What are the best features to have in a newer (2015+) car?
December 21, 2016 6:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm finally buying myself a newer car, and having only owned cars 2005 and older, every new feature sounds like a magical car wonderland. What are the most useful ones you've experienced?

Heated and cooled seats? Rain-sensing wiper blades? AN AUX CABLE?! All of these sound like futuristic luxury.

I want to leave this pretty open ended and not state what cars I'm looking at or what features they might have available, I just want to know what features have made your car owning and driving experience better, easier, more comfortable, etc. I'm only looking at buying cars with a model year of 2015 and newer.

The only thing I have settled on for certain is a remote starter.

Please share the car features that you love!
posted by rachaelfaith to Shopping (86 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Bluetooth so my smart phone connects to the car for listening to music and podcasts and answering phone calls.
posted by eleslie at 6:03 AM on December 21, 2016 [16 favorites]

Best answer: Backup and right turn cameras. Also Bluetooth phone integration, with a touchscreen on the dash for passengers and push buttons on the wheel for drivers.
posted by infinitewindow at 6:08 AM on December 21, 2016 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Heated seats, heated seats, heated seats.

I also like the keyless entry system on my car; I never have to take the key out of my pocket.
posted by asterix at 6:08 AM on December 21, 2016 [16 favorites]

Best answer: Okay, so here's a thing I only recently learned about heated seats -- they are fucking magical if you have a long commute and/or have fucked up your back recently.

Also, yeah, Bluetooth is 10x better than an aux cable.
posted by Etrigan at 6:09 AM on December 21, 2016 [5 favorites]

Backup cameras are enormously helpful.
posted by areaperson at 6:10 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Once you get a heated seat, you will never go back. It's bliss.

I wish I had Bluetooth, but I do have an AUX in and USB port for charging. Bluetooth would be better, but the cable isn't a bad consolation prize.

I also wish I had a backup camera. The few times I've rented cars that have them, they've been awesome. And I'm a good driver and an expert parallel parker without them, but I still found them really handy.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:10 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Rear camera, especially one that one that plots the path of your angle. Heated seats IF you live in a cold area. If you live in a really cold area, like below zero, then a block heater. Charging capability for your electronics like a USB port.

But you want a dead easy UI for your entertainment and any navigation system. Which leads me to this, on board navigation was not worth the up charge unless you live/travel where there is no cellular network.
posted by jadepearl at 6:10 AM on December 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Yes, another vote for backup cameras. After renting a number of newer cars recently, the one feature I miss most when I get back to my own car is the backup cameras.
posted by oclipa at 6:12 AM on December 21, 2016

Best answer: I really like my blind spot warning lights on my Volvo and lots of cars these days.

Also if you can get some plastic/rubber floor mats instead of carpets.
posted by bitdamaged at 6:16 AM on December 21, 2016

LOVE the backup camera. We bought 2 cars around the same time, one with and one without the backup camera, and I really wish we had held out for the backup camera. Great safety feature!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:16 AM on December 21, 2016

Best answer: Keyless entry is the one I didn't think I'd care about but could never go back from.

Backup camera and blind spot monitoring are also great.
posted by songs about trains at 6:18 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't own a car anymore but I do rent on occasion and Bluetooth is about the only "must have" item when I'm renting.
posted by Gev at 6:19 AM on December 21, 2016

I have a 2016 model. Cool gadgets I like:

Reversing/parking cameras. Rerversing camera is great because it's an SUV with bad rear visibility. 360-degree parking cameras (that show a faked overhead view) are amazing for lining yourself up straight in a parking space.

Powered, remotely operated boot (trunk) lid. Seemed silly until I was carrying the baby and pushing a pushchair, and was like "Ooooh, OK, yeah."

Heated seats I could do without (they get too hot) but my other half loves them because their sensitivity to cold is much greater.

Built-in satnav. Not having to plug in and adjust a separate system is handy.

Keyless entry is nice, but not that new? I had it on a 2004 car. Can cause problems if the car lets you drive off without the keys. Or with the keys on the roof. I think possibly the new car has better detection of where exactly the key is, but haven't tested if those scenarios can still occur.

Current car has Bluetooth and iPad USB connection, but no aux-in. On balance I'd prefer aux-in since it's the most universal. I had to buy a new iPod because the old one didn't have Bluetooth. Being able to skip tracks with the car stereo controls is handy though.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:23 AM on December 21, 2016

Best answer: I've had heated seats for the last 14 years, and lordy they are bliss. I frequently use just the headed seat, without turning on the interior heater. (And your profile says you're in New Jersey? Yeah, you'd use 'em!)

Just got a new car myself three months ago, and this one is my first with a rear view camera: very useful, much appreciated. This car also has a right-side camera, which I don't like, mostly because whenever I use the right turn signal that camera lights up on my dash, and I dislike what it does to my night vision.

Just about every new car anymore has some kind of Bluetooth/hands-free phone capability, and all too many can also write or respond to texts/emails..... speaking as someone who had to get a new car only because an idiot who was so busy playing with her phone that she didn't even see the red light she ran when she totaled my car, so please: let calls and texts wait until you aren't actually driving, it isn't worth the financial expense nor the risk of injuries and death.
posted by easily confused at 6:32 AM on December 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Cooled seats and self-parking. Radar-assisted cruise control.

I think backup cameras are now required by law in the US, so probably won't be optional.

Do extra research about the UI for the entertainment/nav/climate control touchscreen, we found that there was a huge difference between the new Ford Sync3 vs. the older Sync.
posted by jindc at 6:33 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Back up camera. Blindspot warnings on your side mirrors. :)
posted by ellerhodes at 6:33 AM on December 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Automatic headlights. Dead batteries no more!
posted by youcancallmeal at 6:33 AM on December 21, 2016 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Some models of new cars have really advanced safety features -- lane warnings, things like that -- and next time I am car shopping that is going to be a mandatory thing for me, just for the small margin of extra safety on long drives. The price point at which you get those features keeps dropping and I think it is now worth the money.

I agree with heated seats and bluetooth, including the ability to have a hands-free phone call. I have navigation and a backup camera, and I almost never use either, but I think in a lot of vehicles with poor visibility the backup camera is a critical safety item. Given how good the mapping on my phone is, I don't see a lot of value in paying for a car system, but I am sure there are situations where it is valuable.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:34 AM on December 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have 2 Toyotas that are a bit older (06 and 08) and just got a '15 Camry.

Big thing that ties in my two favorite things is the touchscreen interface in the center console.

Bluetooth audio is really nice, although I use the USB port more because charging and a few enhanced features like album art.

Backup camera - wish I had one in the car I taught my sons to drive in. Conversely, wonder if future generations will know how to back up or park without one. On the 3rd hand, now I want cameras in my front for when I'm easing past the other 2 cars in the driveway...

Runner up: Tire pressure monitoring in my '15 is also a lot more advanced. I've had a low pressure warning light in the last several cars, but it's just an idiot light that comes on when you're critically low, like 25 psi or lower, and you have to figure out which tire it is. I can now monitor all 4 tires and see about how they're doing on pressure.

And beyond that, it's interesting how little they're changing, really. Nothing groundbreaking in the drivetrain at all and to my eye the interior and exterior styling doesn't really look better, just different. I think gasoline-engine cars have largely become a mature commodity in the past 15 years or so. It's beginning to resemble the aircraft industry where most of the "innovation" is in updating the cockpit.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:37 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I love my 100% keyless system. I never have to take my key fob out of my pocket.

Can cause problems if the car lets you drive off without the keys. Or with the keys on the roof. I think possibly the new car has better detection of where exactly the key is, but haven't tested if those scenarios can still occur.

I can confirm that the car knows where the key fob is. Why would keys ever be on the roof?

Ventilated seats are a godsend in the South during the sweltering summer weather. I don't get as much use out of the heated seats as northern folks do, but they're still nice during the 2 weeks of winter we get.

Backup camera is really great, too. I didn't think I'd like it as much as I do, but it has a wide angle lens, which gives a better view when parked next to a SUV or minivan.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:39 AM on December 21, 2016

Best answer: Oh, and about navigation: one thing to remember about a car with GPS is that sooner or later that GPS will need to be upgraded (new streets get added, old ones rerouted/removed/renamed, that sort of thing), and the dealer isn't going to give you that upgrade for free --- one of my sisters just had to upgrade her car's navigation, and she said it cost $300. Might not matter to you, but it makes me glad I didn't get navigation in my new car!

Oh, and all new cars have daytime running lights; just remember they aren't your regular headlights, nor does that mean your taillights are on. (There are cars with automatic head/tail lights, but that's different from daytime running lights.)
posted by easily confused at 6:39 AM on December 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My husband's Renegade has heated steering and I have considered stealing it because of this. I will not go without heated seats ever again, but heated steering? *swoon*

Nthing blind spot monitoring/rear camera.

I might be in the market soon and will try to avoid built-in Nav if possible. It's immediately out of date, costs $2000 or more, and then to get an update is I think about $150 per year.
posted by getawaysticks at 6:44 AM on December 21, 2016

Best answer: In our Honda Fit, the fold-flat rear seats are SO UNBELIEVABLY USEFUL. Not necessarily a tech innovation, but if you're planning on going to IKEA any time in the next several years they're definitely worth seeking out.
posted by saladin at 6:45 AM on December 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

First of all, things that were luxury even 10 years ago are all standard now, which is nice. So pretty much everything people have listed can be had as standard features, unless you are intentionally seeking out a very-base-entry-model of something.

For me, the neatest thing has been remote start on a 4cyl engine. Years ago, remote start was a silly gimmick because the engine and car wouldn't actually warm up until you put the car into drive and put drag on it. BUT, with a small engine, you can turn on remote start, and within 10 minutes the car is actually warm and operates a lot better; on larger engines, it takes a lot longer. I, personally, have been amazed. I use my remote start year-round to get the dew off the windshield in the early mornings, even when it isn't cold.

Oh, and the USB port for my iPod is nice--the controls for the iPod show up on the radio's screen, which is very nice.
posted by TinWhistle at 6:47 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Aux inputs are good to have and all, but if you don't do things correctly you'll get an obnoxious pop in the speakers, and you have to plug it in every time. With Bluetooth audio you don't even have to take your phone out of your pocket.

Count me in for the heated seat cult, too. Consider that heat by contact is much more effective at warming you up than just blowing hot air at your face.
posted by neckro23 at 6:48 AM on December 21, 2016

Yeah, if you live in a cold place, heated seats and remote start are wonderful.

Ability to plug into a wall and then run without gas for the first 30-40 miles (90% or more of all my driving).
posted by juliapangolin at 6:55 AM on December 21, 2016

I love heated seats so much. I also have a heated steering wheel which is something I will never go back from, but I'm further north and have hand problems.

Keyless entry that automatically locks if the car is off and the key is not in the car is great. Bluetooth, yes, but honestly I like having all the options -- usb/aux/bluetooth -- and when I was looking at 2012 cars they pretty much all had them. You want to have a lot of the controls for this on your steering wheel.

If you get a car with nav, find out how the maps get updated and how much it will cost you. There are companies where it costs many hundreds of dollars: do not buy a car from them.

I like my backup camera but in a small car I don't find I need it that much. I do like having a button that puts my side mirrors in when I am parked somewhere narrow.

My car also automatically turns off all the lights, including interior lights, when it locks or -- at some point, anyhow. This is a nice feature also.
posted by jeather at 6:56 AM on December 21, 2016

Best answer: Just to note: you don't need to choose a car, especially a used car, based on bluetooth or remote starter. You can easily have a remote starter added to any automatic transmission car. Likewise, you can get bluetooth in a car that doesn't have it just by having a new bluetooth-capable stereo put in (note: you might lose steering wheel audio controls if you have them).

Super awesome features:

*Ass warmers
*Automatic lights (except the ones in our Mazda3 don't sense rain or link with the wipers so I have to put them on manually LIKE AN ANIMAL)
*Keyless entry and pushbutton start; the new Kia has this and IT IS THE BEST THING. I don't even use a purse but this is definitely a NO LOOKING BACK kinda thing.

Just kinda okay:
*Automatic wipers. At least the ones in the Mazda are pretty half-assed and I end up manually fiddling with them a lot.

Either really great or kinda useless depending on what you're doing with the car: The new Kia minivan has a feature where if you stand by the liftgate with the fob in your pocket, the liftgate opens. This is great for biscotti wrangling dogs in and out of the minivan, but could be irrelevant. Different manufacturers have similar no-hands features for their minivan/suv liftgates.

Don't have but they seem like more money than they're worth:
*Built in GPS. They all seem to want a gazillion dollars to update the maps, like WAAAAY more than just buying a Garmin.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:56 AM on December 21, 2016

Best answer: We just bought a new vehicle this year and I too was astounded by the level of technology in cars these days after driving a '01 model into the ground. Remote start for sure, backup camera has been great, blind spot assist as well. The lane change warning is rather annoying, it goes off whenever the road jogs, which is often. Heated seats without question. HEATED WINDSHIELD WIPERS AND SIDE MIRRORS. To get the heated steering wheel would have required us to go up two full packages and into the land of features we most assuredly don't need, but ohhhhh, man, if we were rolling in money, I would have done it in a heartbeat. Fold-flat seats. No need for built-in navigation if you have a smartphone, we had it in a first-gen Prius and it was laughably out of date in just a few years and costs a fortune to upgrade. Bluetooth and USB ports, I love love love love love being able to charge my phone while I drive.

Enjoy! I felt weird about suddenly being completely awash in automotive luxury after so many years without, but it's quite true that all this stuff are standard features now.
posted by anderjen at 6:56 AM on December 21, 2016

The cars that can read texts to you as you drive can be handy. Cars that can display maps from your phone on the in-dash unit via Android Auto and Carplay are nice and solve the problem of built in maps going obsolete or not offering things like accurate traffic integration.

The higher end ones that will give you an audible warning if you turn on the turn signal and there's something in your blindspot or automatically brake if it detects something in front of you are great safety features but still pricey.
posted by Candleman at 7:06 AM on December 21, 2016

Best answer: I have a 2015 car, and since previously I drove a 1994 car it seems like a freakin' spaceship to me. The best parts:

-53 mpg. Get a hybrid. I fill up once every 6 weeks or so.
-Bluetooth connection to my phone, so I can listen to all my podcasts and check in with my parents while I'm driving without ever having to actually touch my phone
-You can leave the car on "daytime running lights", which are moderately bright headlights, at all times. They turn off when the car turns off. At night, none of the internal buttons light up until you turn on the headlights, which saves you from screwing up and driving without the headlights on. Also, it beeps REALLY OBVIOUSLY if you forget to turn off the bright headlights when leaving the car. I have never screwed this up in my new car.

It would be nice to have keyless entry, a backup camera and heated seats. I hear that's awesome.
posted by Cygnet at 7:08 AM on December 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

After upgrading from a 2003 car, I loved the following features:
- right blind spot camera activates when using turn signal. This is huge.
-backup camera WITH LINE GUIDES
- lane departure warning system
-front sensing warning system if I accelerate behind a known obstacle, such as a stationary car or car turning into my path
- Bluetooth!
- wireless phone charging
- voice recognition and hands-free (voice command everything)
- heated seats
- front and rear parking radar
posted by Atrahasis at 7:09 AM on December 21, 2016

+1 to backup camera and keyless entry. My car also beeps increasingly frantically if it senses objects nearby, which is great for me since I'm epically bad at parking without scraping things next to me.
posted by potrzebie at 7:14 AM on December 21, 2016

Interior lights!! Especially in the trunk / back. I'm always digging around for stuff at night and I can't see a darn thing without lights.
posted by Blake at 7:17 AM on December 21, 2016

I live in Wisconsin and heated seats aren't considered an option, they are a necessity. Heated rearview mirrors are where its at. Not having cake up with snow can be a lifesaver.

If you do a lot of long distance driving, distance monitoring in the cruise control is wonderful. It automatically slows when you get within a certain range of another car to match its speed. No more slow creep onto someone's tail. It makes cruise control viable when there is other traffic.
posted by rtimmel at 7:30 AM on December 21, 2016

Installing a Bluetooth stereo in my car was a game changer. I pretty much only listen to podcasts when I'm driving now.

Heated seats are nice if you live in a cold area.

Cup holders of the right size and in the right place.
posted by bondcliff at 7:34 AM on December 21, 2016

Oh this is a fun game!!

I love my back up camera! It has lines that show me where I am putting the car which is super helpful because I have an SUV. Also, parking sensors, both front and back. There's also this thing that shows me how close I am which is helpful cause the sensors beep well before I actually need to stop. So if they are beeping and I'm green, I know I can keep going. Yellow is go slowly and red means I probably should stop. That's good for me because they beep so much that without that, I would ignore them.

Also love having a USB plug built in. Don't have to worry about pairing for my music. Love Bluetooth.

Also like that the tail gate lets me set how high it opens. I am short and have a midsize SUV so without that, I was jumping to hit the close button.

This is small and dumb but I like that my car lets me change the interior light colors. I like blue so happy to not be stuck with orange.

I don't use Siri much but I do have a button on my steering wheel that lets me talk to her and I've had her read me my text messages while I'm driving so I don't have to look at my phone.

Radio controls on the steering wheel.

Keyless entry. Love it more now that we have a kid. So much easier not fumbling for keys. Even works with the tailgate.

Panoramic sunroof is awesome. So much nicer driving when it's bright and sunny in the car.

Love heated seats but REALLY love heated steering wheel. Definitely got more use when we lived up north but I still used it once or twice down in Florida when the mornings were cooler.
posted by polkadot at 7:34 AM on December 21, 2016

Best answer: Just FYI, backup cameras will be mandatory in the USA for any cars built after May 2018.

I love mine. If they have the lines that show you where the bumper will be, even better. They're a godsend for parallel parking.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:51 AM on December 21, 2016

We don't have a new car, but when we've rented, we really love the bluetooth and the back up camera. I've actually thought about adding a back up camera to our cars.
posted by needlegrrl at 7:58 AM on December 21, 2016

It's pretty common but I really like having climate control. I never have to touch the controls winter or summer unless I need to push the defrost button, it just keeps the car at 72 on my side and 75 on hers and it's one less thing to futz with.

This might go without saying but with this or anything else mentioned above be sure to really check it out on the test drive, lots of cars have irritating and/or passive aggressive systems that require far too many clicks to change a temperature or station or unlock a door or automatically pair a phone. I prefer physical knobs for common things but whatever your preference just be sure to use these features on the test drive.
posted by ftm at 8:00 AM on December 21, 2016

All mine have been said before: Bluetooth integrated into a non-shitty entertainment system, backup camera with guide lines that match the direction you're headed (not just straight back), heated seats.
posted by cgg at 8:00 AM on December 21, 2016

Best answer: Oh, yes, heated seats. If you're lucky, the heated seats come as part of a cold-weather package that includes heated mirrors and a heated wiper tray. My 2001 VW has all three, and it makes winter driving a lot more tolerable.

Sunroof/moonroof. Preferably a moonroof (those are the glass ones that slide back into the roof) I've had four cars with moon roofs and find them a must-have luxury, especially on warm summer days.

Anti-lock brakes and traction control.

More and more, I'm convinced that my next car will have all-wheel drive.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:00 AM on December 21, 2016

A feature you might want to avoid is stop/start.
posted by H21 at 8:04 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh man, all wheel drive. I have an older car, so don't have any of this fancy stuff. I enjoy having all those other things when I'm driving someone else's car, or renting one, but AWD is the only thing the lack of which ever causes me to cuss out my car.

It isn't used as often as a backup camera or heated seats, but when you need it, you really need it.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:07 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I drive pre-2000 cars until a couple of months ago, and to be honest, most of the new tech seems superfluous. Like, it's fun to have, but you don't *need* it. I know, because I was able to drive for twenty years without it. When I'd rent cars, I wouldn't even use most of the features, because hey, I'm a real man and get off my lawn and all that. I still don't really care for most of the stuff I have in my new car, but there are some things that are nice to have.

First, everybody else has already said backup camera, but it's really surprising how great it is. It seems like another superfluous add-on, because hey I already have a rear view mirror and the ability to turn my head. But it's a real upgrade. It, and not more basic things like, oh, the ability of the ignition to turn over in cold weather, or the non-rippedness of the upholstery, is my favorite feature of my new car.

The other thing I like is the ability to hook my phone up to the audio system. I have all three options, but whether you go with Bluetooth, aux, or USB, it doesn't really matter. The important thing is that you can listen to stuff on your phone through your car speakers. I live in a city with lousy radio options, and I've given up owning CDs in favor of streaming, so non-phone audio is pretty crap. I just dealt with it before because there was nothing I could do. But now I have a whole world of podcasts and Spotify playlists to listen to as I drive. It's mind-blowing.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:09 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I like my heated seats and would kill for a heated steering wheel. Also in the snow theme, I miss the heated mirrors and windshieild wipers I had on my old Subaru much more than I thought I would.
posted by sarajane at 8:16 AM on December 21, 2016

A feature you might want to avoid is stop/start.

I've had that on two cars (2011 diesel and 2016 hybrid) and had no problems with it at all. The engine would start the instant my foot touched the clutch or accelerator and there was no delay in pulling away. I don't get why that guy got so wound up about it. Yeah, you can feel the engine start. Who cares?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:24 AM on December 21, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I love my 'active driving display' behind the steering wheel, especially love that the sat nav talks to it and it tells me where to go without looking over to the centre console.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:25 AM on December 21, 2016

Also 2nding endsofinvention - my engine starts again the second my foot moves away from the brake pedal. Complete non issue but something you may want to pay attention to on a test drive if you are worried about it.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:29 AM on December 21, 2016

I do not know which cars come with this as an option, but there are cars that come with refrigerator/cooler center consoles. I want that.

Obviously the fridge doesn't run when the car isn't running, but it's insulated so at the very least I could stash my Driving Diet Coke in there when I go into the grocery store or whatever and not have it be hot when I come back out. Also maybe I could keep a lip balm in there.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:30 AM on December 21, 2016

Backup camera, rear windshield wipers, and heating mirrors.
posted by corb at 8:51 AM on December 21, 2016

Heated seats! Blind spot indicator! Remote start! All the things!
posted by katypickle at 9:05 AM on December 21, 2016

Best answer: I love my fob that doesn't have a key, my backup camera is honestly the best thing that's happened in my lifetime driving, and I love the rear windshield wiper a lot.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 9:17 AM on December 21, 2016

Best answer: From a safety perspective, I've heard electronic stability control described as the greatest car safety innovation since the seat belt. I drive a 2007 model without this feature and I am looking forward to upgrading to a car that has it.
posted by cheapskatebay at 9:25 AM on December 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Apple CarPlay (or Android Auto) is great to have, although the lack of it wouldn't be a deal-breaker. CarPlay actually uses a lightning cable to connect, but it allows you to access your iPhone-specific stuff. For example, my new car (Kia Soul) has built in navigation and voice commands, but when I plug in my iPhone, Siri becomes the voice command system, and I can stream my Apple Music with voice commands ("play the album twelvefour") and use Apple Maps for navigation. (Android Auto uses Google Maps, which is even better.) It will also read incoming text messages, and supports numerous other apps, such as Pandora and some podcast streaming apps. Of course phone calls can be made via CarPlay just as they can through bluetooth.

When I bought my car last month, CarPlay and Android Auto were not installed, but I found that I could run a firmware update and install it, and it's been great. It's worth looking into.

As other have said, heated seats are great, as is a heated steering wheel, and remote start, especially here in Montana. The backup camera is great to have also.

My Soul also came with a bunch of superfluous stuff that I enjoy having now that I have it, but wouldn't necessarily put on my deal-breaker list (glowing speakers, footwell and cupholder lighting, etc.) On the other hand, it also included a couple things that seemed superfluous, but now I really, really like. The panoramic sunroof makes the car seem so spacious and airy, and the "puddle lights" are very useful when getting in and out of the car in the dark in sloppy weather.
posted by The Deej at 9:31 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

- Backup camera (as everyone else has said)
- Proximity detectors that beep when you get to close to something. Great for tight parking spots.
- Blind spot detectors
- When I was test driving cars last year, I was amazed by Nissan's bird's-eye-view feature. It blew away even the much more expensive luxury brand competition.
- Seat adjustment memory is fantastic if you have drivers of different sizes. You can restore your personal settings with the touch of a button.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:34 AM on December 21, 2016

Best answer: Tire pressure indicators are A+ wizardry. ABS/traction control is also nice.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 9:38 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Make sure you test out the media console/climate controls on a test drive. I've been in some newer cars that throw way too many things onto a touchscreen in the center console and make things like adjusting the heat or radio/media something you have to look away from the road to do.
posted by Ferreous at 10:15 AM on December 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

My 2001 Pontiac Aztek had a Head's Up Display, which projected certain information (speed, radio station & volume) onto the windshield, so you never had to look away from the road. I really, really loved that feature, and I rarely see it (and 50+ comments in, no one has mentioned it).
posted by China Grover at 10:33 AM on December 21, 2016

Have 1994 Mazda Protege LX and 2015 Mazda 3 iGrand Touring.

The Protege has the best visibility of any car I have driven, and a wonderfully small turning radius.

Due to more safety requirements, the visibility for the Mazda3 is so-so (wider posts, etc.), so the blind spot monitors and the backup camera are the most critical features. My trim package doesn't have rain-sensing wipers, so no issues there.

Because of a tendency to motion sickness, the heated seats are wonderful - the air in the car can be cool, while the seat is warming you up.

The GPS updates for this car are free for 3 years. You cannot use the touch screen while driving - the steering wheel has some control buttons, and the center console buttons/knobs are easy to use without getting distracted.

P.S. The two non-negotiable features we wanted were the back-up camera and the heated seats. Turns out the blind spot monitors are excellent.
posted by Altomentis at 12:16 PM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've rented a lot of brand new cars. The biggest ones are:

* As mentioned, bluetooth and remote phone control. Or if the car has it, carplay/android auto. The first time i launched siri from the steering wheel button it felt like star trek. Some cars even display the previous/next and current song in the gauges(!) which is super awesome for skipping through playlists/podcasts/etc

* "Eco"/other mileage-centric computer controlled modes that ease up on the throttle and shifting unless you utterly floor it. It makes driving a lot smoother without having to think about it and saves gas.

* Similarly, and as mentioned above, stability control is amazing. It feels like that driving assist mode in racing games or something. If you suddenly have to turn hard in the rain because of someone drifting into your lane or something it's an instantly noticeable gigantic difference. It just feels massively safer, and is. This is amazing if you live somewhere that gets a lot of rain.

* Literally just how much quieter new cars are. Even the most basic Hyundai is like as quiet as an older BMW or mercedes now. It always blows my mind. Less road noise, less everything

* Similarly, every new car i've driven has SUCH tight steering compared to older cars. Even nice or "sporty" older cars barring actual sports/performance cars. Even an 05 feels like mush compared to a new car. I've noticed throttle response is greatly improved even on like a bargain basement kia.

* Basic cars have MUCH nicer seats now. The Sonata i rented last year was like a freaking s class compared to my mid 2000s car.

* I have yet to try a new car that doesn't have way more headroom, as someone whose tall... this rules.

Downsides, though:

* Most cars have stupid impossible to use without looking at them climate controls now. Especially if the touch screen handles them. The exception seems to be purposely "retro" interior cars like minis

* Anything you cant do with the steering controls on the stereo basically requires being pulled over or stopped at a light for the same reasons

* All new cars seem to take way larger, lower profile tires that cost WAY more. Even pretty basic cars. "GL" type models always have big alloys with thin $$$ tires now. Even if it's like, a wagon.
posted by emptythought at 1:45 PM on December 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Auto-dimming rearview mirror. This, along with automatic headlights, is one of my favorite un-notice-able things in new cars. (I have an '08, when Bluetooth was first becoming available in cars.) Never having to fiddle with the rearview mirror in the dark when the cars behind you have too-bright of headlights is SO NICE.

This is, of course, in addition to remote start, heated seats, moon roof, as mentioned above.
posted by jillithd at 2:30 PM on December 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

* hybrid. Everything else drives like a terrible
* reversing camera

I'm very meh about heated seats, and I do live somewhere fairly cold. While Bluetooth is quite wonderful, on 2015 Priuses at least, it's utter shit controls for Android.
posted by scruss at 2:36 PM on December 21, 2016

I'll join the bandwagon with backup camera. Blind-spot monitoring is nice, but also (on my car, a 2016 Mazda 3) necessary, because the outward visibility is pretty bad. My car also has an alert for cross traffic when backing up, which has saved my bacon.

The entertainment features are nice enough, but I regret not having Apple's CarPlay in my car.

There are a lot of little conveniences that my previous '02-vintage car did not have—automatic headlights and wipers, the car automatically unlocks itself and turns on the cabin lights when you kill the engine (this makes me disproportionately happy). I really like the fact that I never need to take the car key out of my pocket: the car senses when the fob is near, and i can unlock it by pushing a button on the door, and start it with the starter button on the dash. I can lock the car by just walking away. I wish my house were as convenient.
posted by adamrice at 4:15 PM on December 21, 2016

I feel like you might have asked about car seats if you had children or any plans at all about having ditto in recent years, but, the biggest wow for me was possibly not heated seats (three temperature settings!) or blind spot indicator lights (why, I wondered, did they keep going off when I took it for a test drive on the freeway when there was no car there? but of course there WAS a car there), stuff like cruise control and stereo whatnot built in to the steering wheel, but, but

built-in booster seats

My kid and I were so thrilled to be free of the dreaded, back-breaking buckling hassle, and, I trust Volvo's OEM booster more than the stupid-expensive "I pretend to fit every car! I'm cheap plastic and you have to replace me if somebody sneezes on your car!" thing I had before. Just throwing it out there for others who might be reading this with a baby/toddler and an eye on a new car. Also terrific to have two even if you only have the one kid yourself; it makes "Sure, we can take Suzie to the beach with us" a lot easier. I probably would've thrilled to them even if I just had a niece or nephew or a lot of friends with booster-age kids, because putting somebody else's car seat in and out of your car can be a bit of a PITA.
posted by kmennie at 4:15 PM on December 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Manual transmission and a full-size spare.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 5:50 PM on December 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Backup camera. I'm hoping to never have to drive without one again.
Some way to hook your phone to the car stereo. I interchangeably use Bluetooth and USB. You'll also want some way to charge your phone while driving- the USB port covers that.
Tire pressure sensors. No more having to fuss with a tire gauge (or, for someone like me, knowing I should use a tire gauge and feeling guilty about not doing it).
Climate control.
A non-wimpy fan. My old Honda Civic had a wimpy fan, so it was hard to really get cool quickly in hot weather.
Cruise control that can detect a car ahead of you and slow down so you stay behind them. (I'm not sure what this is called) No more having to keep turning cruise control on and off when there's traffic.
Power adjustments for the driver's seat position and the side view mirrors.
Side view mirrors that you can fold in, ideally a power control that lets you do that without having to open the window (I can't do that on my car and I wish I could).
I wasn't planning to get a rear view mirror with compass directions shown on it, but now I'm glad I did.
Mr Neville is not a terribly confident driver, and he likes the lane departure warnings and blind spot detection.
The warning when something nearby is moving when you're backing up is nice in theory, but the one on my 15 Outback seems to beep any time someone in the same zip code is moving, which makes it somewhat less useful than you might think it would be.
posted by Anne Neville at 6:10 PM on December 21, 2016

Stuff I really like about my 2014 Corolla:
  • Backup camera with positioning guides - so nice to be able to see the blind spots behind me while backing up.
  • Climate control - set a temperature, press the "auto" button, and let the car figure out the best way to get you comfy. I only ever fiddle with it if I need the defroster on.
  • Bluetooth - I download some playlists to my phone and it automatically starts playing them as soon as my phone connects to the vehicle. The hands-free stuff is nice too, though I don't often take calls in my car.
  • Keyless entry and trunk operation - I like having a fob to unlock and lock the car (no more forgetting keys in the ignition when locking), though I'm still a bit hesitant about going completely keyless for the ignition; I know there have been incidents where systems like this have been hacked recently and I don't trust automakers to have cleaned up house here yet.
  • Single touch automatic window for the driver - only have to press the button once to roll up or down the window all the way.
  • Automatic door lock/lights-off - if I forget to lock my car or leave my lights on when I leave, it locks the car and shuts off the lights itself after about 15 minutes.
Stuff I'd like to get whenever I'm in the market for a new car:
  • Android-Auto-capable infotainment system - built-in satnav is for chumps; I'd much rather offload that functionality onto my phone, but use the car display to control it.
  • Turn indicators on the wing mirrors
  • Camera/sensor assistance for turns and lane changes

posted by Aleyn at 6:39 PM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Backup cameras are MANDATORY on all cars starting May 2018, and that's why you are starting to see them at least be AVAILABLE as options on all models. It's only 17 months until they become standard, so the carmakers have been working on the integration for years now.

So I'd expect to see that feature available on any new car you look at, certainly as an option, and possibly standard. So that's not much of a differentiator.

Adaptive Cruise Control is THE killer feature for me. During highway cruise at a set speed, the car detects slower traffic approaching in front of you and automatically slows down to match, then speeds up when they do (or the blockage clears). This seemed a little silly at first, but OMIGOD the first time I drove a car without it, after having it, dear lord give me my ACC back!

Collision sensors (while parking) are really nice.

Awwww yeah, heated seats. Some cars (Kia) even have cooled seats (actually just ventilated, but same effect). Your climate will dictate which is more valuable to you.

Personally I hate to have important climate controls (and volume) be on a touch surface. Look for those to be PHYSICAL CONTROLS (like a knob) that you can find with your fingers without taking your eyes off the road more than once. OMIGOD you millennials and your touch screens, you'll be the death of UX engineers everywhere (and fellow road travelers).

Do any new cars NOT come with Bluetooth integration now? Ditto for automatic headlights.

May I suggest a BMW i3? It's a great car :)
posted by intermod at 6:57 PM on December 21, 2016

I am not as enamored of a lot of the tech features as others, they mostly seem like "things that are too complicated and will break and be expensive to fix". But I'd say since so much of that stuff is so integrated now that you really try out the systems. I've rented cars where I decided I would never buy that car because the cockpit systems were so complicated and bad, and others that were great.

If possible rent the car you're thinking about buying.
posted by bongo_x at 7:30 PM on December 21, 2016

Instant gas mileage readout. I'm a much more reasonable driver having that feedback.

Adaptive cruise that'll slow you down if the car in front of you slows.

Physical controls for temperature and fans. I can't be mucking about with a touch screen for that.
posted by mgar at 8:02 PM on December 21, 2016

Auto-dimming rearview mirror. This, along with automatic headlights, is one of my favorite un-notice-able things in new cars. (I have an '08, when Bluetooth was first becoming available in cars.) Never having to fiddle with the rearview mirror in the dark when the cars behind you have too-bright of headlights is SO NICE.

I had forgotten about this, and maybe it is totally standard by now, but I love this feature so much.

I had a work vehicle with AC built into the seats, which sounds cheesy but was great on a 105F day. Heated mirrors are a big safety item and it bothers me that my current vehicle does not have them.

But the issue several people have raised about good and bad user interfaces is true -- some cars I rent have totally terrible interfaces, where making a simple change to the climate or radio systems is an ordeal, and some are great. The next time I am car shopping, this will be a major evaluation point.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:22 PM on December 21, 2016

Backup cameras are required by law in all new US passenger cars, so it's not an option and everyone telling you that you want it is irrelevant. You're getting it.

Similarly I don't think any new cars lack Bluetooth. It's expected now.

Remember that every single tech feature is one more thing to go wrong. And it will. I have all this stuff too (also a Mazda 3) but understand that if you get even a light smack on your rear bumper can do $800 worth of damage to the blind spot sensors in addition to requiring a new bumper, turning a minor fender bender into a 2000 dollar plus repair.

Hasn't happened to me yet but Oy.

Insurance will give discounts for some of this tech but I just read an article saying State Farm
and other insurers are now charging more because these features drive up the cost of minor accidents.

Get the tech you need and want but don't get everything just because you can.

I do love my keyless entry system.

You couldn't pay me to have remote start. Modern engines do not need to warm up. Remote start if you have an attached garage is a downright hazard and has killed people from CO poisoning.

If you want to warm yourself up fast get heated seats. Your car does not need it.
posted by spitbull at 8:41 PM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also the cruise control that maintains following distance is usually called "adaptive cruise control."
posted by spitbull at 8:45 PM on December 21, 2016

If the OP isn't in the US or isn't buying a new car (she is looking at model year 2015, so a used car is not totally off the table), she might end up with one without a backup camera. I wouldn't recommend that, because backup cameras are awesome.
posted by Anne Neville at 7:18 AM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Modern engines do not need to warm up.

BWahahahahaha from when it was below 0F for days last week and I want to be able to sit in my car and be warm relatively soon.

Remember that every single tech feature is one more thing to go wrong. And it will. I have all this stuff too (also a Mazda 3) but understand that if you get even a light smack on your rear bumper can do $800 worth of damage to the blind spot sensors in addition to requiring a new bumper, turning a minor fender bender into a 2000 dollar plus repair.

This has been true of my rain-sensing windshield. I get a crack in a windshield and the initial estimate is ~$100 to replace, until they learn it is a rain-sensing windshield, then it is a couple hundred more. I've had my car for 8 years and had to replace the windshield at least 3 times. Insurance companies don't like to pay for this and do like to increase your insurance cost the next time your insurance is up for renewal.

I do like to have the temperature displayed in my car. It has the option of being the inside or the outside temp, which is really handy and fun to watch on long road trips.
posted by jillithd at 7:25 AM on December 22, 2016

Response by poster: Thank you all, this is really great info. Much of this may be included in most new cars but is new to me, so on my list are: backup camera, heated seats, heated steering wheel, bluetooth+aux, sunroof/moonroof, tire pressure monitoring, rear wipers, EBS, ABS/traction control, and NO built-in nav.

If anyone's curious, here's how many times each feature was mentioned. (once per comment, because sometimes it was said more than once when talking about its benefits)
posted by rachaelfaith at 8:18 AM on December 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

NO built-in nav.

Well... I wouldn't go that far. Your phone navigation, whether Apple Maps or Google, is superior to the built-in system. BUT, having built-in nav means you get a nice sized built-in screen for it, which then means when you use your phone for navigation, it will display on that nice big screen instead of the tiny phone screen.
posted by The Deej at 10:00 AM on December 22, 2016

I would say worry about the things that are really important to you, otherwise get the most reliable car with a system that doesn't suck and don't get distracted by the bells and whistles.

You might want to check out repair costs on different vehicles too, that can really vary.
posted by bongo_x at 12:31 PM on December 22, 2016

I have built in Nav running alongside Waze on long trips. The two views are very useful, since Waze focuses on road conditions and my built in can show me what's around me locally for gas stations and services or points of interest. That said I could live without the built in Nav except there's no way to not buy it if you want the higher end phone integration on my car, although maybe this is changing.

Also the built in Nav can navigate by dead reckoning and without a cell connection. I do drive in very rural places sometimes.

Waze has become indispensable for urban driving in my opinion. I don't know how we drove without it and I've been a big city driver for 31 years. So good phone connectivity is a no brainer, and either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto or both seem vital for future-proofing now. Mazda Connect (and Toyota) still don't offer *either* on any models (if you're a bit nuts you can hack it for android auto) although many believe CarPlay is coming on Mazda soon. I would not buy a car without it, or I'd plan on a good aftermarket system (and make my car choice based on that -- as cars get more computerized a lot of models are a pain in the ass to put aftermarket gear into if you even can without being a nerd-grade boy racer hacker willing to tolerate butchery of a perfectly nice car (hello again Mazda mod community!)

Like tech companies, auto manufacturers are competing for the walled garden of your car as a market. It's like the old PC wars except with heavy industry players. Your car and phone will merge into a single operating system (and your house) -- if you believe the futurists in these industries anyway.

The safety features in new cars are amazingly good. There is alresdy good evidence that blind spot and lane departure and adaptive cruise and collision avoidance are saving actual lives. They are the front edge of automation of driving, coming much faster now with network effects and associated data for the algorithms.

When you buy a newish car you're investing in that shift. It's easy to guess wrong. Some say your best bet is to buy the most stripped down and simple models and trim levels of major successful cars with millions of units rolling and wait out the aftermarket. Generally within 2-3 years of a new model introduction, customized aftermarket solutions start to appear:

Yeah a sensor-laden front windshield can run you a grand. On the other hand you don't have to remember to turn on your wipers and you might avoid hitting that truck that just stopped for a deer in the highway.

The single best basic investment the average driver can make in the safety and performance of any car remains putting better than stock quality tires on it, and winter tires when appropriate. Don't forget that when calculating costs and benefits.
posted by spitbull at 12:52 PM on December 22, 2016

BWahahahahaha from when it was below 0F for days last week and I want to be able to sit in my car and be warm

Right this is warming YOU up. Which you're using gasoline very inefficiently to do. Which is why heated seats rock, and remote start is silly unless you live in a place cold enough for a block heater anyway. To reiterate, the vast majority of modern cars need only a few seconds of running to be ready to roll.

if you *regulalry* face below zero temps you should install a block heater.
posted by spitbull at 5:29 AM on December 23, 2016

On my Prius the built in nav is in the same package that gets you the backup camera, so I ended up with nav although I didn't care about it. So it might not make sense to rule out cars just because of that.
posted by beandip at 3:33 PM on December 23, 2016

Homelink or some other integrated button for opening the garage door. Eliminates clipping the ugly garage door opener to the visor.

OnStar capability if you want it for security and help in an emergency.
posted by Joleta at 7:51 PM on December 24, 2016

Defrosters on the side view mirrors.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:40 PM on December 29, 2016

Brake hold, electronic parking brake, and capless fuel; cannot emphasize enough how awesome these features are. The brake hold I use daily, the electronic parking brake felt weird to use instead of the hand brake and now it's second nature; the capless fuel system is sheer heaven, cannot believe all car manufacturers don't go this way.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 11:19 PM on November 3, 2017

Response by poster: If anyone does come back to see this in the future, I ended up with a car that has basically every feature I wanted. I purchased a 2018 Toyota Camry XSE (V6) a month after it came out, and it's great.

Things that were just as good as I expected: Heated seats! Backup camera, birds' eye view camera, dimming mirrors, keyless entry, remote start, Bluetooth.

Things I didn't realize how great they were: STEERING WHEEL CONTROLS. Seriously, I cycle through all my music that way and the volume control is great. Full length moonroof. HUD! I adore my HUD.

Things that are fine but I don't use them much: Built-in nav (not great), wireless phone charging.

Things I didn't get but kinda wish I had: Heated steering wheel, Android Auto (Toyota doesn't use it)
posted by rachaelfaith at 8:37 AM on November 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

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