Sure, we all know that supersizing a meal at a fast food joint is bad for our waistline, but what other product upsells aren't worth the added cost?
The answer isn't always the same for everyone. If having a fancy new cocktail with a meal at the suggestion (upsell) by the wait staff provides a lot of enjoyment, then some would argue it is worth paying for, while others would disagree and insist such tasty beverages are overpriced.
Other upsells and add-ons can be extremely handy, like roadside assistance as an add-on to a cell phone bill. Some, however, are just not worth it or can be had for a lesser expense if purchased through different means. Let's take a look:
New car add-ons
Anyone who has bought a new car directly from a lot has probably been offered a long list of add-ons that can be purchased, and the price is wrapped into the car payment. Not only are the items being offered -- sound system upgrades, luxury wheels, window tint, trim packages, and others -- sold at full retail price (or maybe more), but over the term of financing, you'll pay a lot more in interest.
If you want aftermarket upgrades, for example, to the stereo in your new car, or want custom running boards for your new truck, you'll probably be better off going to a smaller shop which specializes in such upgrades than doing it at the dealer. You'll likely get more expert service, lower prices, and you won't be jacking up you costs in interest.
Extended warranties are offered on almost anything you can imagine these days. From new and used cars to laptops and tablets, there is an extended warranty for that. But are they really worth it? It depends on what they cover, how easy it is to get a replacement or repair, and if the costs of the warranty and any deductibles actually result in any savings.
If you're buying a new car, first ask yourself how long you really intend to keep it. If you plan on trading it in within a few years, the factory warranty will probably have you covered. Extended warranties on used cars are traditionally very expensive, and only cover the basics, like the engine and transmission.
When being offered a warranty, ask a lot of questions to find out what is really covered, what restrictions are involved, and whether or not there are deductibles on the coverage. Also determine who can make the repairs. If you're stuck going only to a specific dealer over 50 miles away, you might have a problem simply getting the vehicle to the shop for needed work. And if you do decide to go with an extended warranty after doing research, try to keep the costs out of the financing.
Laptops and other electronics are another area where warranties can be pushed by eager salespeople. These are often high-commission add-ons, so it is in the best interest of the seller to talk buyers into them. This means they usually aren't a good financial tool for buyers. If the product is faulty, the defect will probably be noticed during the time the regular warranty is in effect. Any repairs needed down the road are not likely to be as expensive as the warranty premium added up over just a short time.
One exception may be extended warranties for cell phones if the plan keeps you protected when it's accidentally damaged or lost. Most of us have had a cell phone land in a puddle or left one in a cab and may have a harrowing tale that followed. If it's a widely inclusive policy, the cost is low, and replacement is fast and easy, it can be worth a few dollars a month on a phone bill to have the extra peace of mind.
Phone accessories sold with the phone
Speaking of phones, often when purchasing a new smart phone in a retail store or by phone, you'll be offered a bundled package or a discount for purchasing accessories the same day. Chances are, you can buy the same brand-name items at a lower price elsewhere. Try eBay, Amazon, or one of the many other online retailers if you're in no hurry; the sales folks in the store are hoping you'll buy impulsively.
It's important to stay on top of your credit rating, especially if you're planning for a mortgage or refinance or if you're trying to build up your rating to a higher level. However, you're better off being diligent about payments and checking your credit report periodically yourself.
Not only do some monitoring services only check reports from one or two of the three bureaus, some have been fined for failing to live up to their promises. And ironically, some of these services which claim to be free are not. No one wants to have problems on their credit history run afoul, but these services probably aren't worth the sometimes-hefty price tag.
Anything 'As Seen On TV'
OK: you already know that anything that sounds too good to be true probably is, and that ordering random items late at night in a bout of insomnia is probably not the best way to make sound purchases. Most of the items are poor quality, don't work as promised, or can be bought in stores without paying for shipping and a whopping handling charge.
However, if you do find yourself making that call for the latest, greatest widget, be forewarned: you will be barraged with upsell offers. You'll be offered multiple sets of widgets at discount prices, refills for when the widget runs out of whatsits, and of course, an extended widget warranty. The catch for all of these great deals is a big, bloated shipping and handling charge for each and every item.
Don't be fooled when it comes to upgrades and upsells. While every company needs to look for more ways to bring in revenue, it's not worth it if it doesn't provide real value to the consumer. Be aware and steer clear of the worst offenders, and do plenty of research so you know what you're really being offered.
Shirley Pulawski regularly writes stories about banking and personal finance for MyBankTracker.com.
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