Eight New-Car Features You Don't Need
It had to happensomebody was bound to invent a car that can navigate better than a human. But the Lexus LS 460, which can parallel park on its own, is only for a select fewthose willing to pay $65,000 to compensate for their deficiencies behind the wheel.
Most drivers would rather spend a few hours practicing in the parking lot and save the money for a down payment on a house or a year of college tuition. But even among midpriced cars these days, there's a dizzying menu of gizmos that can open and close the doors for you, create multiple environmental zones, keep your kids entertained (and silent), and even massage your back. By the time you've compiled your wish list, however, chances are you've added $5,000 or even $10,000 to the price of a car that seemed like a good deal when you were just looking at the list price.
Since I test-drive dozens of new cars each year, people often ask if this or that feature is worth paying for. The answer, of course, depends on your budget. Some options, like flexible seating configurations or hidden storage nooks, provide lots of functionality for multitasking drivers and their families. But there are just as many features you'll never miss if you go without themeven though manufacturers and salespeople might tell you it's the latest must-have technology.
Not all of these features are offered a la cartethey're often bundled into packages, so you can't customize as specifically as you'd like. But if you eliminate a few unnecessary features, you may be able to bypass an entire $3,000 or $4,000 options package, or step down a whole trim line, and spend the money on better options or aftermarket productsor just keep the cash in your savings. Some purists will argue with these choices, of course, and there are buyers who simply want the most loaded model they can get. But most car buyers can do without the following features and never know the difference:
Automatic stick shift, also known by proprietary names like Autostick, Tiptronic, Steptronic, or Shiftronic. This allows you to shift gears without having to press a clutch, usually by pushing the gearshift up or down, or tapping paddles or buttons on the steering wheel.
Why you should skip it: Automatic shifting is meant to convey a sporty sensation to drivers who don't know how to drive a manual transmission, or don't want to. But it's more of a nuisance than a thrill, unless you're driving a true sports machine, with Formula One-style paddles, like the Mercedes SLK or the BMW M5 On most other cars, people just end up leaving it in drive. Ho-hum.
Cost savings: $1,000 or more
Instead: Shop for a car with a continuously variable transmission, or CVT. This new technology increases engine speed without shifting from gear to gear. What drivers notice is a smoother ride and slightly better gas mileage.
All-wheel drive. Sends power to all four wheels, instead of just the front or the rear axles.