Most cars built in the 2010 model year and beyond are equipped with Bluetooth functionality. So if your vehicle is going without, it probably feels very dated. But you don’t need to upgrade your automobile in order to take advantage of features like audio streaming and hands-free calling.
There are easy ways to add Bluetooth functionality to your vehicle for cheap.
You’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, so we’re starting out with the cheapest option first. The FM transmitter plugs straight into your car’s cigarette lighter and broadcasts a signal over FM frequency.
Set the device to 106.3, and it will pick up on your phone’s audio, so you can stream music in your car.
Most FM transmitters come equipped with a built-in microphone, so you can use the device for hands-free calling. Some devices also allow you to plug a USB device into the transmitter to turn your car into an MP3 player of sorts.
You can pick up a high-quality FM transmitter for under $20.
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If your car has an aux input and you’re looking for the best value, a Bluetooth receiver is probably the way to go.
These simple devices plug straight into your car’s aux input and can allow you to stream music or play phone calls from the car’s speakers.
The FM transmitter ultimately has the same function, but we all know how well radio signals work. That’s why the Bluetooth receiver is a better option, if your car has an aux input. Most late model cars do, but most late model cars are also equipped with Bluetooth functionality. Bottom line: be sure to check before you go out and buy a Bluetooth receiver.
A good Bluetooth receiver will only cost you about $20.
For under $30 and little-to-no technical knowledge, you can add Bluetooth functionality by way of universal kit. These kids are standalone units that are made to work in any car.
They work through a built-in speaker and microphone combo, and you can clip them anywhere that’s convenient (sun visor, air vent, etc.).
And although the price tag may make this option sound like a dream, there are also some cons to consider.
It’s awesome that you can access Bluetooth technology without having to do any wiring. But the downside to this is that there’s a fair amount of exposed wiring with systems like these. This can make the system look like a hack-job and leave wires getting in the way of everything.
However, if you think that’s a small price to pay, universal Bluetooth kits are the way to go.
Another, slightly upgraded, option is to replace your car’s entire audio system with something that has Bluetooth capabilities.
The bonus of going this route is that you also get to upgrade your car’s audio system. The drawback is that it can be expensive and require professional installation. We end up seeing a lot of installations at the Mazda service center, and they’re relatively quick and inexpensive. But even though this is a pricier option than the $30 universal kit, even the most affordable aftermarket audio systems available today are likely to have Bluetooth capabilities.
You may be able to snag an aftermarket audio system for as little as $40 – or you could spend hundreds. With this option, you can even add features like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, enhancing that “newer car feel” even more.
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A vehicle-specific Bluetooth adapter is one that was designed specifically for your car, usually by the manufacturer. These work much in the same way as a universal kit, but they provide more of a seamless look and feel. So, it’s not out of place with your car’s overall aesthetic.
Another benefit to these adapters is that they’re made specifically for your car, so they are in-tune with your car’s audio system.
Although there are some similarities between vehicle-specific adapters and universal kits, the vehicle-specific adapters usually do require some wiring. You may need to remove the factory stereo to wire in the adapter and route a microphone back to the unit’s head.
This can be a pricier option, but it’s a whole lot cheaper than buying a new car with Bluetooth enabled audio. Expect that a vehicle-specific adapter will cost anywhere between $50 and $100 for the unit itself. Naturally, you’ll pay more if you need someone to install it for you.
Aftermarket parts and technologies make up a huge market, so there’s no reason you need to live without any technology in your life. Even if you’re driving a restored cruiser from the 60s, you can talk to your friends hands-free and stream audio in your vehicle. Try any of these easy and cheap solutions to add Bluetooth to your car.
I am interested in all things technology, especially automation, robotics and tech that helps change how society will live in the future.