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10 Car Upgrades That Are a Total Waste of Money

Owning a car means making a lot of choices, especially about which upgrades are worth spending your money on. Unfortunately, some upgrades just don’t live up to the hype. These are 10 popular car upgrades that often leave people with a lot of regret and less cash in their pockets:

Extended Warranties

Car Warranty
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  • Average Cost: $1,000 to $3,000

Sure, they promise peace of mind, but extended warranties usually cover less than expected. This means they’re just an expensive and unnecessary bet for most new car buyers.

Seat and Fabric Protection

car seats
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  • Average Cost: $150-250

Seat protection can be tempting if you have kids, pets, or a messy spouse. However, the reality is that seat and fabric protection is usually overpriced and unnecessary. Instead, you can buy some seat covers at your local Walmart that are way more affordable.

Dent Protection

dented car
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  • Average Cost: $200

Dent protection probably sounds tempting, but it has a lot of limitations that can actually render it ineffective when you need it most. This is an upgrade that a lot of people regret.

Nitrogen Tire Inflation

inflating tire
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  • Average Cost: $100

Filling your tires with nitrogen for about $100 is sold with promises of “better tire pressure retention” and “improved fuel efficiency”. However, considering that standard air is already 78% nitrogen, the benefits for most drivers are barely even noticeable.

Vehicle Identification Number Etching

Vehicle Identification Number Etching
Image Credit: Molly Treece, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Average Cost: $200

VIN etching is sold as a theft deterrent service, but the price tag is high. Especially when compared to DIY kits you can buy for under $30. Regardless of its potential security benefits, the cost doesn’t stack up, especially when more effective anti-theft options are out there.

Key Replacement Plans

car key
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  • Average Cost: $200-$600

While the convenience of a replacement key plan is undeniable, especially if you lose your keys as often as I do, the cost can quickly become excessive. With plans ranging up to $600, it’s an upgrade many find too pricey for the peace of mind it offers.

Vehicle Undercoating

Vehicle Undercoating
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  • Average Cost: $500-$1,000

Dealerships may insist on undercoating to protect against rust and corrosion, but most modern vehicles already have pretty good protection. This is just another add-on that puts more money in dealers’ pockets.

Gap Insurance

car insurance
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  • Average Cost: $500-$700

Gap insurance is a smart decision for some people, but the dealership markup makes it worthwhile to look elsewhere. Make sure to really look over what’s included with your vehicle purchase and opt for additional services with discernment.

Paint Protection Films

car paint protection film
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  • Average Cost: $400-$1,000

Paint protection films are marketed as a defense against scratches and chips, but they might not offer value unless you’re driving in harsh conditions or are particularly focused on maintaining a car’s appearance for resale.

Wheel and Tire Protection

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  • Average Cost: $500-$1,500

Wheel and tire protection plans often come with many exclusions, making them less appealing and causing people to question their value.

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