CARS.COM — "Back to the Future" Day has come and gone and, in some ways, the future really is now. Lexus has built a working hoverboard prototype while Nike has announced the Mag sneaker with power laces, albeit in limited numbers to be auctioned for charity.
Cars have also come a long way since the time-traveling DeLorean DMC-12, but despite all the advanced active safety features and entertainment technology that can be packed into today's cars, more than a few 2016 models still include old-school manual-crank windows that seem, especially now, from a bygone automotive era. Do you have to crank your window down by hand to open it? There are several reasons why even many newer vehicles still offer windows that are manual.
Related: The 10 Most Annoying Car Features
According to Ed Kim, vice president of industry analysis at AutoPacific, manual windows are primarily available in subcompact vehicles in the passenger-car market, and they help automakers keep prices as low as possible for car shoppers who want a new vehicle without all the expensive features — like power windows. Kim said there isn't a significant segment of the population that wants windows that the user needs to crank open by hand, but those who get them are "really doing it because it's the cheapest new car they can afford." Opting for windows that are a bit less convenient to open is one sacrifice that many buyers are willing to take, and selecting the manual option can bring significant savings.
Looking at features data on model-year-2016 vehicles proves it. Old-fashioned windows that you have to crank open by hand are available in models like the Ford Fiesta S, Nissan Versa S, Chevrolet Sonic LS and Kia Rio LX.
Manual windows are also common in full-size trucks. They're often bought by fleets, which are similarly price-conscious, according to Kim. "These fleet managers are looking for lowest cost of entry, lowest operating cost. They couldn't care less if it has power windows or not." Manual windows are standard on the Ford F-150 XL and Ram 1500 Tradesman.
The Jeep Patriot and Compass small SUVs also have standard hand-crank windows to keep their base price low, but it might be hard to find one equipped this way. About 18 percent of Patriots and 7 percent of Compass SUVs are built with this type of window, according to a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles U.S. spokesperson.
A car with manual windows may be less expensive to buy, but building it is another thing. "In many cases it's advantageous [from a cost standpoint] not to offer a base manual window setup," Kim said. "Reducing complexity these days is one of the key goals in terms of manufacturing."
For now, at least, it's clear there are enough price-focused new-car shoppers to keep manual windows around.
Features-data aggregation by Danny Kim
Cars.com's Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com's long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don't accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com's advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.