In my circle of friends, I’m “the car guy,” which makes sense, because I write about cars for a living. However, when a friend in the market for a car asks me “What do you think about the [Insert make and model here]?” I know they’ve already decided what car they want. They more or less want me to just confirm their choice. The tougher questions come when they’re trying to configure this new dream in a way that doesn’t break the bank. Options—and in more recent decades, packages—have been a way for dealers to further line their pockets since the early days of automobile sales. And while many are nice, even necessary to some, they can easily tack another $5-to-$10K or more onto what probably started as a reasonably attractive sticker price.
It’s so easy to get lost in this sea of options. But I’m here to help with this simple, cost-saving advice. Skip the GPS package.
GPS or “Navigation” systems, while useful, and for the most part aesthetically pleasing, can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars as a line item, to a couple thousand in an option package. That’s too much to pay for technology that will most likely be antiquated before your first inspection. Though we’re on an exciting cusp of automotive technology, now is not the time to invest in that seven-inch unit, just because it’ll help you beat the national average. Here are three reasons why.
1. SMARTPHONES WORK BETTER
Now that the iPhone’s Maps app no longer thinks there are underwater cities, it works pretty damn well—Google maps too. And while Waze can sometimes send you on a wild goose chase, it can be really handy. With every new car I review, I make it a point to double program a destination; once into the car, and again, into my iPhone. From the first step, this battle is already halfway over. Though I’ve been told I have a neutral, accent-free voice that’s worthy of the nightly news, car-based vocal recognition software never seems to understand me. “Destination, 4 New York Plaza” will typically spit back something like “OK, Newark International Airport, Terminal 4.” Siri may not nail what I want to eat, or know how to tie a bow tie, but she always knows where I want to go. Talking not your thing? Manual address entry is almost—scratch that, always—easier to on the phone.
The finishing blow in this head-to-head matchup comes not through the standard route, but in going off course. When I steer the wrong way, even in a complex environment like the Big Apple, the phone is always right on top of it. “Turn here” chimes out, often while the onboard system is still “Re-Routing”. Of course the downside here is data usage, but how many of you are really still concerned with that? Watch your porn over WiFi and you’ll be fine.
2. THERE IS LITTLE RESALE VALUE
Be ready for this retort the moment you tell a salesperson you don’t want or need GPS: “But it really ups the resale value of the car!” No, it does not. This may have been true ten, five, even two years ago, but not now. Advertising “GPS” as a bullet point in your Craigslist ad will soon be the equivalent of touting a “CD Changer!” or “Ice Cold AC!” and will do little to help you at trade-in time. The reason for this is simple. Hardly any brands—save for Tesla, of course—are utilizing software or flash upgrades that can increase features, functionality, or accuracy. That old adage about a car losing value right after you drive it off the lot? Well its GPS started that descent before you even took ownership. And that brings me to my final point.
3. BETTER STUFF IS COMING SOON
Manufacturers have realized that consumers don’t change cars like they change phones. That’s why most major manufacturers, from Hyundai to Ferrari, will offer Apple’s highly anticipated CarPlay solution in many of their models, according to Apple’s announcement this week. The CarPlay interface will, in simplest terms, allow much of your iPhone’s functionality, including maps, to temporarily “reside” in your dashboard. The result is not only a familiar face, but an upgrade path for applications like GPS. When that next big development comes along, you’ll no longer be left with that need-to-get-out-of-this-lease feeling. (I also don’t recommend leasing, but that’s an entirely different topic.) But even if you’re one of them Apple haters, who swears CarPlay will never enter your domain, there are other breakthroughs and innovations also just over the horizon. Jaguar, for example, recently unveiled one of the wildest answers for the directionally impaired—a “Ghost Car” navigation solution. Utilizing a heads-up style display, a transparent blue lead vehicle will take to the programmed route ahead of you, putting you, the driver, in chase-mode. Find it overwhelming to look for street names or calculate how far 300 yards is? Just follow the ghost. The advance, which sounds straight out of the gaming world, is expected to debut in the brand’s forthcoming XE sports sedan, and represents a next level in navigation technology that may banish current units to the Island of Misfit Toys.
Lastly, perhaps you’re set on some other, more timeless option, such as a heated steering wheel, but have been told it’s only available packaged with a current GPS. Don’t immediately lose hope; there are unicorns. While it is true that bundling has largely replaced a la carte configuring in the car buying process, slips, mix-ups, and anomalies do happen. You just have to hunt—or better yet, make your salesperson hunt —for them.
Oh, and they’ll do the hunting. Just tell them you don’t need GPS to find another dealership.
To see more on luxury cars, visit the Playboy Garage video series