When we hear about people who have, or are looking to, simplify their lives the discussion usually centers on the home. Decluttering possessions, moving to a smaller home, maybe even giving up home ownership for renting. Things like cable are cut, and home cooked meals with real ingredients are common. These are all great ways to simplify. But in the discussion things are overlooked all too often.
This weekend, Bethany, shared her story of commuting to work on her bicycle and leaving the family car at home. Not everyone is as fortunate as Bethany and need a car to get around. A car is a machine, a tool to get us from one place to another, that’s it. So my question today is, if a car is only a means to get us from one destination to another, what features are you willing to pay for?
If you buy only used cars, your choices are rather limited. I have never bought a new car, my decision was based on gas mileage, reputation of the make (I don’t want to buy a lemon). Color never mattered along with many of the features available. The last car I drove came with power windows (nice when you are the only person in the car and want to open or close them but not necessary), a radio with CD player, power steering (which I did need), AC, and power locks. It also had child-proof locks on the back doors. Which of those things would I have paid for if I had been given a choice? A radio is necessary for me, but the CD player isn’t. I also would have paid for the child-proof locks and power steering. That’s it.
Cars have come a long way since Henry Ford supposedly said, “You can paint it any color as long as it’s black.” Today our cars can drive (cruise control) and park themselves, have outlets to plug-in electronics, have built-in DVD players. and even cameras to see what’s behind you. I can still remember when air conditioning wasn’t an option, now it’s standard. You pay for it even if you don’t want it. All these little things we have been conditioned to believe we need in a car are non-essential. I’m not saying I would want to live in the desert without air conditioning any more than I would want to have a car without heat in the winter.
We forget that in simplifying our lives we should also review how we use our vehicles. Each added feature brings more stuff we need to store in the car and a higher price tag you pay for by working more.
- Cup holders remind us to bring a drink or make it easier to stop and pick one up.
- Outlets are there for handheld games
- Built-in car chargers: Don’t forget to bring the phone every where with you
- CD and DVD players: Now you need to buy storage solutions for the discs you want to play in the car.
A radio is no longer good enough, now we can subscribe to Sirius radio at a monthly charge to listen to even more music than we are storing on disc already in the car.
Our cars have become like our homes, the bigger the home the more stuff you need to fill it. Now the car needs to be filled with stuff just to drive to the store. What happened to families playing “punch bug” (for those of you too young to know what that is we looked for the Volkswagen bug and tried to be the first person to punch the person sitting next to us. Trust me it was a lot of fun.), or watching the clouds to find shapes on a long drive? Or maybe even dare I suggest we talk to one another on a car ride?
The following list is what I could think of that is available today, or will be available in next year’s models. Looking at this list I believe the only thing the car won’t be able to do is make dinner.
- Heated seats
- Built-in child safety seats
- DVD player
- Built-in outlets for games
- Fold down seats
- Cruise Control
- Rear cameras
- Hands-free parallel parking
- Hands-free bluetooth
- Subscription radio at a monthly charge
- Power windows
- Anti-locking brakes
- Lane centering
- Automatic braking if a collision is about to occur
- Cameras that detect animals, read the color of traffic lights and street signs for you
- Built-in screen like your iPad
- Web browsing (which can be used when car is stationary)
- Installed wi-fi hotspot
- Keyless entry
- Access to the trunk from the front seat.
Which items would you be willing to pay for or have we gone too far? What would you add to this list that I missed?