Worth It or Not? Spending Smart on Your Car

Many times, the true value of something has nothing to do with the price but everything to do with whether or not you think you’re getting your money’s worth. For instance, some people would never consider buying a car “fully loaded”, but for others, it’s an absolute must.

Whether you’re buying a car new, purchasing add-ons or just performing maintenance, here’s a look at a few automobile buys, some of which may be worth it along with others that may not be worth it.


Worth It:



If you’re wondering which part of your car most affects its handling, the ride and your safety, Kiplinger says you need look no further than your tires. To help you determine which kind of tires best suit your needs, the site directs you to the Tire Decision Guide from Tire Rack. This interactive tool will quiz you on the make, year and model of your car, whether you’ll be driving in snow, which aspects of tire performance are important to you and more.

Safety Options

Kiplinger recommends spending on technology that will help you avoid accidents. For instance, blind spot information systems – whether via cameras or radar – alert you if there’s a hidden obstruction behind your shoulder. Collision avoidance systems, meanwhile, can tighten seatbelts, warn you with lights and sounds and even brake if it appears you’re about to crash.

Factory-Installed Audio

Manufacturer-installed sound systems have come a long way in quality, notes Kiplinger. Options have greatly improved for car owners, who can now often buy top-notch audio from premium manufacturers such as Bose and Harman-Kardon, Kiplinger says. Plus, it may not pay for car owners to try and retrofit cars with other sound systems, since complex dash designs can make installing new systems more difficult and costly, the site says.

High Intensity Discharge Headlights

MSN Autos sings the praises of opting for HID xenon headlights over the older-style halogen headlights. The difference, says the site, is dramatic, mainly because Xenon HIDs make it much easier for you to see objects ahead. And while we’re looking at headlights, MSN recommends getting active headlights, which pivot to the direction in which you’re driving – a great help when rounding corners at night.

Electronic Stability Control

ESC uses sensors and computing to monitor your driving, applying the brakes or modulating engine power when necessary to help you keep control, explains Bankrate. While ESC can be useful for any kind of weather situation, the feature really kicks in when you find yourself driving on slippery roads, according to Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, on Bankrate. Rader adds that ESC can help you keep control of your car and avoid the types of spinouts that can occur during winter weather. In fact, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety studies have found that ESC reduces fatal single-vehicle crash risk by 49 percent and multi-vehicle crash risk (for cars and SUVs) by 20 percent.

Buying a Car New

That “new car smell” isn’t the only good thing about buying a vehicle brand new. Forbes lists a number of reasons why being a car’s first owner may be worth it to you. For one thing, the magazine points out that auto financing rates continue hovering at rock-bottom. Plus, according to Forbes, cars are becoming safer. The publication notes that a record 66 vehicles garnered the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s “Top Safety Pick” ratings for model-year 2012.

Not Worth It:


Built-in GPS

Built-in automobile navigation systems are behind technologically – especially compared to smartphone-based navigation apps, insists writer Jason Perlow in ZDNet. Citing some promising wireless technologies in development, such as MirrorLink, Perlow calls for a standard that would integrate or wirelessly connect any smartphone to automobile multi-function touchscreen displays.

All-Wheel Drive

If you live in a region with punishing winters or a place with hilly unpaved roads, all-wheel (or four-wheel) drive can be a big help, since it can give you traction, notes The Car Connection. Otherwise, the site notes that such add-ons simply waste more gas and cost you more money, with no safety benefit. The Car Connection adds that, in almost all cases, you can get by just fine with good mud-and-snow tires.

DVD Systems

Built-in DVD systems have done their part to entertain kids on road trips in recent years. But now, The Car Connection recommends a much more inexpensive, more portable alternative that will be easy for kids to handle: tablet computers. The site notes that tablets – whether new or used – are a relatively economical way to replace systems that can cost several times more. Plus, tablet software can be easily updated.

Accessorizing Cars For Resale:

When you’re considering options for your new car, there’s no point in loading it up with extras to increase its resale value, according to The Wall Street Journal.  Ultimately, doing so won’t add much value, The Journal says. Instead, the newspaper urges you to simply get the features you expect you’ll enjoy.

Buying Diesel:

If you’re looking to buy a diesel-powered car strictly for its impressive fuel economy, you may want to reconsider. According to Forbes, this advantage sometimes isn’t enough to make diesel a better value than gas-powered cars. The main reason, according to the publication, is the premium price you’ll pay for a diesel car — $5,045 more on average than a standard version of the same model. Other factors, according to Forbes, include slightly higher costs for maintenance, insurance and repairs.

Which car features do you think are worth getting? Which features do you think are worth skipping?

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