Don't Fall for These 15 Useless Upgrades Car Dealerships Push on You

Buying these expensive add-ons is just throwing money away.

Person at a car dealership
Updated July 18, 2024
Fact checked

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Is it time to buy a new car, but you dread going to the car dealership?

You may have an idea of how much you want to spend, but you don’t want to enter a high-pressure environment where you feel as though you can’t leave without making a purchase.

Being prepared is the best way to avoid throwing money away. So don’t fall for these 15 useless things car dealerships often push on unprepared buyers.

If you’re over 50, take advantage of massive discounts and financial resources

Over 50? Join AARP today — because if you’re not a member you could be missing out on huge perks. When you start your membership today, you can get discounts on things like travel, meal deliveries, eyeglasses, prescriptions that aren’t covered by insurance and more.

How to become a member today:

  • Go here, select your free gift, and click “Join Today”
  • Create your account (important!) by answering a few simple questions
  • Start enjoying your discounts and perks!

Important: Start your membership by creating an account here and filling in all of the information (Do not skip this step!) Doing so will allow you to take up 25% off your AARP membership, making it just $12 per year with auto-renewal.

Become an AARP member now

An extended warranty

wutzkoh/Adobe car salesman explaining contract to male client on table with car toys

This is one of the most common add-on costs at car dealerships, and it could cost you thousands of dollars for something you never use. 

However, extended warranties from the manufacturer offer some value in situations of catastrophic loss, but warranties from the dealership have so much fine print that they are often impossible to use.

A roof rack

svetlichniy_igor/Adobe roof rack on blue car

If you’re buying an SUV for road trips and plan to do some adventuring, biking, or canoeing, a roof rack could be valuable.

However, if you’re adding a crossbar or roof rack to your new vehicle, you’ll spend more buying it from the manufacturer than you would on the aftermarket.

What’s worse, the manufacturer's roof racks only fit that vehicle's make and model. So ultimately, you are more likely to be able to resell an aftermarket roof rack down the road.

Built-in rear-seat infotainment

vpilkauskas/Adobe luxury interior of high end car with tv screens and spacious leather seats

Something is alluring about having a rear-seat infotainment system if you’re a parent who takes long road trips. Car dealerships know that the thought of a peaceful car ride is well worth it.

Don’t fall for it. A tablet and earphones are a better option because they are a fraction of the price, you can take them with you into the store or on a plane, and they are less costly to replace if you need to do so.

Resolve $10,000 or more of your debt

Credit card debt is suffocating. It constantly weighs on your mind and controls every choice you make. You can end up emotionally and even physically drained from it. And even though you make regular payments, it feels like you can never make any progress because of the interest.

National Debt Relief could help you resolve your credit card debt with an affordable plan that works for you. Just tell them your situation, then find out your debt relief options.1

How to get National Debt Relief to help you resolve your debt: Sign up for a free debt assessment here. (Do not skip this step!) By signing up for a free assessment, National Debt Relief can assist you in settling your debt, but only if you schedule the assessment.

Try it

Windshield protection plans

Aleksandr Lesik/Adobe man driving car while sitting in car having broken windshield

A rock striking the windshield of your car could crack the glass, and windshields are expensive to replace. 

Though windshield cracks aren't rare, windshield protection still isn’t worth it, mostly because they can often be repaired inexpensively instead of replaced. 

So there’s a good chance this is an add-on you’ll never use.

Paint sealers

olinchuk/Adobe mechanic wearing protective gear painting car with painting gun at workshop

Are you investing in a custom paint job that you’ve designed yourself? If so, then investing in paint sealers makes sense. But for most other people, they don’t. 

That's because sealants, along with other features, are already built into modern paint products to extend their lifetime and durability. 

You don’t need to spend more for the added protection these products offer (just caring for your car with routine washing and waxing is all that’s needed).

Service packages

Friends Stock/Adobe couple standing in car showroom reviewing contract presented by male sales manager

Sometimes, a service package could be a good thing, especially some of the more robust services that go well beyond oil changes and tire rotation.

However, realize what you’re buying — years of having to bring your car to that specific dealership for repairs and maintenance. You’re tied to that location. 

If there’s another shop in the area that’s more affordable, they might be the better choice overall.

Car key insurance

puhhha/Adobe man holding car keys with remote in hand

Yes, there’s such a thing, though it’s rather a newer type of add-on cost. 

Here’s how they get you on this one. You’ll learn that car keys are expensive to replace when lost (this is true), often requiring a $500 payment to purchase a new one and have it reprogrammed. 

After telling you this, the sales team is sure to offer car key insurance, which would help cover the replacement.

First, ask your car insurance provider if your policy already includes this coverage. If not, save money on insurance and purchase a $20 tracking device to attach to your keychain instead.


Aleksandr/Adobe shot of car tyres standing on green grass at sunset

While this was one of the most common upgrades in the 1980s and 1990s, today, there’s no need to invest in mudflaps for your car. 

Buying them for your truck could be valuable, but most SUVs and passenger cars don’t really benefit from paint or corrosion protection from mudflaps.

Unless your state requires mudflaps, skip them to save money.

Seat and fabric protection

gargantiopa/Adobe suv car interior with leather seats

Fabric protection plans (often heavily pushed on those who have kids or pets) can seem helpful, but they are useless — simply because even the most expensive repairs to vehicle fabric are not that expensive. 

You don’t want to pay $1,000 for this type of service or have it added to the cost of your car loan when you probably won’t ever use it.

Earn cash back on everyday purchases with this rare account

Want to earn cash back on your everyday purchases without using a credit card? With the Discover®️ Cashback Debit Checking account (member FDIC), you can earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month!2

With no credit check to apply and no monthly fees to worry about, you can earn nearly passive income on purchases you’re making anyway — up to an extra $360 a year!

This rare checking account has other great perks too, like access to your paycheck up to 2 days early with Early Pay, no minimum deposit or monthly balance requirements, over 60K fee-free ATMs, and the ability to add cash to your account at Walmart stores nationwide.

Don’t leave money on the table — it only takes minutes to apply and it won’t impact your credit score.

Apply for a Discover Cashback Checking account today

Nitrogen-filled tires

powerbeephoto/Adobe using pressure gauge tool to check air pressure in tyre

Most non-car enthusiasts will first learn about nitrogen-filled tires when sitting at the dealership making a buying decision. 

These tires tend to last a bit longer because they are better at maintaining tire pressure, but there’s no real value in spending hundreds of dollars to choose this type of tire at the dealership unless you’re buying a race car.

Dent protection

NopponPAT/Adobe grey car standing on road after having dent on rear bumper

Bodywork or dent protection sounds like a nice benefit to have, especially if you’ve previously been in an accident where you had to pay out of pocket. 

These policies have dozens of limitations and exclusions that often make them worthless when you need to file a claim. 

If you already have comprehensive collision insurance, you may not need these services at all.

Window tinting

bhakpong/Adobe mechanic applying window tints in black color to car windows

You may find window tinting ideal if you live in an area with a lot of sunlight or you’re worried about someone peeping into your car to steal what you leave behind. 

But the truth is, that window tinting (along with any type of film protection) from your manufacturer is usually overpriced. If you need it, turn to a third-party applicator.

Trunk trays and upgraded floor mats

sveten/Adobe car floor mat.

Trunk trays can be expensive — as much as $700 for some vehicles. 

While they offer protection against spills and stains, they are far more expensive to buy from the manufacturer than buying an aftermarket product.

You can purchase them on your favorite online deal website for far less. The same applies to upgraded floor mats. They offer no real benefit from the manufacturer.

Credit life insurance

Charlie's/Adobe car sales manager sitting at table with papers

Some dealerships now offer credit life insurance (also often called credit disability insurance or unemployment insurance). 

The bottom line is these policies promise to keep making payments on your car loan if you meet one of the qualifications listed and cannot make those payments yourself, such as if you become disabled.

While this type of insurance could be beneficial, buying it from the manufacturer or dealership isn’t ideal. Turn to a third party that may offer a far more affordable option, including your existing car insurance provider.

A more expensive car

Maksym Povozniuk/Adobe couple deciding which car to buy while standing in car showroom

Here’s the worst way car dealerships can get you — they upsell you to a version of your car that’s far more expensive with extra features, specialized paint jobs, or a more powerful engine.

You may even get a vehicle with features equivalent to the one you originally considered, but because it’s a luxury brand, you’ll pay more for it. 

Don’t get swayed into buying a more expensive vehicle that doesn’t fit your budget.

Bottom line

88studio/Adobe sales manager giving car keys to woman

Many of these add-on services and features are meant to pad the profit margins of car dealerships at your expense. 

When heading into a dealership, view the sales professional as just that — someone trying to make the biggest sale possible. The best of them are friendly and supportive, but any time they offer anything extra, be leery. 

Finally, and most importantly, ask questions about what this “upgrade” will cost you in the long term so you can keep more cash in your wallet.

  • You could save up to $600 with some companies
  • Compare dozens of providers in under 5 minutes
  • Fast, free and easy way to shop for insurance
  • Quickly find the perfect rate for you

Author Details

Sandy Baker

Sandy Baker is a has over 17 years of experience in the financial sector. Her experience includes website content, blogs, and social media. She’s worked with companies such as, Bankrate, TransUnion, Equifax, and Consumer Affairs.