How To Modernize Your Car With Bluetooth

Best Buy doesn’t even sell CDs anymore, people!

byTony Markovich| UPDATED Mar 19, 2021 10:51 AM
How To Modernize Your Car With Bluetooth

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Bluetooth does nothing new. Even before the technology was introduced, you could make hands-free calls to Mum and stream Mobb Deep’s The Infamous through your car stereo. Bluetooth’s crowning achievement is that it allows drivers to do these things without the messy annoyance known as wires.

We despise cluttered car cabins, and wires have become one of the major culprits for quickly mucking up center consoles. If one of your 2021 resolutions is to keep a cleaner car or to simply upgrade it, it’s time for you to add Bluetooth to your cabin. 

There are good and bad ways to do this, just as there are pricier options and cheap options. Below, The Drive’s plugged-in editors untangle the wires and clearly lay out how to proceed without too much hassle. Time to get to it.

What Is Bluetooth?

Let’s begin with the basics. Bluetooth is a wireless technology that allows two devices to communicate without a plug. This technology allows you to easily connect your phone to your automobile’s infotainment system.

How Is Bluetooth Used in Cars?

Smartphones pair to cars and can sync music, text messages, maps, contacts, applications, and numerous other functions. 

Many Bluetooth receivers plug into the cigarette lighter., Anker / Amazon

Ways To Add Bluetooth To Your Car

There are good options, and there are bad options. Learn which is which below.

Bluetooth Radio Transmitter

A Bluetooth radio transmitter essentially pairs with your phone and the radio. After a radio station is selected on the device, you match the station in the car, and the sound comes through the main stereo system. The phone connects through an aux cord, while the receiver is powered by batteries, the car’s USB port, or the car’s cigarette lighter.

Bluetooth Receiver

A Bluetooth receiver can only be used with new cars that feature USB ports or auxiliary jacks. Your phone pairs with the receiver, which then connects to the car’s infotainment through one of those two methods.

Single-Din Radio

If you don’t care about having any of the modern touchscreen amenities like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, a single-din radio is one of the best cheap upgrades for an older vehicle. 

After the CD player went bad on my personal 2003 Acura RSX, I replaced it with a basic Pioneer unit. It automatically connects to my phone when I turn the car on, and it has an extra USB port, an aux port, and a microphone for hands-free calls. 

Double-Din Radio With Touchscreen

The most beautiful and technologically advanced way to add Bluetooth to your old ride is with a double-din touchscreen head unit. Not only do you add Bluetooth, you also add the upgrades that come with a massive digital touchscreen. A new Double-Din will likely give you Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, too.

Bluetooth Speakerphone

The least useful method is a small receiver and speaker that creates hands-free calls. It does not connect to the radio and does nothing with music. It only amplifies your calls and allows you to speak to it with a built-in microphone.

How Much Does It Cost To Add Bluetooth To a Car?

A simple transmitter or receiver can cost $10, while the premium head unit stereos can cost $200-500. A decent single-din head unit will cost about $100-200.

The Basics of Aftermarket Bluetooth Installation

Estimated Time Needed: 5 minutes to 3 hours

Skill Level: Beginner

Vehicle System: Stereo/Infotainment

Everything You’ll Need To Add Bluetooth to a Car

Installing a Bluetooth transmitter or a receiver is as simple and straightforward as it gets. No tools are necessary.

Parts List

  • Bluetooth transmitter or receiver

Here’s How To Setup a Bluetooth Transmitter In Your Car

The easiest how-to ever.

  1. Turn your car on.
  2. Plug the transmitter into the USB or cigarette lighter.
  3. Plug the transmitter into your phone’s headphone jack.
  4. Set the station on the transmitter.
  5. Set the station on the car’s radio.
  6. If it’s fuzzy, try another radio station.
  7. Rock out!
Touchscreens add more than just Bluetooth., Pioneer / Amazon

Consider Mobile Stereo Installation from YourMechanic

While The Drive’s how-to guides are detailed and easy to follow, no vehicle is created the same, and not all auto maintenance or repair tasks are easy to accomplish on your own. That’s why we’ve partnered with YourMechanic and their network of mobile automotive technicians to offer our readers $10 off a $70 or more service call when you use promo code THEDRIVE.

FAQs About Adding Bluetooth To Your Car

You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!

Q. So How Do I Know If My Car Has Bluetooth?

A. There are a few ways to identify if your car has Bluetooth.

  • Scroll through the stereo options, if possible.
  • Use the Bluetooth search function on your phone to look for your car.
  • You can perform a visual inspection of the dashboard, as many cars print the Bluetooth logo on the plastic.
  • Check your owner’s manual.
  • Call a dealership for help.

Q. Ok, Then What Year of Cars Has Bluetooth?

A. Virtually all new cars sold today can be optioned with Bluetooth. The technology was introduced around 2000, and it started to become more popular and common about 5-10 years later.

Q. Alright, Which Cheap Cars Have Bluetooth?

A. If you’re looking for a cheap new car, we recommend the 2020 Kia Rio LX hatchback. For $16,815, the base model comes standard with a 7.0-inch touchscreen display with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a backup camera. There are plenty of good options with Bluetooth today, though, including the Hyundai Accent, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, or Honda Fit. There are also a host of used cars that come with the feature now as well. 

Let’s Talk, Comment Below To Talk With The Drive’s Editors!

We’re here to be expert guides in everything How-To related. Use us, compliment us, yell at us. Comment below and let’s talk! You can also shout at us on Twitter or Instagram, here are our profiles.

Jonathon Klein: Twitter (@jonathon.klein), Instagram (@jonathon_klein)

Tony Markovich: Twitter (@T_Marko), Instagram (@t_marko)

Chris Teague: Twitter (@TeagueDrives), Instagram (@TeagueDrives)


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