Here’s Why Nobody Reads Their Car’s Owner’s Manual


Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson recently starred in a comedic rap-music video in which he longed for a return to the days when “short-ass movies” came in at around a tidy 90 minutes, rather than today’s three- and four-hour bladder-challenging blockbusters.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the average new-vehicle’s owners’ manuals, which, concurrent with the complexity of contemporary cars, have become imposingly thick and mind-numbing tomes of what should be essential information. The majority remain unread in their respective models’ gloveboxes, beneath piles of registration forms, repair receipts, and take-out ketchup packets.

To be sure, a new-vehicle’s owners’ manual is one of its key components, as it includes details how to operate all the other key components like the heated seats, navigation system, and how to turn off that annoying lane departure warning, all in great detail. It also includes warranty information and a model’s recommended maintenance schedule. But for many motorists its sheer size makes this important tome go from “must-read” to a “must-I-read-it?” status.

How verbose are they becoming? According to a recent deep dive into the matter by the UK-based Scrap Car Comparison, it would take less time to read the entire Lord of the Rings series at an estimated 40 hours, 22 minutes, than to fathom the 308-page Audi R8 owner’s manual at a work-week overtime 43 hours and 9 minutes. By comparison, the smaller and presumably less complex Audi A3’s manual takes around 12 hours and 11 minutes to absorb, which most otherwise occupied motorists would still consider a crippling commitment.

What’s more, the site discovered that the reading level among automotive owners’ manuals can vary widely, based on the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease and Grade Level test. For example, though it affords among the shortest owner’s manual in the survey at just 16,526 words, the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque guidebook requires a university-level education to fully fathom. Tesla’s instruction books were found to be much more manageable in this regard, being easily understandable to anyone with an average reading age of just 12-13 years.

These are the 10 vehicles sold in the U.S. that come with the longest owner’s manuals in the industry, with their word counts and average time to read (rounded to the nearest quarter hour), according to Scrap Car Comparison:

  1. Audi R8: 616,064 words, 43 hours
  2. Audi e-tron: 603,649 words, 42.25 hours
  3. Ford F-Series: 194,305 words, 13.5 hours
  4. Ram 1500: 177,196 words, 12.5 hours
  5. Audi A3: 174,181 words, 12.25 hours
  6. Volvo XC40: 171,457 words, 12 hours
  7. Volkswagen ID.4: 168,060, 11.75 hours
  8. Jeep Gladiator: 163,225, 11.5 hours
  9. GMC Sierra: 158,194 words, 11 hours
  10. Porsche Taycan: 158,190 words, 11 hours

As voluminous as these testaments to the intricacies of the contemporary car, truck or SUV may be, there are less paper-intensive alternatives. Automakers and third parties make owners’ manuals readily available for free online reading, though not necessarily with the much in the way of search capabilities. An ideal electronic manual would customize the content upon entering a VIN number to avoid having to thumb through, say, a half dozen audio options within a given line to learn how to switch radio sources.

In that regard BMW in particular has done a good job at incorporating the owner’s manual into its in-vehicle iDrive infotainment system to (at least in theory) keep a wealth of handy operating information literally at hand. Unless you’re trying to determine how to use iDrive, that is, then it’s back to the glove box.

You can read Scrap Car Comparison’s full report, including separate stats by vehicle class here.


Source link