Ask LH: What’s The Best Way To Get Music In My Old Car?

Ask LH: What’s The Best Way To Get Music In My Old Car?

Dear Lifehacker, I recently bought a used car which unfortunately only came with a CD player and radio for entertainment. I was wondering if it was worth buying a new car radio with bluetooth or aux cable capabilities, or if I should just buy a portable speaker and mount that to my car? Thanks, Missing My Tunes

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Dear MMT,

Personally, we’d go with the radio replacement option. A portable speaker will get the job done, but it’s yet another gadget you need to mount to your car and remember to keep charged. You’d be better off utilising your car’s existing audio setup instead.

If your car has working speakers that aren’t positively ancient, installing a new radio head unit shouldn’t present much of a problem. You can pick up entry-level models with inbuilt Bluetooth for well under $100. Another option worth considering is a Bluetooth dongle/adapator that integrates with the existing car stereo.

Naturally, you’ll also need a controlling device to select and play tunes on. We’d advise against using your smartphone as it’s a needless waste of the battery and can be annoying if you want to use your phone for something else. Instead, pick up a MP3 player with inbuilt Bluetooth. You can find some car-friendly recommendations here.

If you feel like embarking on a weekend project, you could also try hacking Bluetooth support into your car stereo using a few spare parts. This article explains how it’s done. Good luck!

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • Get yourself an FM transmitter off ebay. Most plug into the headphone jack of your iPod/media player, find an empty FM frequency, and tune the car’s radio in. Pro tip – iPod classics fit neatly into cassette slots of older cars.

    Or get one with a Bluetooth receiver, run Spotify/music off your phone, with the added bonus of being able to use as a handsfree for calls.

  • I’ve been using a Belkin Bluetooth – FM transmitter for ~4 years now, it works well and has saved me from changing the head unit in my car.

    The only down side to them is they do sometimes drop out, then you need to find another clear station (more so on long road trips)

  • Bluetooth? Are we stuck in 2005?

    Anything worthwhile has USB or SD card. Much easier, more storage, more reliable.

  • i replaced the stereo in my yaris with a digital radio and bluetooth module. it wasn’t too hard to be honest. i used the universal wiring loom (you buy an adaptor from your stock radio to a standard connector, than another that clips from the standard connector to your radio model. – no soldering required)

    the hardest bit was dismantling the dash to put the radio in, but i found a youtube tutorial for this. it was a simple job with the right equipment.

    even running the additional cabling – one for the bluetooth module and the other for the DAB+ antenna was not too bad

  • Before I got a new car, I just used my portable speaker. It lived in my car as I use it at work on graveyard shifts so it’s always charged as well.

    While I agree it could be a problem for other lifestyles, for me it worked.

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