Buying a new car ranks as the least favorite experience of most people along with dentist visits and tax audits. And it has become even more frustrating and complicated because of all the new technology coming into modern vehicles.
It doesn’t help that the latest connected cars can vary widely in user-friendliness and features available. That’s why it’s essential that you know what to look for before you start buying a new vehicle. And given that a new car is such a great purchase—and you’ll be on the vehicle for at least a few years—you’ll have to live with that choice of, say, deciding which new smartphone or tablet to buy.
Here are some of the main technologies you want to keep in mind when shopping for a new car.
This list exclusively includes electric and hybrid vehicles. These cars eschew the standard gasoline engine for a more technologically advanced and fuel-efficient means of propulsion. However, you still have to top them in some form or another.
Hybrid vehicles use both a gasoline engine and an electric motor, rather than relying only on gas. The electric motor works in conjunction with the engine, helping to use very little gas in most maneuvers. In contrast, the gas engine helps keep the battery charged through regenerative braking, putting electricity back into the battery that drives the electric motor each time you stop to coast.
Electric vehicles completely ditch the gasoline engine and rely only on electricity to run. The trade-off is that refueling takes longer and can be more difficult to find, and these vehicles have limited range. You have to plug electric vehicles in to charge them, and you can easily top-off in about half an hour if you set up a quick charger at your home. If a dedicated charger doesn’t work, however, it can take four to eight hours to charge via a power cable plugged into a more traditional 110/120-volt outlet.
Plug-in hybrids are, well, hybrid hybrids. They are hybrid vehicles that charge like electric cars and can run entirely on electric motors and far from batteries. If you need to drive farther than the battery allows, a gasoline engine lets you keep going without being plugged in. They provide the environmental friendliness of an electric vehicle, providing an alternative when you can’t and don’t want to find a charging station. Waiting hours to drive.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (like the Toyota Mirai) are still in their early stages when compared to hybrid and electric vehicles. They use hydrogen instead of gasoline to run their motors, which makes them emission-free and environmentally friendly. They have a much longer range than electric vehicles. The problem is, they’re currently only California vehicles, because that’s the only state where you’ll find hydrogen fueling stations with any remote regularity.
These vehicles are more green and economical in the long run than cars relying only on gasoline engines. However, they are consistently more expensive than conventional vehicles (at least initially; the savings in fuel can help make up for this with a few years of driving), and they generally offer less cargo space. The trunk of most hybrid and electric vehicles is at least partially occupied by the bulky battery needed to power the electric motor, so there simply isn’t much room for your groceries or suitcase.
Car Connectivity & Apps
Connectivity is what lets you access on-the-road navigation, real-time traffic updates, local search and more. That’s why automakers are aggressively adding connectivity and in-dash apps to vehicles in three varieties: embedded, tethered and a hybrid approach.
Embedded connectivity means the vehicle has a modem (and usually requires a subscription) to connect to the cloud. Tethered systems take advantage of your portable device’s connectivity and data plan by syncing with the car’s infotainment system. The hybrid approach uses a combination of the two: embedded connectivity for critical functions like automatic crash notification, and tethered connectivity for infotainment apps.
We prefer the tethered approach (and not having to pay a monthly subscription) which is best exemplified by systems that feature Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Apple and Google’s tethering ecosystems provide extensive support across multiple infotainment platforms.
Does your car need bluetooth?
Blueooth was originally intended for hands-free phone use only, but has evolved into providing streaming music from portable devices. It also acts as a link between the car’s infotainment system and designated apps on your smartphone. However, compatibility issues that have affected the connection between phones and cars can still be a problem. That’s why it’s important to make sure your equipment and the new car can communicate with each other.
In fact, when you’re test-driving new vehicles, be sure to spend time trying out the tech features. Learn how the infotainment system operates, understand how the car connects to the cloud and what apps are available, listen to the audio system and check its music sources, enter a destination in the navigation system, and pair your device with it . Car via bluetooth and make some phone calls. That way you reduce your chances of buying a car with poor tech, which will leave you stuck for years to come.
best navigation system
Knowing where you’re going while driving is important, which is why in-dash navigation systems have made paper maps nearly obsolete. And nav systems have gotten better with cloud connectivity, allowing for real-time traffic information, local search, and compatibility with portable devices.
However, these days we all have an advanced GPS system in our pocket in the form of a smartphone, and that’s where tethered connections come in handy. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto let you use your phone’s map system of choice on the dashboard screen, which is often more accurate and up-to-date than some navigation systems.
What safety features do you need in your car?
Last but not least is really one of the first things you should consider when buying a new vehicle, and that is safety. Modern driver-assistance systems use various combinations of cameras and sensors to track hazards you may not notice, such as the car ahead of you suddenly breaking down, or another car approaching your blind spot. She goes. Dash cams are useful if you get into fender benders, as they continuously record what happens and can be used to limit your liability.
Depending on the driver’s assistance in your vehicle, you may receive an alert warning of potential hazards, while some systems will take over for you automatically. And it’s worth a lot more than a new sound system.
Here you’ll find a list of vehicles we’ve tested that are examples of the best car technology in the above categories. If you’re looking to upgrade your existing ride, check out some of our favorite ways to improve your current ride with technology.