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Ford is researching ways for drivers to manage their health in the car, including voice-activating wellness smartphone apps such as Allergy Alert through the SYNC connectivity system. Credit: Ford

Nearly every published valuation guide includes a short list of possible options with each vehicle listing, along with how much they should add to the car's total value. But these estimates vary. And depending on which options you purchase and where you live, you may not get any return on your investment.

For instance, automatic transmissions and air conditioning are now installed on so many cars and trucks that most consumers -- and the majority of used-car appraisers -- expect them on practically all vehicles. For that reason, although an automatic transmission or air conditioning might be optional when a vehicle is purchased new, the resale value is likely to be reduced if your vehicle lacks either or both.

With family cars such as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, the installation rate of manual transmissions is so low that the used-car industry regards them as detrimental. An automatic transmission is considered highly desirable, and that enhances the car's resale value.

In contrast, the resale value for sports cars such as the Chevrolet Corvette, Ford Mustang GT and Subaru Impreza WRX isn't hurt by having a stick shift. In fact, a lot of buyers would rather have the stick and aren't interested in an automatic transmission.

High-value options

Options that generally bring a good rate of return on the used-car lot include leather upholstery, factory-installed moonroofs and certain premium wheels. If you install something as dramatic as 22-inch wheels, you've personalized the car -- generally speaking, personalization detracts from a car's resale value.

Luxury models are expected to have nice interiors. A few luxury automobiles can be purchased with cloth upholstery; some people simply don't like leather or may be allergic to it. But a luxury vehicle without it will be worth less later.

While you're not likely to get a full return on your option "investment," these options tend to hold their value better than most.

* Convenience items in trucks
* Factory-installed sunroofs and moonroofs
* High-power engines
* Leather upholstery
* Premium wheels

Expensive options aren't as much of a factor on entry-level models. Buyers of a used economy car don't expect amenities like leather seats. Conversely, high-end models are expected to be loaded with comforts. Therefore, the presence or lack of certain options affects midrange models the most.

Whether safety features significantly enhance a vehicle's value is uncertain; most used-car valuation guides don't include add-on figures or deductions for antilock brakes or side-impact airbags, but such items definitely add value.

Low-value options

Loading up a new car with $3,000 worth of options is tempting, but don't expect to get that back in resale value.

These options may provide personal convenience or pleasure, but they won't help your car's resale value much ... and could even hurt it.

* Custom paint jobs
* Enhanced audio systems
* Navigation systems
* Power door locks and windows
* Rear defoggers
* Remote keyless entry
* Tilt steering wheels

Many common features, such as a rear defogger, tilt steering wheel, and power windows and door locks, are still optional on some cars. Even so, they're essentially treated as standard in the used-car market, so they add no value.

Other add-ons like remote keyless entry, auxiliary lights and enhanced stereos can make your driving life easier and more pleasant. But that doesn't mean they'll add more to the vehicle's resale value.

Colors as options

Color is a purchase consideration in the same way accessories are. While you might believe your banana-yellow hatchback or purple compact pickup truck is a traffic-stopper, other shoppers may pass up that conspicuous model when it's sitting on a used-car lot in a few years.

The safest colors are probably the most common ones -- silver, white, white pearl and black are generally popular across all vehicle segments.

Regional considerations

Regionally, certain options -- such as heated seats -- are nice to have. During winter in the north, heated seats are a welcome comfort, while heated mirrors or an electrically heated windshield can make a big difference with visibility.

For the same regional reasons, a lack of certain options could lead to resale problems. For instance, in warmer parts of the country, a car without air conditioning might be nearly impossible to resell.

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