As a car enthusiast, I get a lot of car-related questions from my friends. One of which, surprisingly, is “how do I know what trim my car is?” If you’re asking this question and have no car enthusiast in your life to ask, you’re in luck! I’m going to discuss everything about your car’s trim, and of course, how to find out your car’s trim.
What Is A Car Trim?
You’re also probably asking what exactly is a car trim? A trim is essentially a different version of a car model. The idea is that providing different trim levels in each model gives customers the ability to choose the one that they desire. Additionally, since different trims often cost differently, customers can also find one that fits their budget.
Each trim levels usually have differences in aesthetic, safety, and comfort features. However, it may also differ in the powertrain (engine and transmission), or at least, in the power output of the engine. But in most cases, there’s a separate trim system for the powertrain.
Additionally, carmakers use trims to differentiate the personality of the car. For example, one trim level may focus on giving the car sporty pretensions. In this case, it will have a sporty design steering wheel, wheels, and body features and accessories.
Meanwhile, another trim level may focus on giving the car a more luxurious feel. This trim will often come with leather electric seats, wood panels, and the design aesthetics will focus on making the car look luxurious.
One last purpose of trims is that trim levels also help carmakers in simplifying the production line. Rather than build a myriad of versions of just one car, they can focus on building, let’s say, three different trim levels. Then in the final process, they will add optional and personal features accordingly.
This simplifies the production as it means cars with different specs can easily be built on the same production line without slowing it down. Let’s take a look at some examples:
Trim Level Examples
I just wrote an article about the Audi A5 vs A4 a while back, in which I talk a lot about its trim levels. Since it’s still fresh on my mind, let’s use the Audi A4 as an example: the current Audi A4 is offered in three different trims; Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige.
Premium gets you basic luxury features such as LED headlights, a touch display, and Apple CarPlay. Meanwhile, the Premium Plus will give you larger alloy wheels, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Audi’s digital instrument cluster (they call it Virtual Cockpit Plus).
Step up to the Prestige trim, and you get laser headlights, sport seats, and a Bang & Olufsen sound system. Sometimes, trim levels can also mean different engines, or at least, different power output from the engine. In the case of Audi, they use a separate trim system, where the basic car is called the “40 TFSI”, while the higher-powered versions are called “45 TFSI”.
Of course, different carmakers will have different trim naming and spec systems. For example, the new Ford Bronco comes in six different trims. From the base model ‘Base’ Bronco to the high-speed off-roading ‘Wildtrak’.
In the case of the Bronco, they differ in wheels and tires, suspension, and amenities such as the infotainment system. However, most Broncos come with the same 2.3L EcoBoost engine as standard, with the Wildtrak being the exception. But you can also spec other Broncos with the larger 2.7L V6 EcoBoost. This brings us to optional extras and packages:
Trim Levels VS Packages
Alongside trim levels, carmakers also provide optional extras and packages for customers to choose from. This is because there might be certain features that a customer wants, but they don’t want to pay for the higher trim for their own reasons. This allows customers to spec the car to their liking.
For example, let’s say I want the Audi A4 Premium Plus because it fits my budget. However, I want the Bang & Olufsen sound system. Since the Prestige is out of my budget, I can choose the Bang & Olufsen package rather than having to scour my sofa for loose change just so I can afford the Prestige trim.
Other reasons can also include not wanting the other comfort features because you don’t need them. Or maybe you like the looks of the base trim better. Base trim levels usually come with uglier wheels, but the bumpers and other body features usually look simpler and more elegant. And don’t get me started on tacky chrome features.
Optional extras may come as stand-alone or packages. A stand-alone extra means it’s a single feature that you can add to the car. A package, as it suggests, is a package of features. They usually come as a package because these features work better together and help to simplify the production line.
For example, the Bang & Olufsen speakers I mentioned earlier are a stand-alone optional extra. Meanwhile, an example of an optional package is Audi’s convenience package. This includes a phone box, advanced key system, and auto-dimming side mirrors amongst other features.
Keep in mind that most carmakers have a limited options package due to production complexity reasons. Usually, only high-end carmakers such as Porsche, Ferrari, or Rolls Royce allow almost limitless possibility in speccing up your car.
Why Do I Need To Know My Car’s Trim Level?
There are several good reasons why you should know your car’s trim:
1. It Can Help With Repairs
The first is that it can help with repairs, especially if you’re doing repairs yourself. As mentioned, different trim levels may have different engine specs. Sometimes, it may also have different mechanical parts such as suspension, brakes, and more.
By knowing your trim level, you – or your mechanic – can find out the appropriate repair procedures. For example, older Honda Odysseys have different radio units depending on the trim level. All of Honda’s radio units require a reset code after you change the car’s battery, this is a theft-prevention measure.
However, the method for finding and entering the reset code will differ depending on which radio unit your trim model has. For example, the base model LX requires you to input a code by pressing the radio’s preset buttons. While the higher trim models will simply require you to press and hold the power button.
Furthermore, knowing your trim level can help you find the correct owner’s manual online if you lost the physical copy. The owner’s manual may differ between trim levels, especially if it has a different engine. If you know your trim level, you can look for the correct one and find out the appropriate repairs.
2. Helps To Know Your Car’s Worth
As mentioned, trim levels cost differently to meet various budgets and needs of the customers. Knowing your car’s trim level will help you determine your car’s worth when the time to sell it comes. For example, if you’re selling an Audi A4 Prestige, then you know you can ask for a higher price since it’s the high-end version.
Meanwhile, if you have the base model Audi A4 Premium, then you know you’ll have to set your asking price at the lower end of the price range. The bottom line is that it helps you to know how much you should sell your car for.
Additionally, you should always put in your car’s trim level when you’re advertising your car. Buyers will look for certain models, and it makes it easier for them to find your car’s ad. Without mentioning the trim level, you may drive off potential buyers.
3. Find The Correct Parts For Your Car
Similar to repairing your car, knowing your trim level can help with finding the correct replacement parts. From something as simple as new tires to something more crucial like the air intake.
As mentioned, the engine and other mechanical specs may differ depending on the trim level. For example, the base model Audi A4 may be fine with H-rating tires. However, the higher-end Audi A4 45 TFSI Prestige may require you to fit in V-speed rating tires. Fitting tires with the wrong speed rating can be risky.
This goes for other parts in the car, such as the air intake, cooling system hoses, shock breakers, and exhaust systems amongst others. These parts may differ from one trim level to another. If you don’t buy the correct replacement part, it won’t fit in your car. Even if it does, it may not work properly and can cause damage.
How Do I Know What Trim My Car Is?
So, back to the main question, “how do I know what trim my car is?” There are a few ways to find out:
How Do I Know What Trim My Car Is? Look Around Your Car
Carmakers often have badges of the trim level in or around the car. This is to make it easier to differentiate and spot at the dealership. The most common place to find the badge is usually at the tailgate/liftgate.
Some cars may also have their trim level on the front fenders, just a little behind the front wheels. However, this is more common in the international market. I did some research and most North-American cars don’t have this badging on the fenders. Still, doesn’t hurt to look and see if it’s there.
You can also take a look inside the car. While not quite as common, some carmakers put a badge or a plaque inside the car that says what trim level the car is. You’ll often find this on the passenger side dashboard or the door sills. Unfortunately, this trend of badging the car is falling out of fashion in recent years.
Many cars don’t have their trim level anywhere on the car anymore. This is probably because a lot of customers often choose to de-badge their car, removing any sort of badges on the car to give it a cleaner look. So, carmakers now often don’t badge their car, and will usually only put the model name on it.
This can make it difficult for you to identify your car’s trim level just by looking at it. So, to answer the question “how do I know what trim my car is?” you’re going to have to look further:
How Do I Know What Trim My Car Is? Check Your Owner’s Manual
The next way to find out is to take a look at your car’s owner’s manual if you still have it. And you should, it’s a plus point to have your owner’s manual when you want to sell your car.
Anyway, as mentioned, different trim levels may require different guides since there might be a difference in major components. If this is the case for your car, you should be able to find out your car’s trim by taking a look at the owner’s manual. If it’s there, it’s going to be on the front page of the manual.
This is usually true if you have a higher-end trim since they often have a different engine than lower-trim versions. For example, the ‘Wildtrak’ Ford Bronco is the only trim that comes with the 2.7L V6 as standard, whereas it’s optional in the other trims. If it’s not on the manual, check for the documents that may come with the manual.
The bill of sale, registration, and title are unlikely to include the trim level. However, your dealer may slip in delivery forms, invoices, and other documents when they deliver the car. These forms are likely to state what trim your car is, along with other useful information. If you can find these papers, you should be able to find out what trim level your car is.
How Do I Know What Trim My Car Is? Check With Your Insurer
When you first get insurance for your car, your insurer is likely to have inspected the car for various things including the trim level. This is because a trim level can affect a car’s insurance premium. As an example, here’s an interesting trend that I saw a while back:
A base model Porsche Macan is likely to have a higher insurance rate than the high-end Porsche Macan GTS. It seems that the insurance industry has found that lower-trim cars are more likely to be driven. Meanwhile, higher-end trims – especially luxury cars – are less likely to be driven daily and are kept as garage queens.
This means that although the higher-end trims are likely to be more expensive to cover, the lower trims are more likely to get into an accident since they’re driven more. Hence the higher insurance premiums for these cars. But I digress.
Since your car’s trim level is an important piece of information for your insurance company, they likely have this information in their database. Check your mail and email for exchanges with your insurer that may contain this information. If you can’t find it, give them a call and see if they can provide you with this information.
How Do I Know What Trim My Car Is? Check The VIN
Still can’t find it? You should be able to know what trim your car is by decoding the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). The VIN, as it suggests, is a 17-digit unique identification code for your car. It contains plenty of information including the country of origin, brand, model, engine size, model year, and of course, the trim level.
You can find your car’s VIN on the bottom of the windshield, usually at the driver’s side. If it’s not there, it’s often on the driver’s side door around the door sills. If you can’t find it, your car’s title and registration will have this information.
To decode VINs, you can use a free VIN lookup & decoder. Simply enter your car’s VIN, and it will return a result on your car’s information. One last thing to note, the 17-digit VIN system was standardized in the 1980s. If your car is from 1981 or older, your VIN will be between 11 to 17 digits long.
How Do I Know What Trim My Car Is: Questions & Answers
Got any more questions about car trim levels? Here are some answers you might find useful:
How Many Trim Levels Do Carmakers Usually Offer?
As mentioned, this depends on the manufacturer. Most Japanese, American, and British carmakers usually offer between four to six trims, but often more. For example, Jeep offers the Wrangler in no less than 11 different trims.
Meanwhile, German carmakers usually have around nine configurations; three different engine trims, and three different equipment trims for each of them. Of course, this also depends on the model. Some models may come with less than three available options.
I’m Buying A New Car, Which Trim Level Is Right For Me?
Since trim levels across manufacturers mean different types of equipment fitted as standard, it’ll be hard to give you a recommendation without knowing what model of the car you’re trying to buy.
However, as a general rule, I recommend looking at the mid-range trim level if you’re on a budget. They usually come with decent amenities that can make your life in the car much nicer without breaking the bank. But obviously, if you’re not on a budget, then pick any trim level that your heart fancies.
Always take a careful look at the engine specs and equipment list. If the base model has all the features that you want, then you probably don’t need to consider the higher trims. For example, a must-have feature for me is Apple CarPlay. If the base model already has that, I probably won’t even consider the more expensive higher trims.
Are Optional Extras And Packages Worth It?
It comes back to how you value these features and the packages. You need to ask the question “do I need this feature in my car?” If you don’t, then it’s probably not worth and you’re probably better off saving the money for gas or aftermarket parts.
If you want my advice, don’t spend money on external accessories such as wheels, bumpers, and other external design features unless you’re sure you like them. Chances are, there are aftermarket parts that will look better, especially when it comes to wheels.
However, some features and amenities might be worth a second look. For example, the Multimedia Package from Mercedes-Benz will give you a better infotainment system that can may your daily commute more pleasurable.
Meanwhile, performance cars may have an optional handling or performance package. These packages often include better suspension, steering system, and other performance-focused upgrades. If you’re a keen driver, these might be worth and you can squeeze more performance out of your car.
What Is A ‘Fully Loaded’ Car?
You may have come across this term when looking at secondhand cars or a dealer’s inventory. A fully-loaded car simply means that the car has been equipped with every optional extra and package that are available for the car. In other words, it’s about as good – and expensive – as it gets.
These cars will be very expensive brand new, and often fetch a higher asking price when sold in the secondhand market. While they’re very tempting, you’ll want to be careful though. A fully-loaded car can turn a reasonably priced car into an overpriced bank-breaking purchase.
Additionally, a fully-loaded car doesn’t always keep its value. Secondhand car value mostly depends on the engine type and demand for the car.
How Do I Know What Trim My Car Is: Wrap Up
So, to summarize, a trim level is a different variant of a car model that carmakers offer. They offer them in several variants so that customers can choose the one that fits their budget and preference. These trim levels can be useful when you want to repair, replace parts, or sell your car in the future.
To find the trim level, you can check for badges around or in the car. You can also check the owner’s manual, documents such as delivery papers and invoices, or check with your insurer. If you still can’t find them, then use a VIN lookup to decode your car’s VIN and find its trim spec. Hopefully, this has been a helpful article for you!
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