People Buying Cars Hate Touch Screens, Instead Getting Used Cars With Knobs and Buttons

Switch It Up

New cars come equipped with so many eye-catching gizmos, like large touch screen infotainment centers, that sitting in the driver seat can almost feel like you're inside the cockpit of a Star Trek shuttlepod.

But many drivers are passing up this vision of the future and instead buying used vehicles because, according to The Wall Street Journal's car columnist Dan Neil, all that new tech is distracting, feels less safe, and is cumbersome to navigate compared to the knobs and buttons of yore.

That's one reason among many why these "new-car deniers" — or "wild-eyed dissidents," as Neil also terms them — are eschewing automakers' latest offerings.

And because of these myriad preferences for older models and the fact that news cars are quite expensive these days — the average has jumped to an astonishing $47,000! — the average age of American vehicles on the road has crept up to 12.6 years, Neil writes, citing a recent S&P Global Mobility study. In contrast, the average age was just 11.2 years back in 2012.

"Change is hard, whether it’s under the hood or in the cabin," Neil quips.

Combustion Baby

Besides finding the touchscreen and other newfangled doohickeys to be distracting, Neil writes that some think — correctly, many experts agree — that new cars with digital tech are surveillance machines on wheels that will snitch you to insurance companies or even China.

Others believe newer cars aren't built as reliably as older ones. Some car enthusiasts think all that fancy hardware, and advanced driver assist programs that will do a lot of thinking for you, take away from the analog pleasure of gripping a steering wheel and driving a car as you feel the wheels kiss asphalt.

"Recently my wife bought a new Toyota Highlander and it comes with a semester at MIT to learn the turn signal," retired North Carolina newspaper editor Dan Barkin told Neil.

Old cars' days are numbered, especially since the trend in some states and other parts of the world is to the ban the sale of new cars with the internal combustion engine.

But fear not, luddites, because knobs and buttons may yet stage a comeback.

European car regulators recently told automakers to bring back those analog controls so they could get better safety ratings. And carmakers like Volkswagen are bringing buttons back.

And that's news so good we're tempted to pop a wheelie in our old gas-powered jalopy.

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