Nine New Car Features You Don't Really Need

June 18, 2012

Pricing, financing, warranties, insurance--it's one hurdle after another to make it through the car shopping experience without paying a dime more than you must.

Sometimes, it's not the dealer or the bank that costs you extra money. It's you. By ordering optional features that don't add much to the driving experience--or worse, interfere with it--and don't hold their value over time, many car shoppers end up with a car more expensive than it should be, one that depreciates even more quickly the minute they sign the paperwork and leave the dealer lot. That's money that could go directly to paying off that new car, truck, or crossover sooner.

Wondering if you're spending too much? You might be, if you've ticked the boxes for these unnecessary features:

All-wheel drive--if you don't really need it. Some drivers in northern-tier states with regular sloppy weather and hilly unpaved roads will be well-served with all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, which can distribute power more evenly when traction is dicey. Still, each year, hundreds of thousands of shoppers who live in the south and the southwest ante up for those heavy, complex add-ons that consume more gas and more cash, for little to no added measure of utility or safety. In almost all cases, a front-drive vehicle with good mud-and-snow tires will do the trick.

Siri becomes voice-activated ignition key

Siri becomes voice-activated ignition key

Enlarge Photo

Expensive navigation systems. Technology is driving down the price of GPS in cars, but many drivers are already turning toward even less expensive solutions. Phone-based navigation is often cheaper; some safety-and-security systems like GM's OnStar and Ford's SYNC come with serviceable, turn-by-turn navigation that eliminates pricey hard-drive or disc-based databases and big LCD screens. Meanwhile, Apple's plan to integrate Siri voice controls in cars threatens to turn the whole in-car navigation market into a free-for-all, literally. Some in-house nav systems are inexpensive, like the latest ones from GM and Nissan. Before you spend a thousand and upward on a bundled nav system, consider more practical options--and what the future may hold.

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