A lot of newer cars come with Bluetooth built-in–or at least as an option from the manufacturer. However, if you have an older car and really want Bluetooth access for your phone, here are several ways you can add it to your vehicle.
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All of these methods vary as far as cost is concerned. You can either pay very little money to add Bluetooth to your car and have a decent setup, or spend a lot of money and have a very nice setup. Here are your options.
Get a Cheap Bluetooth Car Kit
If you want to add Bluetooth capabilities to your car on the cheap, then getting a Bluetooth car kit is the best option. I’m a really big fan of Kinivo’s Bluetooth car kit ($35), which gets power from your car’s cigarette lighter and connects to your stereo via the auxiliary jack.
The Kinivo has the ability to control music played from your phone, and you can control playback using the round control unit instead of your phone. The device also acts as a speakerphone during calls, thanks to a built-in microphone and using your car’s speakers as the speakerphone.
If your car’s stereo doesn’t have an auxiliary jack, you’re not completely out of luck. If you don’t mind digging into your dashboard a bit, it’s possible that there are empty RCA plugs on the back of the stereo that you can plug an auxiliary cable to. You can also use an FM transmitter like this one from iClever ($25), which you can connect your phone to over Bluetooth and then have your music beamed to your car’s stereo over FM. The quality won’t be the best, but it’s a decent option that I like using.
Tack On a Bluetooth Speakerphone
If you’re only interested mostly in making and receiving calls while on the road, you may not need something quite as versatile as the Kinivo, which is where a Bluetooth speakerphone unit can be a good solution. They run on battery power and come with their own built-in microphone and speakers, so they’re completely independent and they don’t need to rely on your stereo at all.
Something like the Jabra Freeway ($70) would be a great option, and it can easily be mounted on your car’s visor. Plus, it can last up to 40 days in standby mode and give you 14 hours of talk time before it needs recharging.
It can play music from your phone, but the unit’s built-in speakers probably aren’t the best if you’re expecting exceptional audio quality.
Install an Aftermarket Bluetooth-Equipped Head Unit
The most expensive, but most streamlined option is to buy an aftermarket head unit to replace the stock stereo in your car. If you pretty much live in your car and know that you’ll be using the Bluetooth functionality a lot, paying a bit more to get a good aftermarket head unit with Bluetooth can be a worthwhile investment.
You don’t need to spend a ton of money, though–$75 to $100 will get you a good head unit with all of the bells and whistles you would want. This Pioneer head unit ($89) can do the job just fine, and it even comes with a small corded microphone that you can use for speakerphone calls. Plus, the cool lights and nifty knobs are worth it alone, right?
Of course, the installation process requires you to open up your dashboard and replace the stock stereo (and you’ll likely need a new wiring harness), so if this is something that you’re uncomfortable doing yourself, you’ll need to find a friend or take it to a shop to get it swapped out. (And that may add to the cost.)
The Jankier Option: Use a Portable Bluetooth Speaker
If you already have a Bluetooth speaker lying around, you can take it with you in the car and put it in the console in between the seats, or get creative and velcro it to the dashboard.
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Be sure to bring a USB charging cable for it, as well as a cigarette lighter adapter to keep it charged up. The audio quality certainly won’t be as good as your car’s own speakers, but if you don’t already have Bluetooth in your car, this is a quick and easy way to make it happen.
This probably isn’t the best option, but it’s at least an option. And if you already have a portable Bluetooth speaker lying around, it doesn’t cost you any additional money like the previous methods. You could at least try it and see if adding Bluetooth to your car is really worth the cost of a more expensive setup.
In the end, there are quite a few options to choose from, but it really comes down to how much money you want to spend in order to get Bluetooth capabilities inside of your car, and how much effort you want to put into making it happen.
Title image from l i g h t p o e t/Bigstock