Skip the TruCoat: Top 3 Dealer Add-Ons to Avoid as Per Consumer Reports

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

Anyone who has ever bought a new or used car from a dealership knows the minefield of add-ons customers must generally navigate before signing on the line which is dotted. Just this week, my own parents were presented with a deal sheet that showed an admin fee ($799), tire warranty ($499), and undercoating ($999) on a second-hand Lincoln from a non-Lincoln store. They walked.

Consumer Reports has recently published a list of dealership extras they recommend binning when buying your next car.

Atop their list is, perhaps unsurprisingly, VIN etching. Some will try to say this process of engraving a car’s VIN onto its windows provides protection against theft – or more ways to ID yer car if it does get ripped off – but those of us around here know better. If someone wants your wheels, they’re taking them regardless of any hastily carried out etching. There will be sales reps who will frown when rebuked, perhaps saying the service is required by law or is part of the price since it’s already on the car and can’t be removed. When confronted with the latter objection a few years ago, this author simply replied “Change the windows, then.” We bought a car elsewhere.

Rustproofing and its ilk also get low marks from CR – but perhaps for different reasons than window etching. In some areas of the country, different forms of rustproofing can indeed make a difference in the long-term health of a car’s metal. Where the service can fall down at the dealer level is in its price; better deals are often available right from the source. The less said about so-called interior protection and Scotchgarding, however, the better.

Tire products also take a drubbing in the report. The pitch of nitrogen filling is rightly skewered, as are various and sundry wheel & tire warranties which are sometimes not worth the paper on which they are printed. Yes, there are exceptions – we’re sure your Uncle Walt got a free set of Michelins thanks to the warranty he purchased in 1978 – but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that even paying the pro-rated price on warrantied rubber can be more expensive than finding a new set on sale.

What are your recommendations? Do you have any no-go items when shopping new or used at a dealer? And, for consistency's sake, an article like this is required by TTAC law to include a TruCoat clip from YouTube.

[Image: Jon Rehg/]

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Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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