Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A woman is shown taking a bike off of the roof rack of a gray SUV.

Basic Car Accessory Buyer’s Guide

You have a lot of decisions to make when you’re shopping for a vehicle: the type of vehicle you want, the size and class, various makes and models, and so much more. Even once you nail down all of these details, you might still wonder if there are some accessories or options that are worth picking up to really fill-out your ride. There is no shortage of accessories available for you to choose from, however, so deciding on what’s actually worthwhile and what you should skip can add even more hassle to buying a vehicle.

Today, I’m going to help you out and take you through some of the most common accessories and upgrade options that are available to you when buying a car. For the most part, I’m going to stick to the sort of stuff a dealership is going to offer you––looking at all of the aftermarket stuff you can also pick up would be better in an advanced guide. So these are the options and accessories that you might consider when you’re at a dealership and getting ready to sign on the proverbial dotted line. Some of these are definitely worth choosing, while others really aren’t worth your time.

Floor Mats

This is a pretty simple place to start since you can decide on whether you need floor mats or not just by considering a couple of things. Your car will usually come with some sort of mats, though low trims might have fairly cheap ones. If you want serious luxury, you can get nicer mats, but that’s not really essential. A more important consideration is what the weather is like in your area; if you have snow and similar conditions, then high-quality and durable mats will withstand the weather better and protect your interior.

Seat Coverings

This is another accessory that comes down to a couple of simple considerations. Once again, you can get some plush and comfy coverings if you want to up the luxury of your interior. For the most part, however, I’d suggest looking at coverings as a way to protect your interior, rather than an aesthetic or comfort choice. If you’re going to have kids (or messy friends) in your vehicle, coverings are well worth the price to keep your upholstery in good shape.

Roof Racks

Don’t get a roof rack just because it makes your vehicle look sporty or powerful. This should be a purely utilitarian decision when buying a vehicle. Are you going to strap something to the roof of your car or SUV pretty regularly? If so, then get a roof rack; but otherwise, you can pass on the expense.

Rear Racks

While you can use a roof rack for transporting a bicycle or two, a lot of people find racks that attach to the rear trunk to be more useful. Again, this is a utilitarian decision: do you need to transport a bike or two? If so, then strongly consider this as a good accessory; if not, then skip it.

Sound Systems

You can really easily drop a few hundred bucks on an improved sound system for your vehicle––sometimes even more. This is one that can fit into the aftermarket category, though you might be able to upgrade your sound system when you’re buying your vehicle. I can’t really tell you which way to go with this because it depends on the kind of sound quality you want when you’re behind the wheel. But I will say this: no one wants to hear your bass booming as you go down the street. Just get a good system that you (and no one outside of your vehicle) can enjoy.

One of the most popular vehicle accessories, car audio equipment, is shown laid out on a wooden table.

Organizers

This is actually one of the best investments you can make when looking at accessories for your vehicle. Good storage systems and organizers will let you keep your vehicle less cluttered while allowing you to find things you need more easily. Consider an organizer for the rear area of an SUV, as well as inserts for the pockets and back of the front seats. Best of all, these are usually very affordable and provide you with a lot of benefits.

Tech Upgrades

You’ll probably have a lot of options to consider when looking at the technology inside your vehicle, especially the infotainment system and other features. Some of these things are very optional and really come down to your budget. Other systems, like navigation and Bluetooth connectivity, are very useful and usually better as a manufacturer system rather than an aftermarket addition. Big flashy tech is cool, sure, but practical things you actually use are going to be most important.

Safety Upgrades

There are a lot of safety options available on vehicles these days, including blind spot monitoring, automatic braking, and much more. In my opinion, anything that helps keep you safe is good––but you have to actually use it. A lot of people pay for these systems, then turn them off, which does nothing to help you. In particular, adaptive cruise control that can automatically adjust your speed makes long commutes and road trips much easier on you as a driver.

Wheels and Tires

I’ll make this one simple: don’t spend more for fancy wheels, rims, and tires. Just don’t. They might (MIGHT) look neat, but they’re expensive to replace, and they can make your vehicle a big target for unsavory folks. If you want larger wheels and tires for going off-road, then that can be a good investment––but don’t get big wheels just because you think they make your truck look cool. They don’t.

Trailer Hitch

Just like with the roof rack, this really comes down to what you actually will use. Are you going to do some towing? If so, then a hitch is well worth the price; if not, then it’s probably worth skipping. Two other things to consider: one, this is a very easy thing to buy aftermarket; and two, you might not think you’ll need it, but it can really come in handy when you own a truck. These are usually included with towing packages that optimize your truck’s towing capacity.

A close up shows window tint being installed on a vehicle.

Window Tinting

This is almost always a purely aesthetic decision and one that you really don’t need unless you have the money to burn. It can be less expensive at a dealership, and they’ll make sure it’s done to a degree that’s legal in your state, so keep that in mind. Aftermarket window tinting is pretty easy to find, but it can be more expensive, and you’ll need to make sure the tins is street legal.

Interior Lighting

A lot of interior lighting is also purely aesthetic, but it can make your vehicle more enjoyable at night by providing you with some subtle illumination. Interior lighting can also be an important accessory in a large three-row SUV or van, as ground illumination makes it easier for people to safely get to and from the rear seats. You can get this aftermarket, but it’s typically simpler to have it as part of the vehicle when you buy it new, if available.

Other Considerations

As you can see, there are a lot of accessories to consider, and there are plenty more than I have mentioned here. Ultimately, you should take the time to think about what you’ll actually use and get the most from and let that guide you. It’s your car, and you’ll be the one enjoying it, so look for options and accessories that make your life easier or let you get more from your ride.

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