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Part of what makes car shopping fun is deciding the specific style and features you want your vehicle to have. While you may already have a year, make, and model in mind, you still have another important choice to make—the trim level of your car. 

What Does Trim Level Mean On a Car?

Trim levels or grades help potential buyers differentiate between versions of the same vehicle model, making them easier to identify. Each level is categorized based on the features, accessories, packages, and extras added to the base vehicle. 

honda civic type-r
Trim levels or grades help potential buyers differentiate between versions of the same vehicle model, making them easier to identify.

Base level vehicles come with basic features, while advanced levels are marketed as premier models. In some way, the trim level also determines the price of the vehicle. 

Trim names or levels differ depending on the manufacturer. They are usually made up of a combination of letters that follow the model name. For instance, the Chevrolet Malibu comes in six different trim levels – L, LS, RS, LT, Premier, and Hybrid.

The Differences Between Car Trim Levels

Car trim types or packages vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the pattern is the same. They have a base model, which is the lowest trim level, and a top-level model that has the most features and equipment. As you move up through the many trim levels, the features and accessories increase—and so does the price.

2015 Jeep Cherokee red
Car trim types or packages vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the pattern is the same.

Lower trim levels usually have cloth upholstery, a basic version of the infotainment system, and no extra exterior features. On the other hand, higher trim packages may have leather upholstery and accessories, a premium steering wheel and shift knob, and more advanced safety features.

How Automakers Name Trim Levels

Each automaker has its own naming convention for trim levels. They could use a pair of letters, such as LX, LS, or EX. Each grade may also come with a name, such as Limited, Premium, or Overland. There are also manufacturers who use alphanumeric codes, such as Z28, XR5, or GT3.

They may also use any combination of the three. For example, Chevrolet has L, LS, LT, and Premier trim levels for its SUV lineup (Equinox, Traverse, and Tahoe).

Manufacturers like Chevrolet and Ford usually offer a selection of trim levels. However, they also have vehicles with only one trim level available. Luxury models often fall under this category. 

acura rdx suv
While Acura RDX only comes in one trim level, buyers may still choose from a variety of available paint colors, drive systems, and interior packages.

Let’s take the Acura RDX as an example. While it only comes in one trim level, buyers may still choose from a variety of available paint colors, drive systems, and interior packages.

Common Trim Designations

Different manufacturers may use similar trim designations with common meanings. Combinations of the following letters are typically used in assigning trim names:

  • T – Touring
  • L – Level
  • S – Sport, Special, or Standard
  • D – Deluxe
  • E – Extra, Edition, or Equipment
  • G – Grade or Grand
  • LX – Luxury. 

Choosing Between Trim Levels

Before heading to the dealership check what car trim levels are available for the model you’re eyeing. It’s also good to have some backup options. By researching this beforehand, you can choose the trim package that ticks off all your boxes and falls right within your budget.

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