Hands-On Review: The Best Car Phone Mounts for All Your Devices
Choose the most effective car mount and phone holder combination to get the best car phone mount.
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BY Mike Bumbeck / LAST UPDATED ON November 22, 2021
Today’s smartphones pack over 100,000 times more power than the computers that guided astronauts to the moon and back 50 years ago. But finding a half-decent car phone mount? Seems like an impossible moonshot.
While smaller and more compact, smartphone design hasn't veered too far away from the basic rectangle for the last 10 or 15 years. But automotive interior design changes and increasingly heavy phones mean one size of car phone mount does not fit all.
Read on for what we hope is at least a partial answer to the smartphone take on the space-age phrase: If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we make a car phone mount that works?
Why Trust Us
Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
About Our Car Phone Mount Test and Review
Car phone mounts are a duality with a singular purpose. One part mounts to the car; the other part holds the phone. Both must work together for success. We chose a baker’s dozen or so car phone holders and cradles with various mount/holder approaches to see which combination works best. We mounted all of them into our Mitsubishi Montero test vehicle, and hit the road.
Size and weight place increasingly heavy demands on car phone holders, so we broke out the scale and weighed our operational test phone options. The Samsung Galaxy T-Mobile Vibrant was the oldest and lightest of the bunch at 115 grams. Its 2019 Samsung Galaxy Note 9 successor scaled over twice as heavy — 278g with a screen protector and case. Our daily-driven Google Pixel 3A XL weighed 197g with a factory cloth case.
We also picked up a few dummy display versions of the near-latest flagship smartphones. These fakes were surprisingly accurate, with metal frames, glass backs, and ports and controls in the right places, just like their fully operational counterparts. The test dummies looked the part but fell short on weight. We used adhesive wheel balancing weights to hit the desired number, and even threw on a bit extra to account for cases and screen protectors.
Considering that one or two of these small, 7-gram wheel-balancing weights is usually enough to bring an entire motorcycle wheel and tire into balance, it's easy to see how larger and heavier modern phones influence car phone mounts' form and function. Official factory weights for our dummy display phones are 177g for the iPhone XS, 198g for the Samsung Galaxy S10+, and 226g for the iPhone 11 Pro. The average weight between six cases worked out to about 140g. Add a tempered glass screen protector and you’ve got a solid pound of phone.
Past experience with woefully inadequate car phone mounts, a test vehicle with agricultural-grade truck suspension, and the unyielding laws of physics eliminated a few types of car phone mounts from testing consideration. We may be proven wrong in the future, but for now, we’ve outlined what we avoided, along with a few reasons why.
We did not test:
- Anything with a gooseneck or flexible extension longer than 10-12 inches. We know some new car dashboards are expansive enough to create their own mirages, but a long gooseneck with a heavy slab of metal and glass mounted on one end is going to wobble. Some gooseneck phone holders include adhesive braces to prevent excessive movement, but you might as well use an adhesive or suction cup mount at that point.
- Mirror mounts. Most automakers' rearview mirror engineering departments do not account for extra weight hanging on. That mirror mount phone holder is all fine and good until the windshield adhesive or ball joint fails and drops the lot into your morning coffee. Besides, while laws against hanging things from rearview mirrors vary by state and are rarely enforced, you don’t want to give the authorities a visible reason to pull you over.
- Anything that obscured vision or eliminated a useful feature like a cup holder or CD mount. Cup holder mounts either make you look down at the phone or have a wobbly gooseneck to make up the height difference. CD slot mounts might be a good idea for some cars, but many new cars don't even have CD players. Besides, the Montero has a killer cassette deck.
- Wireless charging models are in their own category, and perhaps deserve their own test. We also avoided anything encrusted with glitter or genuine simulated zirconia gems. You’re on your own there.
Best Car Phone Mount Reviews & Recommendations 2021
The iOttie Easy One Touch is hard to beat in this segment. It's built well, it's washable, and it does exactly what you need it to. However, the Andobil Easy Clamp was awarded Best Close Contender for a reason. We want your take is, though. Make sure to let us know what you think the best phone mount for cars is!
What to Consider When Buying Phone Mounts
Not sure what to make of our selection? Neither were we off the hop. While they seem simple, there are a lot of factors to read into while you shop. This buying guide is here to give you some insight into our decision-making process so that you can filter through the many options in front of you!
Types of Car Phone Mounts
Car phone mounts and cradles are available in a wide range of car mount and phone holder combinations, so we split each part into separate categories with different types and features.
Car Mount Types
Suction cup mounts work like an action camera or shower hook versions and are often made with an extra tacky soft gel material to help the cup adhere to irregular surfaces like textured dashboards. Suction cups are easy to reposition without damaging the mounting surface.
Adhesive mounts use two-sided foam pads coated with 3M VHB or similar high strength glue to keep the car mount locked firmly in place. A smaller footprint means adhesives work where suction cups won’t, but the VHB adhesives can be impossible to remove without damaging surfaces.
Vent mounts use a spring-loaded or threaded tension clamp that mounts onto the vanes. Vent mounts are easy to reposition but can be unstable since vents move by design. Blocked airflow can be a problem, and extended periods of excessive heat can damage smartphones.
Clamp-type mounts use a clothespin-style spring tension or threaded clamp to secure the car phone mount in place without adhesives or sticky suction cups. Clamps are the easiest of all to reposition but can leave indentations on soft-touch or padded surfaces.
Phone Holder Types
Clamp-style phone holders use a gear ratcheting or spring-loaded clamp that grabs hold of the phone’s edges. Some feature adjustable legs that cradle the bottom of the phone for added stability. Clamp holders are simple and effective, but the arms can block ports or controls.
These compact phone holders use potent magnets that grab onto a steel plate adhered to the phone body or case. Mounting the steel plate closest to the magnets results in the best grip, but adhesives can be tough to remove, and the steel plates can interfere with wireless charging.
These phone holders use the weight of the phone and hinged arms that secure the phone in place. Simply drop the phone into the holder and go. Gravity holders and cradles work best with a secure and stable car mount as bouncing upward motion loosens gravity’s grip.
- Big and Tall. Smartphones get larger every year, and the boundary line between phone and tablet is further blurred with every new device. Measure your phone size diagonally from the top and bottom corners or use factory specifications as your guide to size compatibility.
- Heavyweight Champion. Larger phones have more glass, rare earth metals, aluminum, thermal paste, adhesives, and plastic sandwiched together than ever before. It all adds up. Giant phones can tip the scales into the red and exceed a car phone mount’s payload.
- Extra Clearance. Make sure there’s room to move. Gravity phone holders need clearance under the phone for stability, and vent car mounts might not extend far enough away from the vanes to clear dashboard obstacles such as knobs and dials.
- You Must Be This Tall to Ride: All but one of our test products held onto the largest of today’s smartphones and their facsimiles without fail, but a few clamp-type holders could not get a grip on our ancient and impossibly tiny-by-comparison 2009 Samsung Galaxy T-Mobile Vibrant.
- Stuck Unstuck: Adhesive car mounts can be nearly impossible to remove without damaging the mounting surface or leaving residue behind. Conversely, these adhesives don’t work on textured, curved, or greasy surfaces. Don’t get stuck with heat guns and adhesive removers.
Benefits of Car Phone Mounts
Keep your eyes on the road. A smartphone can easily obscure pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, or a speeding locomotive. The best car phone mounts take the smartphone out of the line of sight and blend it with gauges and dash controls.
Distracted driving is a significant cause of automobile accidents and injuries. At 60 MPH, you’re covering over six car lengths every second. A moment of distraction is all it takes for everything to change for the worse, permanently.
Laws against smartphone use while driving vary by state — and driving with a smartphone in your hand is a terrible idea anyway. A car phone mount helps avoid expensive tickets and prevents accidents.
iOttie is headquartered in New York City and makes travel, automotive, home, and outdoor lifestyle products. Its innovative Easy One Touch Dash & Windshield Car Mount Phone Holder was the best overall choice. The company offers a wide range of award-winning smartphone mounting and charging solutions for the automotive and cycling markets. Check out the newest generation at the iOttie Store at Amazon.
Established in a small garage back in 1980, Scosche has since grown to an internationally renowned manufacturer of consumer technology, powersports, and car audio products. The family-owned business is based in Ventura, California, with over 200 employees focused on innovative products designed by enthusiasts for enthusiasts. Check out the full lineup from car phone holders to fitness trackers over at the SCOSCHE Store.
Wizgear specializes in smartphone accessories designed for customer satisfaction. The company offers everything from car phone holders, and phone stands for the home or office to phone cases and wireless smartphone charging solutions. Genuine products purchased from the official Wizgear Store are backed by its one-year, 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.
Phone Mount Pricing Considerations
There are some winners for under $10, but don’t expect anything heavy-duty or high payload. Keep an eye on quality to avoid duds. Stepping up with a few extra bucks to the $10-$25 range means better quality and higher payloads along with a wide range of car mount and phone holder combinations. Spending more than $25 can mean super duty, professional-grade, or a status branded car phone mount with some gold-plated gem-encrusted bling.
Car Phone Mount Tips and Tricks
As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and crate engines. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.
- Measure twice, glue once. 3M VHB and similar high-strength adhesives can be difficult or impossible to remove without surface damage and gummy residue. Test fit for clearance and viewing angle before gluing down anything. Use protective base films.
- Clip- or clamp-style car mounts can leave permanent indentations in padded or soft-touch dashboard materials. Extended periods of direct sunlight and excessive heat can accelerate the process. Remove tension clip car mounts when not in use.
- Magnet mounts work best when the adhesive steel plate makes direct contact with the magnets. Unless you’re rocking the limited edition Cast Iron iPhone XXL, fix the steel plate to the back of the phone or case for superior grip. Use protective films to prevent damage.
Q: How can I tell if a car phone mount will fit my phone?
A: By phone make and model or measurements. Some car phone mount companies list compatible phone models, but actual measurements are a better guide. Use the factory specifications for your phone or measure diagonally from the top and bottom of your screen.
Q: Can I use a car phone mount if I have a bulky case?
A: Sometimes. Cases add bulk and weight to the phone, so consider the phone mount type and case-friendly features. Some gravity phone holders work better without a case, and thick cases can reduce magnet holders’ effectiveness.
Q: Can magnets damage my phone or battery?
A: No. The car phone holder magnets themselves do not cause damage to the phone or battery. Phones use solid-state storage and memory unaffected by magnets. Phone damage can occur when removing the powerful adhesives on the steel plate, but the magnets are safe — unless they’re too weak to hold your phone.
Q: Does the magnetic phone holder metal plate affect wireless charging?
A: It can. If you want a magnetic phone holder and use wireless charging, be aware that the steel magnetic mounting plate can interfere with the power transfer. Mounting the steel plate to the case and removing the phone for wireless charging is an option for magnetic car phone holders.
Q: Can heat damage my vent-mounted phone?
A: Absolutely. Especially over time, excessive heat can reduce the performance and longevity of any phone. Some phones have a built-in thermal overload shutdown feature, but that won’t help if the phone gets blasted with heat from an external source. Consider a different type of car phone mount if running the heater is a necessity.