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Do Base Model Cars Have Cheaper Repair Bills?

BY: Andrew Giorgi
A row of vehicles lined up at a car dealership.

Buying a new car can be a thrilling but daunting process when considering how many makes and models are available. From Fords, Toyotas, BMWs, Nissans, Chevrolets and more, it can feel like there are too many choices to choose from. But while being able to find the right make/model you’re looking for in your price range is important, owning a vehicle is about far more than just the sticker price. Before driving off the dealership lot, you should consider unexpected repairs, costly breakdowns, and annual maintenance costs when looking for your next new or used car. 

It’s also crucial to remember that while additional safety features, upgraded performance, add-ons and features can be tempting, they can also make the vehicle more expensive to repair. That’s why purchasing a base model vehicle can be the right choice.

What Are Base Model Cars?

The term “base model” refers to standard cars, trucks and SUVs with no extra upgrades, additional packages, or similar changes. Automakers will often release a base model for a car and three or four variations or “trims” but the same underlying build. Due to this reason, base model cars are often cheaper than the versions with trims as they have fewer features and performance under the hood.

For example, when shopping for a Honda Accord, you could purchase the Honda Accord LX with a four-cylinder engine capable of 192-horsepower with an MSRP starting price of $26,120. You could also look to get an Accord capable of up to 252-horsepower on a four-cylinder engine with the Accord Sport 2.0T. But due to that increased performance, the Accord Sport 2.0T starts at $33,260, which is over $7,000 more than the Accord LX. The Honda Accord Touring would also feature the same horsepower as the 2.0T. Still, with other various upgrades, it comes out to a starting price of $39,065.

When shopping for a car on a budget, a base model can help ensure you’re getting what you need without the additional features or add-ons that could cost you more over your years of ownership.

What Are Trim Levels on Cars?

With base models being the standard variation of the vehicle, the upgraded ones you can purchase are known as “trim levels” of the vehicle. A trim level of a vehicle means that they are a variant of the base model with added features that can change the physical appearance and performance. 

For example, like the Honda Accord LX, 2.0T and the Accord Touring, you can also see these differences with Jeep models, such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo and Jeep Cherokee Altitude packages. While not the base, the Laredo is quite similar. In contrast, the Altitude has darkened badges, dark shiny rims, and interior upgrades for driver and passenger comfort.

In some cases, trim levels can be designated by letters, such as:

  • T: Touring
  • S: Sport
  • D or DX: Deluxe
  • G: Grade
  • X: Extra
  • LX: Luxury 
  • LE: Luxury Edition

These letters are then combined with different designations such as LS, which would stand for “Luxury Sport,” or GT, which would stand for “Grand Touring.” However, remember that each automaker may have different meanings for each acronym. In contrast, others may adopt new ones every few model years despite no significant changes to the vehicle. Due to this, it’s always best to ensure you know what trim level of vehicle you’re considering and what features or performances are included.  

Are Base Model Cars Cheaper?

In most cases, the base model for a vehicle will be cheaper than the trim variants of the same vehicle. With that said, it’s not just the sticker price that changes depending upon whether a vehicle is a base model or a trim variant. Repair and routine car maintenance costs can vary greatly depending on your vehicle’s trim.

For example, if you’re considering purchasing a base model Jeep Grand Cherokee, which would average $666 annually in maintenance costs, some potential repairs you may face can include:

  • Suspension Shock or Strut Replacement: $408 – $429
  • Emergency Brake Cable Replacement: $189-$212
  • Air Conditioning Refrigerant Pressure Sensor Replacement: $192-$196
  • Timing Chain & Gear Set Replacement: $1,613 – $1,737

While these are the costs associated with the base model Grand Cherokee, its different trim levels may have the exact costs while others may be more expensive. For example, replacing a wheel on the High-Altitude trim will have a different cost than the rims on the base model because of their unique appearance.

Trim levels are often designed with added safety features that can help keep drivers and their passengers safer than base models despite the potential for increased costs.

Due to this, different trim levels of vehicles can often have higher re-sale values even if they have the same mileage or damage as base model vehicles. 

Protect Your New or Used Vehicle with Endurance

Base model vehicles are often the best choice when shopping for a new or used car on a budget. Base model vehicles will often be far cheaper to repair and maintain without the added features, increased performance, or unique designs than its different trim levels. But, regardless of how well-maintained your car, truck or SUV is, unexpected breakdowns can happen. 

Get peace of mind when it comes to expensive car repairs and unexpected breakdowns with an Endurance auto protection plan. Each Endurance plan is designed to help cover the repair costs for your vehicle’s most vital components, no matter the trim level you have. Whether you own a Kia with all the available premiums you can find or a base model Hyundai, Endurance has you covered. Some plans, such as the Advantage protection plan, can even help you save up to $3,500 in yearly maintenance services, including oil and filter changes, tire rotations, engine diagnostic exams and more. Owners of select luxury cars from popular automakers like BMW, Audi, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, Jaguar and more can also find coverage with the Highline protection plan.  

Additionally, as an Endurance customer, you’ll also be able to enjoy complimentary 24/7 roadside assistance, trip interruption coverage and rental car reimbursements no matter the plan you choose. And, for a small activation fee, you can enjoy a year’s worth of Endurance Elite Benefits, including extra perks such as tire repairs or replacements, collision discounts, key fob replacements and more. 

Get started protecting your new or used car today by requesting a free, no-obligation quote. Or, you can also give our award-winning customer care team a call at (800) 253-8203 to learn more about how an Endurance auto protection plan can help you and your vehicle. Don’t forget about the Endurance blog, where you can find more articles on automotive topics ranging from DIY maintenance tips, vehicle buying guides, answers to FAQs and more.

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