay for it. Of course, this isn’t always true, but it’s often the case.

If you’re interested in a new car, we especially advise against an extended warranty. After all, there’s no telling how long you’ll keep the car. We don’t think it’s a good idea to pay for a longer warranty up front when you have several years of manufacturer warranty left to use. Additionally, you’ll usually be offered a warranty when your manufacturer plan runs out. If you feel that the car might have problems down the line, you can buy it then.

One major exception to our stance on warranties is for drivers buying notoriously unreliable used cars or vehicles from luxury brands where labor can be expensive. In that case, a warranty may be a good idea. We suggest you check the fine print to make sure that you’re getting a comprehensive plan.

Our Advice: Be Alert

There are several items an F&I manager may try to sell you that have some real value. For example, a tire warranty may be a good idea if you drive in an area with rough roads, a stolen-vehicle tracking system could be a smart buy if your city has a car-theft problem, and options or accessories such as aftermarket wheels may appeal to your tastes. In general, though, we suggest that you avoid the items listed above when buying a car, no matter how much the dealership insists that you consider them.


Doug Demuro
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 about Doug Demuro

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  1. What can you do if you have already signed, and have not had the Optional Theft Warranty Protection pointed out? We are being charged $299 for this. It was never mentioned, and of course we signed not realizing it was there. We are picking the car up tomorrow. Any ideas?

  2. I bought a new nissan rogue sport so after I signed all the papers next day I saw on the paper

    USWC charge 660 dollars  is normal

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