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Car dealership add-ons: what do you need and what can you live without?

Car dealership add-ons: what do you need and what can you live without?

Buying car from a dealership is to also buy a lot of extras, or at least it is as far as the salesman is concerned. A dealership is not a place that just sells cars, it also offers a veritable buffet of things the salesman is going to tell you need. But do you need them?

And before we get to that, what are they in the first place? Worry not, because Haynes has got you covered.

Here's our breakdown of what's what in the world of dealership add ons, and most importantly of all, the pros and cons of each.

GAP insurance

This is one of the big ones. The salesman will be keen to push this on you because it makes up a fair chunk of his commission. But is it actually worth considering? In a nutshell, yes. GAP is a valuable bolster to your existing insurance policy, especially when it comes to a brand-new car.

What it does is bridge the gap (hence the name) between what you pay for the car and what the insurers pay out if the car is written off. It's a way to protect yourself against the inevitable depreciation your car will be subject to.

If your car is written off say, two years after you buy it, it may only be worth 70% of what you paid for it. The GAP policy pays out the remaining 30%.

The thing is, the dealer is going to try and charge you £3-400 for this policy, and that's utter nonsense. You can hit the internet and find policies for as little as £60, so don't believe what the salesman tells you.

Also, there is no obligation to buy it from the supplying dealer, so don't fall for that, either.

Do: Stand your ground and drive the price down. The dealer will want you to buy it from them, they may even throw it into the deal if push hard enough.

Don't: Feel you have to buy it from the dealer. You can buy it from any number of suppliers, just make sure they're legit and regulated.

Wheels and tyre cover

This is a relatively new one and comes straight from the 'any way to get money out of the customer' train of thought. It does, in theory, what it says on the tin.

If you bounce your wheels off a curb or through a particularly aggressive pothole, all you have to do is call the dealer and they'll sort out a new wheel and new rubber as part of the policy.

In a time when cars are being offered with increasingly large alloys with lower and lower profile tyres, combined with the state of the UK's roads, this policy isn't a bad one to have.

It doesn't cost all that much and it takes all the hassle out of what can be a frustrating situation.

Do: Read the small print and read it twice. As with any policy, there may be exceptions, rules or even excesses that need to be covered. Also, consider your car. A 4x4 on chunky tyres is far less likely to need this than a low-slung, big-wheeled sports car.

Don't: Buy it if you don't want to. You may have never damaged a wheel or tyre in your driving career, so why would you start now? And if you do, there is an entire industry of man in vans who will come to your house and fix your wheels for a few quid.

Paint protection

The person writing this article used to sell cars, and he can tell you that the notion of paint protection makes his eye twitch. It is utter nonsense and it's there for no other reason than to get more money out of you, the customer.

The dealership will charge you upwards of £200 for paint protection, which is nothing more than a good wax and some water repellent for the glass.

On their own, the products are good and worth having. But when a salesman can buy a bag of the kit for £35 for the parts department, you must wonder where the rest of the cost comes from?

It's certainly not the valeters, who will apply the 'protection' with very little care or consideration. It's pure profit, that's all it is.

There is one thing that keeps your car looking showroom fresh, and one thing only: hard work. If you want it to stay spotless, get down to the local motor factors, buy some good quality shampoo and polish and do it yourself, and do it regularly.

A magic super-duper coating from the dealership is no more special than anything you can do yourself.

Do: Do it yourself. To wash and wax one's car is to bond with it, and there's nothing quite like the feeling of standing back and seeing your car gleam thanks to your own elbow grease.

Don't: Buy it from the dealer. It's a simple as that. It's overpriced, average stuff.

Chip and dent protection

There is absolutely nothing worse than getting a ding or scratch on your new car, so isn't it handy that the dealer will sell you a policy to cover such unfortunate incidents? Well, yes, sort of.

Knowing you have the policy will take the sting out of returning to your car only to find a dent it didn't have before, that's for sure.

And of course, there are the positive implications that come from having a policy in place to ensure that your car is minty mint when you trade it in for a new one.

In all honesty, it's a good policy to have. But as with anything like this, it's subjective. You may have a driveway and a decent parking spot at the office, so your car never gets pranged.

And if that's the case, you might just want to pay a dent specialist on an ad hoc basis. If you think it's a possibility though, go for it.

But do be warned, there may be delays when it comes to booking into the bodyshop to have the work done.

Do: Try and haggle the price down. The dealer will want you to have it, even if that means giving it away at small price.

Don't: Forget to read the small print. This is one of those things where you need to know all about the excesses involved.

Fabric protection

This one is normally bundles in with the paint protection above, and frankly, it's just as pointless. The dealer will try and charge you a premium for it, the salesman will wow you with a little demonstration on a treated bit of cloth, and you'll be made to think it's amazing.

And it is, but it's also the same stuff you can buy off the shelf at the supermarket for your sofa.

Much like the exterior of your car, keeping the interior clean is all about hard work and keeping on top it. There is no bottled miracle that will do it for you.

And frankly, there's myriad options on the shelves in any car spares shop that will do a much better job for a fraction of the price.

Do: Do it yourself, you'll get better results and it will cost you a tiny amount of money by comparison.

Don't: Fall for the little cloth test the salesman does for you, those little swatches of fabric are nothing like your car interior.

Extended warranty

Cars go wrong, we all know that. And happily, when you buy from a dealership you will almost always come away with a warranty of some description. This is good, as it means you're covered should the engine fall out.

But what about when the warranty runs out? What can you do then? Well, there is always the option of an extended warranty.

On paper, they seem like a good idea. They cover you for a longer period, and they cover everything that could go wrong, right?

Well, that's the thing. A lot of them cover surprisingly little. In fact, we've experienced a dealership warranty that quite literally wasn't worth the paper it was printed on.

But to buy such a warranty isn't the car's fault, it yours. Extended warranties are a good thing, providing you get the right one.

This is the situation where you need to read it from start to finish, ask the dealer to clarify what's covered and what's not, be sure about what you're buying. And as ever, don't be afraid to haggle the price down.

Do: Read every word of every paragraph to ensure you know exactly what's covered.

Don't: Feel you have to buy from the dealer, there are many stand-alone companies that can offer an warranty for a small fee.

Service plans

This is another one we have covered, and it's another one that on face value, seems worth having. You pay the dealership a few quid, which can normally be added into your monthly car payment, and then when service time rolls around, everything is covered.

Perfect, trouble free motoring, right? Well yes, sort of. The prices for parts and labour are frozen from the day you set the plan up, so it's inflation/market fluctuation proof. But that's the only good bit, really.

Service plans cover service items and consumables like oil, filters and fluids, but that's normally about it. As for the stuff that normally jumps the bill up like brakes, exhaust or clutch, well, they're not covered. So you'll still have to fork out for them.

A service plan covers the most basic of servicing, it should never be confused with covering wear and tear items like tyres or brakes. And with that in mind, would it not just be better to put a few quid into a savings account each month?

Do: Ask for a breakdown of service costs so you can work out if it's worth doing.

Don't: Think it's something you have to have, or that the dealer has to carry out. You can get stand-alone service plans that can be used in any number of garages, should you want one.