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HOMEOWNERS have learned that some home improvements pay off handsomely, returning every dollar spent when the time comes to sell.

Similarly, car buyers are finding that optional safety features — stability control systems and side curtain air bags, for instance — can do more than just keep the family safe. Along with options like CD changers and leather upholstery, the extra-cost safety equipment can help owners get a higher price when it is time to sell or trade in the car, according to companies that track resale values.

“Safety equipment seems to be gaining in strength in terms of being an important feature,” said Jack R. Nerad, the executive market analyst at Kelley Blue Book, a publisher of car pricing guides.

When considering which options might return the greatest percentage of their cost, the trick is to look ahead and figure out which features will become standard equipment in three or four years, said Jesse Toprak, the senior analyst for, an automotive Web site.

For example, Mr. Toprak said, he would not buy a minivan without side-curtain air bags, because in a few years all new minivans will probably have them as standard equipment; without that safety feature, a used vehicle would be less desirable. Likewise, he said, it would be a mistake not to purchase electronic stability control on a vehicle that costs $25,000 or more because it, too, will be standard on more vehicles.

On a 2005 Chrysler 300C, a navigation system cost $1,895. At trade-in, it would net the owner $506 more than a vehicle without it, according to

Less fancy items that hold their value better include air-conditioning — figure $700 back on a $1,000 price — and cruise control, which would return about $175 of a $200 cost.

Even if safety items often don’t hold their value as well as some luxury features. Loading an economy car with fancy or expensive features hoping to make it more valuable is not always a good idea, experts warned. Buyers in those segments are usually looking for inexpensive transportation without frills, Mr. Gentile said.

No matter which options are chosen, consumers cannot expect to recover all of their costs. So they should pick items that they would enjoy or that make them more secure. The value of options will depreciate just like the overall value of the vehicle, Mr. Nerad

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