LOWELL -- Need a new vehicle with lane guidance, crash avoidance, a top-notch navigation system and WiFi for connectivity on the go?
Most of the 2017 model year cars have you covered -- and then some.
"People really need to look at the vehicle as a computer on wheels, quite frankly," said Robert O'Koniewski, executive vice president of the Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association. "They can just do about anything you need to do with them."
The decades-long tradition of Presidents Day weekend auto sales is a New England phenomenon, O'Koniewski said.
For buyers, it's a way to seek out new high-tech vehicles and take advantage of manufacturer incentives and cash rebates, said Thomas King, a vice president of J.D. Power and Associates, a global marketing information services company.
Savvy consumers can also find great deals on any remaining previous year models that dealers are looking to move out of their inventory, he said.
As cars move closer to autonomous driving, drivers are getting a taste of the future through such features as adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning systems, King said.
Many features used to be available only in high-end and luxury vehicles, but now "we're starting to see that technology available at a much broader range of price points," he said.
"There has never been a better selection of really terrific product out there," King said. "It's a really great environment for folks looking for a new vehicle. Some may be better than others but there's really no such thing as a bad vehicle in this day and age."
He said consumers who haven't bought a new vehicle in 10 or more years will find the new functionalities to be "quite staggering."
Major advancements have been in safety and convenience technologies, King said. Many cars now have backup cameras to help drivers reverse into parking spots, and some will even self-park, he said. Lane-assist features alert the driver if the vehicle is moving out of its lane, and adaptive cruise control automatically brakes or speeds up the vehicle to adjust to traffic conditions, King said.
Collision warning systems can alert drivers to impending crashes and apply the brakes automatically, he said.
Most cars also have Bluetooth, WiFi capabilities and integrated video navigation systems, King said. USB and even standard wall outlets can be found as well.
"A lot of our cars are coming standard with options of blind-spot monitoring and rear-path detection," said Shah Ghandchi, general manager of 495 Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram.
For families, vehicles like the Chrysler Pacifica van come with dual DVD players and are equipped with vacuums to clean up after the kids, he said.
Manny Nobrega, lease and internet sales manager at Drum Hill Ford, fondly recalled a tech-savvy octogenarian customer who likened the Ford navigation system to "bread crumbs."
"It leaves a trail showing her how to get home no matter where she is," he said. "She said, 'I'm confident I can go up into the furthest reaches of Vermont and find my way home.'"
Ford has also made advances with its engines, using turbo-charge technology that gives the fuel-efficient 6-cylinder engine the power of a V8, Nobrega said.
O'Koniewski and King said they expect light-duty trucks, sport and crossover utility vehicles to continue to be more popular than sedans, splitting the market approximately 63 percent to 37 percent. Consumers are shifting toward larger vehicles that sit higher up and provide greater visibility and comfort, they said.
They're certainly among the expected big sellers at local dealerships, which will be offering significant discounts and rebates this weekend.
Nobrega said Ford rebates can be in the thousands of dollars, and there are extra $500 rebates for first responders and military members. Among popular sellers are the F150 line, the Explorer and the Edge, he said.
With the recent winter weather, Ghandchi said he's seen a "huge spike" in sales for the Jeep 4X4 and the Ram pickup line.
Peter Gervais, general manager at Gervais Auto Group, said the Lincoln MKC, a small crossover, and the Volkswagen Alltrack, an all-wheel drive wagon, are hot right now. On the Kia side, it's probably a more traditional car like the Optima, he said.
To make higher-end Lincolns more affordable, leases are the big push, Gervais said.
"If you break down the cost, you only pay for half of the car instead of the whole car," he said.
With all the new bells and whistles available in today's vehicles, it's easy to go overboard in adding features you might not need and that could break the bank.
"One of the biggest mistakes we see consumers making is they get into a vehicle that does not meet their needs, and it may be at a price that they wouldn't necessarily afford," O'Koniewski said.
He urges all potential buyers to do their homework before they set foot in a dealership.
Follow Alana Melanson at facebook.com/alana.lowellsun or on Twitter and Tout @alanamelanson.
Car buying tips
from the experts
* Prepare in advance. Knowing what you want and need will assist the dealer in helping you find the appropriate vehicle.
* Visit manufacturer and consumer review websites to learn more about vehicle features and use the available price estimate tools.
* Test out the vehicles and features you're interested in.
* Explore alternatives to make sure you're getting the best deal.
* Dealerships can assist with financing, but also explore options with your bank or credit union to get the best financing terms.
* A vehicle is a big, long-time investment. Make sure you love it and it suits your needs before you commit to it.
Sources: Massachusetts State Automobile Drivers Association; J.D. Power and Associates.