Buying a new car can feel like playing Crossy Road, except the goal is to get to the other side without being flattened by a sky-high sticker price.
Sure, WiFi connectivity and voice control can give your new car a futuristic feel. Automatic parking sensors or emergency braking can help you avoid scraped bumpers or more serious collisions. But they all come with a price. And it’s hard to stay focused on the features you need to have, versus the luxuries, when your list of available options feels endless.
So how do you level up your ride without blowing your budget? These tips can help you decide which tech upgrades to consider splurging on — and which ones to skip — so buying a new car doesn’t have to mean taking a detour from your budget.
Weigh Both Upfront and Long-term Costs
A simple way to decide whether a tech upgrade is worthwhile is to take into consideration the cost of installation against the expense of replacing or repairing it.
Take so-called infotainment systems, for example, which let you navigate your route, listen to music, and control your smartphone from your dashboard. They can be super-convenient, assuming you’re using all the features. Not so convenient? The cost.
Infotainment systems can be steep to add on if they’re not included as standard features. Apple’s CarPlay, for example, can run between an additional $1,000 and $3,000.
And if they break, the repair or replacement can be just as expensive. For example, depending on the type of vehicle and the system, you could easily spend $1,200 to $3,400 to replace it!
When in Doubt, Think Practically
If you want to upgrade your ride but have a limited budget, think about what the various tech upgrades could bring to your overall driving experience, in terms of safety and functionality. Consider extras you know you’ll use regularly, but think hard about the ones that simply inspire the most oohs and aahs.
Take adaptive headlights, for example. They may not have the same wow factor as Bluetooth text dictation, which scans your texts and reads them to you. However, adaptive headlights can adjust brightness automatically and some can even help improve sight when driving around corners, so there are no surprises on the road — meaning they could help reduce your odds of getting into an accident when driving at night. So, if you are the kind of person who can wait to read your text messages when the car is safely parked, one option might prove a greater benefit than the other.
Even if an upgrade seems useful, think about what it could take away from your driving experience as well.
According to a AAA survey, one in three drivers use their car’s infotainment system while behind the wheel. Tasks like checking the GPS can take your attention off the road for 40 seconds at a time on average, potentially increasing your risk for a distracted driving accident.
Saying no to tech add-ons can save you money, obviously. But skipping out on an extra or two also has the potential to save something even more important than money (your life) if it keeps you more focused on the road.
Protect Your Vehicle
If you’re spending on tech upgrades, ask the salesperson what type of warranty protection is included. You need to know if an extra feature is covered by the carmaker’s standard warranty or a third-party manufacturer’s protection plan.
You may want to think about investing in a protection plan if you’re buying all the tech bells and whistles. Ally Premier Protection, for example, can help with the cost of repairs for certain tech gadgets and features that may not be covered by a standard manufacturer’s warranty. It’s similar to an extended warranty for your car, protecting more than 7,400 vehicle components.
Before you head to the car lot, take stock of what you want most from a new car and where tech fits in the picture. Use that as a guide to develop your buying budget and you’ll end up on the other side — a new car owner — without overspending.
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