Which Dealer Options Are Better Aftermarket Buys?

How choosing the right options at the dealer can save you a bundle of money.
By Alison Lakin
Your vehicle is an extension of yourself, and buying a new one means dissecting your personality and lifestyle to determine which automobile is just right for you. Parsing through a car's additional options can be an important step in the process - and one that can quickly become overwhelming. Whether you choose an audio system or a roof rack, accessories can tailor your car to fit your needs and make living with a car for a long period of time much more enjoyable, but the costs can add up quickly at the dealership.

Here are a few things that we'd recommend buying after you've rolled off the lot. 

With certain cars you can't simply add on one option that interests you; they come in packages. This is especially the case with GPS. In a large percentage of cars, this helpful tool will be coupled with other accessories. Some cars provide navigation in collaboration with upgraded audio systems or other luxury features; very rarely is it ever offered on its own, even if that's all you want.

Decent aftermarket navigation systems can be found for as low as $200. If you want some extra bells and whistles, be prepared to spend a few hundred more. Still, that's far less than getting one from the dealer, considering most of you are probably not in the mood to potentially spend an extra $8,000 for the rest of a package. And of course, you can also opt to buy a smart phone, which will have maps for free and access to certain navigation-based apps as well. When it comes to navigation systems, doing a little research to avoid purchasing one from a dealer can really be worth your while.

The tricky bit about navigation systems is that they're much easier to use if purposely installed in the car. Having it loose or attached to the windshield can be awkward, so consider convenience part of the extra dealer cost.

Stereo systems are another popular package item. Those who value their music might be tempted by the audio options available for the car of their choice, but you can end up with much more than you wanted, at a premium price. Once again, most vehicles make the audio upgrade a part of a package - one that can equate to thousands of dollars and a lot of extras you may not be interested in. 

The bonus to scouring the shops for your perfect audio equipment is that you get exactly what you want. Say the speakers are great in your new car but you want a subwoofer, then that's all you'll need to buy. The only snags are that you'll be spending a lot of time researching and you'll have to pay for installation, unless you're handy with wiring. Still, deals in the aftermarket are abundant and music lovers will be able to pick the best equipment for a good price.

Nevertheless, at times the dealer price can be worth it. On more high-end vehicles, there are some incredible systems that are tuned expressly for a particular car. Aftermarket parts will have a hard time reaching that quality of sound even for the same money.

Low-Priced Accessories
The purchase of lower priced accessories can be determined by how much you think your time is worth. Things like cargo boxes and floor mats aren't particularly expensive regardless of where you get them, but the time it takes to do the research to find a good deal versus the ease of just adding them to your list of desired trimmings when you're at the dealership might be a make or break for you.

Roof racks are a good example of this. Since they are readily offered as extras at reasonable prices, the benefit of buying them aftermarket is relatively little. You might save a few dollars, but a manufacturer specific part will be designed for your vehicle. That definitely takes the guesswork out of buying it.

Sticking with the Dealer
Certain trimmings aren't worth the hassle to buy aftermarket. Though it may frustrate you to spend extra at the dealership on options that, in your mind, should come standard, like heated seats, that doesn't mean that you should spend the money on them. Power windows and air-conditioning, accessories that may be offered as extras, would be labor intensive and costly to add on your own, making the monetary savings trivial. 

Knowing which automotive options to choose when you're purchasing a new car can be daunting. You end up having to make compromises either on your budget or your lifestyle. But, if you coordinate the procurement of dealer-based trimmings as well as aftermarket parts, you'll be able to have the luxuries you want within your price range.

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