THERE is a rash of special editions in the new car market. Every week there's another one enticing car buyers to stretch the budget further in search of more fruit for your loot.
Sometimes "special” only means decals and a different set of wheels, but increasingly car makers are bundling extra technology, higher quality finishes and even more performance into their cars to make them more attractive.
Generally, these bundles work out as cheaper than buying accessories individually and when it comes to selling, the experts say, they should hold their value better.
Put simply, if you spend $40,000 on a car and another $800 on options - the average spend, according to insiders - you'll only retrieve $400 if you sell after three years.
Buy a special edition and you're likely to get a healthier slice of your money back.
Car resale price monitoring expert Ross Booth of Redbook says the laws of supply and demand always apply.
"As a general rule a special edition will depreciate at about the same level as the car it's based on, so if it is worth two or three per cent more when you buy it, that's what you'll recoup when you sell it,” he says.
"The marketing types have a pretty good idea of what needs to be built into a special edition, so they're building-in demand for the vehicle.”
Booth cites a Hyundai ix35 special edition he bought with leather trim, bigger wheels and a reversing camera for $1000 over the base price.
"That was worthwhile because the leather was a $1000 add-on as an accessory. As a general rule, accessories added individually to a vehicle will depreciate around twice as quick (as the car).”
Booth says having visible additions on a special edition is the key. "If it's got more performance or a leather interior or whatever the in-demand feature is, then the next buyer can see that. (Items such as) paint and upholstery protection can't be seen, so aren't worth as much.”
His views are echoed by rival Nick Adamidis of Glass's Guide.
"There's a big difference between limited editions and special editions,” Adamidis says.
"If you're buying a special edition you want items the next buyer can see and appreciate. If you're adding accessories then in terms of resale value, you're often better off buying the next variant up in the range - you'll get a better return on your money.”
Adamidis says simply adding side skirts and decals is no longer enough to differentiate the car come resale time.
"If you look at something like the Nissan X-Trail N-Sport (with metallic highlights on the alloy wheels, grille, bumpers and side skirts), it's not going to add much extra value,” he says, while acknowledging that people personalise their cars for emotional reasons rather than financial ones.
Subaru brought just 400 two-door WRX STIs into Australia in 1999 and they sold before they'd rolled off the boat.
Company spokesman David Rowley says it is debatable whether performance-enhanced models have more value on the used market.
"It's equally true that standard specification 'specials' that add accessories or bits of kit from a higher-spec variants have strong appeal,” he says.
"Customers appreciate the value of getting more features effectively for a lesser cost than if they added the items individually.
"The other factor to consider is the attention that these vehicles bring to the brand - in terms of publicity alone they're a great investment from our perspective too.”
Hyundai's Active X special editions followed that theme and were so popular they've morphed into a regular variant in the Tucson and Santa Fe line-ups.
Volkswagen marketing and product planning manager Ben Wilks says special editions are "firm fixtures in the brand's product playbook”.
"Volkswagen customers have already made a choice in opting for our brand over a more mundane alternative and, naturally, many of them have an appetite for a further degree of factory customisation,” Wilks says.
Toyota spokesman Stephen Coughlan says accessorising a vehicle is an easy way for customers to tailor a vehicle to suit their needs.
In terms of passenger cars, an average owner will spend $800 - on anything from floor mats to a bike rack.
"When looking specifically at Toyota commercial models and 4x4s such as the HiLux, LandCruiser 200-series, Fortuner, Prado and LandCruiser 70-series, the array of accessories is broader and allows the buyers to customise their vehicles to meet their work or lifestyle needs,” Coughlan says.
"In the case of these models, the average spend on Toyota Genuine Accessories totals approximately $1700.”
Here are some of the current special editions.
Ford Ranger FX4, from $58,915
The Ranger doesn't need much promotion to sell but the FX4 special edition has been a hit with Ford fans. A $3500 premium over the XLT brings much of the top-spec Wildtrak's visual styling, including black grille, roof rails and sports bars, carpet mats, leather-accented seats and bigger alloy rims. Spokesman Martin Gunsberg says some Ranger customers want to stand out from the crowd and the FX4 fulfils that requirement.
Mitsubishi Triton GLS Sports Edition, from $45,990
Black means business in the pick-up world and the Triton Sports Edition duly picks up black exterior highlights and black powder-coated nudge bar. It's more than an image makeover, however, with practical additions including carpet mats, tub liner, soft tonneau cover, towbar and rear diff lock. The price is a $4500 premium on the regular GLS.
Toyota LandCruiser Altitude, from $93,460
This limited run of 600 vehicles is based on the GXL 'Cruiser and is intended to bridge the gap to the top-spec versions. As such it is fitted with LED fog lamps, leather-accented upholstery, power front seats, cool box, rain-sensing wipers and upgraded driver's display. The Altitude is $4630 more than the GXL turbo diesel. Black is the default Altitude colour - premium white, silver, graphite and blue shades add $550.
Volkswagen Passat Alltrack Wolfsburg, from $54,990 drive-away
The standard car is $49,990 and the extra $5000 brings digital "virtual cockpit” instrument display, adjustable suspension and auto tailgate that opens with a swish of your foot under the bumper. Cosmetic touches include bigger alloy wheels, LED lights and, in the cabin, ambient lighting and higher quality finishes, including more up-market leather.
Skoda tech and comfort packs
There are no limited editions as such but the Octavia has a Sports Pack bundle that includes bi-xenon headlights, 18-inch alloys, spoiler, fog lights and other goodies for $3400 (valued by Skoda at $5670). Its Tech Pack includes a bigger centre screen, adaptive driving modes, premium audio auto parking and other gear for $3200 ($5660 in claimed value).
Limited editions - specifically those with identifiable build numbers, such as a plaque on the dash or glove box - are the smart choice, according to our experts.
"If it's numbered you know how many there are and they're generally a performance-enhanced pack, so you can feel the difference when you drive,” says Redbook's Booth.
As notable examples, he cites Mercedes-AMG Black Series and limited-runs of HSV vehicles or VW Golf GTIs.
"They're all popular cars and they handle better or go faster than the car they're based on. In the case of HSV it's a short-term investment - don't expect them to keep appreciating like a Falcon GTHO - but in the short to mid-term they're going to be good value.
"In general terms the rule holds until the next model comes along with more power or better handling ...”
Holden has had great success with three limited edition Commodores this year. It has released a limited run of 1200 Motorsport editions, 240 Magnums and 360 Directors. All are sold out and are likely to fetch a premium on the second-hand market.
Ford had similar success with limited editions of its XR sports sedans last year and VW is expected to release a limited run of the current Golf GTI before the new Golf arrives in July.
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