Trim Levels, Packages, and Options on New Cars – What Do They All Mean?
After hours of researching, consulting with your friends and family, and bickering with your significant other, you’ve finally decided which vehicle you want to buy, phew. Congratulations on passing the first car-buying test – that’s right: just the first part. With that decision sealed, come even more decisions. Which trim of that vehicle are you going to buy? Are you adding any options? What about packages? If you’re a first-time car-buyer you may not even know what these things are. TrueCar.com and the Military.com Car Buying Center want you to be as prepared as possible when you buy a new car so we’ve explained these terms below so you can make the most knowledgeable car purchase decision possible.
Car Manufacturer: Also known as OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), is the name of the company that owns and produces the vehicles, i.e. General Motors, Toyota Motor Corporation, Volkswagen Group.
Make: This is the name of the brand of vehicle, or company that sells the car. The brand name is sometimes also the manufacturer, while other times, the manufacturer has more than one brand/company that it produces, i.e. Lexus is a make/brand/company of Toyota, Hyundai is a brand and manufacturer, Chevrolet is a make/brand/company of General Motors.
Trim Level, Options, Packages Defined
Now we get even more detailed in identifying the vehicle and what features the car is equipped with. Some companies make this streamlined and limit the options so as to keep it more simple for consumers, other companies want consumers to have as many options as possible to be able to customize/individualize their vehicle. For example, Fiat claims there are 500,000 ways to configure a Fiat500, but Honda simplifies their ordering process to just a small variety of trim levels for each model, and usually very few additional options.
Trim Levels: Car models are differentiated even farther by the trim levels. The lowest trim level is also known as the base, for example, the 2012 Toyota Camry has six trim levels, starting with the L, and up to the XLE and the price will increase accordingly as we go from the lowest trim level offered (base) to the highest. These trim levels are typically consistent on every model made by a particular company. The trim level typically denotes the type of engine, transmission type, sometimes whether it’s a four-door sedan or five-doors, and will include varying standard equipment/features.
Options: These are add-on features (technology, luxury, or safety) that don’t come standard on your chosen make/model/trim level. Say you choose a trim level that doesn’t come with a navigation system, if the model you chose offers a navigation system as an added option, then you can purchase this as an option and the cost of the navigation will be added to the total cost of your chosen vehicle. Available options range from alloy wheels and panoramic sunroof, to seating material, particular stereo sound system, and rear view camera.
Packages: These are options that have been bundled together and are priced as a package. They are typically grouped as a type of option, i.e. “Convenience Package,” “Cold-weather Package,” “Technology Package,” and offer options according to the theme. Buying the package is almost always going to be cheaper than buying all the options included in the package individually – just be sure you’re not paying for something you don’t want or need.
Pricing of Trim Levels, Packages and Options
Knowing the cost of each trim level, options and packages is very important because depending on the car, these add-ons can add up to the cost of a whole other new car. The Military.com Car Buying Center is a great tool to price your vehicle because our pricing guides allow you to configure a vehicle you’re interested in buying by make/model/trim and down to the options and packages giving you an idea of what the final cost of the vehicle will be (subject to availability and based on dealer inventory). And not just the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), TrueCar.com is an invaluable tool because we show you what other people actually paid for a particular vehicle locally regionally and nationally. And if you’re ready to buy the car, you can lock-in competitive and fair upfront price offers from a TrueCar Certified Dealer in your local area and avoid having to haggle to get a good price on your new car.
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