How to reduce vehicle trim-level sticker shock

Trim levels have doubled on some models

SAN ANTONIO – Walk into a car dealership with a price in mind, and chances are, the cost of the vehicle you thought you could afford is probably a lot more.

It's called trim-level sticker shock.

Depending on the features you want, you can expect to pay more than the base price for a vehicle, said Consumer Reports automotive expert Jon Linkov.

Features included in trim levels make up different versions of the same model vehicle.
Over the past 15 years, trim levels have doubled on some models, and that means more money out of your pocket.

For example, the base price for a Ford F-150 is about $28,000. At the highest trim level, you could pay more than $61,000.

The Subaru Forester sells for a base price of about $23,000, but depending on the trim level, you will pay between $26,000 and $36,000.

To confuse matters, you may only get specific features on certain trim levels because, with so many features available, manufacturers have to narrow the choices. 

"I was going to have to buy something I didn't want to get something that I did," Consumer Reports executive editor Kevin  Doyle said.

Linkov suggests that buyers should focus on must-have safety features, even if they have to pay extra, rather than on trim levels.

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