Understanding Trim Level Designators for Vehicles

Decoding Trim Level Designators for Vehicles

woman and man walking around car dealership
Hero Images/Getty Images

The combination of letters after the make and model of a vehicle are the trim level designators. For example, you can buy a Honda Accord LX, EX, EX-L, or Touring. 

While some models of vehicles may come only in a single configuration, you are likely to see two or more trim levels for any model. These vary in the options that are included. This system of packaging and naming trim levels became popular in the past 30 years.

They can relate only to surface features such as paint, trim, and upholstery. But they can also be safety packages, engine power, suspension, and other mechanical and electronic features.

Understanding Trim Levels

Those designators refer to the trim level of the particular make and model of vehicle and are not the same for all makes and models. They don't necessarily stand for anything consistently between manufacturers or models.  Each manufacturer can hang a couple of letters on the back of a model name, and it can mean whatever they want it to mean.

Here is a quick table decoding the most common trim level designators.

  • T: Often means touring edition, it can follow another designator.
  • L: Level
  • S: Sport, special, or standard, each of which has a very different meaning.
  • D: Deluxe
  • E: Either extra, edition, or equipment. Again, this is a big difference in meaning.
  • G: Grade
  • X: extra

Now put these together for these common trim levels:

  • CE: Classic Edition or Custom Edition
  • DX: Deluxe
  • DL: Deluxe Level
  • EX: Extra
  • GL: Grade Level
  • GLE: Grade Level Extra
  • GT: Grand Touring
  • LX: Luxury
  • LE: Luxury Edition
  • LS: Luxury Sport or Luxury Special
  • LT: Luxury Touring
  • LTD: Limited
  • LTZ: Luxury Touring Special
  • SE: Sport Edition or Special Edition or Special Equipment
  • SL: Standard Level
  • SLE: Standard Level Extra
  • SLT: Standard Level Touring
  • SV: Special Version
  • XLT: Extra Level Touring

Trim Level Examples

You have the manufacturer and model, such as the Toyota RAV4. The manufacturer is Toyota. The model is the RAV4.  The base model of the car is the lowest trim level. For the RAV4, the lowest trim level is the LE, The next step up is the XLE trim level, with a more advanced climate control system, power liftgate, audio and navigation apps. The next trim level is the SE, with S standing for sport. It has features such as a suspension, paddle shifters, paint and grille to make it sportier. Finally, the Limited trim level has luxury features.

What Trim Levels Mean for You

The trim level of a model often determines its pricing. You will pay more for trim levels above the base level, and you'll have to decide if the extras are worth the extra cost. When you are having a car repaired, the trim level will also matter for getting replacement parts and matching paint and trim.

Check the Manufacturer's Site

It is safest to check the manufacturer's website to see what is included for each trim level of the make and model that interests you. That is the best way to determine whether you are looking at the base model or one of the upgraded trim levels.