Vehicle Trim Level, Options, and Packages Explained

When you buy a car, your first decision is what trim level to get. But what is a car’s trim level and how does it affect what you pay?
Written by Cheryl Knight
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
Trim levels help distinguish between the most basic and most well-equipped of a particular car.
So, it says a lot about a
vehicle make and model
. But what exactly is a trim level? And how does it affect the car you want to buy? Here's what you should know, with a little help from
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What is a trim level?

The trim level of a particular vehicle is a great way for car buyers to know exactly what they’re getting. 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 change by manufacturer, but most of the time, 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.
Usually, each car maker will offer between four and five different trim levels for each model. The base model is the basic trim level and the trim levels increase in complexity and spec as they climb in price.

What are car packages?

In addition to trim levels, many car companies offer a variety of packages to help buyers customize their vehicle even further. Most packages are tailored to the specific needs of each customer. You can find some of the more popular types of packages below.

Car 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.

Car 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.

Car towing 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.

Car safety package

Another popular package is the safety package, which can also help you save on
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.

Car 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.

Car 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.

Insuring your extras

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