Trim Level vs Options – What’s the Deal?

Do you think a 2002 Honda Accord is the same as every other 2002 Honda Accord?  What about a 2006 BMW 328?  The truth is the exact same model in the exact same year can be almost a completely different car given the options.  It’s important to understand the options or packages available in the used car you are searching for.

It used to be options were a completely configurable part of your car.  You go to the Chevy dealer and you told them you wanted one with a hydramatic transmission, cruise control, and bucket seats, and the car would arrive customized for you.  Dealers would also order all sorts of variations of options for cars on the lot.  You can see the problem here.  A customer likes the red one, but it’s missing some option.Image via http://www.flickr.com/photos/greggjerdingen/6199692208/in/photolist-arR3uY-arNpJn-e7NBkU-81PaWC-8RQ5s2-dZcXN2-ayX2fy-9TT9xx-7RWowf-8FLxEP-9k9qwo-8GTDry-8GU5pj-8GU34h-81PasU-85ppp8-81L1X8-81L1Ze-81PaTC-85sy3h-81PaYj-81L21a-81NWsA-8QZJD9-8QXLoe-9EjwYq-cv2KRS-azjarV-8H8A4s-8GTDZU-8H8Axw-8H8AY5-8GQtbr-8GTEpC-8GU499-c2PY4A/lightbox/

No problem!  There are factory options and dealer options.  Factory options are things like the type of transmission.  What ships from Japan, Mexico or Tennessee is what you get.  A dealer isn’t going to swap a manual transmission for an automatic one or install leather seats simply because you like the color of the car.

Dealer options on the other hand are something a dealer can do.  These are things like roof racks, cargo nets, and sometimes more complicated features like heated seats.

As a used car buyer, options are confusing.  In cars that have a million customizable options, it’s very difficult to get exactly what you wanted.  So dealers started also doing “Packages”.  These are collections of popular options.  For example, many cars have a “Cold Weather Package”, which includes options like heated seats, fog lamps, and a ski-pass through.

Even more simple though is the way the Japanese kicked off things with.  The trim level.  The trim level is like an options package, but there are almost no differences between cars of the same trim level.  If you get a Honda Accord LX, it’s going to have power windows.  It’s going to have 16″ rims.  If you get the EX, it will always have the sunroof, etc..

Trim levels are much better for you, the car buyer.  Once you find the trim level that includes your must have features, you know you can just focus on things like color.  By the way, I recommend ALWAYS getting the highest trim level!  It’s way easier to sell a car with the highest trim level, because it includes the largest set of features that people are looking for.  When used, it’s also less of a price difference, so you’re getting a lot more for your money.