June 4, 2019

2020 Auto Features Worth Paying For (or Not)


Although the added features available on 2020 model vehicles may not seem as important as gas milage or future value, the bells and whistles are often what push you to make your final choice. It’s a good idea to think ahead about what features are really important to you, and which ones might not be worth paying for.

Top Safety Features

Back seat reminders: This feature can give you peace of mind, especially if you travel with a baby, child, or pet. The vehicle will notice when you open a back door before beginning a trip and remind you at the end of the trip to check the backseat. Although no one wants to think they could leave a child or pet in a hot car accidentally, it has happened. Intelligent, careful, and even professional care givers running on very little sleep have experienced tragedy that a simple reminder might have avoided. Many car companies have begun to incorporate back seat reminder systems into new vehicles. This relatively inexpensive feature is a worthwhile choice for most caregivers.

Adaptive (or dynamic) cruise control: More and more vehicles are adding this feature, which works similarly to standard cruise control. The difference is that the vehicle will automatically maintain a safe distance from cars in front of while cruise control is activated, dynamically adjusting speed to stay close to the target speed without coming dangerously close to another car.

Lane departure alerts (or lane assist): Vehicles with this feature will play a light alert sound to notify you if your car is crossing lane lines without the appropriate turn signal activated. Some systems take it a step further with lane assist, which makes small steering adjustments automatically to ensure you stay in your lane and don’t drift into danger unexpectedly.

360-degree camera: Full 360-degree cameras lets you see the entire area surrounding your vehicle and check for children and objects when you’re parking or backing up. Added visibility is often worth springing for, especially if city parking is a common occurrence in your life.

Blind spot alert: This feature alerts the driver when there is an object or pedestrian in direct line of their blind spot. Never get surprised by a blind-spot-lurker again.

Teen driver settings: If you have a budding new driver in the house, you might be interested in a new feature that gives your car some parental controls. Each maker offers different features, but some common ones include speed warnings, speed limits, preventing the vehicle from shifting into drive if the driver’s seatbelt is not buckled, preventing active-safety features from being switched off, and more. Often, these settings are connected to a designated key fob, so your car will be able to tell the difference between you and your teenager. Some even offer followup reports on the teen’s driving history, including distance traveled, maximum speed, how often the accelerator was floored, and whether certain safety systems were triggered. 

Automatic emergency braking: Brakes are automatically applied when the vehicle senses an object it is about to strike. Some systems include pedestrian detection as well.

Extra Convenience Features

Head-up display: You don’t have to risk swerving every time you want to check out your car’s display. With a head-up display, you can see important information, like your fuel level and speed, right on your windshield. Displays are dim enough so they don’t block your visibility, but clear enough to easily read.

Power tailgate: If you plan on hitching a boat, ATV, or another large vehicle to the back of your new pickup truck or SUV, you might want to shop for this feature, because it lets you lower and raise your tailgate with the push of a button.

Wireless charging pad: Leave the wires at home! Just place your phone on one of these pads and it will start powering up. These gadgets use induction to charge your device and work with many new wireless-charging smartphones.

Wifi hotspot capability: Broadcasting a wifi signal from your car can be useful for those who like to bring a little of the indoors to the outdoors. Major auto makers have been partnering with internet service providers to create plans for your car that work just like a personal wifi hotspot—although with more space for an antenna, your car hotspot can usually connect to devices from further away than the pocket-size hotspot you might be used to.

Fun Features

Home assist device connectivity: Telling your phone to crank up your AC or to shut off your oven is old news. But, did you know you can now do the same for your car’s controls? Some new cars allow you to use remote voice control with home assist technologies, like Alexa, for your car. You can tell the assistant to set the temperature in your car, unlock doors and even get your favorite playlist going while your hands are busy making lunch.

Rear entertainment systems: No more backseat fighting! This feature gives the rear seat of your car a completely separate entertainment system.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay: Leave your phone in the cup holder and avoid dangerous distraction with these features. Both will sync your smartphone’s interface with your car’s infotainment system so you can use the car’s screen for controlling your phone and keep your eyes on the road.

Features to Think Twice About

Bigger wheels and thinner tires: The look might be right, but the ride will be less comfortable. Plus, your wheels will be more prone to damage from potholes and other obstructions on the road. Make sure that if you’re putting 22″ spinners on your vehicle, you have a plan to cover the cost of new wheels in case a surprise pothole ruins the fun.

Built-in navigation systems: Don’t pay extra for a navigation system when you can use Waze or Google Maps on your phone. Also, many built-in navigation systems require constant and tedious updates to stay accurate. Connecting a smartphone with maps functionality can be convenient and more accurate.

Lane-keeping assist: This feature automatically steers or brakes your car when your vehicle crosses lane markings without turning on a blinker. It sounds tempting, but in real life, it’s more annoyance than convenience. Often, you’ll need to suddenly cross a lane marker for good reason, like moving over for an emergency vehicle or for a cyclist on the shoulder of the road. Plus, according to Consumer Reports, there is no data that proves this feature has any safety benefits for the driver.

No matter what vehicle you choose, there are features that can make your life easier on the road or even save your life under the right circumstances. It’s always good to weigh your options in advance so you don’t get hooked on a fancy feature that ultimately isn’t worth the money.


This article is for educational purposes only. Tulsa FCU makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, or specific suitability of any information presented. Information provided should not be relied on or interpreted as legal, tax or financial advice. Nor does the information directly relate to our products and/or services terms and conditions.