Reviews

Best Bluetooth FM Transmitters: Bring Some Flexible Sound into Your Old Car

The best Bluetooth FM transmitters to bring digital streaming music to older vehicles

With decades of combined experience covering the latest news, reviewing the greatest gear, and advising you on your next car purchase, The Drive is the leading authority on all things automotive.

The Drive on YouTube The Drive on Facebook The Drive on Instagram

The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.

BY Noelle Talmon / LAST UPDATED ON August 2, 2021

Wireless technology like Bluetooth has all but eliminated the need for cords when it comes to listening to music in your vehicle. Almost all modern cars and trucks come with stereo systems that can hook up to almost any smart device to play or stream music. For older vehicles, however, it's a little different. Since many used vehicles were around before Bluetooth was a thing, they may lack a way to connect to a smart device, wireless or otherwise. This is where an FM transmitter is a useful purchase. If you find yourself wanting to listen to your favorite streaming playlists in your 1994 Mazda Miata, a Bluetooth FM transmitter will let you do just that and possibly more. Take a look at our handy guide to see what you need to know about today's top transmitter choices.

Best Overall
Guanda Bluetooth FM Transmitter
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

Featuring a clear display and user-friendly interface, this FM radio and Bluetooth transmitter makes driving easier. 

Pros
Pros
  • Large screen
  • Stable connection to DC adapter
  • Enables hands free calls and music control
Cons
Cons
  • Takes up quite a bit of space
  • Can encumber access to shift controls 
  • Better with DC adapters placed higher on the dash
Best Overall
Guanda Bluetooth FM Transmitter
Best Value
Raxfly Bluetooth FM Transmitter
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

Affordable and compact, this FM transmitter incorporates a USB and a DC connection. It is built to offer a stable sound with reduced interruptions. 

Pros
Pros
  • Equipped with two charging stations
  • Multiple playback settings
  • Over-voltage and surge protection
Cons
Cons
  • USB ports prone to wear and tear
  • Controls are fairly small and can be tricky to push
  • Easy to scratch the surface
Best Value
Raxfly Bluetooth FM Transmitter
Honorable Mention
Imden Bluetooth FM Transmitter
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

Simple and straightforward, this model incorporates Bluetooth along with FM function to enhance your car’s ability. The compact plug makes it easy to control 

Pros
Pros
  • Compatible with any Bluetooth system 
  • Pairs easily and efficiently
  • Includes overcurrent protection and thermal controls
Cons
Cons
  • Doesn’t enable hands-free functions without a pairing kit
  • Version three Bluetooth is good, but other picks have version five
Honorable Mention
Imden Bluetooth FM Transmitter

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.

Learn more

Why Buy a Bluetooth FM Transmitter

  • Listen to music wirelessly. The good old radio hasn't quite lost out to online streaming services just yet, but if you want to access your favorite playlists, a universal FM transmitter is a must in older vehicles that lack in-car Bluetooth connectivity and advanced car stereos. Circumnavigating the lack of built-in Bluetooth, a transmitter allows you to pipe music through an FM frequency using a smart device or MP3 player. This way, you can stream music right out of your car's radio with one handy device.
  • Enjoy hands-free calling. Many FM transmitters do more than just pipe music through the radio. In fact, anything that has an audio source is up for grabs. This includes a phone's calling capability, so you can enjoy phone calls with hands-free calling straight through the car's speakers. Some FM transmitters have built-in microphones, while others just rely on the phone itself.
  • Get a basic USB car charger. A select few transmitters have built-in USB charging ports so you can get juice right from the car through the 12-volt cigarette lighter outlet. In addition to streaming music and calling with hands-free capability, you can also keep your devices charged during long road trips.

Types of Bluetooth FM Transmitters

Basic Transmitters

The most basic model of an FM radio transmitter is nothing more than a 12-volt plug with a built-in Bluetooth chip. This setup allows it to connect to a smart device and pipe music out through an FM frequency. Some basic models also have a simple LCD screen so you can control the FM frequency selection and verify connectivity with the smart device.

Multifunctional Devices

More advanced FM transmitters combine a lot of functionality in one design. In addition to streaming music, these are the transmitters that make it easy to enjoy hands-free calling, music display data, and on-the-go device charging. These transmitters also tend to be easier to use, coming with larger displays and controls to change settings on the fly. Some come as standalone products, while others are a part of a larger car kit.

Top Brands 

Roav by Anker

Roav is a branch of Anker. It makes electronic accessories specifically for automobiles—smart car devices, dash cams, chargers and adapters, etc. It also makes Bluetooth FM transmitters. Yes, Anker is a Chinese company, but it's also one of the most trusted electronics brands on the market. Check out the Roav by Anker SmartCharge F2 Bluetooth FM Transmitter

Nulaxy

Relatively new to the market, Nulaxy may have only begun operations in 2015, but it quickly grew into a powerhouse in the consumer electronics industry. Specializing in vehicular electronics, mobile accessories, and more, it keeps a primary focus on research and development. It now supplies electrical accessories internationally, though its headquarters remain in Shenzhen, China. Among its repertoire is some impressive Bluetooth tech, including the Nulaxy Bluetooth Car FM Transmitter, a solid way to update older rides.

VicTsing

An electronics company focused mainly on computer- and mobile-related supplies, VicTsing naturally dabbles in the radio industry. One of its popular plug-and-play systems is the VicTsing FM Transmitter Adapter. It’s durable and easy to use, a consistent theme with this brand. Developing a good reputation since its inception, you can turn to this brand for everything from automotive supplies to keyboard accessories. When it comes to tech, VicTsing is worth keeping in mind. 

Bluetooth FM Transmitter Pricing

  • $5 and under: The budget range of FM transmitters is filled with basic options that do one job alone: transmit music to the radio. These tend to be user-friendly in design but can lack intuitive control interfaces (or an interface altogether).
  • $5-$15: The midrange of FM transmitters is home to a mix of simple single-use options and multifunctionality designs. In some cases, the FM transmitters still lack additional features like USB ports but do offer higher-end displays and controls for easy use while driving.
  • $15 and above: Higher-end FM transmitters package a lot of functionality into one design. Physical features like USB charging are plentiful in addition to built-in capabilities like noise-canceling filters and more.

Key Features

Bluetooth Connectivity

Arguably, this is the very thing that makes an FM transmitter wireless. Bluetooth connectivity allows the device to connect to a smartphone without any cords. Be aware, however, there are a few FM transmitters that lack the Bluetooth addition, instead of relying on just a simple audio cable to connect the transmitter to the device.

USB Ports

If you want to charge devices on-the-go through a 12-volt outlet, built-in USB ports are a must. Large transmitters typically have one or two ports included in the body. Keep in mind that the type of USB ports included is important. Modern USB 3.0 and above ports are better for quick-charging the latest smart devices you may have.

Info Display

Modern audio systems do more than just play music; they also display helpful information about the music. For example, you can find the title, writer, and/or singer of the song from the display alone. Some FM transmitters can show this info on a built-in LCD or LED display. Others can also pipe this information onto the stereo display if it has the capability of reading/conveying this information. This capability will depend on the device itself since some Android phones and iPhones vary in compatibility. 

Other Considerations

  • Audio Distortion: Since music is transferred to FM frequencies, it is difficult sometimes to get a quality audio signal. Depending on the device and receiver, audio distortion can be common. Higher-end FM transmitters with noise-cancellation capabilities are a go-to solution to combat this issue.
  • Frequency Selection: In order to find the right channel to transmit to, an FM transmitter needs the right frequency. Most basic models require you to surf through the frequencies manually to find one that isn't taken up by a local radio source. Higher-end transmitters can also scan for a frequency automatically.

Best Bluetooth FM Transmitters Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Guanda Bluetooth FM Transmitter

If you’re looking for something that will actively contribute to the function of your car, then the Guanda Bluetooth FM Transmitter is a good pick. It touts a stable Bluetooth connection that links efficiently. By incorporating a large LCD screen and easy-to-manage interface, this transmitter takes older vehicles to a new level. Ideal for retrofitting an older ride with modern tech, simply plug it into the DC port of your car and the up-to-date Bluetooth tech takes care of the rest. Built to dampen road noise and prevent vibrations, it remains durable over the long term. Performing consistently, this set is compatible with both Siri and Google Assistant. With an adjustable angle, this transmitter is a worthy candidate overall. 


It’s worth mentioning that there are some downsides to its bulky design. Yes, you can adjust it, but since it is much larger than other options, it risks getting in the way of your shift controls. Consider where the DC adapter is located on your vehicle before making your pick.

Best Value
Raxfly Bluetooth FM Transmitter

If you’re looking to stay within your budget, but don’t want to forego quality, consider the Raxfly Bluetooth FM Transmitter. Not only is it priced affordably, but the simple design and compact structure make it an unassuming addition to your ride. Going directly into the DC port on your ride, it uses fifth-generation Bluetooth technology to pair quickly and work smoothly. Preventing connection issues, it also neutralizes static from the radio for a crisp result. You can use it as a charger, plugging it in via USB to play MP3 files. Alternatively, you can rely on the handsfree call controls and secure transmission. Equipped with voltage regulators and safeguards, this Bluetooth FM transmitter isn’t prone to damage and is highly affordable. 


While it’s a terrific value pick, this design is far from perfect. Some of the controls are too small to use easily, especially while you’re driving. Though the screen is large, it also is fairly easy to scratch. Be careful when you store it — leaving it in will cause battery issues while improper storage risks damage. 

Best Compact
Imden Bluetooth FM Transmitter

Working as the go-between for your phone and your car, the Imden Bluetooth FM Transmitter is a good option. It features dual USB charging ports, which allows you reboot more than one device concurrently. It's quick charging, too, as it boots back up your tech at around 80 percent added efficiency. Complete with all the Bluetooth standards, like static suppression and hi-fidelity controls, it also touts a powerful microphone. The call quality is clear and the secure connection prevents dropped calls. You can use this simple device to control your soundtrack, scan the radio, and take calls. The buttons are accessible and it takes up very little space, which enables you to get the full function of the transmitter without compromising access to the rest of the vehicle. Small and sleek, the Imden is definitely worthy of an honorable mention. 


Now, keep in mind that the petite nature of it has perks, but also downsides. On the plus side, it’s compact. On the downside, it adds to the likelihood of leaving it behind. It can drain your battery if left in place, so be sure to keep the adapter in mind to prevent issues.

Most Versatile
Nulaxy Bluetooth Car FM Transmitter

In addition to being a good wireless FM transmitter, the Nulaxy Transmitter has a few extra features hidden away in its simple, compact design. The transmitter pairs well with most smart and mobile devices capable of Bluetooth connectivity. More than that, it's also compatible with many digital assistants like Siri and Alexa to play hands-free music automatically.


The overall build quality is on the high end for a transmitter at this price range. While plastic, the exterior has a rigid feel that doesn't have too much give when you are moving it around. The sound delivery is also good and lacks any noticeable distortion unless it's near a major source of interference.


This transmitter, however, can be inconvenient in a couple of ways. First, the adjustable neck is on the stiff side and requires some force to get it into a good position to see while driving. Secondly, the lack of set channels also makes it difficult to find an empty frequency if you travel between different cities or regions on a consistent basis. 

Honorable Mention
Sumind Bluetooth FM Transmitter

This Bluetooth FM transmitter comes with two USB ports, one being a smart charger, and is compatible with a wide range of devices. What sets this smart device apart from the rest is its large 1.7-inch LCD backlight display with intuitive controls. The large display is enough to display the song name, your car’s battery level, or the incoming phone number. The best part is that the display unit is supported with a 270-degree gooseneck, which you can adjust for a more comfortable viewing angle. 


As for the intuitive controls, it has a multifunction button for controlling the volume, two buttons on the left for adjusting the frequency, and two more buttons on the right for skipping to the next or previous track. 


The main issue is that it may take a toll on your car’s battery. The display will indicate the battery voltage but it may not be 100 percent accurate. To be on the safe side, press the next song key for about five seconds to turn off the unit when it’s not in use.

Honorable Mention
Clydek Car Charger Bluetooth FM Adapter

Are you looking to add a bit of flash to your car’s interior while also kicking your stereo into high gear? Try the Clydek Car Charger Bluetooth FM Adapter for its balance of flair and utility. It stands out from the crowd as one of the most sizable screens. At just under two inches, it features crisp resolution and a comprehensive display. With a main control to adjust phone and tuning, you can also use the included remote for controls. Touting three USB components and an AUX connection, you can hook this tech up to any soundsystem you prefer. With everything from Google Assistant to Siri working with the system, if you have a modern phone, this is an especially good pick. Reducing static, adding clarity, and with a high performance value overall, this high-tech solution is worth a look. 


Bear in mind that the bulk of the screen can interfere with air vents. It can interact with functionality by over-cooling or overheating the system. While there are safeguards in place, this can still impact its ability to work properly. You can adjust it over a broad range, letting you avoid this issue in most cases.

Honorable Mention
Lencent Bluetooth FM Transmitter

Standing out for its backlit, sleek design, the Lencent Bluetooth FM Transmitter is excellent for dated rides. If you’ve restored an older model or have a vintage car, this is a clever way to get the best of both worlds. It plugs directly into your DC port, the backlight turning on automatically. Pairing with your system easily, it is also compatible with a wide range of other mediums. You can plug in a microSD card, USB cords, or simply opt for a streaming service through your phone. Featuring a high-quality microphone, you get crisp audio and the person on the other end of the call can hear you clearly too. It is compatible with just about any device on the market and has an impressive range. Running between 87.5 and 108 megahertz, it accesses more stations than most without dealing with interference. Easy to use at night, the controls are user-friendly and the system itself is extremely durable. 


Naturally, there are some downsides to this design. For starters, it isn’t adjustable. The design is restricted to the placement of your 12-volt port. Also, it isn’t the easiest to pair. Once you’re set up, it’s fine, but expect to spend a few minutes getting started. 

Honorable Mention
GOgroove FlexSMART X2

The FlexSMART incorporates a number of features in one compact device to give buyers almost everything they are looking for in an FM transmitter. It uses Bluetooth 2.1 technology, and can pair with two devices simultaneously so that you can take calls while streaming music from the other source.

 

It has a wide LED display and intuitive controls for increasing the volume, answering, or declining calls. Since it has an innovative gooseneck design, it will be easy to access the controls while you are driving no matter the layout of your dashboard. Lastly, the unit can connect to non-Bluetooth devices via the 3.5 aux port or the USB port provided.


The main issue with the FlexSMART is that it only has a single USB port when most FM transmitters come with at least two. Also, it takes fairly long to power on and pair with Bluetooth devices within its range.

Tips

  • Setting up an FM transmitter should be an easy process. Simply plug in the device to power it in the car. From there, connect the smart device via Bluetooth.
  • The most challenging step of the setup process is finding a clear FM frequency. If you have some presets selected in your car's stereo, choose one and then move around to adjacent frequencies. Sometimes, empty frequencies separate commonly used ones.
  • Make sure you choose the same FM frequency between the radio and the FM transmitter. Both need to be in sync. The numbers should match between the two.

FAQ

Q. How do FM transmitters work?

An FM transmitter acts like a basic radio transmitter, similar to high-powered versions radio stations use. It sends a signal to a specific frequency. On the other end, it connects wirelessly to a smart device so data is transferred without the need for a cord.

Q. What kinds of devices can connect to an FM transmitter?

Anything with an audio source and Bluetooth connectivity should work. Beyond smart devices, modern music players are typically compatible. Higher-end transmitters can also use expandable memory like SD cards so you can play music from the device itself.

Q. Will an FM transmitter drain the car's battery?

This depends on the car itself. If the vehicle has an auto shut-off feature whenever the car is off, the battery should be just fine. If it lacks this feature, you may find the battery to be drained if the FM transmitter and stereo are left on overnight or while you are out.

Q. How is the sound quality with an FM transmitter?

No matter how good our car stereo is or how fancy your FM transmitter is, you'll always lose some signal clarity and, therefore, audio integrity when using Bluetooth. It's simply the nature of Bluetooth. A noise-canceling receiver will help. Remember: When it comes to electronics, you (almost always) get what you pay for.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the finer points of picking out the best Bluetooth FM transmitters, it’s time to make your pick. For quality and performance, the Guanda Bluetooth FM Transmitter is a terrific pick overall. Working on a budget? Consider the value of the Raxfly Bluetooth FM Transmitter for its balance of utility and affordability.