In-car technology is advancing faster than anyone imagined, and it’s also easier to upgrade an older car with cutting-edge features than ever before. Many aftermarket companies allow motorists to benefit from useful connectivity and safety features without having to purchase a new car. Bluetooth is a great example of this – it’s been around for years, and it was an expensive option only available on high-end cars, but it’s become a cheap and easy upgrade on any vehicle, no matter what. whatever its age or its worth.
Bluetooth can be used to make phone calls (it channels the conversation through your car’s speakers) or to stream music directly from your smartphone, although some of the more basic systems are limited to calls. Either way, it’s a feature that dramatically reduces distractions and allows the driver to keep both hands on the wheel at all times. This is why most states have laws that require hands-free calling while driving.
With that in mind, let’s review the quick and affordable ways to add Bluetooth functionality to your vehicle.
If separating the wires just isn’t your cup of tea, the easiest way to add Bluetooth is to use a universal kit, such as the iClever Himbox Plus. As the name suggests, these self-contained units work in just about any car thanks to a built-in speaker and microphone. Many of these systems clip onto your sun visor or can be mounted anywhere you like with suction cups or tape.
There are advantages and disadvantages to these systems. On the plus side, many universal kits can be easily moved from vehicle to vehicle, so if you trade in a lot of cars and don’t want to pay for multiple units, you can just take the device with you. Unfortunately, systems that don’t connect to your factory audio unit won’t be able to integrate with your phone’s music apps. Note that mounting the device with tape could leave an unpleasant mark on your dashboard.
There are a few universal devices that will connect to your head unit and can add music streaming to the list of features, but that makes the setup process a bit more complicated. These devices typically cost between $ 15 and $ 30.
Spare audio units
Replacing your vehicle’s main unit is a great option for those who want the greatest range of audio features. This process takes a bit of work and you will need to adopt the aftermarket look of your new system, but most devices come with easy to follow instructions. With patience, common tools, and a few hours, most people can replace their stereos. Don’t want the hassle? Many electronics stores offer the installation for around $ 100.
There is a wide range of replacement stereo systems on the market. Fortunately, even the most affordable devices have Bluetooth integration for hands-free calling. As you move up the price scale, features like Bluetooth music streaming, full smartphone integration (so you can access your phone’s apps through the car stereo), messaging text (read your messages aloud to keep your eyes on the road) and voice commands become available. You can even add units with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
The large number of devices on the market also means that you’re likely to find a unit that closely matches your stock setup in terms of color and design. Prices for these devices start as low as $ 40 and hover up to several hundred dollars for a more feature-rich unit. Major brands such as Pioneer, Alpine and Kenwood currently offer a range of affordable options.
If you like the look of your vehicle’s original stereo system and don’t mind crossing your wires (no pun intended), a vehicle-specific adapter with Bluetooth functionality may be perfect for you. Crutchfield and other retailers sell a wide variety.
The best part about a factory adapter is that it has been specifically designed for your make and model of vehicle, so you will have the best possible audio quality and vehicle specific installation instructions. If you just want Bluetooth for hands-free calling and possibly music streaming (some systems are limited to phone audio), there’s no need to replace your entire head unit.
Installation time and difficulty will depend on the manufacturer, but most systems require you to remove the factory stereo, wire the adapter, and route a wired microphone to the back of the main unit. Ultimately, you will be able to make and answer calls via Bluetooth through your factory system. In addition to maintaining the original aesthetic, these adapters are generally quite inexpensive, with the average configuration costing less than $ 100. Luxury automakers usually charge more for their devices, but hey, what’s up?
Buying an FM transmitter is one of the cheapest ways to add Bluetooth to your car, especially if you’re driving an older model that doesn’t have an auxiliary input. It’s a phone-shaped device that plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter and broadcasts a signal on a clear FM frequency. Set the transmitter to 106.3, for example, tune your radio to this frequency and you will hear music streaming from your phone or MP3 player. Most FM transmitters also allow you to make hands-free calls.
You can get a decent FM transmitter like this Nulaxy unit for about $ 20. We like this solution because it is affordable, for one person. No installation is required either. All you need to do is turn on the device and tune it to the frequency you want. Since FM frequencies vary from region to region, this will require some adjustment if you typically travel long distances. A station that is clear, say, Reno, could broadcast ’90s hits in Salt Lake City. You will often find yourself resetting the station while on the go. Another potential challenge is finding an open frequency. In a big city like San Francisco, this is often easier said than done. In remote areas, static electricity can also wreak havoc on your audio experience.
A Bluetooth receiver allows you to pair a Bluetooth enabled device with your car’s auxiliary input via a compact device. The possibilities are limitless. Once you have connected the receiver and your device, you can do things like listen to music or receive phone calls through the speaker system.
Bluetooth is very similar to an FM transmitter. That is, they do not need radio waves to establish a connection. You will not hear any static with Bluetooth. Clear, uninterrupted sound quality trumps thin FM frequency. Your car requires an auxiliary input to take advantage of the Bluetooth function. While all modern car models are equipped with an auxiliary input, older cars may not. Older car owners will need to purchase and install a new stereo system with a Bluetooth enabled feature.
Fortunately for consumers, there is a wide variety of Bluetooth receivers on the market. You should expect to spend around $ 20. Of course, some advanced models will cost a bit more. Our top pick and one of our favorite models is the Mpow. One glance and you will understand the aesthetic appeal of this model. The design is tasteful but elegant and modern. Plus, the list of special features that come with it. One of them is a handy mobile application that allows you to locate your parked car in a crowded environment. In addition, the receiver can connect to two devices simultaneously. With this feature, you can stream music through iPod while taking a call on your iPhone.