With more and more companies offering their own infotainment packages on new cars, it’s worth wondering if these systems are worth the price. As “cool” as they are, touch screen systems often result in consumer complaints, sometimes fail to supplant the simple knobs and buttons they replace, and can even be distracting.
Here’s what you need to know about automotive touch screen systems, as of 2014.
Touch Screens Lead to Complaints
The annual Consumer Reports guide to car reliability has come out for the 2015, and one of the more important insights from their guide is that automotive infotainment systems (aka fancy touch screen systems) aren’t meeting consumer expectations. JD Power has found that these systems are problematic as well, citing difficulties with these systems as the primary cause for complaints on many new vehicles.
The source of these problems breaks down like this:
- Sometimes, the problem has to do with smartphones. Most people who buy a car with a fancy infotainment system expect it to “talk” to their smartphone, but that’s not always the case. Some infotainment systems aren’t compatible with specific phones or operating systems. The take away: Make sure your phone and your car can communicate before you buy.
- Sometimes, the problem has to do with design. When Ford’s MyFordTouch system debuted, it was responsible for an incredible number of complaints (as much as 28% complaints from Explorer owners in 2012). Today, complaints about Ford’s system on the Explorer have fallen to just 3%. The reason that complaints fell so sharply? Ford basically redesigned the system, making it more intuitive and easier to use.
- Sometimes, the problem is the user. There’s an old joke about the most dangerous part of any car being the “loose nut behind the steering wheel,” and there’s some truth to it. Many people buy infotainment systems because they want “the best,” but then they never take the time to learn to use the system, and thus become dissatisfied.
- Sometimes, the problem is a new system. Ford, Honda, BMW, Cadillac, and many others have all endured criticism for new infotainment systems that were slow, that didn’t work as promised, etc., and these complaints typically drop off once the system has a couple of years of production behind it.
What About Resale Value?
There isn’t a whole heck of a lot of data about the resale value of touchscreen systems, so it’s hard to know if buying a new car with a system like this will mean you get a better price for it later. However:
- Navigation systems, which have been out for years, tend to have little to no impact on resale value. A few hundred dollars at the most, and often much less.
- Features and options like leather interior, 4WD/AWD, transmission type, upgraded wheels, etc. tend to have more impact on resale values than anything else.
If, for example, you can afford to either buy a car with AWD or buy one with a fancy infotainment system, get the AWD and don’t look back. On the other hand, if the infotainment system is a feature that’s typically found on the type of car you’re buying (say, for example, a new Mercedes-Benz or BMW), you might not have a choice.
However, generally speaking, it’s unlikely that you’ll regret not buying the infotainment option. Even if the option is popular down the road, it won’t add a whole lot of value to your.
Should You Buy A Car With a Touchscreen System?
Yes and no. The answer is “yes” if you’re willing to:
- Make sure your phone and your car can communicate before you buy.
- Test the infotainment system extensively before you buy, so you know how it works.
- Invest the time to learn how these systems work once you own them.
Otherwise, if either a) you’re not willing to do the three things mentioned above or b) the touchscreen system is brand new, the answer is “no.”
Touchscreen systems are getting better every year, but it’s important to have some perspective. Nearly everyone got along just fine without touchscreens not even 5 years ago. No one “needs” theses systems.