Car dealers are notorious for trying to upsell buyers with all kinds of pricey add-ons, but that shoe can be worn on both feet. You might be able to get a lot of those same items for free as part of the purchase just by asking nicely. If you’re looking for a little extra, many dealers might be willing to give away these freebies if it means making a sale.
Last updated: April 9, 2020
Service and Maintenance
According to Edmunds, many automakers include free service and maintenance plans with both leases and purchases. They’re getting smaller, including less and running for shorter periods of time, but they’re certainly better than nothing. Luxury automakers tend to offer the best freebies, and brands like Jeep and Ram are experimenting with loyalty-based free service visits.
Preventative Maintenance Service (PMS) Vouchers
Similar to service and maintenance freebies that allow you to bring your car in for service for free for a certain period of time, PMS vouchers are giveaways that tack on a set number of service visits. A voucher might be good for a visit at 10,000 miles and another at 20,000, for example. If your car doesn’t come with a free service plan, ask for a few PMS vouchers instead.
Modern cars are manufactured in a way today that makes rustproofing services unnecessary in many climates and cases, so it’s not worth spending hundreds of dollars on this upsell add-on service, according to Consumer Reports. If the dealer will throw it in as a freebie, however, it might add an extra layer of long-term protection, particularly as an undercoating on your car’s most vulnerable parts.
Like rustproofing, dealers will often try to sell fabric protection as an add-on service, but it’s also something they’re likely willing to part with upon request. The reason it’s a great upsell is the same as the reason why it’s an easy freebie to give away — it’s cheap. It’s essentially a spray that’s equivalent to 3M Scotchguard, which you can get for less than $10.
An Extra Set of Keys
It might be hard to believe, but some dealerships don’t give a spare key as a standard service. This can often be mitigated simply by asking for an extra key — particularly if you insist on it on general principle. It might be tougher to get them to throw in an extra fob — those keyless locking/entry/security devices can be pricey — but it’s worth asking.
You probably don’t think about them often, but floor mats play a critical role in keeping your car clean and retaining its resale value. Some cars, however — particularly the most inexpensive entry-level models — don’t come with them standard. They’re never worth buying as a dealer add-on because you can almost always get them cheaper at an auto parts store, but it’s an easy freebie for a dealer to part with upon request.
Dealers are often sitting on extra GPS systems because they’re falling out of favor among drivers. Smartphones, after all, can do everything they can do and more. Therefore, dealers are likely to be willing to part with one if you ask — and GPS systems are far from obsolete technology. Unlike smartphones, GPS systems don’t gobble up data and don’t rely on a connection to work, which your smartphone might have problems with if you’re traveling in a remote or rural area.
Most vehicles don’t benefit from mud flaps behind the tires, but some trucks and SUVs do. Just as a dealer can offer to include them as an add-on to make a few extra bucks off the sale, you can ask the dealer to throw them in — including installation — for free. The dealer just might think it’s worth it, particularly if you’re a repeat buyer.
A Tank of Gas on the House
There was a time when all new cars came with a full gas tank, but today, that’s not always the case. It varies dealer by dealer, and it’s rare enough that the dealers that do offer this freebie tend to brag about it on their websites. If you buy a car from a dealer that doesn’t fill ‘er up, just ask and you’ll likely get your first tank on the house.
If you don’t have a covered garage or carport, a simple car cover can do wonders in preventing long-term elements-based exterior damage. They don’t cost much, and dealers often get them for free as part of promotions and therefore often don’t mind giving them away to those who ask.
Since most new cars come with reverse sensors — which make an increasingly urgent noise as you back up closer and closer to an object — this one most likely applies only to used cars or the most bare-bones entry-level new models. They’re common, fairly cheap and easy to install, so a dealer might toss one in if you stress safety as a concern and a key influencer in your purchasing decision.
Another cheap and easy yet incredibly effective and convenient freebie you might ask for is a rain guard, sometimes called a rain visor. They go above the driver’s side window and allow you to open the window during even heavy rain without getting water in your car. You’ll be glad you have one whenever you pay a toll, ask for directions or get pulled over during a storm.
Car Care/Detailing Kit
You might spend $50 or more on a car detailing kit — or you could drive home with a free one just by asking your dealer. They come with all the wipes, sponges, sprays and products you need to keep your car in tip-top shape, including the whole interior, as well as exterior key spots like tires, rims, lights and mirrors.
Early Warning Device (EWD)
EWDs are small, cheap and effective pieces of safety equipment that you strategically place toward oncoming traffic if you get a flat or otherwise have to stop on the side of the road. They warn other drivers to slow down and make space to prevent an accident. Your dealer probably has a stockpile of them, and if you ask, you can likely go home with one for free.
Discounts at Other Businesses
Like many other industries, car dealerships often partner with local businesses to boost community relations and steer customers to friendly noncompetitors in the spirit of mutual cooperation. Ask about any partnerships they might have and what you can do to score discounts with their partner businesses.
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New cars and dealer-certified previously owned vehicles come with both bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranties. When they expire, however, you’re on your own. If you ask, your dealer might extend the warranty through its own service department or it might offer you an extended warranty through a third-party partner company.
Door Edge Guards
Door edge guards protect against the accidental impact on things like curbs when you swing a door open. It might seem like a minor problem, but impacts can chip paint and open the protective surface of your vehicle to rust, which can spread like a virus underneath. Ask your dealer about installing protective edge guards as a freebie.
Vehicles that advertise their towing capacity generally come with hitches. Some, however, have the capacity to tow but towing isn’t intrinsic to their purpose as a vehicle. Those sometimes don’t come with the hitches you need to pull boats, trailers or whatever it is you want to tow. Asking your dealer to throw one in with the purchase might be all it takes to right that wrong.
Dealers often offer window tinting as an add-on, sometimes through their own service department and sometimes through a low-bidding third party. Like so many add-ons, you can flip the script by asking the dealer to add tinted windows into the purchase price, and you’ll often get your wish.
Brand-specific dealerships are usually swimming in merchandise and swag. From BMW and Porsche to Chevy and Ford, you can likely go home with coffee mugs, key chains, pens and pencils, calendars and just about any small-ticket item you can imagine marked up with the name and logo of your favorite brand.
There’s no need to detail a brand new car, of course, but that’s not always the case with a used car. Smart used car dealers get cars looking their best in preparation for a sale, but sometimes that includes only a wash and a pass with a vacuum — and it’s certainly not always the case in private sales. No matter where or how you buy, ask — demand, actually — that used cars be detailed as a condition of purchase.
If you’re buying a used car, there’s a good chance that the tires are as old as the vehicle. Whether you’re buying from a dealer or as part of a private sale, inspect the tires for visible wear. Even if they appear OK to the eye, however, they might be weak and unreliable if they’re especially old. When you’re buying a new car, in most cases it pays to ask for a new set of tires as a condition of purchase.
If your car doesn’t come with an alarm, ask your dealer to throw one in for free. They’re usually terrible add-ons to buy because they tend to be low quality and you can usually spend less for a better model. Keep that in mind when asking for this freebie, but if you don’t intend to buy one on your own, something is better than nothing.
Even better than an alarm is a LoJack device, which lets law enforcement track your car’s location in the event that it’s stolen. The dealer might be willing to install a LoJack or a similar device for free, although you’ll likely have to pay for any recurring subscription costs and fees.
VIN etching is a common add-on service that it’s rarely wise to buy, but it’s a quick and easy freebie for a dealer to throw in at no cost. It etches your car’s VIN into your windows so that if your car is stolen, it’s easy to identify if it’s recovered after being stolen by a thief who has the sense to remove the standard metal VIN plate.
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About the Author
Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street’s investment community in New York City.