How to Teach an Old Car New Tech

ford-galaxieNewer cars come with not just the benefit of lower miles and less wear, they can also bring the advantages of modern technology. Shopping for a used car can be frustrating at times – finding the car of your dreams, only to learn that it doesn’t come equipped the technology of your dreams. But alas, there may still be hope!

Whether you’re looking for navigation, Bluetooth, auxiliary inputs, remote start or a variety of other modern high-tech gadgets, you may be able to retrofit your dream car with aftermarket tech that will solve all of your problems! Or at least some of them…


One of the most commonly requested options in a used vehicle is navigation. Gone are the olden days of relying on confusing directions from your unreliable pals or unfolding a map while you’re cruising along the interstate. But factory nav isn’t the only way to get where you’re going, and there’s no need to limit your options to only vehicles that include an in-car navigation system – there are plenty of alternatives!

Smartphone Apps

waze-borderOne of the biggest advantages of using a navigation app for your phone is you’ll always have it with you. No need to pay the exorbitant rates from rental car companies or find yourself without it when there’s a surprise road closure, most Americans rarely find themselves without their phones these days. Not only are these apps handy, they also include more information than most GPS systems, offering the best route for current traffic conditions. The downsides, of course, are the drain it puts on both your battery and your data usage.

One of the most popular navigation apps is Waze, which offers a variety of choices for the voice reading your directions, up-to-date traffic and even alerts for disabled vehicles and police up ahead. And, best of all, it’s free! Waze uses similar data to Google Maps, which is also free.

Consider a dedicated mount. Using a phone app for directions can be just as distracting as texting, pulling your eyes and hands away from the road and wheel. A phone mount is a safer way to use your phone as a navigational tool.

Portable Vehicle GPS

garmin gpsFor drivers who spend a lot of time using their navigation system, you may consider an in-car vehicle unit. These offer the portability of your phone, with the ability to use them in rental or borrowed cars, without draining the battery or using any of your data. Many modern units include lifetime maps that can be easily updated and come with suction cup mounts that keep them firmly in place and positioned conveniently near your field of vision. One of the major downsides is the threat of theft. It’s advisable to remove your GPS from the windshield and place it somewhere out of sight whenever you exit your vehicle.

Garmin is one of the most popular GPS manufacturers, with a variety of options at different price points. gives the Garmin nüvi 2589LMT the Gold Award, noting its voice-recognition technology, time-tested design, exceptional functionality and lifetime traffic updates. It can also be paired with your smartphone via Bluetooth. It’s currently selling for $160.06 on Amazon.


Bluetooth technology is another important option for many car-buyers, allowing drivers to use their phones as music players or to talk hands-free on their phones. Many states have traffic laws restricting cell phone use while driving, and with good reason, so hands-free technology could be a life-saver – literally! Keep in mind, however, that Bluetooth will only limit 2 of the 3 potential distraction types – physical and visual; it does not prevent cognitive distraction.

But if your vehicle isn’t outfitted with Bluetooth already, don’t worry – there are plenty of available kits on the market that won’t require installing a new head unit.

The Anker SoundSync Drive is the #1 recommendation from The Wirecutter, praising its high sound quality and ease of use. As long as you have an Aux-In port (more on that later), “installation” is little more than adhering it to your dashboard, hooking it to the auxiliary port and attaching a power source. It is currently unavailble from Amazon, but lists on the Online Bluetooth Store for $39.99.

If you share a car and regularly need to pair two different devices, consider iClever’s Himbox HB01, which retails at Amazon for $29.99.

Auxiliary Port

cassetteIf your car doesn’t have an auxiliary port, there are two options for creating one. The easiest is with a cassette adapter, if your car already has a cassette player (and you’re not too busy playing your old mix tapes to free it up!). Cassette adapters can be purchased from stores like 5 Below or Wal-Mart for $5-$10.

If your car has no auxiliary port and no working cassette deck, there are a few other options. One is to use an FM transmitter, which works by sending a signal to a pre-determined station on your radio. This works better for people who live and drive in areas where there is an open radio frequency that isn’t in use by an existing radio station.

The Motorola Roadster 2 offers an in-car speakerphone, but sound quality will suffer in comparison to your car’s speaker system.

If you don’t want to sacrifice sound quality, GTA Car Kits makes iPod/AUX kits for a variety of makes and models. The website includes video installation instructions that are surprisingly easy to follow. Kits range from approximately $89-$104, but there are also generic versions available through Amazon in the range of $20-$40.

If you’re getting a buzzing noise through your installed system, try using a Ground Loop Noise Isolator.

Backup Camera

modern-dash-2By 2018, a backup camera system will be mandatory on all vehicles leased or sold in the United States. In the meantime, adding a backup camera to your vehicle can be expensive, but well worth the price if it prevents even one minor accident.

According to both and, the best rear view camera is the Rear View Safety RVS 091406, which currently retails on Amazon for $179.99 (though Amazon customer reviews are less than stellar).

Though more expensive, the up-and-coming company called Pearl, which strives to offer the latest in automotive technology to every driver, offers RearVision. RearVision installs easily in your vehicle’s license plate frame and transmits to an app installed in your cell phone. It’s wireless, solar-powered and works well both in daylight and at night. The Gadget Flow gives it 5 stars out of 5, but it retails for $499 and is still only available as a pre-order.

Remote Start

If you don’t like to get in your car until it’s warm and toasty, there are plenty of options for aftermarket remote start kits. Viper is the most well known, but there are many to choose from; Mobile Edge offers a handy buying guide to help sift through all the options.

The Viper 4105V gets positive reviews from Amazon and currently retails for $68.95, but unless you’re really handy it’s advisable to have it installed by a professional. One Amazon reviewer suggests using Best Buy’s price-match guarantee and then having them do the installation.

And Everything Else!

In addition to these popular options, there are plenty of other aftermarket products you could add to update your vehicle’s tech. These include Parking Sensors, LED Lighting Kits (for your interior lights and headlights), Smart Driving Assist, Head-Up Display, Infotainment System Updates, Forward Collision Sensors, and Lane Departure and Blindspot Alerts.



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