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Negotiating Car Dealer Add-On’s & Accessories

Dealer Add Ons

Dealer Add OnsSo you've learned how to negotiate a new car and think that guarantees you a good deal.  Well think again!  Did you know a majority of a car dealer's profit comes from fees and add-ons in the Finance Office?

Dealerships want you to think the hard part is over and that it's time to let your guard down.  But as you're getting ready to sign for your new car, the Finance Manager will smoothly convince you that you need expensive add-ons and accessories.

What are Dealer Installed Options?

A dealer installed option is any accessory that a car dealer installs on a vehicle after they receive it from the manufacturer.   Examples include items such as floor mats, cargo covers, roof racks, and VIN etching.   The prices of these items are not listed on the car’s MSRP sticker, but instead a dealer will typically add a second “addendum” window sticker.

Dealers add these items because they have high profit margins and most people don’t try to negotiate them!

Average Car Dealer Profit for Add-on's (Infographic)

The image below shows how much the Finance Department really makes off everything they sell you.  Note: these high numbers aren't even the total price you pay, they only represent dealer profit!Dealer Add-On Infographic

But not to worry, you don't really need most of these items.  Here's a breakdown of what these items really cost the dealer and what you can do to save yourself money.  When in doubt, google a specific option and see if it’s recommended or available outside the dealership at a lower price.

Common Dealer Add-ons & Accessories

ItemCost to DealerRetail PriceDealer ProfitSuggested Action
Fabric protection (scotch guarding)$5$300$295Not necessary. If you want it, buy Scotch Gard for 9 bucks and apply yourself.
Paint protection$10$325$315Not necessary. If you want it, buy sealant or wax for 15 bucks and apply it yourself.
Undercoating$200$700$500Don't get it, most new cars come with warranties against rust and corrosion.
Rustproofing$50$800$750Don't get it, most new cars come with warranties against rust and corrosion.
Car alarm$300$800$500Consider it, but it will be marked up significantly at the dealership. Go to an independent dealer and save money.
VIN etching$75$200$125Not necessary. If you want it, buy a window etching kit and do it yourself for 20 bucks.
Lojack$325$800$475Consider it, but get prices from an independent installer first.
Extended warranty$800$1,800 $1,000 Not necessary, but can come in handy. Don't buy at the dealership without shopping around first.
Gap insurance$200$500$300Not necessary, but get competitive quotes outside the dealership if you are going to buy it.
Financing$0n/aa lot!Dealers typically add 2-2.5% in APR to loans they provide. Find your own financing before heading to dealer. Ask if they can beat it.
Rear-seat entertainment system$500 to $1,000$1,500 to $2,000$1,000 You can find better deals at an independent shop.
Key protection$0$240$240Consider it if you are prone to losing your keys.
Nitrogen-filled tires$35$170$135You can find some gas stations that offer nitrogen for $5 to $7
Credit insurance$0$.50 for every $100 borrowedA lotNot necessary, the odds of your dying or become disabled are not high enough to justify the costs.
Roof rack + accessories$50 to $500$100 to over $1,000$50 to over $1,000You may find better deals online or at your local car shop.
Dent protection$0$200$200You can buy a dent repair kit for under $20.
Tire and wheel protection$500 to $2,500$1,000 to $,5000$500 to $2,500Shop around. You may find a better deal online or at a local independent shop.
Window tinting$25 to $100$100 to $400$75 to $325Shop around. You may find a better deal at an independent shop.

Negotiating Dealer Add-Ons

Many of the add-ons you will be offered are unnecessary or can be purchased outside the dealership at a significantly lower price.  There are two main tips for negotiating add-ons:

  1. You probably don’t need it, so don’t buy it.
    If an item is not factory installed as part of an options package the dealer may be able to remove it from the deal.  Consider whether you really need it, or if can you buy it elsewhere.  In the majority of cases, if the item is optional then say NO.
  2. Negotiate the whole car deal, not individual items
    Follow the advice on my website and get car prices from several dealers.  Make sure each dealer gives you a total price that includes all options and add-ons.  You should be able to find similarly equipped vehicles and then you can ask dealers to give you their best overall price (including add-ons) to win your business.

Are These Dealer Accessories Worth It?

Is fabric protection worth it?

If you have a family then you will want to consider fabric protection for your vehicle. Of course, you can simply buy the Scotch Guard cans and do it yourself. A can of Scotch Guard will cost about $9 and you should be able to complete the job yourself in about an hour. This is one add-on that you should definitely skip at the dealership.

Is paint protection worth it?

Paint protection is actually a good idea if you have a luxury vehicle or a vehicle with a really nice exterior. The thing is, you can probably find an independent shop that can offer you a better rate. Also, you want to make sure that your paint protection film is done by a professional that won’t leave any peeling film or exposed areas.

Another thing to consider, there are a number of paint protection films to choose from. You may want to consider a matte or a gloss finish. An independent shop will give you more options.

Is undercoating worth it?

This is one dealer add-on that will almost certainly waste your money. You see, most new cars are designed to handle the wear and tear that comes with years of road use. Also, your vehicle should have any rust or corrosion covered by its warranty.

Is rustproofing worth it?

Skip this dealer add-on. Just about all new vehicles are well protected against rusting. Even if you live in an area that gets lots of snow, your vehicle should go at least five years before showing any signs of rust.

Are door edge protectors worth it?

Door edge protectors are a great idea if you go shopping often or if you park your vehicle in a public garage. However, you can get yourself door edge protectors at your local auto parts store and they are easy to install.

Is a car alarm worth it?

Most dealership car alarms are going to cost you more than what you can expect at an independent shop. Also, you want to make sure that you get a car alarm that is effective. It is a good idea to shop around and see what brands of car alarms are available and what features are offered.

Is VIN etching worth it?

VIN etching is a good idea if you own a vehicle that is stolen often. Again, this is a dealer add-on that you can actually do yourself. Most auto parts stores will have a glass etching kit available for about $20. If you have an hour to spare, you can literally save yourself a few hundred bucks here.

Is LoJack worth it?

LoJack is one of the top vehicle tracking and location tools that is certainly worth the money. However, you want to make sure that the dealership is not overcharging you for the add-on. Be sure to check what it would cost to get the LoJack system from an independent dealer before making your final decision.

Is an extended warranty worth it?

If you are planning to own your vehicle for longer than its original warranty, then an extended warranty may be a smart choice. You will also want to consider the model that you are buying. Toyota and Honda models are rather reliable while German and British luxury vehicle brands are known to have expensive reliability issues after their original warranties have expired.

Is gap insurance worth it?

Gap insurance covers the difference between what your vehicle is worth and the total damage cost from an accident. If you are planning to make long term payments on the vehicle, the Gap insurance may be a good idea.

To make sure that you are getting the best rates, compare the dealership’s gap insurance policy with other insurance providers.

Is dealer financing worth it?

You should try to have your financing in place before you walk into the dealership. You don’t want to negotiate your financing after you have gone through the prices of negotiating the price for the vehicle.

Be sure to check your bank’s auto financing rates. You may be able to get a better overall deal from them versus the dealership.

Is a rear-seat entertainment system worth it?

If you have kids then a rear-seat entertainment system may well be worth the money. However, there are a number of rear-seat entertainment packages out there and you should compare models. While the dealership may have a nice aftermarket model available, you don’t want to be limited to just one option.

Is key protection worth it?

Key protection is like “insurance” for your vehicle keys. Essentially, it covers the cost of replacing your keys if they are lost or damaged. Some car insurance providers may already offer this policy.

These days, keys can run you into the hundreds of dollars when it comes to replacement costs. Therefore, it may be a good idea to get the key protection from the dealership. While you may be able to get your key from a third party, you may be better off getting your key from the dealership with a new model. Most third-party key makers may not have all the features found on new model car keys.

Are nitrogen-filled tires worth it?

The Get Nitrogen Institute claims that filling tires with nitrogen provides better tire-pressure retention, improved fuel economy, cooler running temperatures, wheel rot prevention, and maintenance cost/convenience. However, many other experts have found the difference between nitrogen tires and tires with regular air is not significant.

Now this is an easy “pass” from the dealership. This is an add-on that can cost you well over $100 while you can get nitrogen at one of your local gas stations. The cost of filling up your tires with nitrogen should cost no more than $10 and can be done in minutes.

Is credit insurance worth it?

Credit insurance takes care of your vehicle payments in case of death, disability or other life changing events. However, you really don’t need it. The odds of a major life event in the next five years are small compared to how much you are going to pay. Insurance companies are no dummies. They will scare you into these policies that have a rare chance of paying out. Pass on this one.

Are a roof rack and accessories worth it?

If you like to travel and take extra gear with you, then a roof rack is valuable. But the dealership will mark up both the rack itself and accessories like an attachment for bikes. You may be able to find better rates on these things from an independent shop. However, the dealership may have the accessories that are best fit for your vehicle. Be sure to compare before making your financial decision.

Is dent protection worth it?

These days, you have a number of options when it comes to repairing dents on your vehicle. Auto part shops offer dent repair kits for small dents. If you have larger dents, you can surely find an independent shop that can take care of it for a better price than the dealership. You can pass on this one.

Is a tire and wheel package worth it?

The plans offered vary greatly, but essentially they claim to replace or repair your rim if you hit a curb or hole. Like many extra warranties, customers find that their issues are rarely covered.

This is a tricky one. Many dealerships have excellent tire and wheel packages. Sure you can find better deals at an independent shop. However, you don’t want to overlook what the dealership is offering you. If you are purchasing a sports car or an off-road vehicle, then the dealership tire and wheel package is worth serious consideration.

Is window tinting worth it?

Window tinting is a must-have if you live in a hot area such as Southern Florida or the southwest. However, there should be a number of independent installers available who can do the job for less than the dealer. Just be sure that you are dealing with a quality installer.

Are splash guards worth it?

Splash guards are a good idea if you live in an area that gets lots of precipitation or if you intend to off-road the vehicle. You can usually find really good deals on splash guards at an auto parts store or independent shop. You don’t need the dealer for this accessory.

Are wheel locks worth it?

Wheel locks can cost upwards of $200 from a dealer. The wheel lock is installed in your car’s lug nuts and requires a special key for removal. They are designed to deter theft of customized wheels, rims, and spare tires.

Wheel locks are going to be overpriced at the dealership. You can go to your local auto parts store and get them for a fraction of the price. Also, you can install wheel locks in minutes.

When is the Best Time to Buy a Car?

best time to buy a car

Should you buy during a specific month, day, or even time of day? There are a couple key considerations to consider when determining when to buy your car.  Look at the infographic below to see how timing can affect car prices. And if you really want to know how and when you can get the best deal, read my Ultimate New Car Buying Guide.

  Click the infographic below to enlarge.

best time to buy a car

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What is the Best Time of Year to Buy a Car

You can find the best prices on seasonal vehicles off-season.  Convertibles and sports cars can be cheaper in the fall and early winter because of less demand. The weather also plays an impact.  SUV’s might be discounted in the summer when gas prices are up and people aren’t as concerned about finding four wheel drive cars to navigate wintery roads.

If you’re looking for a home on the road, the best time to buy an RV in colder climates is when the snowbirds have headed south for the Winter.  Demand drops off and sellers know they are going to have to go through the hassle of winterizing and storing the RV for the off season.   Conversely, in parts of the South, the best time to buy an RV is in late Spring after buyers migrate back north and there is less local demand.

The fall months are also good for sales at the end of a model year.  Different manufacturers end model years at different times, but many change years in September or October.  Dealers want to get rid of old models to make room for new ones. And you can get especially good deals if the body style is changing.  Just be careful to weigh the discount on an end of model-year car.  As soon as you enter a new year, that car’s resale value will take a hit because it’s labeled as a whole year older.

When is the Best Month to Buy a Car?

The best month to buy a car is December because dealerships are desperate to lure shoppers on the lot while most people are preparing for the holidays and spending all their extra cash on gifts.  It’s also the best time of year to buy a car because dealerships are trying to hit their annual sales quotas and related bonuses.  Dealerships have both month-end and year-end targets, so December means big discounts.  And if you don’t want to stay home on the holidays, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are typically two of the best days of the year to find deals.

Also Read: When is the best time to lease a car?

What is the Best Day to Buy a Car?

Even if you forget everything else, remember this statement:  The best time to buy a car is the last couple days of the month.  Manufacturers set monthly targets for car dealerships.  If car salesmen and dealerships meet their monthly sales goals they can earn bonuses.  So if you time your car purchase towards the end of the month you could end up buying from a car salesman who is close to hitting his quota and earning a bonus payment.  This bonus may be much bigger than the loss he takes on a single sale and as a result he may be willing to provide a bigger discount to you in order to earn that bonus.

If the end of the month is a weekend, just make the dealership is open on Sundays as many states have restrictions banning car sales on Sunday.

And interestingly enough, the second best time to buy a car is the first couple days of the month.  Because the end of the month trick is widely known, salesmen are usually pretty busy with buyers that have waited.  As a result, the first couple days of the month mean fewer buyers and idle salesmen may be willing to deal.  Salesmen may also want to get a jump on their monthly sales quotas so they’re not under as much pressure at the end of the month.

When is the Best Time to Buy a Car?

Don’t go out of your way for this one, but some dealerships offer salesmen a small bonus ($100 or so) for selling the first car of the day on a Saturday or holiday to encourage sales. So if you are one of the first buyers of the day you may notice a small benefit.

What’s the Best Way to Buy a Car?

That’s easy, don’t go to the dealership at all!  Get car prices from multiple local dealers and ask them to compete with each other over email.  I explain the step-by-step process of how to buy a car in my Ultimate New Car Buying Guide.

What if You Need a Car Now?

As much as you might like to time your car purchase to get the best deal, it’s not always possible.  Sometimes an accident or unexpected repair may make waiting difficult.  In these cases, you can still get car prices online and make car dealers compete.  And check out Edmunds car incentives and rebates to see which manufacturers are currently running promotions.

European Delivery Programs

Here’s a final added tidbit.  If you are considering buying a high-end luxury car, why not take a trip to Europe?  While timing a luxury car purchase may not net you savings on the car itself, you can save on your vacation spending.  Manufacturers like Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, and Volvo all offer vacation packages that allow you to pick up your car in Europe and tour the country side.   As for the best time of year, Spring is a great time to visit Europe while the weather is comfortable but the high-priced summer tourist season as not begun yet.

Are European Car Delivery Programs Worth the Effort?

Are European car delivery programs worth the money?

Are European car delivery programs worth the money?I’ve always been intrigued by European Car Delivery Programs.  It’s a compelling offer: sign up for a vacation to Europe, get treated like a VIP, and come home with a discount on a very big souvenir, your new luxury car.

Experts like Jon Spira tell captivating stories where you can pick up your brand new Porsche in Germany and race it on the Autobahn for less than you would’ve paid picking it up at your local dealership.

Is a European Delivery Program a Good Deal?

But are these programs worth it?  Over the past few years, manufacturers have tightened their belts and removed many of the extra perks that used to be included.

So I decided to see how European Delivery Program’s stack up against a car price you could negotiate for pick-up in the U.S.

Let’s take a look at how each manufacturers’ European deals compare to local prices.  But first…

How does a European Car Delivery Program Work?

How does European Delivery workThe idea is you buy a luxury car from Mercedes, Porsche, or Volvo (Audi, BMW, and Saab retired their programs) and pick it up at the factory in Europe.  You’ll typically get a discount on the price of the car plus a travel deal.  After you visit the factory, you can cruise around Europe for a couple weeks and drop off your car at a pre-approved location (these vary by manufacturer, but most have about 12 drop-off locations in different cities).

All programs include a factory tour and meal, international car insurance and registration for 2 weeks (about a $200 value).  When you’re done they’ll ship the car back to the U.S. for you free of charge, but keep in mind this is not the same as the destination fee (typically $895).  Mercedes is the only one to waive the destination fee as well.

Here’s the step by step process:

  1. You order a European luxury car from a U.S. dealer and put down a deposit
  2. Once the pick-up date is confirmed, you book your travel
  3. Pick-up your car a few weeks later at the factory in Europe
  4. Spend a night near the manufacturer in Germany (or Sweden for Volvo) and get a factory tour plus a meal or two
  5. Travel the country-side in your new wheels for as long as you want (insurance lasts 2 weeks, but can be extended)
  6. Drop off your car at an approved European drop-off location
  7. Accept delivery in the U.S. within 6-8 weeks (if you live on the East coast) or 8-10 weeks (if you live on the West Coast)

BMW also includes a nice perk where you can pick up your car in the U.S. at the BMW Performance Driving school in South Carolina and learn how to race on their track like a pro.

Program Details by Manufacturer

Note: BMW officially ended their European Delivery program on May 18, 2020.  Here's why it was discontinued.

Manufacturer WebsiteMy ReviewsPrice DiscountPick-up LocationAirfareHotel
BMWBMW European Delivery Analysis5% off MSRPMunich, GermanyNot includedNot included
MercedesMercedes European Delivery Analysis7% off MSRP & destination fee waived ($925)Sindelfingen (near Stuttgart), GermanyDelta voucher of $200One night
PorschePorsche European Delivery AnalysisNo discountStuttgart or Leipzig, GermanyNot includedOne night
VolvoVolvo European Delivery Analysis2-10% off MSRPFree @ Gothenburg, Sweden, 9 other pick-up locations (transfer charge, $392-$1447)Round trip tickets for two includedOne night

Manufacturer Program Comparison

So how do the European deals compare to pricing in the States?  In the table below I started out by selecting 5 models around the $50,000 range. I figured that if you’re buying a $500,000 Maybach, you probably don’t care too much about cost, but if you’re looking at cars with one less zero, you might still want to do a little comparison shopping.

After I selected a few models, I went to Edmunds to find out what they suggest is a good target price in the States if you were to haggle with local dealers without picking up overseas.  Then I compared that to the European Delivery deals with and without travel perks.  Savings are calculated based on estimates of $700/roundtrip flight and $150/night at a hotel.  Perks like meals, factory tours, are international insurance are not included in these numbers.

ModelMSRPEdmunds True Market ValueDestination FeeTotal Expected U.S. PriceEuropean Delivery % SavingsEuropean Delivery PriceEuropean Travel SavingsEuropean Delivery Price + Travel Savings
2019 BMW 530i Sedan$53,400 $50,678 $995$51,673 5.00%$50,730 $ -$50,730
2019 Mercedes GLC Coupe$47,300 $44,573 $995$45,568 7.09%$43,945 $350$43,595
2019 Porsche Macan SUV$49,900 $47,936 $1,250 $49,186 0.00%$49,900 $150$49,750
2020 Volvo XC90 SUV$48,350 $47,625 $995$48,620 9.00%$43,999 $1,550 $42,449

*I do not guarantee the accuracy of the prices or promotional details quoted above.

My Analysis

  • My Analysis of European Delivery programsAll manufacturer programs except for Porsche are a better deal to pick-up overseas.
  • Most travel perks have been scaled back and those perks' dollar value is nominal with the exception of Volvo's travel package.  Although it should be noted that the value of the travel experience is exceptional for all programs.
  • The winner for best bargain is Volvo.  They are the only European manufacturer to still offer a full travel package.  Most programs used to offer two round trip tickets and hotel accommodations, but now only Volvo offers both.

Other Considerations

  • Be sure to make sure the total price of the car (with discount + vacation) is less than what you can negotiate for each separately.  If it’s cheaper to buy the car locally and rent a nice car overseas, save yourself the extra paperwork.
  • Most programs cover European fees and freight, but check for an extra charge for delivery from the U.S. drop-off to your home city. In that case, once the car is in the States, you can always shop around to have the car shipped to you at a lower price.
  • Most programs cover international vehicle insurance and registration for 15 days (about a $200 value). If you plan on staying longer coordinate extra insurance with your local dealer before you go. U.S. and Canadian insurance coverage is not valid in Europe.  If you don’t have insurance during your trip, your car could be confiscated when you cross an international border.
  • Most programs have 10-20 international drop-off locations, but coordinate in advance where you will be leaving your car when your vacation is over.
  • Do not plan to leave any personal belongings in your car as they might not make it back to the States and are not insured (even though the car is).
  • Ensure vehicle is cleaned before handing over for transport. If the car is dirty, the shipping company may refuse to load the vehicle or the EPA will steam clean the car at your expense.
  • Some programs offer the ability to buy a non-U.S. specification vehicle.  That means you may be able customize your car with some options that are only available in Europe.

Would you consider flying to Europe to pick up your next car?

European Delivery Infographic
European Delivery Program Comparison (infographic)

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Frequently Asked Questions

What’s included in European delivery?

Programs typically include a discount on car price, a European travel package, factory tour, international car insurance, and free car shipment to the States.

Is it cheaper to buy a European car in Europe?

All manufacturer programs except for Porsche are a better deal to pick-up overseas. See a full price comparison between US pick-up and European delivery.

Which manufacturers have European delivery programs?

Mercedes, Porsche, and Volvo each offer European delivery.

Who has the best European delivery program?

The best value in a European delivery package goes to Volvo.  View Volvo’s program details and the runners-up.

Does Audi offer European Delivery?

The Audi European car delivery program was discontinued at the end of 2018.

Does VW offer European delivery?

No, Volkswagen does not offer European delivery.

Car Buying Tips for Single Mothers

Car Buying Tips for Single Mothers

If you are a single mother, you have a lot to balance: your work schedule, your children’s school and extracurriculars, and putting food on the table each night to name a few. You can’t afford to waste time or money aimlessly searching for a car. With these car buying tips for single mothers, you can search confidently to get the best deal for you.
car buying tips for single mothers

Trade-it, Junk-it, or Give it to Charity?


What are you going to do with that old car when you buy a new one? 
There are more options and considerations than you might think.  You’ll probably get the most money for your trade in if you can sell it to a private party, but a trade-in could actually net you more because of the tax implications.  Donating to charity might give you a warm fuzzy, but you might just need someone to haul it off your front lawn so you can see your neighbor’s trailer again.

Below is a flow-chart to help you figure out how to get rid of your old car.  Before you get started, go to the Black Book and find out both the trade-in value and the private party sale value.

A Flowchart to Determine How to Get Rid of Your Old Car

There are a few generalizations in the above chart, but hopefully it helps with your decision making process.  If you’re feeling really generous and want to give a $5,000 car to charity, by all means go ahead!  Just be sure to understand the tax law before you try to write-off any large numbers.  There are also hundreds of charities that will accept these donations and some are better than others, so do your research.  Lastly, if you decide to trade-in, make sure you read these steps to get the most amount of money for your trade-in.

You may also want to check out these Vehicle donation tips.

How to run a Bidding War (Infographic)

bidding war

If you’re in the market for a new car and want to get the best possible deal, you should make car dealers compete with each other.  Today I’m going to lay out the steps to do that visually.  For more details on these steps click Start Here above and read how to Start a Bidding War.

In the example below, you’ll get prices on a new car from 4 car dealers.  You’ll then email each car dealer to make them compete against each other to systematically reduce your price.

Flowchart – How to systematically negotiate a low car price

How to negotiate a new car
Now you may be thinking, hey, that’s a lot of work….I had to send at least 4 emails.  Well, in this example, we managed to get the price down $4800 from our most expensive offer.  That’s a savings of $1200 per email!  I don’t know about you, but even if I only managed to save half of this example, I’d be sending emails all day long at that rate.  Also, take advantage of these email samples that I’ve put together that tell you exactly what to say to car dealers.

The great thing about this negotiation strategy is that it’s not a secret! Even when you make car dealers aware that you are getting competitive bids, they will still work with you because they want to sell cars.