The Crazy World of Car Option Prices
You know how it goes. You’re thinking about ordering a new car, you find the one you like the look of and the price looks good. Then you go on the manufacturer’s online configurator and start speccing it up, adding the things you want, nice colour, tech and BOOM all of a sudden it’s way out of budget and you could buy a small semi-detached house with the options cost. It’s easy to do, especially with premium/sports brands, but hopefully this article might help you steer your way through the crazy world of option prices.
First up, lets deal with the clickbait – the most absurd option prices…
You might think that buying a car with a £375,000 price tag would mean it came with some basic things that you get on a Vauxhall Corsa, wouldn’t you? Well no, because if you order a Ferrari SF90 it doesn’t come with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, something that is widely regarded as essential these days to enable you to mirror your phone on the dash and access Waze, podcasts, Spotify etc. In the rare occurrence that a ‘normal’ car doesn’t come with CarPlay, the usual price is £250-400. On the SF90? £2,400. Absolute madness.
Apparently the average price of an SF90 Stradale is around £500,000 – and that’s the average! When you delve into the options prices (hard to find, obviously) you can see how it’s possible though, with special three-layer paint coming in at £12,000, Ferrari badges on the front wings costing £1,600 and if you want some carbon fibre wheels? £26,000.
Porsche have long been the kings of options absurdity. Their cars actually come pretty well specified, even the base 718 Cayman has CarPlay for example. But it’s the level of personalisation that really gets things going – like if you want the headlight washer jets painted in the same colour as the body, that’ll cost you £160. There are more common options that can bump the cost up too – Ceramic Brakes on your 911? £6,231. Fancy set of upgraded wheels? £2,500. The craziest thing is this, if you buy a base 385hp 911 Carrera, that comes in at £87,330, but should you want to, you could add another £60,000 to the price just in options. That’s more than a base specced 580hp 911 Turbo.
When you go onto the Tesla configurator, there really aren’t many options. In the example of their most outrageously fast car – the Model S Plaid – you can choose paint colour, wheels, interior and then your level of autonomous driving, that’s it. But oh boy are those few options pricey. The Plaid may cost £118,000 but that’s in plain flat white, if you want nice metallic blue that will cost £1,450, deep red will run to £2,500 – given the poor paint finish on Teslas I’d be going for the free white and getting it wrapped! Given that Porsche charge £2,500 for their upgraded wheels, it seems absolutely insane that if you want the 21” ‘Arachnid’ wheels on the Model S Plaid (which make it look great) you have to part with a staggering £4,400. White or cream interior? £2,000. ‘Full Self Driving’ capability? £6,800. And that one really sticks in the throat as it can’t even do it yet, so you could feasibly spend that money, and sell the car before it’s even finished and coded via over-the-air updates.
Best of the Rest
It’s easy to go on, £5,500 for some optional wheels on a Lamborghini Huracan, £24,000 for some exterior carbon on a McLaren, £1,850 for some knurled knobs on your Bentley Continental GT. But what about the cars that don’t cost hundreds of thousands to begin with? How do you steer your way through the options madness?
Well the simple answer is to shop smart. Certain brands are far better value than others, obviously. A Skoda Octavia vRS is the same basic chassis, engine and gearbox as the VW Golf GTi yet comes with a lot more space, standard kit and tech and is even easier to use yet costs less. Okay I’m a little biased here, as I bought the vRS, but my point is still valid.
There are sensible options to be specified on the new wave of EVs too. Take for example the new BMW i4 M50. This is a new EV that looks like any other BMW, has epic performance thanks to 544bhp and AWD and can do 315 miles on a charge. But it comes on 19-inch wheels (which I think look great) and there are optional 20” items available for the princely sum of £1,350. Now traditionally these are a huge selling option, performance BMW drivers tend to spec bigger wheels a lot. But doing this comes with a bigger penalty than the one to your wallet – range. These wheels are bigger, heavier, wider and as a result wipe a huge 50 miles off the range of the i4 M50. Not a wise choice in my opinion.
The best value can be found currently in the Korean brands though. Hyundai is leading the way at the moment with their great looking Tucson and Santa-Fe SUVs and their futuristic Ioniq5 EV, which all come in a few set spec levels on which you can’t even choose any options. You can choose a colour, but then the spec levels are set, making life far simpler for those buying them.
Can options prices make a difference to the buying choice? Let’s have a look. Say Joe Public is looking to buy a ‘premium’ family estate car and has narrowed it down to the BMW 330e Touring and Mercedes C300e Estate. The Mercedes is the newer car, only just launched and has a really fancy interior, so as you’d expect costs a little more than the BMW at £46,195 vs £44,935. Both are plug-in hybrid models with sportier styling, but how do they compare with the key options you may want to add? It’s table time! Have stuck in the Skoda Superb as well for comparison, to see what you get in a more budget-oriented brand.
So, it’s worth pointing out that though the Skoda is the cheapest car, it’s also much bigger, equivalent in size to the BMW 5-Series and Merc E-Class, so you’re getting a lot more car for the money. But it’s worth pointing out how Mercedes are now structuring their range and options. Much like Hyundai, you can’t spec many options individually other than colour, the model simply has standard, Premium and Premium Plus packs which add a load of options together in one big price. BMW is still fairly old-school, in that you can option things individually, but can be made cheaper by putting them into option packs like the Technology Pack which has around £2,600 of equipment for £1,900.
So it can potentially be a minefield. What are the options you want to pick though, if you’re worried about the car having ‘the right spec’ come resale time? Well on a Porsche (718 Boxster GTS 4.0 as an example) this can be hard to pick, but simple things like the PDK dual clutch gearbox (£2,303) are always going to be desired, as is an upgraded leather interior (£1,242). Colour-wise you get bright red and yellow for free (along with boring white and black) but a nice metallic like GT Silver (£632) may help make the car more saleable and is a bit classier. Other than that, don’t go crazy – if you do night driving the LED headlights (£1,397) will help, but don’t expect to see much of that back come resale time. Typically, added options only retain 10% of their cost when you come to sell. Porsche are clever and have bundled options as models – the Boxster T has all the best options added to the base model for far less than their individual cost.
The good thing is, a lot of manufacturers make it easy to browse, with BMW, Porsche, Mercedes, Land Rover etc all having fully priced configurators. It’s only the high-end cars like Ferrari, Aston Martin, Lamborghini, McLaren and Bentley that have stunning quality configurators but no pricing. You have to visit the dealership to get the full pricing. Now go forth and get speccing!