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.
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.