Car Buying

Why You Need to Test the Infotainment System on a Test Drive

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author photo by Doug DeMuro July 2015

If you're interested in buying a car, you've probably realized that today's car-buying world isn't all about how a car drives and how much it costs. These days, cars are rolling computers, with a wide range of high-tech gadgets and features built in. As a result, the test drive isn't only a drive anymore. It's also a chance to check out items such as the lane-departure warning system and the forward-collision warning feature. But we especially think your next test drive should focus on the infotainment system.

Why It's Important

The main reason we think you should test out the infotainment system on your next car is because the majority of new-car controls are now linked to the infotainment system, so you'll be using it all the time.

While some cars still have traditional buttons for the stereo or climate controls, many don't, so you should try out the system to see how it compares to systems in rival models. Is it easy to use? Does the screen or control stick respond to your touch? Is it large enough to see? The days of deciphering small buttons are over, and this is the replacement.

Make Sure It's User-Friendly

Another major reason you should check out a car's infotainment system is to see whether or not you find it simple to use every day. Each manufacturer offers an entirely different system, touting its own control layout, hardware and screen size. It's up to you to test out various different systems, noting benefits and drawbacks in order to figure out which one you like.

For example, one thing we find frustrating on some systems is a slow response time. When you press a button, the system appears to think for a second before doing anything. Is this acceptable to you? What if the screen is too small or the menus are poorly labeled? Before you drive off the lot in a new car, you'll want to make sure you understand the ins and outs of the system -- or else you'll be screaming at your car until it's time to trade it in for a new one.

Buying Used? Make Sure It Works

One last piece of advice for shoppers: If you're buying a used car, make sure the infotainment system works at all. With more and more models coming standard with center touchscreens and more features requiring a screen to work, you won't want to miss out on certain features because you forgot to test the infotainment system on the test drive. As a result, we suggest that you should not only be sure to test the system, but you should test it thoroughly to make sure there aren't any obvious problems or issues.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Why You Need to Test the Infotainment System on a Test Drive - Autotrader