Buying and owning upgrading the car Aftermarket upgrades

Autocar India
First Published: 17:29 IST(18/9/2012)
Last Updated: 12:48 IST(5/12/2012)
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There’s lots of potential to get your car up to spec in the aftermarket. But is it the right way to go? Read on to find out.

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Safety first

Safety should be of prime importance but is often overlooked by buyers. We cannot emphasise this enough. We have always maintained that, as much as possible, one should always buy the highest trim possible. The simple reason is that, to keep prices competitive, essential safety features like ABS and airbags are presently confined only to higher variants of most average family cars. This is because our regulations don’t deem them mandatory. You can find the finest leather seat covers and the most beautiful set of alloy wheels, but finding aftermarket ABS or airbags is out of the question. Getting it done later at an authorised workshop is not a common practice and will, in all likelihood, cost a bomb.

After deciding which car model to buy comes the tougher decision – which variant to choose. Car variant prices and buyer budgets are often at loggerheads and, more often than not, the variant one desires is just out of budget. That, however, may not be the case with you. Maybe the fully-loaded variant you want sits comfortably within the confines of your budget. But have you wondered whether you should be paying all that money in the first place? Is there a way to save more money while still getting all that you desire in your car?

Buying a variant lower than the one you want is a way to save a lot of cash but then you don’t get all the equipment that comes with the more expensive model. Fitting all the things you lose in the process from the aftermarket is an option that isn’t always exploited by car buyers and, by our reckoning, has the potential to save a lot of money. To test this theory of ours we had a look at two cars, a hatchback – the Maruti Suzuki Ritz and a mid-sizer – the Ford Fiesta Classic, and found out whether it makes sense to buy aftermarket or pay for a fully loaded variant.

What you stand to lose?

The more variants a car is available in, the more widely spread the equipment levels – and indeed the prices – will be. The Ritz, for example, is available in four variants, starting with the LXi, which is priced at Rs. 4.45 lakh, on-road in Delhi. The next variant in line is the VXi at Rs. 4.83 lakh which, if you add the optional ABS, jumps to Rs. 5.09 lakh. The top-of-the-line ZXi trim though is priced at Rs. 5.48 lakh. The four trims are priced within a Rs. 1-lakh range, but that is almost a 20 percent difference between base and top end, which is quite a bit. The Fiesta Classic comes in three variants. The base petrol LXi is priced at Rs. 6.02 lakh, the next higher variant, the CLXi, is available for Rs. 6.53 lakh and the top-of-the-line SXi costs Rs. 7.30 lakh. As you can see, the Fiesta range is spread across a 17.5 percent price difference.

A look at the equipment list will tell you that the Ritz LXi doesn’t come with basic equipment like power windows, front fog lamps or central locking. Even the VXi does without airbags, ABS, alloy wheels, a rear defogger, rear wiper, keyless entry, music system and a parcel tray. In the Fiesta Classic the base LXi variant lacks keyless entry, a rear defogger and a music system all available on the CLXi. The CLXi still doesn’t get ABS, front fog lamps, airbags and electrically adjustable rear-view mirrors, which the top-end SXi gets.

How much will you pay?

We had a look at equipment that is most desired and considered essential by buyers. We set out to find how much money one pays to have these fitted to a car aftermarket and if it makes more sense to do it. Let’s look at the table.

 Most of this equipment is available in car accessory shops in most cities and as we found out, the prices can vary greatly depending on who you ask. For this exercise, though, we tried to locate the cheapest prices that we could find. By our reckoning, if you look hard enough and long enough, you may even be able to better the prices we found.

To spec up the Ritz LXi with things like central locking, alloy wheels, a music system and fog lamps cost us Rs. 34,800. This takes the final price up to Rs. 4.79 lakh, which is Rs. 4,000 less than the VXi, but still adds a music system and alloy wheels. Similarly, to spec up the base LXi variant of the Fiesta Classic cost us Rs. 35,700, taking the final price up to Rs. 6.37 lakh. That’s a huge Rs. 14,000 less than the CLXi, and it gets you front fog lamps, turn indicators in the mirrors and alloy wheels.

As you can see, you can get a lower variant up to spec with the next trim level, but you can’t always find every accessory in the aftermarket. For example, after a lot of searching, we finally found a place where we could get a rear washer fixed to a Ritz, but even then we were told that getting it done at the authorised workshop will be better. Another example is the rear defogger. We just couldn’t find one for the Ritz or the Fiesta. We were informed that aftermarket defoggers haven’t been very successful and hence finding one would be impossible.

Stuff like body-coloured rear-view mirrors, blacked-out B-pillars and coloured side moulding for doors goes a long way to make the car look ‘premium’, but these are things that you could do without. If saving money is your priority, and it usually is when shopping aftermarket, we say forgo these, unless your heart is set on them. There is also the matter of quality and warranty. Quality may be suspect, especially if you are not paying too much. Always insist on buying quality accessories, or you might end up paying more on refits and repairs.

Then there are things like a tilt-adjustable steering, door ajar warning, seatbelt off reminder and a height-adjustable driver seat that you won’t be able to locate, at least not very easily. The looks that we got on enquiring about these varied from “You must be crazy,” to “Is this a joke?” These are also things that are usually found only on top-of-the-line variants and are not easily found in the aftermarket.

Maruti Ritz
Central locking                                   Rs. 2,500
Front fog lamps                                  Rs. 650
Black coloured B-pillars                     Rs. 300
Body coloured rear-view mirrors        Rs. 900
Alloy wheels                                      Rs. 8,000
Rear wiper + washer                         Rs. 5,000
Radio + CD with speakers                Rs. 8,500
Parcel tray                                        Rs. 450
Total                                                 Rs. 34,800

Fiesta Classic

Keyless entry with auto relock              Rs. 2,500
Front fog lamps                                    Rs. 1,800
Electrically adjustable mirrors                Rs. 10,000
Turn indicator on mirror                        Rs. 1,200
Side moulding with chrome insert          Rs. 800
2 DIN MP3 player                               Rs. 6,400
Speakers                                             Rs. 2,600
Leather-wrapped steering wheel          Rs. 400
Total                                                   Rs. 35,700

The intangibles

For those buying a lower or middle variant, customising your car to your needs is your right, but going overboard is best avoided. Think of what you really need. Is a leather wrapped steering wheel all that important? Do you really need a subwoofer and a set of component speakers when a basic system with four speakers will suffice? Make sure the warranty is not voided by any additions that you make to the car. Also the on-road price includes the insurance you pay for the car and covers all the equipment that came with it. Naturally, the higher trims cost more to insure. For any aftermarket addition, you will have to get it added to your insurance cover and that will increase your premium. Discounts on car models and within the variants vary as well. When buying a car it may happen that a discounted top-of-the-line trim now falls into your budget. Take it, since it’s most likely to come with more safety kit.

WHATCAR SAYS

If you shop smart, there is no reason to buy the middling variants of most family cars. You can quite easily spec a base model up to this level. If you want a top-of-the-line, fully loaded variant but can’t afford it, we recommend buying a trim lower still and upgrading it to as close to the top spec as possible. If, however, a fully loaded trim is well within reach, we say go for it.


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