How to choose a car trim level

Luckily, here at Perrys we can talk you through some of the options and advise on the cars that will give you the best value for money.

But first, why is specification so important?

It’s simple, a better equipped car will mean you are more comfortable, but each driver’s idea of the perfect set of options is different.

However, some features are universally accepted as being important to the majority of drivers and can add value to the car when it comes to selling it on.

These include things like air conditioning, an audio system and in particular, safety features such as more airbags and driver aids such as Electronic Stability Control and a seatbelt reminder system.

Alternatively, some options could affect the value of a car in a negative way. A bright pink graphic for your Fiat 500 may suit a 17 year old girl, but it may not be to everybody’s taste and this could drop the value when it comes to resale.

Similarly, large spoilers, neon lights and garish interior upholstery can cause the value of a car to plummet, no matter how much the current owner appreciates them.

Then there’s the issue of alloy wheels. While these can add value to a car, if the alloys are too large it can affect the driveability of smaller cars.

What are trim levels?

As you can see, choosing equipment for your car is a minefield. Luckily, car manufacturers often group equipment in different ‘trim levels’.

For example, the new Ford Focus currently comes in four distinct different trim levels - sometimes known as specifications.

The least equipped model is the Ford Focus Edge, which also means it is the cheapest. Usually an ‘entry-level’ model will feature a couple of gadgets such as air conditioning, but not much else.

This does, of course, vary with manufacturer. While a budget brand will be incredibly sparse at the lower levels, a luxury manufacturer such as Jaguar and Land Rover will offer huge amounts of equipment and high quality upholstery even on entry-level models.

Ford also offers Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X models with the Focus, each offering more equipment as standard than the last.

Often, a manufacturer will release trim levels designed to offer something different. This usually comes in the form of a ‘sporty’ model at the top of the range and tends to add more aerodynamic bodywork, sporty seats and often, unique upholstery and badging.

An example would be the Alfa Romeo Cloverleaf models. Most notably available on the new Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the Cloverleaf versions use the most powerful engine in the range and is separated from the other trim levels because of its unique badge, sporty interior and engineering tweaks to improve performance.

The downside to the sportier models however, is the premium you will pay both for the car and in terms of insurance.

Other ‘special’ trim levels can be used to lower the price of a car, for example the Renault Bizu range offered with the likes of the Clio and Megane, or to add some extra equipment over an existing trim level.

For example, Renault boasts the Dynamique trim level for its cars, but there is also the option of a Dynamique TomTom trim which adds satellite navigation and a few extras, usually for a small premium.

Trim levels are a straightforward way to ‘bundle’ equipment together and give car buyers an easy overview of the choices available to them when buying a new car.

Remember however, specification levels are often dependant on the engine choice you make for the car. Less powerful engines are generally available with entry-level trim levels while the more powerful units are saved for higher - and more expensive - trims.

What are optional packs?

Sometimes car makers will feel the trim levels offered with a certain car are not enough. More often this happens with luxury car manufacturers, whose customers won’t mind shelling out extra money for that little bit extra exclusivity.

However, optional packs can range from Sports Packs to Audio Packs. The former will add some nice aerodynamic body parts, or sports seats and other bits of equipment to improve the looks and performance of a model.

When looking at an optional pack, it is always worth considering if the extra cost of the pack is worth the item (or items) of equipment you want.

What are accessories?

Accessories are exactly what they sound like; extra bits and pieces you can buy for your car. These can range from body graphics to furry dice - although we wouldn’t recommend the latter - and are usually one-off items not included in the optional packs.

Accessories can be either official or unofficial, but be aware some unofficial accessories, e.g. engine ‘chips’ to boost performance, could invalidate your warranty. It is always worth checking with your manufacturer first before buying one.

Customising you car

Once you have chosen the make, model, engine, trim level decided, it is time to customise your car. As mentioned above, it is always worth keeping in mind the resale value of the car when speccing it up.

The main choice for many will be the body colour of the car. These will often come in a range of bafflingly-named colours as well as some metallic and even matte options for some models.

Metallic and matte options will cost more, and if you are intent of decking out your Peugeot RCZ in matte black, just remember it is incredibly difficult to look after and keep in top condition.

Some cars, such as the Citroen DS3, comes with a huge array of choice to make including contrasting roof colour, a choice of graphics and patterns and some interior styling choices.

The same applies to the forthcoming Range Rover Evoque, meaning buying a new car is increasingly involving for the person buying it.

While this means a little more effort and time when choosing a car, it also means you can specify exactly how you want it to look and design the perfect car for you.