Vehicle Trim Level, Options, and Packages Explained

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The trim level says a lot about a particular vehicle make and model and is a great way to tell the difference between a basic model and a more advanced one with more features and options. But what exactly is a trim level? And how does it affect the car you want to buy? Here’s what you should know.

What Is a Vehicle Trim Level?

The trim level of a particular vehicle provides a great way for car buyers to know exactly what they’re getting with the car they want to buy. Basically, a car’s trim level reveals what features a car has. Also called “style” in some circles, car trim levels start at the basic package and go up from there.
Different designations for trim levels are used according to the manufacturer, but in all cases, a higher trim level will cost you more money. In some cases, manufacturers use style levels to differentiate whether a car is a coupe, convertible, or sedan. What this boils down to is you could have a certain trim level in a variety of styles.
Usually, each car maker will offer between four and five different trim levels for each model of car they manufacture. In all cases, the base model is the basic trim level and the trim levels increase in complexity, and what they offer, as they climb in price.

What Are Packages?

In addition to trim levels, many car companies offer a variety of packages to help buyers customize their vehicle even further. Coming in a common theme, most packages are tailored to the specific needs of each customer. You can find some of the more popular types of packages below.
Performance package: A performance package upgrades the look and feel of your vehicle. Many performance packages include a rear spoiler, various engine upgrades, and performance tires, among other add-ons geared toward the performance of your vehicle.
Sport package: Similar to a performance package, a sport package is designed to make your vehicle appear and feel sportier. Some of the more common add-ons that come with a sport package include larger rims, performance tires, and an upgraded steering wheel, among other features.
Tow package: Tow packages are designed with towing trailers and boats in mind. Many tow packages come with such features as an upgraded engine, a wiring harness for the trailer lights, and a stronger frame for towing heavy items.
Safety package: Another popular package is the safety package, which can also save you money on your car insurance. A safety package comes with a lot of advanced features designed to improve the overall safety of the vehicle, including forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, and other advanced safety features.
Handling package: Handling packages are designed to give a vehicle a greater ability to handle a wide variety of conditions, such as off-road driving. Handling packages commonly come with an adaptive suspension, roll control, and an active steering system.
Navigation package: Navigation packages have also become popular, especially with drivers who are on the road a lot. Most navigation packages come with a larger screen for the stereo/navigation center; improved navigation features, such as the ability to give real-time weather and traffic reports; and an upgraded stereo system.

How Options Affect Trim Level

Options are single features that buyers can get for a specific price. Unlike packages, options are standalone and can be added to a vehicle regardless of its trim level. Some of the more popular vehicle options include:
  • A choice of engine
  • Tow mirrors
  • Four-wheel drive
  • Automatic vs. manual transmission
  • Cruise control
  • Heated seats
  • Satellite radio
  • Power windows/doors
  • Navigation system
  • Bed liner
Keep in mind that some trim levels automatically come with the more popular options, such as cruise control. In many cases, you can also add in whatever options aren’t included—you’ll just have to pay more for the vehicle.

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