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10 Car Features That No Longer Exist in New Vehicles

Technology is constantly advancing. Here are 10 car features that you just don't see in new cars anymore.

car features

Who knows what car features today’s teenagers will find nostalgic when they reminisce about their very first cars? Perhaps they’ll miss when vehicles weren’t so “smart” and didn’t drive themselves. Or maybe they’ll miss when driving actually meant wheels on the road.

Nobody knows how drastically automobiles will change in the future. But we do know how much they’ve changed since their invention and even in the past 30 years. Here are 10 car features that no longer exist in new vehicles.

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Audible turn signals

Does it seem like more and more people are driving for miles with their turn signals on, apparently planning on making a left turn that never materializes? There’s a reason for that. Many modern cars are phasing out audible turn signals. While those noisy little clicks might seem annoying after a while, that’s exactly what made them useful – they reminded you to switch off your turn signals.

Keys

On most higher-end cars, stamped metal keys are becoming a thing of the past. Instead, start/stop ignitions and electronic key fobs have become the new norm. Vehicle doors automatically unlock when the registered key fob is nearby, and once inside, you simply push the button to start. That’s a big change from the turn-key ignitions most of us are used to. Car manufacturers like Mazda and Ford have even created apps to remotely start and unlock your car using a smartphone app!

Simple controls

Texting and driving is extremely dangerous, and a complicated control system could be just as distracting. In a 2015 AAA study, results showed that mental distractions could last up to 27 seconds after using voice commands on select in-car systems. With many new cars using touch-screen controls, things could get even trickier. AAA suggests putting climate controls, radio stations, GPS and other settings in place prior to driving.

Spacious trunks

We’ve come a long way from massive hulks of solid Detroit steel we used to call cars. Now models are sleeker and more aerodynamic than ever. But that also means less room. Many of today’s car owners don’t know the meaning of a spacious trunk. And unless you’re buying a minivan, you can expect to pack some of those weekly groceries in your back seat.

Spare tires

Here’s a car feature that many of us miss. Some cars don’t come with full-size spare tires anymore because trunks are getting smaller. Other car manufacturers are trying to reduce vehicle weight. No matter what the cause, buying a new car with a full-size spare is a rare occurrence these days. In fact, spare tires have been replaced by tire inflator kits on 29 million vehicles in the last 10 model years. But if you’re lucky enough to get one, today’s tiny doughnut tires are only designed to be used for short distances and under 50 mph. Even with run flat tires, buying a new tire or getting a patch becomes pretty urgent.

Ashtrays

Equipped with electric lighters and ashtrays inside the dashboard, old cars were a smoker’s heaven. Those in-car ashtrays were even great for non-smokers as the ultimate coin compartment. However, most car manufacturers have shied away from ashtrays and opted to install more tech-focused car features, like phone charger ports.

Radio antennas

If you remember when cars had ashtrays, then you probably remember when cars used to sport whip antennas. Were they unsightly? Kind of. But most people used those long radio antennas as a chance to give their cars a little spunk. Back in the day, you could spot countless raccoon tails, smiley face balls and other neat trinkets on top of those wiry menaces. Now most cars have much shorter fixed antennas.

car features

Vent windows

Vent or “wing” windows are another one of those car features staple to older cars. The small triangular windows were found on both the driver and passenger sides and could be rotated inward to get some fresh air. On days that weren’t too hot, you could skip opening the main window and still get some ventilation going without messing up your hair. So, what happened to all the vent windows? Two words: air conditioning.

Hand-cranked windows

Today’s teenagers probably don’t know what a hand-cranked window is. But yes, at one point in time, people had to manually roll their windows up and down. This car feature is almost impossible to find nowadays and that’s probably because most people don’t miss them. In fact, new car owners can rejoice in the power of the window lock. No children will play with the back windows on our watch!

Bench seats

Before seat belts were included in cars, bench seats allowed three people to fit comfortably in the front of most vehicles. You could even fit a fourth passenger if they were small enough. Today’s kids will never know the feeling of squeezing up front with mom, dad and their siblings, but modern cars are definitely much safer!

Can you think of some other car features that no longer exist in new vehicles? Tell us in the comments!

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Comments
  • Patricia C.

    My work truck Ford Transit 2013 has crank Windows. I hate for the fact that people come to my passenger window and get mad when I don’t put the window down. I can’t reach it from the drivers seat.

    • I feel your pain, Patricia. My Mazda 3 doesn’t have automatic locks, so I always have to unlock the passenger side door from the outside if I have a passenger. 😉

      • Jeanne B.

        What plastic bumpers? Cars don’t even have bumpers anymore. [well some p/u trucks do). The entire car now is covered in high gloss mirror like paint that is impossible to just touch up scratches. So every minor scratch and scrape requires a panel to be removed and repainted professionally. Much more expensive than a metal or rubber bumper that was supposed to have the accidental marks on them. Body work has become terribly expensive since even small dents need to have huge panels replaced or taken off and repainted.

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  • My former 1956 TBird had air vents on each side of the car which helped keep the motor cool . This was an upgrade from the ’55 model which had no such vents and were known to run a little hot.

  • I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY CARMAKERS THINK A TACHOMETR IS A NECESSARY FEATURE ON ALL CARS. I WOULD GUESS THAT 90% OF DRIVERS DON’ T KNOW WHAT A TACHOMETER IS AND ONLY 1% ACTUALLY USE IT.

  • Warren Y.

    The thing I miss most about older cars is the high/low beam button on the floor. The column mounted combination switch is harder to operate while making a turn.

  • I miss having a big Station Wagon with the bench seats plus. Having a good old heavy steel car I always felt safer with more steel between me & the next car if & when there should happen to be accident. Guess I’m just an old fashioned kind of girl. But then I feel somethings where better left alone thats just me.

  • Robert A.

    They should go back to turn signals that make noise, drivers forget them on and you don’t know what there intentions are. Or maybe after a one mile the turn signals go off.

  • Nice big, beautiful WHITE WALL TIRES, especially “VOGUE TIRES” which had a narrow gold stripe around the white wall.

  • I wish more people would use the daytime running lamps!! just at dusk you still see cars with no lights on yet. aggravating!!! dont like keyless cars either

    • Michael F.

      I agree with you I own mostly General Motors models which all have automatic headlights….nice that they come on automatically at dusk, when going through tunnels etc. just need to keep in mind to put them on when it’s raining during the day to keep safe!

  • Ethan C.

    The most egregious thing Detroit has dropped is the dimmer switch on the floor. Now you have to take your left hand off the wheel and PULL the stalk toward you in many cars. Driver distraction, anyone? Who ever thought this was a good idea?

  • Susan P.

    I fear CD players will become a thing of the past. The drive from RI to FL will be long indeed. I like to select my own music, and not to have ‘you’ll-also-likes’ foisted on me. Classical music on a southern radio station? Dream on.

  • William H.

    Remember horn rings? You could blow your horn from any hand position on the wheel. It’s silly not to have real spare tires. None of the “innovations” to replace spares really work. I miss the really attractive dash boards of the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. I agree about missing whitewalls. Not practical, but they gave cars, especially two-toned ones, a special spark. I miss fins a little bit. Now most cars are just bean shaped – didn’t that come in with the first Datsuns? – and SUVs have all the design flair of a cardboard box.

    • Michael B.

      No more cars with a three on the tree either, as a matter of fact it is difficult to find a car with a manual transmission.

  • Larry V.

    I miss those drip rails over the doors. Nowadays you get a dusting of snow falling on to your seat when would open the door. Very annoying and inconvenient!

  • William A.

    I loved the 4 barrel Holley carburetor on my 67 Olds Starfire. Depressing the gas pedal slightly to pass another vehicle would result in a low rumble and silky smooth acceleration.

  • Thomas B.

    66 was the last year for Starfire. They may have recycled the name on some later lesser car.
    We had two 66’s. 425 375 HP. Amazing the

  • Matthew K.

    We called the little windows the elephant ear windows.
    We had a early VW Beetle with no gas gauge. If you ran out of gas you would flip a switch on the floor for a little gas so you could get to a gas station.

  • Kenneth S.

    How about opening windshields, running boards, fender skirts, 4ply tires, point ignitions, round headlights, drum brakes, enamel paint, amp meters, 6volt battery, tons of chrome and AM push button radios.

  • Mary E.

    I must have been dreaming, but I thought I just saw some car that actually has vent windows once more! Hahaha! I was happy to see someone with a brain had realized how great they are for saving fuel rather than using the AC! I want it all:
    Vent windows
    Roll down windows- if you happen to go into the drink, you can at least get them open to let water in so you can get the door open to get out and swim to the surface!
    Non auto-locking to avoid locking your keys inside! (When you have unlocked the hatch to let the dog out and have laid the keys down inside to put his working vest on and grab his BOS (Bag O’ Stuff) , close the hatch and it locks itself… with your keys inside! Grrr

    Big trunks
    Full size spare tires
    Audible signals- which were useless with a car full of teen friends singing along with the radio!
    Rain Gutters over the doors!
    Antennas to mark your car in the lot!
    Floor air vents – to blow up mom’s shirtdress while she slept in the front passenger seat when your sister was driving just for laughs
    A “six-body” trunk (salesman’s description for a Chevy Belair in 1961… even though I was 7, I was thinking “Holy Smokes!”
    I would retain from the present:
    Back up cameras
    Seatbelts
    Sunroofs
    Adjustable outside rearview mirrors (which by the way, I thought up when I was 7 when my dad roll down his window to adjust it and the rain/snow would fly in on me in the back seat..really annoying! I still “invent” things all the time!”

    A definite Bring Back item at the top of my list:
    A manual choke (had 2 Renault Le Cars with manual transmissions and fold back sunroofs!) the best, even in traffic!

  • Your Aaa R.

    I’m old enough to remember horn rings which worked no matter where you pushed on them. I’ll be darned if I can ever find which part of my combo horn/airbag I’m supposed to hit. Bring back horn rings!

  • William A.

    Thanks for the correction. It was an odd numbered year, so probably ’65. Before that we had a Plymouth car the size of a boat. It had push button gear selection built into the dash to the left of the steering wheel.

  • Peter L.

    Many cars have eliminated the emergency mechanical parking brake. I find discomforting the fact that I don’t have one if the hydraulics fail. Also the stick shifter for automatic transmissions is gone in some cars and I don’t think you can standard transmissions anymore.

  • David R.

    How about being able to change a headlight bulb or front turn signal bulb without needing to remove a bunch of stuff like air cleaners,, etc. Also don’t like the change to a knob for selection of drive, reverse, etc. as you need to look to make sure you select the correct position.

  • Robert K.

    I have a 2010 Camry that has a fully-automatic/manual transmission, so the tach is very useful in the manual mode.

  • Michael P.

    Anyone remember the “cat whiskers” curb feelers that would audibly scrape the curb so you would not hit it when parking. Side view mirrors that reflected the true distance of the car behind you in the next lane. Why not a backup camera that stays on when driving?

  • Theodore Z.

    I had a 1967 Mercury Cougar with a three-speed stick shift on the floor and one of the best features was a pedal on the floor for the windshield wipers and fluid. You didn’t have to take your hands of the wheel to go find a switch and turn it.

  • Cynthia S.

    I have Lincoln Town Cars, love the spacious trunks, I keep a full spare, a dinging turn signal. The feature not mentioned, and I have it, is a clock with actual hands (not digital). I like it. I do not find any new cars that I have been in to be smooth – I feel every bump. I’ll take a smooth ride in an older, used car any day over new bouncy vehicles. My third Town Car will be next in a few years. When did we agree to sacrifice comfort for gadgetry?

  • Janis A.

    Cassette players. My car is a 2006. It has a cassette player, an AM/FM radio and a 6-CD changer. If I buy a newer model how will I hear my music??!

  • Janis A.

    Last year I rented a subcompact and it had crank windows! Guess they took one look at my gray hair and figured I’d know how to open the window. I immediately upgraded!

  • Seth G.

    I hate that I can’t find a vehicle without a console that blocks me into a little box. I have tried many models and SUVs, but the console feels like it is pushing in on my right leg. It is too confining. That is one reason I have held onto my 2003 Taurus. I dread having to buy a vehicle with such a constrictive console. It gets more annoying with every minute.
    Also, they need to go back to dashboard controls (like radio, heater & a/c) that give you tactile feedback. That way you don’t have to take your eyes off the road. If I want the radio station that’s on the third button, I can feel it.

  • David W.

    Yes, we all see old car features through a rosy lens. But how about new cars that can cruise at 80 mph without wandering all over the lane, fuel injection that starts instantly and stays in tune, disc brakes that don’t pull to one side, radial tires that last 60-80 thousand miles, alloy wheels that don’t rust, electric rack and pinion that has no slack in it so you hardly have to move the wheel to stay in your lane, etc. How about a turn signal that clicks softly at first but gets louder after a while?

  • Richard C.

    I want a return to manually set heating and cooling. The thermostat based systems never get it right. I want to manually set the temperature and speed of the air that comes out, not let a computer decide those parameters for me.

  • I have a 1977 Mercedes with the following: real steel bumpers with shock absorbers front and rear that wrap around the body; push button AM/FM radio; external whip radio antenna; cigarette lighter; spacious trunk; full-size spare tire; pained hubcaps to match the body color; slim whitewall tires; no tachometer; large steering wheel diameter; round headlights; distinctive hood ornament; lots of airspace under the hood; all heavy steel body; manually operated crank windows; manual sliding sunroof; top speed of 86 mph; 0 to 60 in 25 seconds; lots of legroom front and rear; external chrome trim accents; a non-computerized distinctive classic body shape; external air vent manual control; built in first-aid kit; vacuum-operated door locks; no computer chips; low frequency of repair and easy to do same; replacement parts still available; dependability; over 250,00 kilometers and more to come.

  • Arthur P.

    Remember when the high beam switch was on the left side floor board and activated by pressing your left foot on the switch button?

  • Jessie S.

    Thank you for the very interesting Article. I am writing my Bachelor Thesis on the Analysis od Condensators inside A/C in Autos 🙂
    I wanted to kindly ask for your permition in using one of the pictures of the article in my presantation, with credit of course!

    Thank you and have a nice day!
    Sincerely yours,
    Jessie

  • I’m as nostalgic as the next person; owned 65 documented vehicles. And I miss a lot of the old features. However, disc brakes, fuel injection, air bags, radial tires, and intermittent wipers are great improvements. And since I just sold my ‘64 Impala SS, I no longer have my much appreciated floor dimmer button.

  • Anthony S.

    WHY DON’T THE WARNING LIGHTS THAT COME ON LIKE— CHANGE OIL SOON — GO OFF AFTER YOU CHANGE IT, WITHOUT HAVING TO GO THREW A WHOLE ROUTINE TO GET IT TURNED OFF ?????

  • Margaret D.

    I’m 66 years old and now drive an automatic, but I still watch my tach to see how the engine is performing. Maybe that’s a result of driving a stick shift for so many years.

  • As a 75 yr old person, I miss all the things that have been mentioned as well. However what I really appreciate in newer vehicles are the safety items in newer cars such as: anti-lock brakes, air bags, full safety belts, rear tail lights incorporating faster working LED bulbs (rear center mounted LED brake light notwithstanding), side marker lights, impact absorbing steering columns as well as better engineered car bodies to meet certain crash criteria, high intensity headlights to light up the road more at night, and finally engines that run much cleaner and don’t need high octane gasoline for the most part, just to name a few.

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