What's the Difference Between a Trim Level and an Option?
More choices may not make us happier, but they're an inevitable part of shopping. Extra-cost features — whether they come on higher trim level models or in options and accessories — can mean extra confusion at the dealership. The possible combinations can overwhelm: In 2015, Dodge boasted more than 50 million possible configurations for the Viper. Think that's bad? A decade ago, the Ford F-150 reportedly had billions of combinations.
If you're overwhelmed, we don't blame you. Figuring out what trim levels, options and accessories are available can help you decide on what features your car needs, but it's easy to get lost. Before you break down, read our breakdown.
What's a Make Versus a Model?
A make is another word for a brand. Much like Apple is the make for your iPhone, a make among cars is the brand behind your ride. On a Toyota Camry, for example, the make is Toyota. The brand is often, but not always, a shorthand designation for the automaker.
A model, meanwhile, is the car itself — the Camry, in this example. It can get complicated with sub-branded lineups like the Land Rover Range Rover or the Toyota Prius, which have several models under the same umbrella. If you're confused, use the Read Specs & Reviews tab on Cars.com to search any make to see the specific models within it.
What's a Trim Level?
Within a given model, most automakers offer trim levels with varying levels of equipment, from safety and convenience features to engines. A base trim may come sparsely equipped, while a top trim might have all manner of luxuries. Most automakers offer different options for different trim levels, but some, like Honda, take a one-size-fits-all approach to trim levels, eschewing options for trim-specific features.
What Are Options and Packages?
Options are just that — optional features that cost extra. Sometimes automakers combine them with other options to form a package, which has multiple items for a single price. Options and packages are distinct from trim levels in that they typically bundle a smaller number of features, whereas a trim level usually carries a broader slate of corresponding equipment. Automakers often will offer certain packages or standalone options only on a given trim level, rendering trims below it ineligible for those options.
A good rule of thumb: Whether a feature you want is on a higher trim level, part of an options package or available as a standalone option, think of it as an extra-cost item and run the numbers to see what's required to get it. At the end of the day, a feature that wasn't included in the car's base price costs extra.
What's an Accessory?
An accessory is typically a dealer-installed item, like a tow hitch or roof rack. It's usually separate from options, which automakers install at the factory. Dealers can often add accessories to a car that's already on the lot, though some accessories may require ordering first. Even though they're often point-of-sale items, accessories aren't always minor or cheap; some are quite complex and can add a bit to your out-the-door price.