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How do I get Bluetooth in my car?

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Man in car with bluetooth earpiece
Cultura/Natalie Young/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Question: How do I get Bluetooth in my car?

My new phone has Bluetooth, but my car doesn’t. What do I need to do to get Bluetooth in my car?

Answer:

Since most people upgrade their phones far more frequently than they upgrade their cars, this is a pretty common issue. That means you’re definitely not alone, and there are a bunch of solutions out there that directly address your problem. You’ll find that the main solutions fall into three basic categories

  • aftermarket Bluetooth car stereos
  • Bluetooth radio adapters
  • Bluetooth car kits

The best way for you to get Bluetooth in your car will depend largely on your budget and what kind of stereo you have in your car. If you have a Bluetooth-ready aftermarket car stereo, then the best (and usually cheapest) way forward is to buy the appropriate stereo-specific adapter. In other cases, a Bluetooth car kit is the cheapest, easiest way to get Bluetooth in your car. The most expensive option is to simply upgrade your car stereo.

Adding a Bluetooth Radio Adapter

Some head units are “Bluetooth ready” in that while they don’t actually have built-in Bluetooth functionality, you can add it later with a separate peripheral device. These devices typically consist of a small box that contains a Bluetooth radio and other electronics and a wire or wires that you have to plug into your head unit. Installation tends to be a relatively simple operation, although you’ll usually have to remove your head unit to access the adapter port.

Since each of these Bluetooth adapters is “stereo specific,” you have to buy the exact device that was designed for your car stereo. If your head unit wasn’t designed with a Bluetooth adapter in mind, you’ll have to add Bluetooth to your car in some other way.

Hands-free Calling and Streaming Music with a Bluetooth Car Kit

If there isn’t a stereo-specific Bluetooth adapter for your head unit, then a Bluetooth radio adapter is another easy, low cost way that you can add Bluetooth connectivity to your car. There are a lot of options out there, so it’s important to understand the different choices that are available to you. The main types of Bluetooth car kits include:

  • Speakerphones
  • Hands-free calling kits
  • Music streaming kits
  • Combination units

Bluetooth speakerphones tend to be relatively simple devices that don’t actually interface with your car radio. You basically pair your cell phone to the speakerphone and then use it like a headset that you don’t actually have to wear in your ear. That makes the installation quick and easy, but you’ll be missing out on a lot of neat Bluetooth features.

The two main features to look for in a Bluetooth car kit are hands-free calling and music streaming. A good Bluetooth car kit will be able to turn down (or mute) your radio during calls, and the ability to wirelessly stream music from your phone (including from Internet radio services like Pandora and Last.FM) is a nice touch.

See more about: Bluetooth car kits

Upgrading to a Bluetooth Car Stereo

The most expensive way you can add Bluetooth to your car is to just bite the bullet and upgrade your entire head unit. If you’re already on the verge of a sound system overhaul, then you’ll definitely want to zero in on head units that include Bluetooth functionality. Full Bluetooth integration means that your head unit will typically be able to display caller information, song data when you’re streaming music, and may even be able to dial your phone or control apps via a touchscreen interface.

If you’re thinking about taking the plunge, check out more information about:

  1. About.com
  2. Autos
  3. Car Tech
  4. Connected Cars
  5. How do I get Bluetooth in my car?

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