Over 70,000 car buyers in the Republic will take delivery of their new cars in the next 12 weeks. For many the final fun of the ordering process is ticking boxes on the options list. But remember, you are not just choosing for your own pleasure: you are making choices with an eye to what might interest the next buyer of your car.
Invariably at the dealership, buyers will be guided to order a Goldilocks car, one that’s just right not only for them but for the dealer, who knows if the relationship works out, it will be coming back to their forecourt, to be sold as a good used buy.
But what options must you have fitted to your pride and joy to guarantee you’ll be able to offload in a few years time?
The must haves
1. Air-con: The ability to dehumidify the car's cabin and keep windows clear cannot be under appreciated.
2. Cruise control and speed limiter: A great electronic driving aid that allows a driver set the speed at which their car will travel. The electronics needed for cruise control generally also allow a speed limiting function. Drivers can set their own speed limit that the car will not exceed while allowing the driver use the accelerator at their discretion at lower speed. The latest type of cruise control is often called Adaptive cruise control. This uses forward facing sensors to detect vehicles directly in the lane in front. When your car gets close to the other vehicle it will automatically slow to keep a set distance from it regardless of the speed you set the cruise control too. When the vehicle in front is no longer sensed the car will automatically resume the set cruising speed. The only downside to this is that is the adjustable gap is set at a reasonable distance Irish motorists will always nip in to the gap and frustratingly your car will slow down again to a safe distance.
3. Heated seats: Seems like a luxury extra but these bun warmers bridge that horrible chill on a cold morning when a cold engine is unable to deliver heat to the cabin. They also save fuel, for it means you get warmer quicker, so you don't have to crank the air-con up to max for 10 minutes. I particularly like heated seats as they allow occupants enjoy a relatively cool cabin on a long drive while keeping core temperatures cosy. These days heated seats available in nearly every new car either as an option or as part of a value added winter pack. In premium cars fitted with leather seats having heated seats should not be an option but an EU directive. Heated seats even make sense in small cars these days and would certainly be high on any list of mine. Not all compact and small car buyers are centrally heated youngsters.
4. Apple CarPlay/Andorid Auto: Smartphone integration is an absolute must. Often contained as part of a level two grade the feature allows iPhone and Android phones to connect with the car's display screen to a degree that makes a bluetooth connection seem medieval. This type of connectivity generally comes with a larger centre display screen as standard that can look very smart. The Internet can be accessed via the users data plan to deliver real time satellite navigation or stream music from the likes of Spotify or Deezer etc. You can even get your texts read out without having to do the illegal act of holding your phone. Sadly at present some carmakers like Jaguar/Land Rover and Mazda to name just two have no licensing deal with Apple or Android and only facilitate Bluetooth connectivity so check before you buy.
5. Metallic paint: It's more expensive to make and apply than a flat colour so there is a premium charged. Sometimes the price is ridiculous especially when the car is in a high VRT bracket. Buyers love the way the tiny flakes of metal catch the light and when a metallic car is washed and clean the finish really sets the car off beautifully. But make sure the price is reasonable and don't tick that box if it's a high four figure sum. Sparkly paint isn't worth that much money.
You can do without...
1. Factory-fit sat nav: Factory fitted mapping devices are an utter waste of money. In car technology is way behind that found in the latest mobile standalone devices. The complex car manufacturing and engineering process is an expensive and slow moving beast. It simply cannot be updated every time another new advance in technology comes along. A good Garmin or TomTom sat nav costs a fraction of a factory fitted sat nav and even then you have to ask why bother when your smartphone has sat nav that you can connect to via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
2. Leather on a mainstream car: A difficult call here as leather is vital in premium and luxury models but an insane and expensive choice in an everyday mainstream car. The rise of faux leather (aka 'pleather') has brought the price down from thousands to hundreds, but in a small car you will never get any of this money back when you go to sell the car on.
3. Panoramic roofs: You may love to let in the light but sunroofs are pricey and many panoramic ones don't even open so what is the point. Yes, they can brighten up an interior but they also let in a lot of glare and also reduce the effectiveness of cabin headliner sound insulation. Years ago a sunroof was 'Irish air conditioning'. A relatively tiny opening roof was the only cost effective alternative to very expensive air conditioning. Stale reconditioned air-con is a thing of the past, however, and now in many cases the cabin air is cleaner than outside thanks to advanced air filtration that would make Nasa proud. These roofs also add a lot of weight to a car - and in the wrong place. It impacts on the centre of gravity, making the car potentially less dynamic and the extra weight means higher fuel economy and emissions. Under the new WLTP emissions testing that come in to force in September, a car's specific weight including any extras fitted will be taken into account when measuring CO2 emissions. This means, in theory, the exact same car model fitted with an optional sunroof could fall in to a higher CO2 tax band than the lighter one without. Best advice, if you like sunroofs so much get a convertible.
Should you run with the pack?
Car distributors are always keen to simplify the buying process and in recent years we have seen the rise of the value for money optional ‘pack’. Multitudes are available and they vary from one carmaker to the next. Technology packs, winter packs, comfort packs and ADAS (safety) packs are the most common but you can even get a smokers pack (lighter and ash tray).
By bundling a host of themed individual options in to one discounted pack, the consumer is made an offer they can’t and often shouldn’t refuse. Packs are loved by salespeople. They are the motoring equivalent of a fly auction where the crowd is whipped up in to a buying frenzy with ‘not one, not two...’ but a host of costly individual options for an irresistible price. Pack prices range from the low hundreds to four figures.
The cold hard fact is that all optional extras depreciate quicker than the car itself and are written off by the trade over just a few years. Dealers will point this fact out when you to cool your expectations but they want to see well equipped cars being traded in. Don’t be afraid to remind the dealer that those very well considered optional extras will make the car very easy to sell on.
Best advice when buying new is to put a real value on your time and the quality of life you’ll experience in your new car and let that ultimately guide the options you get. So what if that means splashing out on a few considered extras, go for it.