Just because you're in the market for a used car doesn't mean you don't want and need some of the tech features that make day-to-day life easier in 2016. Fortunately, you're in luck—there are many used cars sporting features like Bluetooth, navigation, satellite radio, emergency braking assistance, and even adaptive cruise control.
Probably the most essential and widely used bit of technology in most cars today, having a Bluetooth connection can make even an aging steed feel like a modern ride. If you want Bluetooth, however, you'll want to confine your search to vehicles built after 2009 or 2010, as it was often a pricey option before those model years. Brands like Kia, Hyundai, Ford, and Chevy are also known for packing even their affordable entry-level models with very appealing tech packages, many of which included Bluetooth.
Even if you know your hometown like the back of your hand, it's often nice to have that computer sitting in the dash telling you how long it'll take to get somewhere, suggesting alternate routes, or highlighting gas stations, restaurants, or other services along the way. Even though it's a much more complex feature than Bluetooth, navigation was popular much earlier, meaning you can find cars with in-dash navigation units from the early 2000s. One thing to look out for with older navigation systems, however, is whether the previous owner kept the maps current. It can often cost upward of $500 to update the system--but outdated maps can make the system essentially useless.
It used to be called Sirius or XM, but now it's just SiriusXM. Whatever you call it, satellite radio can be a godsend, especially if long stints in traffic or frequent road trips are part of your routine. The wide selection of music, talk, and comedy is a relative bargain considering the monthly subscription price--think of it as Netflix for your car--and retrofitting satellite radio can be very difficult, not to mention expensive.
While they're not as fun or sexy as high-tech gadgetry, advanced safety systems like emergency braking assistance can save your hide—and your new-to-you car—from accidents that would claim a lesser vehicle. There are many different types of emergency braking assistance, but the main idea is to help the driver apply maximum braking force when an emergency stop is required. Many brands offer the technology today, but for used cars, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Volvo are your best brand bets. Look for cars from the 2000-present range.
This technology is still making its way into the lower echelons of the market, but it has been available, and even common, in higher-end vehicles for several years now. If you're looking for a used car that's more than two or three years old, you'll want to focus on luxury brands like BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Lexus, Infiniti, Acura, and Cadillac. If you're buying a lightly used car, especially one just off lease, you may be able to find the technology in more ordinary brands Like Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford, Nissan, and Toyota.
automotive freelance journalist