Should You Really Opt for In-Car Tech Upgrades?

By

Automotive Editor

Armaan Almeida was an Automotive Editor who produced buying guides and sneak previews, in addition to publishing daily news stories and tracking monthly deals, incentives and pricing trends from Toyota, Nissan and Lexus.

Follow On: Google+ | Website

, Automotive Editor - August 25, 2015

New cars are being filled-to-the-brim with slick new in-car tech, but most buyers don't end up using it.

As automakers continue to invest billions of dollars on new in-car technology, a new J.D. Power study suggests that at least 20 percent of new car owners never truly utilize all of that tech. That's a big waste of money, for both the manufacturer and car buyer. Which brings us to the question: should shoppers really spend their hard-earned dollars on upgrading to the next trim level or option package? The answer: it depends.

The Magic Number

As we reported earlier this year, car shoppers are willing to fork out around $1,499 for in-car technology features, a large portion of which is infotainment-based. If you're in the market for a new car, the question you have to answer is if you're really going to use the vehicle's system or your smartphone. It may sound easy, but it's kind of tricky. For some, most of the features included are worth the price premium while for cost-conscious consumers, it's simply not worth it. But for those that fall in-between, the decision is not as clear-cut. If you fall into this camp, re-evaluate your driving habits.

The key here is that the option to upgrade exists. Buyers aren't being forced into upgrading. Or are they? GM's new fleet of 2016 models will all feature even more in-car tech than the outgoing 2015 models. If you don't want all the bells & whistles, it might make sense for you to opt for a 2015 Chevrolet, Buick or GMC vehicle.

Most, But Not All

The report states that the 20 percent of new vehicle owners only use around half of the tech features found in their vehicles. The study took into account 33 different tech features, from built-in apps to mobile hotspot connectivity.

According to the study, the biggest waste was in-vehicle concierge services, which 43 percent of those surveyed stated that they never used. Next on the list was mobile routers (Wi-Fi connectivity) and automatic parking systems. Predictably, most of the discontinued usage was due to the the reliance on smartphones.

The Insurance Impact

The more tech your next car has, the more expensive it's going to cost to maintain and/or repair. Take for instance driver assistance features like self-parking or lane departure warning systems. If your vehicle gets into an accident, the sensors housed within the bumpers and side mirrors might have to get replaced, driving the cost of your repairs up. Insurance companies bear the brunt of the costs as claims soar. Should you select some of these tech upgrades, it might not be outside the realm of reason for your insurance company to jack up your rates.

Our Advice

Our advice is to truly evaluate your car purchase. Be honest with yourself. If you're driving a 2004 Toyota Corolla with no infotainment and are completely satisfied, you might want to keep things simple. If you're an exemplary driver who's fine with checking over your shoulder before switching lanes, you might not need that pricey lane departure warning system. In the end, your phone and proper driving technique might be all that you truly need. The best part is that both can be taken from car-to-car.

On the flipside, if you're a first-time driver or you would simply like the peace-of-mind knowing that you never have to worry about your phone battery dying or unintentionally veering into another lane, these in-car tech features might be in your best interest to retain. Automakers like Volkswagen are making some of these tech features more affordable for their new 2016 model lineup. In the end, the option to upgrade will always be there. You just have to weigh those options.

, Automotive Editor

Armaan Almeida was an Automotive Editor who produced buying guides and sneak previews, in addition to publishing daily news stories and tracking monthly deals, incentives and pricing trends from Toyota, Nissan and Lexus.

Follow On: Google+ | Website

Privacy Policy|Terms of Use|Cookie Policy|Disclaimer
COPYRIGHT 1999-2019 MH Sub I, LLC dba CarsDirect.com