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Choosing the Best Car Trim Level

If you’re wondering where to start choosing which car trim level is best for your next vehicle, this article will walk you through the basics.

Choosing The Best Car Trim Level

Woman buying a car
Woman buying a car

Buying your next ride can be an intimidating process, particularly when evaluating the myriad car trim levels and associated features. Not to mention simply sifting through the variety of styles and models to choose from. According to Statista, there are nearly 260 different car models to choose from today, which is almost 100 more than were available in 1997. If you feel overwhelmed by sheer number of choices, we’re here to help with this discussion on finding the best car trim level for you.

What Is The Difference Between a Car’s Style, Model and Trim?

Kia Telluride SX trim - kiamedia.com
Kia Telluride SX trim - kiamedia.com

First off, it’s worth noting the difference between a car’s “style”, “model” and “trim level”. Using Kia as an example, the Telluride model falls into the SUV style and offers LX, S, EX and SX trim levels. Other common styles include sedans, convertibles and minivans, and of course Kia offers multiple SUV models to choose from. The Telluride can be further defined as a large, full-size or three-row SUV, which is helpful to understand based on your particular needs.

If those needs involve a family and associated daily life, the Telluride could be a good fit based on its size alone. However, the base pricing on this SUV starts at $33,000 and runs up to $43,000, which is where understanding the trim levels come in. The industry standard approach here is to offer ever-increasing levels of features and amenities as you move through the trim offerings and spend more money.

Research Car Trim Levels Before Hitting The Dealer

Blind Spot Monitoring - toyota.com
Blind Spot Monitoring - toyota.com

Kia keeps things simple with the 2022 Telluride by offering the same 3.8L V6 engine and 8-speed automatic across all four trim levels. But, the base LX sports 18-inch wheels while the S trim boasts 20-inchers. This is where it pays to do some homework on the automakers’ website and get a thorough understanding of what each trim comes with as standard equipment versus added-cost options. Because if you don’t care about 20-inch wheels, you might be able to find a lower-cost trim that fits your bill.

Fitting that bill is what choosing the best car trim for your needs is all about. Typically, buyers in the market for a family-friendly SUV have safety and convenience top of mind. On the Telluride, you’ll find that all four trim levels come fairly loaded with active safety systems including Forward Collison Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring, Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Keeping, and even semi-autonomous Highway Driving Assist. You can learn more about how these systems work in our Safety Tech Explainer article, but it’s easy to see why they are included on this list of Best Family Car Features.

Kia Telluride Heads-Up Display - kia.com
Kia Telluride Heads-Up Display - kia.com

On the convenience front, the base Telluride comes standard with Smart Key passive entry and smartphone integration via 10-inch touchscreen display. So, the next step here is your budget. If you can afford to spend more than the $33,000 entry-level trim cost, you can start to evaluate the additional offerings on costlier Telluride trims and whether they make sense for you.

For example, stepping up to the $36,000 Telluride S brings a sunroof, heated front seats and wireless charging pad. The $38,000 EX trims pile on with standard climatized front seats and a hands-free liftgate, which is one of our choices on this list of Top 10 Car Features. As the top trim level, Telluride SX runs over $43,000, but brings with it a heads-up display and panoramic sunroof, both of which are highlights on our 10 Must Have Car Features list. Balancing your budget against must-have features is how you’ll end up determining the best car trim for you.

What Are Factory Packages and Dealer Accessories?

2022 Ford F-150 Limited - ford.com
2022 Ford F-150 Limited - ford.com

Keep in mind, as you evaluate trim levels from any automaker, it’s unlikely you’ll find all your needs and wants covered under the list of standard equipment within your budget. This is where factory packages and dealer accessories come in. Kia limits packages installed at the factory to the top two trim levels. For instance, the EX Premium Package adds 20-inch wheels, LED lighting and second-row captain’s chairs for $1,695 extra. You can also find accessories like a $155 cargo cover that are typically purchased at the dealership. So, you can mix and match a bit here to get as close as possible to your ideal setup.

Worth reinforcing is the point about doing research up front, before you go visit a dealer lot. The Telluride is sold with relatively few options in just a handful of trim levels and a single powertrain. If you’re in the market for a Ford F-150, this is a whole different conversation. That pickup offers eight trim levels, six engines, multiple body configurations and a staggering array of packages and accessories.

Knowing Car Trim Levels Can Save You Money

Customer testing out a vehicle
Customer testing out a vehicle

By spending some time online upfront, you can gain the knowledge needed to confidently discuss which car trim is best for you when it comes time to buy. A car dealer’s job is to sell you a “fully loaded” vehicle, or at least one piled with bells and whistles. However, learning about what is included – and what is not – within your targeted trim level will ensure you get the best options on your next ride.

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Niel Stender

Niel Stender grew up doing replacement work on his 1990 Cherokee and 1989 Starion, so it’s not surprising that he would put his mechanical engineering degree from the University of New Hampshire to use in the car world as a vehicle dynamics engineer. Now engineering sentence structures, his writing infuses his auto experience with his time in marketing and his sales experience. Writing about cars for close to a decade now, he focuses on some of the more technical mechanical systems that are found under the hood and throughout a vehicle.

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