What is the Trim of a Vehicle and How Can You Find Yours?

Most people seek a specific make and model when shopping for a car and look up used vehicle values based on the same criteria before selling. The one variable missing from this equation is car trim. Whether you’re buying or selling, trim level can influence the final price tag by affecting the actual and perceived value of a vehicle.

Trim Explained

Car manufacturers use designations as Sport or XLE to differentiate between the options available on each vehicle in a particular line. Interior and exterior options are included in trim type, so knowing the trim can help you choose the combination of features you most want in a car. Base, mid and high-end are the three most common trim levels, and the options included can affect the looks, safety or performance of vehicles at each level.

Car Trim and Value

Base trim levels don’t come with many options to make a car stand out, so these are unlikely to have any special value when trading in or selling. Although standard options may be all a car needs to function well, people tend to be drawn to the “bells and whistles” found at higher trim levels. Choosing high-end trim means more luxury options and a potentially higher resale value.

Do your homework before buying or selling. Check the vehicle’s Kelley Blue Book value to find out if investing more in high-end trim will give you a better return on a future sale or if you can increase the selling price of your used vehicle because of the additional options available with its trim.

Trim and Features

What you want in a vehicle will determine the trim level you need to buy. Trim often dictates:

  • Engine type
  • Interior upholstery options
  • Protective exterior features
  • Standard equipment available
  • The number of doors
  • Transmission type
  • Wheel size and tire size

Decorations, including chrome, may also be part of a car’s trim level. If you desire options not included in the trim, you’ll have to purchase them separately or as part of an option package.

Determining Your Trim

“How do I go about finding out my car's trim?” is a common question. The easiest way is to dig out the original sales invoice or the owner’s manual. One of these documents should have the trim listed. Some cars also come with a trim designation decal or emblem on the back, but this is becoming less common. If you can’t find the trim with these methods, head to the manufacturer’s website and use their VIN decoder to get information about the vehicle’s options. Using the tool below you can also enter your vehicle's VIN number in order to pull up your vehicle's trim information.

Decode Any Car VIN Here


Understanding Trim and Pricing

The higher you go with trim level, the more expensive a vehicle is going to be. This isn’t always true when it comes to used cars, which is why it’s important to know how trim affects resale value before you buy.

Base trim is fairly basic and shouldn’t have much impact on the final price. Going for high-end trim is more of an investment, and you need to decide if the luxury options are worth the extra cash. Mid trim lets you have more features without blowing through your bank account. Be very clear about what you want so that you don’t wind up driving away with features you’ll never use.

“How does finding out my car's trim affect buying or selling?” should be one of the first questions you ask when determining a vehicle’s value. Knowing the trim level can get you more money from a private sale or help you determine if a dealer is offering you a reasonable price for a trade-in. You can be more savvy about choices when purchasing a new vehicle and avoid unnecessary features even if a sales pitch makes them sound enticing. Include information about trim when making buying or selling decisions to get the best deal.

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