Best Features for One-Car Families

The past year has led to a new appreciation for personal transportation. At the same time, new routines mean some families may no longer need a second car.

Whether you’re thinking about buying a car for the first time — or selling one and becoming a one-car family — there are some important things to consider before taking the plunge. We’ll cover them here, with a focus first on features that make it easier to share a car with other drivers in your house, followed by some tips to help make vehicle sharing go smoothly.

Best Features for One-Car Families

Memory settings

Key-based profiles

Multi-zone climate control

Passenger-seat adjustability

Multiple USB ports

Multi-phone connectivity

Phone-as-key capability

Memory Settings

If you’re the only person who drives your car, memory settings may not be that important to you. However, if you regularly share a car with other drivers — especially those who have significantly different preferred driving positions — they’re incredibly useful. Once primarily found on luxury models, memory settings have filtered down to mainstream brands and are available in models like the 2021 Mazda CX-5 and 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan. The number of available memory settings can vary, as well as what the setting saves, but they generally recall the position of the driver’s seat and side mirrors. As more features in car interiors have become powered, like the available power-adjustable pedals in the 2021 Ram 1500, memory settings have expanded to include them.

Key-Based Profiles

Being able to position the driver’s seat and side mirrors at the touch of a button is nice, but some brands have taken the convenience a step further with key fob-based profiles. In the 2022 Acura MDX, for instance, the fob can automatically activate entry lighting and air conditioning settings in addition to seat and mirror positions. Ford, meanwhile, has applied the concept to teen driver safety with its MyKey system. With MyKey, limits can be set on vehicle speed and audio system volume, and the stereo can be completely muted if the front seat belts aren’t buckled. Its technology parents might find useful when sharing a car with a new driver.

Multi-Zone Climate Control

If you and your significant other can’t agree on what temperature to keep your home, chances are the debate will spill over into the car. Fortunately, multi-zone climate control is relatively common in new cars, with dual-zone systems that offer separate temperature settings for the driver and front passenger the most prevalent. Among mainstream models, the 2021 Honda Civic, 2021 Jeep Compass and 2021 Ford Escape all offer dual-zone climate control. For even greater cabin comfort customization, the 2021 Toyota Highlander and 2021 BMW X5, to name two, offer three- and four-zone systems, respectively.

Passenger-Seat Adjustability

If you share a car with another driver you might just as likely find yourself in the passenger seat as behind the wheel, and if you don’t give that seat a good look before buying, you could end up unhappy. Automakers frequently include fewer adjustments for the front passenger seat compared with the driver’s seat, and this can compromise comfort. A height-adjustable passenger seat is highly recommended, and adjustable lumbar support and power adjustments are also worthwhile.

Multiple USB Ports

USB ports are the lifeblood of portable devices when you’re on the go, and having enough of them within reach becomes more important when traveling with others. Beyond just keeping a device charged, they also facilitate Android Auto and Apple CarPlay if your car has these connectivity features. You’ll find USB ports in all seating rows in some of today’s vehicles, but if it’s you and only one other person, a vehicle like the 2021 Ford F-150 that packs the front seating area with ports — it has four front ones standard — might be preferable.

Multi-Phone Connectivity

A useful convenience feature in the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica is its ability to pair two phones simultaneously. Part of the standard Uconnect 5 multimedia system that includes a 10.1-inch touchscreen, the system can oversee two Bluetooth-connected phones and also make one primary for certain functions like voice calls.

Phone-as-Key Capability

It’s stressful when you misplace your car keys, but it’s an even bigger problem when someone else is relying on those keys, too. Some automakers, however, require just your smartphone to drive. Optional systems in the 2021 Hyundai Sonata and 2021 Lincoln Aviator let you use a smartphone to unlock and start your car, and you can also grant access to additional drivers’ phones as needed.

Tips for One-Car Families

Having the right features can make living in a one-car household easier, but being considerate of your fellow drivers goes a long way, too. The following tips and suggestions from editors can help you keep the peace — regardless of whether you’re driving a brand-new vehicle with lots of features or an older no-frills model.

Climate control considerations: Remember to make sure the fan isn’t on full blast when you turn off the car. Whether it’s cold or hot out, the next driver likely won’t appreciate a blast of cold or hot air before the climate control system has a chance to condition it. If you have automatic climate control and use the auto setting, the system will manage this for you.

Audio considerations: A similar idea applies when it comes to stereo volume: If you like your music loud, make sure you turn it down when you’re done with the car. Your fellow drivers will thank you.

Maintenance considerations: Sometimes, shared usage can result in a lack of clear responsibilities. That can create problems when it comes to car maintenance. To avoid ending up with bald tires or an engine that’s severely overdue for an oil change, make one person responsible for vehicle maintenance — and the other drivers responsible for alerting them to possible issues.

Key fob considerations: If your car doesn’t have a phone-as-key feature and you have only one key fob, designate a central location, like a desk drawer, where all drivers in the household can easily access it. Don’t make the storage location too obvious, though; a home break-in could lead to vehicle theft if a key fob is kept in plain sight.