/ Motoring

More car add-ons should be fitted as standard

Highly modified car

If you were buying a new car 15 years ago, choosing which optional extras to pay for wouldn’t have been much more complex than whether or not to go for metallic paint. But now it’s a minefield – and one that can cost.

Option lists are getting longer, spurred on by the increasing trend for buyers to personalise their motors with eye-catching alloy wheels, two-tone paint jobs and top-end stereo systems.

And expansive options lists are no longer the preserve of luxury cars. Indeed, ‘premium’ superminis like the Fiat 500, Citroën DS3 and the Mini are already big players in customising.

Essentials are lacking

But a new king of custom may be about to take the Mini’s crown. Audi recently admitted to us that the average options add-on for the new A1 supermini (which starts at £13,500), is a massive £6,000.

That’s not all – we’ve found that you could even double the basic A1’s price if you get tick-happy on the add-ons list.

Personally, I see long options lists as an indication that the basic version of a car lacks some extras that everyone ends up choosing anyway. If that’s the case, why not fit them as standard and make everyone’s lives simpler?

Because options generate big profits for carmakers, that’s why. It’s an open secret in the industry, but I can’t help feeling that this money-making masquerading as ‘consumer choice’ is getting a bit out of hand.

Options or upgrades?

But there is another side to the argument, and it could be a positive particularly with electronic parts. Don’t add them initially and it could bring down the manufacturing cost.

For example, every Audi A1 comes with a built-in multimedia screen and GPS chip, but this only starts working as a sat nav when you buy the maps on an SD card. This might sound stingy, but it reduces manufacturing costs (bringing the cost of the upgrade down slightly), and means that if you don’t want – or can’t afford – certain extras initially, you can always add them at a later date.

This idea raises the possibility of making other improvements or changes as the car ages – which to me sounds great. For example, carmakers could offer tweaked engine maps to increase economy for high-mileage drivers, which could be changed if the car is then bought by someone who uses it only in town.

Plus, second owners could always add the features the original buyer decided against.

But for now, the best way to protect your new car ‘investment’ is to choose the essential options that will appeal when selling it on – such as leather seats, air-con and metallic paint in a sensible colour.

If you’re torn over whether to tick the box for that all-over yellow paint job with matching interior trim – take it from me, don’t bother.


I really can’t imagine anyone who buys a second hand car buying a manufacturers extra. Manufacturers “extras” are almost always dearer than the equivalent after-market device.
But I do agree that revised engine maps could be useful, and cost-effective; and especially useful if the DVLA allowed the probable reduction in CO2 emissions to reduce the road fund licence.

I think there’s a market for simpler cars with fewer gadgets, especially second hand when they could wear out and require expensive repairs. Small and medium sized cars don’t really need power steering and there are a lot of gizmos such as automatic lights and wipers that are next to useless.

I think most cars are reasonably well equipped nowadays, the basic versions may sometimes be a bit meagre and the top-end versions a bit over the top, but the mid-range versions seem to have just about everything I’d want. I probably wouldn’t pay for add-on extras to a lower spec model, instead get the model that had them already as standard.

I don’t really like the metallic paint scam though – ‘metallic paint £350 extra’ in the small print somewhere. So what non-metallic colours are there? I think for my last Jazz it was just one – bright red. Why don’t manufacturers just provide metallic paint as standard?

One of the problems with some manufacturers (Audi being one) is that they put options together as ‘packages’ such as a ‘storage package’ and you have to buy the whole package or none of them, because they’re not offered individually. You might want most of them but also have to pay for something you didn’t need.

I had a safety pack on my car (Skoda Fabia) which included features not really wanted but came with it..I would have preferred a basic spec with just a few options, but as mentioned “you don’t have a choice” do you?

Dennis says:
20 February 2011

I would like to say having read some comments I have to agree with them.
My feeling is much the same I think there are to many additions to the basic car nowadays.
I would like to see a basic car with ABS Braking and more torque and a sixth gear in order to save much more fuel with less emitions. Also big engines are not neccessary today as the roads ie. to many vehicles and the law do not allow you to go fast or overtake easily.
regards Dennis

My policy is to purchase a car with features that are included within the specification with no additional cost. Some manufacturers have got this right, for example Citroen’s “Exclusive” specification includes within the standard price features that other manufacturers will supply at extra cost.
Close examination of manufacturers’ prices will show that there is a significant discrepancy between the advertised model cost and the real on-the-road cost if you require even basic features such as additional air bags, climate control instead of basic air conditioning, cruise control and even spare wheels.

Bells and whistles appeal to the child within us.
Many are unnecessary and are really gimics which cost when they invariably go wrong.
As someone has already said there must be a market out there for basic practical transport. A basic car to do a basic practical job.
The days of the car as a personality extension, a toy, a status symbol or a play thing must be getting numbered, as least for many.
Last summer I paid £50 to get my aircon recharged, I think it was used twice during the summer.
I have electric rear windows which have not been used for a year. I have some kind of traction control which I’m certain has never activated. I have relatively low profil tyres which cost a forture and means I feel all the bumps and holes in our terrible roads. I have alloy wheels which are weaker than steel wheels and would be expensive it they’re damaged or get stolen.

I also have a 25 year old “classic” with none of these things which I actually prefer driving. There is also nothing on that car that cannot be fixed in my garage with a couple of spanners.

Makes you wonder doesn’t it?

Carol says:
2 March 2011

We have recently purchased an Audi with many bells and whistles that has been on sale in the showroom because all the time it is on show it is depreciating in value we were able to get an excellent deal and bought the car at basic price and no extra charge for the £9000 worth of EXTRA OPTIONS. It came with a 2011 registration and rolled out of the showroom as any other new car would. My advise shop around, there are some great deals to be negotiated.
I have to agree with all previous comments optional extras some of which are great safety features should be included as standard but one size doesn’t fit all.

Pointless extras to me include adjustable steering wheel if you are fully grown fit the car and are the only driver, metallic paints at extra cost, heated steering wheel and heat / cool control seats (usually on high end luxury models), automatic lights and windscreen wipers (unless you are disabled), privacy glass on the rear windows (unless you ferry celebrities around a lot) alloy wheels becuase they only have a cosmetic function, bluetooth (unless you use the phone in your car a lot) and built in Sat Nav that disallows you to change your SN system. Some useful optional extras are: cruise control to prevent speeding fines, stop start technology to save fuel at traffic lights, digital stereo/radio now that analogue in on the way out, passenger seat adjustment if you give different people of different sizes lifts a lot, and split folding seats for smaller cars with tiny boots, alarm systems or immobility technology, rear parking sensors if you have a large saloon or a very bad neck. Being comfortable in a car at low cost is not hard and your hard earned cash should go into car safety and performance not pointless bells and whistles and cosmetic extras. These simpler specifications will also help you to sell your car more easily later on too (the dealers lie about t his all the time). That’s becuase, in cash strapped Britain, no one wants to pay for added extras they don’t want and can’t remove.

In buying a used car from a dealer I came under prolonged pressure to add on paint protection at around £400. I was assured the protection was highly effective and permanent, but I had doubts and turned it down. Has Which tested these systems?

I was also pressured to take out Gap insurance at around £500, and given a lengthy warning to guard the dealer from a “miss-selling” claim, but not from miss-selling gap cover. This was from me later claiming compensation for NOT being sold the cover. The FCA was extensively quoted. Is it possible to make a valid complaint about not being sold gap insurance? I felt pressured but refused this add on.