Don't Buy a New Car Today for One Very Important Reason

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Would you have bought real estate in San Francisco on April 17, 1906, had you known that there would be an earthquake the following day? Would you have bought stocks on October 16, 1987, had you known that the market would crash on October 19?

I'll let you in on a free tip: Don't buy a new car today. Or tomorrow, either. Wait at least a couple of months. There's a reason why any car you buy now will lose value disproportionately compared to a car you might buy later this year.

The reason? Apple's (AAPL) Apple CarPlay and Google's (GOOGL) Android Auto. Once consumers use these systems that integrate seamlessly with technology they are already used to, they'll never want to go back.

A bespoke in-car infotainment system is inferior to most smartphones. For starters, it's a new interface, so you have to learn something new. Even if it were designed well, you have a hard time keeping up with learning your constantly changing smartphone.

Probably the simplest thing people want to do, that they find difficult in most cars: Entering an address for the navigation system. Everyone knows how easy it is on their smartphone. Shouldn't it be as simple on your car? Of course it should, and with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay it soon will be.

Then we have the issue with updates. Car companies are notorious for slow or nonexistent software updates. If you wanted a new infotainment experience, you were better off just buying a new car. Not so going forward.

Some people will object to my thesis:

  • But I don't care about Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.
  • But I just listen to AM or FM radio.
  • But I was happy with my existing car's infotainment system.

My answer: It doesn't matter what you think about Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. What matters is what other people will think about your car when it comes time to trade it in. In a few years, will someone want to buy your car when it doesn't have the technology interface they are already used to? 

But let's say you have $25,000 or $50,000 burning a hole in your pocket, and you want to go pick up a new car as soon as possible. What do you do? Is there an exception to the rule?

As we sit here today, early June, there are only two partial exceptions that are available in the market:

  1. Hyundai Sonata ($25,000). The 2015 model is upgradeable to Android Auto, effective immediately. However, not to Apple CarPlay -- so, buyer beware.
  2. Volvo XC90 ($50,000). The all-new 2016 model is hitting dealerships this month. Volvo says it will be upgradeable to both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in the coming months (CarPlay in November and Android Auto next March). One wonders if there is a money-back guarantee if those updates somehow fail or otherwise don't materialize as promised.

Therefore, unless you are going for the Hyundai Sonata or Volvo XC90, you should wait to buy a new car until something suitable has entered the market that's either got Apple CarPlay and Android Auto from the start, or is upgradeable to them. You should not have to wait too long, as models so equipped are expected from most automakers in just a couple of months from now.

Most people probably don't know what Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are, or what they do. Were it otherwise, the car malls today would be as empty as post-1986 Chernobyl, as people smartly await the introduction of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto into their cars targeted for purchase.

That could change soon. In just a few months, public awareness about Android Auto and Apple CarPlay will mushroom, thanks to mainstream TV, print and online media advertising the new products. If you don't see it on TV or elsewhere, you will learn about these systems from your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors.

When that happens, in the coming weeks, we may see intelligent car shoppers go on strike, as they tally the available models inside their purchase-timing framework. In the meantime, however, lots of consumers will make the mistake of buying a car now, when they could have benefited greatly by waiting just a few short months.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held AAPL.

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