/ Motoring

How much do you splash out on expensive car options?

Buying a new car is never cheap. Yet, if you tick too many boxes you can double the price of many cars with pricey optional extras. Do you think some optional extras shouldn’t be extras at all?

£9,924. That’s the average amount a Porsche Cayenne buyer spends on optional extras for their car. Hardly surprising when Porsche will charge you £587 for a spare wheel, £1,004 for a sunroof and £121 for floor mats…

Essentials like leather air vents are £1,206, coloured seat belts are £316, while an aluminium-look fuel cap is £89. Should you fancy 21-inch alloy wheels, that’ll be £3,699, while ‘special’ red paint is £1,619 and mahogany trim £1,906.

Porsche is hardly the only company playing this game though, with other big spending motorists including BMW X5 owners (£7,996 on extras) and Mercedes SLK owners (£6,290 on extras). Even the more affordable Vauxhall Insignia has an average option spend of £1,400…

Paying for your favourite car colour

Should you want a whole car for your £10k, you can pick up a top spec MG 3 and in return you get a standard digital radio, plus an entire car with an engine and five seats.

However, don’t think that MG buyers are free from a ludicrous range of paid-for extras. Metallic paint will set you back £395, you can pay £199 for a Mini-style roof motif, bonnet stripes will add another £59 to the total and having a different colour finish on your alloy wheels is £349. ‘Shocking pink’ wing mirrors are another £39, while MG wants £99 for shiny interior trim.

Tick every option on the list and your MG 3 can jump from £9,999 to nearly £13,000. And that’s nothing compared to the level of customisation you can get on a Mini or Vauxhall Adam. Vauxhall claims that the Adam has over a million different combinations of trim levels, colours, alloy wheels, engines, interior fabrics, graphics and other accessories.

But do you care? Do you really want to have the choice of lime green alloy wheels, pink wing mirrors and RAF style roundels on the roof. Do you have to have technology to help you park, keep you in your lane, and maintain a safe distance behind the car in front – and crucially are you willing to pay big money for it?

Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t see the point of delving deeper into my wallet for these toys.

What's most important to you when you're buying a car? Pick three options:

Reliability (25%, 943 Votes)

Purchase price (18%, 669 Votes)

Fuel economy (17%, 647 Votes)

Practicality (8%, 289 Votes)

Comfort (7%, 278 Votes)

Servicing/maintenance costs (5%, 204 Votes)

Depreciation (4%, 152 Votes)

Handling (4%, 140 Votes)

Performance (3%, 102 Votes)

Insurance (2%, 94 Votes)

Car tax (VED) (2%, 85 Votes)

Equipment/kit (2%, 80 Votes)

Styling (2%, 80 Votes)

Being seen in the right car (0%, 17 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,360

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Apart from metallic paint, I did not select any extras (that can be an expensive game) but chose a model with a DAB/FM radio, parking sensors and a a spare wheel (sadly not a proper one). I would have liked a rear camera to watch out for mini-bollards but the parking sensors seem adequate. I would have paid a little extra for proper steel wheels rather than alloy ones, since I know so many people who have had problems with damage and corrosion of alloys and I do want to keep my car for ten years. One standard feature that is conspicuously unused is the ability to connect a phone. I’m going to concentrate on my driving, thank you.

My reason for choosing silver-grey metallic paint is that the other colours on offer would have shown the mud more and I don’t enjoy washing cars, though I have a couple of neighbours who seem to gain great satisfaction from this activity. Having a silver-grey metallic car means that I get plenty of exercise searching for mine in large car parks. 🙂

Your example of the BMW X5 is a very good one. I have bought two of them brand new, and your figures are very accurate. If the buyer doesn’t spend thousands on certain extras (e.g. around £2000 for a built-in sat nav), the car will be very difficult to sell at a later date. It’s even worse in other European countries, where the standard equipment is much less than a standard UK model. I believe that by excluding options that 99.9% of buyers add in order to make the car re-saleable, BMW is giving a misleading indication of price. It also helps with insurance policies if all the equipment is part of the standard specification rather than optional extras.

My problem here is with BMW, not with the franchised dealers. The latter are usually very helpful with telling customers which extras to add or leave out. For example, if you want to spend around £1,000 on a head-up display, the dealers will tell you not to bother as you won’t get it back later in resale value.

My eldest son wanted a BMW 5 series diesel. Bought one secondhand for £16.5k that happened to be complete with all the extras – electric heated leather seats, self-closing doors, window blinds, all-round sensors, sat-nav and TV etc. I reckon he paid for the extras and got the car free.

Answers to the two headline questions:

a) How much do you splash out on expensive car options?

A maximum of 10% of the car purchase price. Usually metallic paint.

b) Do you think some optional extras shouldn’t be extras at all?

If a safety feature is available in a car, it should always be included as standard. How is an uninformed consumer supposed to decide between ABS brakes and an upgraded sound system? How do you know you will never need an air bag that could help save your passenger’s life?

Another rip-off by car manufacturers is deliberately fitting obsolete entertainment technology as standard so that car buyers have to pay for an optional extra to upgrade it to the current technology; they have been doing this for years. In the days when everyone had CDs and when cassettes were long gone, the standard equipment was usually a cassette player, so one had to pay extra for a simple CD player. Now that everyone has MP3s, they fit CD players as standard, meaning you have to pay extra for a USB port to play MP3s. The ridiculous thing is that the underlying cost of this equipment is the same, but the manufacturers charge a hefty premium for the current technology in order to reduce the headline price of the car and facilitate a misleading indication of price.

I usually try to buy ex-demo or nearly new, so that hopefully the previous owner has already loaded up the options, which usually don’t add a lot to the sale price.

One thing that annoys me now is that metallic paint is always extra but there are usually very few, if any, non-metallic finishes available. A couple of years ago I was browsing the Jazz and Fiesta brochures and I think each only had one non-metallic, ie. pillar-box red. About time metallic paint just became the standard option.

Further to NFH’s comments: another manufacturer’s ‘trick’ is to deny the availability of certain options for the cheaper cars in a model range in order to persuade buyers to go for the higher spec, more expensive models rather than having the specific options desired fitted. This is despite the fact the the cheaper models could have the options fitted i.e. the cars are the same in the necessary respects for the options to work properly if fitted. For example, Toyota say that cruise control, which is an option on the Auris HSD T Spirit is not an option on the cheaper T4 despite the fact that the T4 has the necessary wiring etc.

I can have the nearly new car I really want in any colour but steel grey or any shade of grey that is not silver. I do not want to have a silver car as I would be like a bewildered, concussed shopper trying to find my silver car in a shopping centre car park. Who buys new, white, black and silver cars for goodness sake, all available in great numbers in the nearly new market. On of the joys of buying new is that you get to specify the colour. So come on you rich motor heads, buy some graphite or steel grey cars and leave the black, white and silver ones alone.

Just hold the remote control above your head and keep pressing the button until one of the silver cars flashes its indicators. If I was a woman I would probably have the sense to take a note of where I leave my car. 🙂

I often drive down some muddy tracks and silver does not look as bad as other colours when it gets dirty. I once bought a white car because the dealer had one in stock and was keen to sell it. I said I would only buy a white car if I got an extra discount to pay for car washes. To my surprise, he agreed. White is nowhere near as bad as black and dark colours, but I would not want another.

If I park in a multistory car park I always note the level and general area. That is because I spent a long time searching the wrong level and sublevel and only gave up near closing time when I decided to check all floors. I thought my sat nav would help but it is not precise enough to find the exact location, My sister-in-law used to have something tied to the car aerial and was able to see her car at once. I think it is Citreon DS3 that has tiger or zebra striped tops, they should be easy to spot in a car park.

I’m still amazed at the numbers of white cars for sale. I thought white cars went out of fashion in the 70’s, around the time that white van man was born.