During the ’80s and ’90s, there were a lot of interesting features that made their way into cars. Perhaps one of the most unique was the addition of automatic seatbelts. These seatbelts would wrap around you once the car started. While this feature did increase the safety of cars in the long run, it was still a cumbersome addition to most cars.
Automakers eventually ended up getting rid of this feature because it just didn’t add to the safety of the car. Automated seat belts have not made their way back for some time, partly because of their clunky design.
One of the features you’ll find on cars that are as old as time is manual windows. Towards the end of the new millennium, this was a useless feature most automakers eliminated. When you pay triple digits for a new car, the last thing you want to deal with is manual windows. The design of the crank window has come a long way, but you now seldom see a car that still has this feature. Manual windows were the only way to open a window when cars were a novelty.
But as time went on, the advent of power windows created a much better experience. Most of us don’t even think about using a manual window anymore except in classic cars.
When cars first started getting more technologically advanced, GPS, or global positioning system, was one of the first additions. But the early adaptation of GPS was incredibly hard to use and navigate. As a result, most drivers opted for some type of external system, such as a TomTom or Garmin. The built-in GPS systems were also costly to update. Without updating, the directions didn’t include new locations.
Cars such as BMW would support built-in GPS for some time, but other brands such as Acura didn’t. Nowadays, there are a bunch of useless GPS systems in vehicles that drivers on the used market can’t use.
The audio system has come a long way in vehicles since the days of the eight-track player. But once streaming came along, the need for a CD player was over. While there’s an abundance of compact discs on the market, the odds of you owning one is slim. There are few cars that still feature a CD player. If you manage to find one, you’ll probably only use it a few times, which is why there are so few anymore.
The CD player was a great part of the evolution of media you could play anywhere. For in-car entertainment, the CD player was a welcome addition to the car radio. But as digital media and streaming have evolved, the number of people who still use the CD player is going away.
Most cars during the ’70s and ’80s had this unique feature. Wing windows are usually the third window on the front or rear of the car. This was a feature that was useless because the windows were hard to operate. You couldn’t get a lot of air through them, which was the point.
The most common wing windows were on the original Volkswagen Beetle. But this feature made its way on lots of other cars as well during this period.
Automakers eventually moved away from wing windows because they were not conducive to the design of the cars. Wing windows don’t do anything to benefit the driver or the vehicle. They were just another useless feature that automakers tried to incorporate over time.
Most drivers remember having a broken antenna on their first car. Chances are, you probably had a power antenna that would cause issues. The power antennas on most modern vehicles nowadays are part of the reason that carmakers stopped utilizing this feature. The first problem was that it could become costly to replace the antenna if it malfunctioned. In addition to that repair, an electric antenna was just as time-consuming as dealing with other aspects of the electric system. You’d need an audio specialist to fix power antennas, so most consumers didn’t want to deal with them.
Power antennas didn’t do anything to benefit the vehicle. Instead, they just became a cumbersome part of car ownership. The power antenna will go down as another one of those memorable car features that drivers never used.
No one is sure what the idea was behind pop-up headlights since they didn’t benefit cars in any way. They were expensive to replace and when they got stuck, you either had lights or you didn’t. Even so, there have been various renditions of pop-up headlights over the years. The last two modern cars that had pop-up headlights were the C5 Corvette and the Acura NSX. Most carmakers moved on from these after the ’80s.
However, there are still pop-up diehards who swear by these headlights. But for the most part, pop-up headlights are just another feature that people equate with bad ’80s engineering.
Although not a common feature nowadays, there was a time when smoking was acceptable. All the top-tier cars had an ashtray. This was in addition to the built-in cigarette lighters in cars as recently as the early 2000s. Smoking used to be the norm in most parts of the world, so you’d be hard-pressed to find a car without an ashtray. This was a semi-useless feature because most drivers and passengers would just flick their ashes out of the window.
This became such a fire hazard, that in many states it became illegal to just discard your ashes out a car window. But automakers still managed to incorporate this feature into their vehicles, which in the long run was something drivers didn’t need.
For a long time, if you had any type of sedan or coupe, there was probably a hand brake in-between the seats. What happened to this feature? Hand brakes were never anything most drivers would use. Unless you lived in an area with a large number of hills, the hand brake was just a useless feature. You just wouldn’t use them unless you were trying to do something stupid or reckless. During the next decade, teenagers would get a hold of their parent’s cars and yank on the hand brake like there was no tomorrow.
The hand brake was only useful in certain instances like with a manual transmission. Other than that, this was just a useless feature. In the long run, automakers ended up adapting different technologies, making the handbrake a useless feature.
At one point in time, all cars could seat six passengers. The sedan was known as the family sedan, long before the minivan or crossovers were even a thought. Because of this, most sedans had what’s called a bench seat, a feature that you just don’t see anymore. The last modern cars to have a bench seat was the Lincoln Towncar and the Chevrolet Impala. Otherwise, this feature is been all but gone. Consumers don’t want to pack the whole family into a sedan anymore so you don’t see the bench seat.
It’s a cool feature to have in a retro car, but you’ll never see a bench seat in a modern vehicle. It was just an outdated feature that people never tended to use.
Early in the evolution of the automobile, there were various aspects of the car that most people find familiar. Old-school rounded headlights were a feature most automobile owners would come across. This was because the headlights were easy to replace. But as time went on, most automakers wanted to find different ways to make the exterior look a lot smoother. Soon, sealed beam headlights were born, becoming a feature on most cars.
It’s not that sealed beam headlights were bad, but it was a useless feature that didn’t benefit the car. Automakers have since moved onto different ways of designing headlights. Today, early sealed beam headlights are a thing of the past.
During the ’80s and the early ’90s, most automakers were trying to make vehicles that were more advanced due to the rise in technology. However, digital gauges on vehicles like the Chevrolet Corvette and Chrysler Lebaron were far too complicated. There was a lot of information on the dashboard drivers just wouldn’t use.
Even though the automakers knew that they continued to use these dashboards. Eventually, the analog dashboard was the norm on most vehicles until the next generation of cars hit.
Nowadays, most of your vehicle’s information is digital, which is a far cry from the lackluster digital dashes of the past. This was just a feature that most drivers never ended up using that was expensive to repair.
Perhaps one of the most useless and sometimes dangerous features on automobiles was automatic lighting. This was something that you can find on cars toward the end of the ’90s and into the new millennium. The problem with automatic lighting was that most drivers would end up not paying attention to their cars.
Many drivers would assume that the headlights were on when they weren’t. This made it dangerous to drive at night and the visibility of the vehicles much lower.
Automated lighting has changed a lot in the past few decades, but it’s still a useless feature. The more that cars are automated, the less attention drivers pay to the road.
During the ’80s when the gas crisis was happening, many automakers including GM decided to start experimenting with cylinder deactivation. This was still a new technology, so most computers were not advanced enough, which caused a lot of frustration. The technology was especially bad for Cadillac because the Fleetwood in the repair shop more than it was on the road. The same thing happened during the 2000s when GM and Chrysler begin to experiment with the technology again. However, the fuel economy was not better. Cylinder cut-off caused was a lot of headaches for those mechanics who were unfamiliar with the technology.
The cylinder deactivation of the past couple of decades was a useless attempt to increase fuel economy. It’s just not something that works on a vehicle that weighs quite a few tons and has a powerful V8 motor.
These are 25 useless car features automakers got away with for decades. If you’ve ever had to deal with any of them, you’re probably glad they are long gone. Some were useful at the time, but became obsolete with emerging technologies, while others were just plain bad from the get-go.