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June 4, 2019

Which Auto Features Are Worth It? (and Which to Skip)


Although small added features may not seem as important as gas milage, safety options, or a car’s future value, often the bells and whistles are what finally make the sale. It’s a good idea to think ahead about what features are really important to you, and which ones might not be worth the added cost.

Top Performing Safety Features

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. This kind of visibility makes it much easier to know whether you’re safe to move.

Evasive steering: Surprises on the road can happen before you’re even aware of them. Evasive steering provides steering support when the vehicle senses that you’re in danger of a collision, helping you avoid accidents by reacting more quickly than a human driver could.

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.

Forward collision warning: Distraction-prone drivers (or your average teenager) could benefit from this visual and/or audible alert when the vehicle is heading toward a forward collision. It may make the difference when rear-ending another driver comes down to a split-second reaction.

Automatic emergency braking: Brakes are automatically applied when the vehicle senses an object in the way. Some systems include pedestrian detection as well.

Added Convenience Features

Automatic keyless entry: This feature was created for those moments when you’re staggering toward your car with armfuls of grocery bags: it automatically unlocks a car’s doors when it senses a nearby fob.

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.

Multi-zone climate system: Family road trips are peaceful again with this feature, which allows for different climate controls throughout the car.

Speedy USB-charging outlets: No more unbearable waits for your gadgets to power up! You can now buy a car that charges your device super-quickly.

WiFi hotspot: Stop eating up your phone’s data—just plug into your car’s WiFi instead. Some in-car hotspot services charge a monthly fee after a complementary introductory period, but these tend to be cheaper for unlimited data than a similar data plan through a mobile phone carrier.

Heated steering wheel and driver’s seat: This one is for those frosty mornings when your car can’t get warm quite fast enough.

Wireless charging pad: Leave the wires at home! Just place your phone on one of these pads and it will start powering up. These super-techy gadgets use induction to charge your device and work with most new smartphones. If your phone is aging and won’t charge on an induction pad, you can buy a special case to bring it up to speed.

Just for 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.

Sound enhancement: If you’re an incurable gearhead who needs to actually hear your car revving up, you’ll love this feature. It simulates the performance experience of your vehicle, even in a car that is built to be quiet, so you can listen to your engine roar itself to life.

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, most built-in navigation systems require constant and tedious updates to stay 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 weight your options in advance so you don’t get hooked on a fancy feature that ultimately isn’t worth the money.