New or used, there are certain things that every car should have beyond the basic expectations for reliability, safety and versatility. These are the creature comforts that make a car livable for the long-term, and many were costly extras or even non-existent just a few years ago. Now, you’ll find many of these listed as standard equipment.
If you’re considering buying a new or used car, the first step is to make sure that it meets your expectations in terms of size, fuel economy and safety. After that, check to see if it has the following must-have features.
If you live where the weather is cold at any given time of the year, few things are as welcome as a warm seat in a cold car. Some might say that remote start is a great option, but unless your windows are routinely covered in frost or ice, using remote start consumes fuel that can be saved by having heated seats. In most vehicles, heated seats warm up in two or three minutes after you start the car. Some infotainment systems, such as Chrysler’s Uconnect, allow you to set the heated seats and heated steering wheel to activate automatically with remote start or when the car is started.
Cooled seating is a bonus item that is another consideration. Ventilated seats that blow air on your back or pull it through the seat to keep you cool during warmer months.
Backup Camera / Parking Sensors
Although some might say that if you need a backup camera you shouldn’t be driving, the fact is, they are a boon when it comes to safety in crowded parking lots. A backup camera is also helpful when backing out of a garage or maneuvering in and out of pedestrian and vehicle traffic zones from a parking space.
Parking sensors, which usually activate when the car is traveling at low speeds or in reverse, can make getting in and out of tight spaces much easier. If you live or travel in areas that are crowded, a backup camera and parking sensors can be invaluable and a real bumper (and lawsuit) saver.
Using your cell phone while driving is a bad idea. We’ve all heard the accident statistics and found out (sometimes the hard way) that using your cell phone while driving is illegal in many areas. Yet our busy lives demand that we’re able to keep up communications. What if you’re fighting traffic to get to a meeting and the phone call is to let you know it’s cancelled? Or you’re on your way home when the school calls because your child is sick?
Hands-free systems, which usually use Bluetooth connectivity with your phone, are a great alternative to wearing a headset or otherwise using equipment you might forget. In most cars with a touch-screen infotainment system or center display (now almost a given in a newer car), your phone will pair with the system and display caller information. Many will even let you use voice commands to find phone book entries, make a call or send and receive text messages, which allows you to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.
Plugs and Outlets
From smartphones, to tablets and laptop computers, today’s world is festooned with gadgetry that needs to be charged. Most vehicles now have at least two or three 12-volt power ports. You know, the round ones we used to call cigarette lighters in less politically correct times. The lighters may be gone in all but a handful of expensive luxury cars, but the standardized 12-volt power outlet remains, and can be used to plug in everything from charging units to coffee mug warmers.
Like outlets in your house, the more the merrier in your car. Having the ability to plug a device directly into USB ports, especially those which are hidden in center armrest consoles and glove boxes, is another great thing. Why the ones in cubbies? Because then you can leave your music player or GPS unit out of sight and plugged in.
Adjustable Seating and Steering
These days, nearly all vehicles come with rearview mirrors and sideview mirrors that adjust. Likewise, seating is usually at least moderately adjustable as well. The steering wheel, though, isn’t always. Getting a comfortable driver’s position, be it permanently or temporarily, is a must. Sometimes, adjustments have to be made due to changes in your shoes (maybe you need more or less space with high heels, boots or sandals) and sometimes, the steering wheel needs to tilt or telescope so that you can find the best driving position.
Adjustable seating is very important and nearly all vehicles have at least four to six adjustments possible for the driver. A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, however, is still optional on some cars. Until you don’t have one, you have no idea how much a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel can help boost comfort in a car.