We may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
If you are shopping for a new car, you probably have a good idea of the make and model you prefer. The ‘make’ refers to the car’s manufacturer, Chrysler, Ford, or Honda, for example. The ‘model’ refers to the types of vehicles the manufacturer produces. Honda, for instance, makes a variety of car models, including the Civic, Accord, CR-V, and Odyssey (to name a few). Makes and models are easy to decipher, but you might wonder what trim is when choosing a new car.
The trim level or trim package on a car refers to the available features that are already added to the car’s base model. These features are typically a combination of:
- Aesthetic features
- Safety features
- Comfort features
- Powertrain features
Manufacturers offer several trim levels for each car model, with each trim level offering different levels of features.
Understanding trim levels might seem complicated at first, but it is as simple as knowing what features are important to you for your driving style, comfort level, and the car’s appearance. Let’s take a closer look at trim.
What is “Trim” on a Car?
Features that can be added to the car’s base model are the car’s ‘trim’. Trim levels are preinstalled on the vehicle by the manufacturer before the model arrives at the dealership. Car trim packages typically include a combination of aesthetic features, safety features, comfort features, and powertrain features to improve the quality and performance of the car. Manufacturers offer several trim levels for each car model. The Honda Accord, for example, is available with LX, EX, Sport, EX-L, or Touring trim levels.
Not every car buyer wants the same features. Choosing trim depends on your driving style, budget, and design preferences. A car’s base trim level is an entry-level model with minimal features for the lowest cost. As the trim level increases, more features become available, and the cost of the car increases too. By choosing a higher trim level, you get a high-performance model equipped with better features.
Car manufacturers indicate trim levels by using acronyms such as Chevrolet’s LT or LTZ and Honda’s LX or EX. Letter combinations and their meanings will vary depending on the manufacturer. There are not standard trim acronyms throughout the automotive industry. Chevrolet’s LT could mean ‘luxury trim’ or ‘luxury touring.’ Regardless of the interpretation, LT indicates a trim level that is higher than the base level. Manufacturers also indicate trim levels by using terms like ‘Limited’ or ‘Sport.’
What Trim is My Car?
If you are not sure what trim level is on the car you are driving, it is easy to find the answer. Knowing your car’s trim level can help you to determine additional features you might prefer on your next vehicle or features you can do without. The trim level can also help identify the correct replacement parts or tire size when your car needs repair.
Find the trim level of your car by first looking at the vehicle. Often, manufacturers will indicate the trim level with a decal or lettering on the car’s exterior near the model’s name, on the side or rear of the vehicle. Toyota’s RAV-4 designates the Sport trim with a ‘Sport’ decal on both the driver’s side and passenger’s side front doors. Toyota’s Sienna designates the XLE trim with lettering on the liftgate.
If you do not see the trim level on your car’s exterior, you can also find it listed on your original sales invoice or in the owner’s manual.
Your car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) can also tell you the trim level. The VIN is a combination of 17 letters and numbers assigned to the car’s model by the manufacturer. Car VIN’s contain information such as the model year, country of origin, and engine size. The most common location to find the VIN on your car is on the driver’s side, interior dash. Decode your car’s VIN for free using the online VIN Decoder & Lookup provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
What are EX, LTZ, Touring, and Grand Touring?
Automotive manufacturers select acronyms to designate trim levels. The automotive industry does not have standard meanings for these acronyms so, buyers can loosely interpret trim designations such as EX to mean ‘extra’ or LTZ to mean ‘luxury Touring special.’ Different manufacturers will use different acronyms or terms for trim levels. Do not get too caught up in acronym meaning. Instead, get familiar with the hierarchy of the trim levels for the car makes and models that interest you.
Let’s look at Chevrolet’s Equinox, for example. Chevy offers this model with four available trim levels, including the base model L and LS, LT, or Premier. As the trim level increases on the Equinox, the features improve. Equinox L is a front-wheel-drive crossover vehicle equipped with Chevy’s 1.5L turbo 4-cylinder engine and standard safety features. Move up in trim to an LS or LT, and you gain optional all-wheel drive, choice of powertrain, additional safety features, and other exterior/interior color choices. Equinox Premier is the top of the line for Chevy’s crossover. The Premier trim is equipped with all the safety features as standard, added interior comforts, and added exterior design features.
Honda offers an impressive six trim levels for the Accord model; LX, Hybrid, Sport, EX, EX-L, or Touring. As you can see, the trim level acronyms differ from those used by Chevrolet. The trim term ‘Hybrid’ tells you that the model has a hybrid powertrain in addition to other features. Sport trims typically have a powerful engine meant to engage the driver and sporty exterior design features like larger wheels and chrome details.
What Does ‘Fully Loaded’ Mean on a Car?
A fully-loaded car is a premier model, typically including all the available features for safety, performance, and exterior/interior design. Fully loaded trim levels are often designated by terms such as Ford’s ‘Limited’ trim level on the F-150, Subaru’s ‘Touring’ trim level on the Outback, or Chevrolet’s ‘High Country’ trim level on Silverado.
Fully loaded trim packages give you interior luxury, exterior highlights, and ultimate performance. Let’s take a look at the F-150 Limited, for example. The Limited trim package equips Ford’s F-150 with a high-output 3.5L V6 EcoBoost engine, all of Ford’s safety and security features come standard, and additional luxury interior comfort settings and technology features.
A fully-loaded car comes at a higher price. Selecting the best quality trim package means that you might spend upwards of $20,000 to $40,000 more than the base model’s manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). But, you can customize your ride for the performance and comfort level that is most important to you.
Trim Level VS Options?
Choosing the trim level of your car ensures that you will have the performance and comfort that you want. But, there are even more bells and whistles to add to a trim level when you consider options. Manufacturers offer options, single items, or packaged features that you can add for an extra cost. Examples of options might include the addition of a moon roof, a Bose sound system, or cargo liners. Check with your dealer for individually listed and priced options available for your car’s model and trim level.
How to Compare Trim Levels?
When you begin shopping for your new car, start by comparing the base models. The base model for any make will provide you with the car’s standard features. Then, you can take a look at trim based on what features are most important to you.
Are you looking for an all-wheel-drive? Some trim levels will offer an all-wheel-drive option that is not available for the base model. Are you a techie in search of the latest infotainment features? Some trim levels will offer larger touchscreens or additional speakers for sound systems. If safety is vital for you, check trim levels to determine which safety features are standard and which are extra.
Make a must-have list for the features you would like to have in your ideal car. Check the trim packages for each model you are considering to determine if your preferred features are available. Estimate the cost for the model with the trim package included. Most manufacturers and dealers provide detailed trim information and pricing that you can find online or in-person by talking to a sales-person.
Now that you have a better idea of what trim means in a car, all you have to do is pick the best model and trim level for you. Do not forget to ask the dealer about options for single-item features such as a sunroof or navigation system. You will soon get behind the wheel of a customized, new model that is just right for you.
Here are a few articles about trim levels. Check it out!