Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

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The Car Features We Love (and Some That Are Totally Overrated)

Our cars are loaded with all kinds of tech gadgets nowadays. From self-parking features to self-driving cars, there’s really nothing we can’t do behind the wheel. We can navigate like a pro to our next destination, entertain the kids with their favorite show in the back seat, answer text messages with the sound of our voice, and the list goes on. For me, personally, less is more, and in scouring the internet I’ve learned that I’m not the only one who feels this way. I want to be comfortable, and I want to rely on my car to deliver me from point A to point B safely and efficiently. It turns out that the rest of the world is very similar. So which car tech features do we love and which features can we live without? You may just be surprised at what car features (tech) we can and can’t live without these days.

Love: Parking Assist

This is a true story, and one that I’ll never let my good friend live down. About ten years ago, we went down to the beach for the Fourth of July fireworks. Of course, living in Southwest Florida, it’s packed, because everyone wants to go to the beach for the fireworks. We finally found a streetside spot that was pretty tight, which meant that my friend had to parallel park. A lot of us had to learn how to parallel park to get our driver’s licenses, but that talent has since gone the way of the dodo. When my friend finally managed to maneuver into this space without damaging the surrounding vehicles, a crowd had formed to watch, which then erupted into applause.

Need I say more about having a Parking Assist feature in your car? As parallel parking skills become as rare in our modern world as Morse code, Parking Assist enables any driver to perform a miracle parallel parking job just like my friend did. You don’t have to tell the crowd the car did it instead of you.

Love: Blind Spot Monitoring

No matter where you’re going, it always helps to have an extra set of eyes, especially in your blind spots. I often wonder when automakers are going to get rid of those pesky blind spots altogether, but there’s this thing called structural integrity that you can’t really ignore in a vehicle. You do need a durable frame to hold your vehicle together and make it safe, and unfortunately, I don’t think swapping out high-strength steel and other durable materials for glass is a good idea. In the meantime, until the industry figures out how to get rid of blind spots with transparent aluminum, we have blind spot monitoring systems, which provide helpful views of the hard-to-see areas around your vehicle so that you can switch lanes, merge into traffic, and maneuver safely and effectively.

A woman is shown turning the volume knob up on the dash of a vehicle.

Overrated: Premium Audio Systems

I’m pretty sure the days of teens riding around town with their sound systems blaring are a thing of the past. Not only are gas prices through the roof in most of the country, everything is overly expensive now, which means that killer custom sound systems aren’t as popular as they used to be. Many drivers also agree with this, making upgrades like premium audio systems something that most travelers can live without. The sound systems already included in most vehicles these days are more than adequate to provide the enjoyment we need during our jaunts to work, the grocery store, and everywhere else adulthood is taking us.

Love: All-Wheel Drive

Drivers love to be safe, and as you read more surveys about what travelers are looking for in their vehicles, you’ll quickly realize that all-wheel drive is one of the top features. You don’t need to be a rally driver or live in a harsh climate to justify the need for all-wheel drive capabilities. You may want to take a weekend trip into the forest and explore some trails. Even when it’s raining outside, having extra traction and control can make all the difference. Conditions that would cause dramatic wheelspin in a two-wheel drive vehicle can be unnoticeable with all-wheel drive, which instantly transfers power from the wheels that slip to the wheels that grip. All-wheel drive wears many hats, and when you want to travel with assurance, you’ll want a quality AWD system in your vehicle.

Love: Keyless Entry

We sure do love convenience these days, and what better way to start your day than not having to dig through your pocket or purse for your car keys? From keyless entry to push button start, if we don’t have to rummage through our belongings to find a way to operate our vehicles, we’re all for it. I watch my neighbor remote start his Nissan Titan every morning so he can get into a cool, comfortable vehicle to beat the Florida heat. Convenience is king, my friends.

Overrated: Wi-Fi Hotspots

I was surprised to see this on more than one list, due to the fact that we’re tech-obsessed. Now, Wi-Fi Hotspots are convenient. Personally, I use mine more often than I ever anticipated, especially when Comcast goes out and I still have work to do. I’ve also used it on road trips because again, work needs to be done. Other than that, though, I can see how drivers could live without this feature. After all, we have smartphone integration and Bluetooth in our vehicles now, which means we already have access to all of the music and podcasts we need. Plus, most of the time you can use cellular data to send emails and all that fun stuff. If your phone doesn’t have a signal, most likely your Wi-Fi hotspot won’t work, either, which gives it no real advantage. Integrated Wi-Fi may be nice to have, but it only comes in handy in a pinch most of the time.

Overrated: Navigation

If you can use your phone’s navigation features, there’s really no need to have onboard navigation in your vehicle. Most drivers agree that this is a feature they can live without, for many of the same reasons as the previous overrated feature. With Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and even Bluetooth, you can use your phone and its superior apps to navigate confidently to your next destination without the need to spend money on a built-in nav system. Besides, the maps that come with your car are usually outdated in a few years anyway, while Google Maps always has the latest information available.

A person is shown plugging their phone into a charging cord in their vehicle.

Love: USB Ports

We can’t live without our devices themselves, though, and when they’re not charged, tantrums can ensue, from youngsters and adults alike. Fortunately, vehicles these days can be equipped with multiple USB ports to keep all of your must-have devices charged up and ready for the drive ahead. Plugging in your phone can also enable features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s the simple things like this that can make all the difference on the road.

Overrated: Hands-Free Driving

What? With all of the hype of hands-free driving, how can this be overrated? According to a study performed by automotive research firm AutoPacific, only seven percent of drivers found this feature helpful and desirable in their vehicles. I should clarify that the study specifies “Fully autonomous hands-free driving,” which means that semi-autonomous driving may be more desireable. It seems that people want to have control over their vehicles, and the Hollywood-induced notion of being able to step into your vehicle and relax as it automatically takes you everywhere you want to go is, in fact, overrated.

Love: Heated Seats & Other Comfort Features

We love to be comfortable on the road, and thanks to heated and massaging seats, a heated steering wheel, and other cozy features, we can enjoy maximum comfort during our journey. You can’t beat getting into a toasty warm vehicle with heated seats on those cold winter mornings, and most drivers agree. According to the same study mentioned above, heated seats were at the top of the list of what features drivers couldn’t live without, with 66% of travelers choosing this over other features like hands-free driving tech.

It all comes down to the basics, doesn’t it? Even in this day and age, we yearn to be comfortable and safe, and it doesn’t hurt to be able to park your car without drawing a crowd. “Less is more.” We’ve heard that phrase uttered time and time again, but it really resonates with the auto industry. With all the manpower the industry has put toward features like hands-free driving, premium sound systems, and cutting-edge navigation, it turns out that all we really wanted all along were heated seats. I can see this shifting as the years go by and we start adopting more high-caliber tech, but for now, we’ll take the basics, thanks.