It doesn’t take long shopping for a car before buyers realize that there is a lot more to the process than meets the eye. And we aren’t talking about more common things like gas mileage and loan terms. Instead, we are talking about the trim, something that often slips below the radar when it comes to car buying.

When it comes to shopping for a new car, a car’s trim often is deceptive in its purpose, but it can also be a plus when it comes to determining exactly what the buyer is getting for their money. This benefit can even extend to selling and buying a car on the secondary market. One of the purposes of a car’s trim is to give the buyer a more extensive selection of vehicles to choose from. This article is to give buyers help at Car Buying Strategies to increase the chances that they will be more pleased with their final selection.

  1. What is a base model and what does that have to do with trim? Before buyers familiarize themselves with a car’s trim, it’s important that they understand what a car is without it. A car without any trim is what they call a base model, or a standard version of a car, the car without any of its bells and whistles. For this reason, it is important to know what the car includes when it is “standard,” or without any additions. This is the least expensive version of a car. The trim level of a given car might not have a name, but rest assured that it probably has many trim levels. A Nissan Altima has no name for its base model, but it has several trim levels: S, SR, SV, and an SL. By contrast, a Toyota Camry SE is the name for the company’s base model, which can include several trim levels: SE, XSE, and the XLE. When buyers go in to purchase a car, the base model might not have the extras they want, which is when the different trim levels come into play.
  1. What is the car trim? The car trim is what makers and dealers call the extras of a vehicle. For example, it might be the car’s base model, with different styling, the engine type and transmission, the comfort points, safety features, and the design components of the exterior. These include special seats such as the paint options, leather, climate control options, four-wheel drive, trim molding, and other features that are often elements of a car’s trim packages.
  1. What do car trim names mean? Frequently, very little, except to the maker. Different makers use different trim names, which differentiate the models. For example, certain car makers can call their cars LX, SE, GT, or some other name. The same cars made by a different maker will use different trim names. It’s only a different nomenclature for the cars themselves. Some carmakers use combinations of letters and numbers. Others use only letters. BMW uses numbers except at the end of the name where there is a lower case letter such as 320i, 330i, 330e, and so forth. Some makers go all out by naming their different cars such as Nissan’s Gloria or their Brougham, which was their top-level trim during the 70s and 80s. To at least a great extent, the trim names are the venue of the promoters, the copywriters, and others who make a car special beyond all the features.
  1. Going all out. Cadillac always has and always will use full names for their different trim names. This includes, of course, the Cadillac Escalade—which itself comes in four trim levels—standard, and Platnum, which is the highest level of trim the company offers, including suede microfiber, leather, and more. Outside, this trim comes with a higher quality grille design, painted wheels, and chrome inserts.
  1. What does all this have to do with the price? Simply put, the more a buyer wants in a car, the more trim that will be added, and the more a car will cost. Trim levels increase the cost of the base model of the car. This modus operandi has been used by car manufacturers and dealers for years. Unfortunately, most experts also agree that while base car prices have increased over the years, the price of different trim types has soared. This is due, in part, because dealers and manufactures can generate much greater prices over base models using trim packages as an incentive.
  1. The effect of “sticker shock.” If the thought of the sticker shock of cars is difficult enough to swallow, try noting the differences between the price of a base model car and the addition of trim. For example, the base model of a 2019 Kia Soreno will cost $25,990. Add in the cost of the top level of trim and the same base model car will end up costing a whopping $45,000. That’s a higher sticker price than a 2019 Lexus RX350, one of the top-rated luxury cars with an MSRP of $43,670.
  1. Running naked. When a maker or a dealer refers to a car that is “stripped-down,” they are talking about a base model without any trim. By contrast, if they refer to a car that is “fully loaded,” they are talking about a car that has all of the trim options available.
  1. Read the Monroney sticker. If a buyer wants to know exactly what the trim package of a car is costing them, they should ask to see the Monroney sticker, which itemizes those costs. All dealers must, by law, include a Monroney sticker on each car they offer for sale. This sticker must show such information as the base price of the vehicle, its MSRP, the average gas mileage of the vehicle, and standard features that might include anti-lock brakes, airbags, radio, and others. It will also show the presence of optional features such as a GPS, and the MSRP for all options. The purpose of this is to show more clearly what the difference is between the price of the base model and the options being offered.
  1. Trim levels offer variety. Base model cars can be pretty boring. That’s at least part of the reason for trim levels offered by manufacturers and dealers. Knowing what is offered in the way of different trim options gives buyers the opportunity to know upfront what is and is not included in a purchase price as well as what they are paying for each option. This also gives the buyer a chance to negotiate a better price, just as most car buyers try to negotiate the overall price of a deal. For example, it doesn’t take a Henry Ford to understand that a car needs a cooling fan to run effectively or that a transmission needs to be cooled as it works, but when buyers are aware of these parts and what they cost, they can better negotiate a final price tag.

The value of the trim also gives resellers leverage when they resell their car, whether it be to a dealer or a private buyer. It’s for this reason that they should keep their Monroney sticker after their initial purchase. The Monroney sticker will prove to a potential buyer what options were made available on the car when it was originally purchased, and how much you paid for each one.

Whether buying or selling a car, nearly everyone probably realizes that it is a matter that is often fraught with issues. Fortunately, buying and selling a car is often a matter of whoever comes into the negotiations with better information about what they are buying or selling will often be the winner in the long run.

As anyone who has ever purchased a car, it is almost always a matter of “let the buyer beware,” but with a thorough knowledge of where a car stands in terms of what it costs, the buyer, as well as the seller, will have a better grip on what they want to accomplish when the negotiations start. Knowing accurately what trim is available on a car will also let a buyer know what they can expect from a car’s performance as well as maintenance issues that might be on the horizon once they make the purchase. Safety and handling capabilities of a car will also be more noticeable for a car that comes with a trim list. Does it, for example, offer stiffer shock absorbers, springs, anti-roll bars, and more.

Knowing more about a car’s trim also makes buyers much less glassy-eyed when it comes down to what a car features in its options. After all, it’s all there for everyone to see, whether it be trims, features, add-ons, options, and everything else. All that matters from the trim forward is how the information is handled by the buyers and sellers because it’s all there for everyone to take comfort it.

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