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driving concerns

I just bought a 2012 Dodge Journey with 26,000 km. I let the dealership's finance manager talk me into a few extras. I didn't get the undercoat or the paint protection. But I still spent roughly $350 on extra theft coverage from a window etching company, $75 on the dealership's pothole protection insurance and $350 on disability insurance for my loan. The manager had all these stories of other customers who'd bought these thing and had them pay off. I was just relieved I'd been approved for a car loan and I wasn't thinking too clearly. I let him add this all to the 6.9 per cent loan. Is it true that dealers overcharge for this kind of stuff? – Christine, Winnipeg

Don't want to be taken for a ride at the dealership? Dealers often pad the price of extras and you'll usually get better deals if you shop around for services separately, says the Automobile Protection Association.

That said, buying extras from the dealer can still make sense for some buyers, as long as they're things you actually need, says APA president George Iny.

"The major advantages of buying services via a dealership are one-stop shopping and dealer or manufacturer financing for the extras at the same low interest rate as your new vehicle instead of the rate on your credit card," Iny says.

Consumer Reports recommends skipping the extras entirely.

"Extra-cost items like VIN etching on the window glass, paint sealant, fabric protection, wheel-nut locks, and extended service warranties are a waste of money," it says. "If those items are printed on your purchase order, cross them out before you sign and make sure the dealership adjusts the price."

Here's a breakdown of some of the extras dealers sell and whether they're worth considering:

Rustproofing: Skip undercoats and electronic rust protection. Consumer Reports magazine says today's vehicles are built with good corrosion protection. "Consumer Reports' Annual Auto Surveys show that rust problems have almost vanished in modern vehicles," it says. "Standard rust-through warranties for most domestic and imported vehicles run five years or more, and many will cover you for an unlimited number of miles during the warranty period."

Window etching: The idea here is that thieves will stay away if the VIN is etched on all the glass. There are companies which offer a set top-off on top of insurance coverage if an etched vehicle is stolen. "It can be useful but it's usually overpriced," Iny says. "It costs the dealer about $60 to $150 depending on the product." Consumer Reports recommends getting an etching kit for around $25 and doing it yourself.

Pothole insurance: Iny says this could be worth it for big and fragile alloy rims and tires, especially run-flats. Just make sure you read the fine print.

Nitrogen in tires: Don't bother. "Not worth it – it should cost $5 a tire," Iny says. "Dealers mark it up as high as $299 for four."

Credit insurance: Dealers often sell separate life insurance and disability insurance for loans. "These are overpriced and may not pay when you need it," Iny says. "Buy term life coverage instead."

Paint sealant and fabric protection: You can do these yourself – buy some wax and a can of fabric protectant – and you'll get the same protection for a lot less money, Consumer Reports says.

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