Image: Car salesman showing couple new silver hatchback in car showroom © Juice Images, Cultura, Getty Images

When buying a new car, it's easy to get stuck with pricey options that you don't really want.

It used to be that carmakers offered long lists of individual options -- landau tops, a half-dozen radio choices, a variety of seating arrangements, wheel covers and bumper trims, and on and on. Rolls-Royce, Porsche and some other high-end brands still do that.

But that makes building cars more expensive. So most manufacturers today package a number of options together, making it more likely that you'll pay for some options that you'd rather skip.

For instance, Honda offers the 2012 Accord sedan with nine option packages, or trim levels, ranging from a basic, $22,150 LX to a luxurious, $32,600 EX-L V-6 with leather upholstery and GPS.

Once a buyer has chosen a trim level, the only other factory options are paint and maybe interior color, and either a manual or automatic transmission (though the automatic is required on many of the levels). This simplified ordering scheme makes it easy for Honda to efficiently produce Accords in its factories without maintaining vast inventories of parts that may go in only a few cars.

Buyers need to know what each option package offers and decide which options they can do without and which ones can be found elsewhere. Sometimes it's cheaper to purchase a less well-equipped model and add features from other sources later.

Beyond that, the huge number of dealer-installed options will tempt the buyer. Because what the factory builds is only the start of what a dealer sells.

Paying for obsolescence

Order a Porsche 911 Turbo S and you can choose that the "seat belt outlets on B-pillar" be finished in carbon fiber for just $450, or that the "switch trim strip" be covered in leather for only $605. Porsche is, after all, in the business of satisfying its rich clientele's every whim. And that clientele generally recognizes that a Porsche is an indulgence and doesn't expect those carbon-fiber seat belt outlets to necessarily add value to the car when it comes time to sell it.

But value consciousness is more pronounced when it comes to family transportation. For instance, the 2011 Toyota Sienna XLE minivan offers a rear seat DVD-based video entertainment system as a breathtakingly expensive $2,495 stand-alone option. It's a good system and is well integrated with the other elements of the Sienna's onboard entertainment. On long trips it will keep the kids quiet and watching, and it will retain some of its value over the life of the van. But is it worth the hefty price tag?

"DVD players do retain some of their value in SUVs and minivans," explains Steven Lang, a used-car dealer in the Atlanta area. "But you're only going to get a fraction of that back at trade-in time. And the technology is always changing, so what's state of the art when you buy it can seem very old in a couple of years."

For that same $2,495, you could buy five base-model iPad 2 tablet computers that also play movies. And you can't take the Sienna's video screen out of the van and into your house to surf the Internet over your Wi-Fi connection.

Meanwhile, it's easy to find a portable DVD player for well under $100.