Window Etching: Another easy-money markup for car dealers; they etch your vehicle’s VIN on a window so that your car can allegedly be tracked in case it’s stolen. But that’s not going to scare off thieves, particularly if they break the window to gain entry. If you think it will, don’t pay the car dealer a couple hundred dollars to do it. Buy a $20 kit from a local auto parts store and do it yourself.

Alarm System: Many cars come with a basic form of security, such as coded keys, but many dealers will also try to sell you a full-featured alarm system. While a good security system is a wise investment if you live in an area with high auto-theft rates or drive a vehicle that’s popular with car thieves, you’ll usually get a better deal by going with an “aftermarket” alarm installed by a car stereo shop. But if you do decide to go with the dealer’s add-on alarm for convenience’s sake, make sure it’s a reputable brand, such as Code-Alarm or Automate, and that you’re not being overcharged by comparing the features you’re getting with what’s available from the aftermarket.

Most Popular Vehicles on MSN Autos
1. Honda Accord6. Mercedes-Benz C-Class
2. Toyota Camry7. Toyota Prius
3. Toyota Corolla8. BMW 3-Series
4. Nissan Altima9. Cadillac CTS
5. Toyota Camry10. Honda CR-V

Extended Warranty: Since vehicles come with longer and more comprehensive warranties these days, extended warranties are usually not worth the extra money. If you plan to hang onto the vehicle for a long time, an extended warranty can be a good investment if and when your car needs major repairs. But don’t buy it from the dealer, since you can often get a better deal through independent insurers, such as Warranty Direct.

CD Changer: The price of a CD changer at a dealership can be twice what it is at a car stereo shop or electronics store. That’s because carmakers use proprietary connections and cables that force the owner to use the brand’s CD changers — unless you know better. Many car stereo shops carry adapters that can connect an aftermarket CD changer to a factory radio that has CD-changer controls at a fraction of the cost of the dealer option. But these days you’ll probably want to skip the CD changer altogether and just make sure your car has an auxiliary input that allows you to connect an MP3 player, or a system like Ford’s Sync that can also control an MP3 player by voice activation.

Rear-Seat Video: Whether to choose this dealer option is not as easy to decide as the ones above. While you can typically get an equivalent aftermarket rear-seat video system for several hundred dollars less, some people prefer the seamless integration and functionality (such as being able to control the system from the in-dash radio) of a dealer-installed system. Plus, you can roll the price of a dealer’s system into the overall cost of the vehicle and, if you’re financing or leasing the vehicle, pay for it a little at a time.

Message board:  What are the most annoying last-minute dealer options?

Doug Newcomb has been writing about car electronics since 1988, as editor of Car Audio and Electronics, Car Stereo Review, Mobile Entertainment, Road & Track Road Gear and as a freelance writer. His new book, Car Audio for Dummies, is available from Wiley Publications. He lives in Hood River, Oregon.

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