The features that are available in cars have changed majorly over the decades. It used to be that things like seat belts, sound systems, and even air conditioning were considered optional features that had to be paid for. Over time, they became standard and accepted as necessary features for cars. With technology evolving constantly, cars manufacturers have had to change with the times. Thus, what was once considered merely optional has become standard features for many cars.
Likewise, a few standard features have been done away with thanks to improvements in engines, controls, and materials. The changes are great to enjoy and a major reason why car companies are always working hard to make sure a driver has the best features at hand. Car advertisements have increasingly become about electronic doodads rather than engine performance—and consumers are increasingly attracted to connectivity and safety systems more than horsepower and torque.
However, it’s become clear that some “standard” features aren’t just unnecessary today but can be downright useless. Amazingly, car manufacturers can’t grasp how some items just aren’t used by drivers and thus, continue to make them as features on their cars. Meanwhile, scores of optional features have become must-haves for drivers, to the point they’re willing to shell out big bucks to get them. Here are 10 optional features that are so crucial they should become standard and 10 standard features that are pretty much useless.
20 OPTIONAL: Bluetooth Connectivity
This used to be just a bonus but is now turning into more of a necessity. Several states have passed laws hoping to cut down on the use of phones by drivers because of the distraction factor. Thus, having a Bluetooth is a great thing for the driver. The early versions were rough and it could be patchy getting the right signal through. Thankfully, improvements have been made to the point that many Bluetooth systems are better in cars than at home. The connectivity is quite easy to use and allows the driver to have a conversation without the usual issues of handling their phone, dropping it, or being too distracted.
19 STANDARD: Visor Mirror With Sunglasses Holder
This is one of those standard features that just feels like too much of a throwback to the past. A visor is one thing, as it can be too much of a distraction, even more so than it actually does the job of blocking out the sun. Having a mirror in the visor is just sillier these days, given how it’s become more vital for drivers to pay attention to the road. And that’s not to mention cars that still have sunglasses holders with the visor or the dashboard. Most folks just prefer having their glasses on their head to drop down rather than use a holder. That cars still provide both of these features as standard is pretty much behind the times.
18 OPTIONAL: Navigational System
True, some might argue about this one, given that any smartphone can be used just as well. However, with the laws banning drivers from using phones as much on highways, a good onboard navigation system is a must-have option. They vary by their quality as well as in how much detail they can provide. Yet, it’s terrific to be able to use a screen to navigate the fastest route and tell you where you are. The better ones can alert drivers of traffic issues and construction that can delay things and therefore, make it easier to avoid problems. The better versions are more expensive but in today’s world, a top GPS system makes a drive much better.
17 STANDARD: Car Lighter
It’s still amazing that in 2019, cars are put on the market with a lighter among the items on the dashboard. Sure, it was needed once for folks wanting to light up or use it for some other minor heating issue. However, thanks to anti-smoking laws taking off, it’s not as necessary now. Also, there are plenty of tools that can be used to handle what the lighter used to do. It’s just a waste of space to have this little attachment to push in, warm up, and then remove to light up something. Keeping this a standard feature in cars is a really backward move for manufacturers—especially given that most people use the port for a charging cable, anyway.
16 OPTIONAL: Auto Play
Audio systems have changed a lot over time. They’ve gone from 8-tracks to cassettes to CDs. Today, most drivers don’t bother using the main audio systems of the car but rather utilize their phones. Car companies are finally waking up to this change and transforming their own audio systems. Many are now equipped for Sirius and other major radio stations. Also, several can boast the option of linking directly to such things as Apple and other phones to become mini-entertainment centers. It’s a great option to be able to just wave your phone or do a small link-up and then have everything you need to listen to set up instantly. It may cost more to get the right system but it's worth it for the right tunes.
15 STANDARD: SD Card Slot
As advanced as cars can be today, some manufacturers appear to be a few years behind in technology. The fact that numerous cars still have an SD card slot proves this fact. For a time, SD cards were used constantly for smartphones and other devices to carry data. Cars used them mostly for their radios and for connecting to phones, as well. The issue is that SD cards have fallen in popularity thanks to technological advances that make them pretty unnecessary. Most people don’t even use them, as phones have much better ways of holding data. For new cars to continue to use these as a standard feature is just silly.
14 OPTIONAL: Automatic Emergency Braking
This has become a rising optional feature for several new car models and it’s a great one. Thanks to advances in technology, a driver no longer has to be ultra-alert for any sudden obstacles, which can range from another car to an animal running onto the road. Instead, the car’s sensors are able to detect such an obstacle and will brake for it automatically. True, there can be the risk of a system that can react too well and jerk the driver about. However, the benefits outweigh that, as even a smart driver can appreciate not having to worry as much about being able to stop in time.
13 STANDARD: CD Player
Some drivers may still prefer being “old-school” and using CDs to listen to music. However, in today’s world, the vast majority of folks use other listening devices. Yet, somehow, many cars still come out with a CD player built in from the factory. True, they’ve finally given up on cassette players but CDs look to be going the way of the dodo, thanks to folks preferring online entertainment. A few newer models are smart enough to have their built-in wireless entertainment, which people prefer. Yet, it’s amazing that, in 2019, car companies still think wasting space on a CD player is a must-have feature for modern drivers.
12 OPTIONAL: Tire Pressure Monitor
Too often, drivers make the mistake of ignoring their tires until they realize they’re going flat. Keeping up the air pressure should be a must and yet it’s sometimes hard to tell if a tire is losing air or is actually fine. Putting in too much air can be just as damaging as too little, also. That’s why a pressure monitor is such a great option to use. It can keep a constant eye on the tires and let the driver know if it requires just a bit of air or is undergoing a slow leak. It can spare the driver the need for a sudden replacement and the hassle of a roadside tire change.
11 STANDARD: Electric Steering Adjustment
So many features nowadays are meant to make things easier for the driver and save them some effort. However, many drivers still prefer being “hands-on” with their driving. That includes the electric steering adjustment. The idea is to make for easier steering by having the car automatically shift the wheel to match what sensors say is the driver’s size. It then “locks” into the position it has determined should do the job well. The problem is that numerous drivers much prefer being able to adjust the wheel themselves as their personal likes are different than what the car's programming senses.
10 OPTIONAL:Multi-Zone Climate System
Whenever people go on a road trip, an argument inevitably breaks out over the car’s interior temperature. One person might be too hot and demand the AC be blasting away. Meanwhile, another feels too cold and wants the heat on—while another just wants to open the window. Thankfully, multi-zone climate systems are able to solve this problem. By putting up special vents—not just by the front seat but the rear, as well—every person in the car can have their section just as hot or cool as they’d want. It settles plenty of tiffs over the temperature and thus makes the entire drive much better, making this an option worth spending for.
9 STANDARD: AM Radio
For the most part, drivers prefer listening to music or podcasts when on the road. A few might go for news but music tends to dominate, which is why an AM radio option really isn’t needed anymore. AM happens to be less powerful a signal than FM, which means it’s harder to tune into at times. More importantly, the rise of podcasts and other listening options pretty much makes talk radio unnecessary for a drive. Most drivers will much prefer putting on their iPod or other listening device and getting what talk or news they need from that. Some might still prefer sticking to classic AM but that’s not enough to justify keeping this as a standard feature in brand new cars.
8 OPTIONAL: Temperature-Controlled Seats
It used to be that drivers and passengers would have to put up with poor seat temperatures. Whether handling seats very hot on a summer day or freezing buns in winter, it hurt a driving experience. Today, many cars offer the option of specialized temperature-controlled seats that can be made as hot or cool as the passengers want. It’s a fantastic option to make a drive more comfortable and can work in seconds. A few of the higher-end versions can be expensive and tricky to make them work, at least for some models. But it’s a great addition to bring instant comfort for a long drive in extreme temperatures.
7 STANDARD: Strange Cabin Lights
It’s okay that a car’s interior lights go on and off automatically when the driver exits the car. It’s another thing to have that switch that is used manually by the driver or passengers. There’s really little reason for a driver to have the interior light on during a night drive, as all their focus should be on the road. Also, most cars now have a smaller light for the passenger side rather than needing the one main light on the roof to turn on for everyone. It’s annoying to have to hit a switch to turn off lights that should be automatic whenever you leave the car. That new cars still have this weird feature is downright bizarre.
6 OPTIONAL: Surround View Cameras
Having a good view of the road ahead is always necessary for a driver. However, being able to see what’s around you has become more important, as well. While many cars have sensors for obstacles, some have the option of mini-cameras, not just for the rear but for the sides as well. It’s terrific that rather than craning your head around (which takes your eyes off what’s in front), the driver can glance at a screen and see video views of what’s behind or at the sides of the car. It can be a bit more expensive but it’s a useful option to maintain safety on the road.
5 STANDARD: Moisture-Sensing Windshield Wipers
On the one hand, this can seem a good idea. Having your wipers being able to handle any rain or snow is a must for a driver’s safety. However, the ones reacting to moisture are a bit much. A driver should be able to tell when the wipers are needed without some system telling them so. There’s also how many of these systems overreact and start wiping just for light mist or some other air issue. It can be very distracting to have the wipers going off for no obvious reason in perfect weather. It doesn’t seem that much of an added convenience to avoid having to hit one switch, as most drivers prefer deciding how the wipers work.
4 OPTIONAL: Blind Spot Warning System
The blind spot has been the bane of drivers ever since the first cars rolled out. No matter how skilled a driver may be, they can still literally run into problems thanks to that one little bit of background that the rearview mirrors can’t catch. It’s taken a while but many companies are finally offering a special warning system. It can be a loud beeping or just a voice but it’s always handy to know if there’s an issue the driver can’t see. Adding in cameras can also help but just the warning alone is an option many drivers feel is long overdue.
3 STANDARD: Keyless Starter
More and more cars are coming with the standard feature of not needing a key. It’s one thing to be able to use a fob to open up a door (which you then have to close by hand anyway). It’s another to push a button to start the car up. Having keys on you is needed for a driver, as it’s a good reminder of things. Several drivers have made the mistake of leaving their car running for hours on end while they’re indoors because they forgot to turn the engine off. Using keys would avoid that and while it’s risky to lose them, it outweighs the annoyance of getting the keyless starter working. It just seems like a needless addition.
2 OPTIONAL: Wi-Fi Hotspot
Today’s world is one where wireless technology dominates everything. We’ve gone from just cell phones to people needing mini-offices in their cars to handle communications. Thus, a wi-fi hotspot within the car is a great addition. Some can be more expensive than others, depending on the car's model and location. However, it’s terrific that, rather than try to find some local signal, the car itself can radiate its own wifi hotspot and allow the driver and passengers to connect online instantly. Some can run a pretty penny and the strength depends on which service you use. Yet for the current world, being able to get online and connected fast is a must for a driver.
1 STANDARD: Sunroofs
It’s an old joke but it’s still true: sunroofs are for people too cheap to buy a convertible. Some owners may enjoy them but really, the overhead roof doesn’t do that much to help the car out. Countless drivers have forgotten to close them when bad weather comes around, which can easily lead to a damaged interior. Also, just one slat on top doesn’t really make for an “open air” experience, and that's not to mention that it can often be an easy way of access for unwanted intrusions. As much as designers insist on putting the sunroof in, most drivers never use it because one small hole isn't enough to spark up a country drive.
Sources: Jalopnik, Edmunds, and Popular Mechanics.