New cars are expensive. The average price of an automobile in 2017 was over $36,000, according to Kelley Blue Book data. While you can find cars for significantly less money, even the subcompact sedans and hatchbacks are a pretty penny once properly equipped. But what if you go for the base model? Is the significantly lower bottom line price worth missing out on the nice equipment and comfy seats? Let’s take a closer look at what you need to consider when buying a base trim level car.

Will You Be Comfortable?

Base model comfort
If you can't sit there comfortably, then you need to go up a trim level. 

Comfort is one of the key features you should worry about when purchasing any car. You’re going to spend a lot of time in the vehicle. That means it should fit your body. Don’t get a car that you don’t fit in. Get something that has a cabin appropriately sized for you and seats that support your body well. Also, you need to be able to see out of the vehicle easily and aren’t annoyed by engine or road noise.

The best advice is to drive a base model and a higher trim level vehicle. That way, you can find a car you like and decide if you can still be comfortable in the lower trim level. The lowest trim level often lacks many of the nice amenities, like heated or cooled seats, a high-quality HVAC system, and seats that can be adjusted in many different ways. While the basics of the model, like the size and shape of the cabin, will remain the same, the details can differ and when it comes to comfort, details matter. Don’t buy the base model if it doesn’t provide you with the comfort amenities you know you’ll need.

Will You have the Features You Need?

Kia Rio interior
Even in its super-basic Rio, Kia does a good job offering plenty of features no matter the trim. (image: Kia)

Unless you’re a Luddite who doesn’t use their phone much, you’re probably going to want to upgrade a trim level or two so you can use the latest apps and features on the infotainment system. Some cars have excellent features in the base model. Many Kia and Hyundai vehicles, for example, offer infotainment systems in their base models that don’t offer all the fancy features but do have things like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth connectivity.

Again the best move here is to drive and experience the features of a base model and a higher trim level car. Don’t assume the higher trim level won’t be much better. Also, don’t assume a lower trim level will be able to do everything you need. Going with a base model often comes with some compromises in the technology department. If you’re okay with those compromises, then it may be smart to save a few dollars by going with a lower trim level.

How Will it Impact Resale Value?

trade in car
Whether you trade in your car or sell to a private party, you want to get the best deal possible. 

If you plan on driving your car until the wheels fall off, then you can probably disregard this section. Get the trim level of car that’s right for you and love it until the engine quits on you. If, however, you plan to keep your car for three or five years and then upgrade to something newer, you need to think about resale value and how trim level will change how much your car will be worth.

On the used car market, most people are going to pass up the base model for something with more features. While your car won’t necessarily depreciate faster if it’s a base model, you might have a hard time finding someone who doesn’t want the features that come with a higher trim level ride. When you buy a base model car, you’re essentially limiting the number of potential buyers when it comes to resale, and you’re probably better off spending a little more so you can get more when you turn around a few years later to sell it or trade it in.