Edmunds: Understanding new car trim levels and options – WTOP
A key part of the car buying process is familiarizing yourself with some of the key terms you’ll encounter on…
A key part of the car buying process is familiarizing yourself with some of the key terms you’ll encounter on automaker websites or on the dealership lot. You want to ensure that you’re getting the right features in your new vehicle. But if you’re new to buying cars or aren’t familiar with auto industry lingo, a conversation with the salesperson can go right over your head.
With this in mind, here are the basics about trim levels, styles, options, packages and accessories. We’ve organized them in the order you’re likely to come across them when searching for a vehicle or configuring one online.
MAKE AND MODEL
Let’s start with the basics of a car’s identity. “Makes” are the companies that make the cars: Kia, Ford or Subaru, for example. “Models” are the cars the automaker sells: Telluride, Explorer or Crosstrek. Some carmakers, including Genesis, BMW and Lexus, use alphanumeric names, such as GV70, X3 or IS 350.
TRIM LEVELS AND BODY STYLES
Trim levels further identify a vehicle by a particular set of special features. Higher trim levels either add to the features of the entry-level model (often called the “base” model) or replace them with something else. Trim levels are where you’ll come across terms such as SE, Limited, Sport and Grand Touring, among countless others. You might also encounter the word “style.”
Some people use style and trim level interchangeably, but in general, a “style” usually indicates whether the vehicle is a sedan, pickup truck or SUV, and also what type of engine and drive system comes standard. It is possible to have two cars that have the same model and trim level but a different style. For example, the Toyota Corolla in SE trim can be had in one of two body styles: sedan or hatchback.
Though it might seem overwhelming to keep track of trim information, the good news is automakers typically apply a consistent hierarchy of trim levels to their vehicles. In every car Honda makes, for example, an EX will always be a higher trim than an LX. With Ford vehicles, the SEL trim level will always be higher than the S.
Options are features that don’t come as standard equipment with the vehicle. These items can range from a sunroof to a better sound system to a larger engine. Sometimes even color can be an option, in that it costs extra to apply that specific shade of paint. Most options are installed at the factory. Others are “port-installed options,” meaning they are added to the vehicle before it is shipped to the dealership.
Some automakers such as Honda and Acura consolidate options into the trim levels. In most cases, once the customer has chosen a model, the only things that person has to decide are the trim level, color and drivetrain. Other carmakers, such as Mini and Porsche, encourage their customers to personalize their vehicles with everything from seats upholstered in different colors of leather to colorful graphic decals for the bodywork.
Though an automaker might offer a wide and possibly confusing array of options, this doesn’t mean every vehicle on a dealer’s lot will have those options. Dealerships often order a selection of vehicles from the manufacturer based on what will help the cars …….