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The Best Tech You Can Upgrade Your Car With

car technology gadgets

If you drive an older vehicle, you’re probably missing out on a lot of cool new technology. Thankfully, there are tons of tech products and accessories you can upgrade your car with. And while we might not be able to turn it into a Tesla, adding some of the technology below will make your old car feel brand new.

From getting a new touchscreen stereo to streaming music from your phone through that old tape deck, these are the best tech items to upgrade your car.

Table of Contents

Apple CarPlay/Android Auto Stereo (Head Unit)

kenwood receiver

Most people want to integrate their phone and its screen into an old car. So, one of the best ways to upgrade your vehicle is a new stereo, also known as a head unit. You’ll want one that supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which will let you stream music and podcasts, get maps, navigation, calls, messages, and more from your phone to the dash.

These fancy car stereos have touchscreens ranging from 6 to 9-inches in size. You’ll want to choose a nice double-DIN model that will fit in the 7×4 slot in the dash where your current stereo, tape deck, or CD drive sits. Keep in mind that the installation can often cost a few hundred dollars, too. Some places, like Best Buy, will do the install for free with select stereos.

For double-DIN stereos, we recommend the Kenwood DMX7706S. With both Apple/Android support, Bluetooth, and a 7-inch screen, it has most of the features one would want without spending too much money. If you only have a single-din slot on your dash that won’t fit a big 7-inch screen, consider the Alpine Halo9 stereo, which fits in a small slot yet delivers a big 9-inch Tesla-esque screen to your older car.

A New Head Unit

Kenwood DMX7706S Stereo

Check out this Kenwood Android Auto/Apple CarPlay stereo for $399.

Get a Good Dash Cam

NextBase dashcam

Dash cams are a great way to upgrade your vehicle and protect yourself if an accident strikes. There are several reasons to buy a dash cam, and there’s an equally wide range of options. From cheap ones that simply record what’s in front of you, to others that can double as a security system, record forward and backward, take timelapse videos of a road trip, and more.

We recommend the NextBase 522GW, thanks to a slew of features without a crazy high price tag. You’ll get wide-angle video recording in 1080p or even QuadHD, night mode, and a built-in G-sensor for detecting (and initializing video capture of) accidents or theft. You can review footage on the 3-inch screen and quickly transfer videos to your phone over Wi-Fi. NextBase also sells an add-on rear camera.

Consider a Dash Cam

NextBase 522GW Dash Cam

Modernize your car and protect yourself with this dash cam for $259.

You’ll Love a Remote Starter

remote starter
Compustar, Amazon

There’s nothing better than remote starting your car on a hot summer day or breezy winter morning, that way it’s not unbearable when you’re ready to leave. Plus, warming up the engine is better for longevity.

It’s hard to recommend any specific product, as they vary by vehicle make, model, and year. Additionally, depending on if you already have keyless entry or not, which one you buy changes again. You can get a cheap add-on kit that uses your original keyless entry remote or fancy Viper systems that lets you track, unlock, and start your car from a smartphone. We recommend the CompuStar 4900S 2-way remote start system as it’s universal and supports a wide range of vehicles. We also like the 2-way communication feature, so the signal comes back and confirms the car is on/off or that you’ve safely locked the doors.

Add Bluetooth to Your Clunker

FM Bluetooth Transmitter
ROAV, Amazon

Perhaps the easiest and most affordable way to make an old car have new features is by adding Bluetooth. That way, you can make hands-free calls, stream music, podcasts, audiobooks, or anything else from your phone through the car stereo. We like to recommend Bluetooth FM adapters. The adapter pairs to your phone and then sends audio to an FM station in your car, similar to a modern drive-in movie theater.

The Anker ROAV FM Bluetooth adapter and charger is the perfect tech accessory for any car. It’s like a typical smartphone car charger with two ports, only it also has Bluetooth and FM radio support, with easy touch buttons to choose whatever radio station works best in your area.

Get a Heads-up Display

HUD screen car
SHEROX, Amazon

Some newer vehicles have a heads-up display (HUD) that shows things like speed and navigation instructions right on the glass windshield in front of your face. This display is see-through, too, so it’s not a distraction. In the end, drivers can keep their eyes on the road instead of looking down while still seeing crucial information. A lot of luxury vehicles have started to use this technology, and you can add it to your old car.

Affordable heads-up display options can really make an older vehicle feel fancy and futuristic. The SHEROX 3.5-inch HUD we recommend even has speeding alerts, so you don’t get a ticket. It plugs into the ODB2 port under the steering wheel, so it’s simple enough that anyone can install one.

Smartphone Signal Boosters

Car signal booster

It sounds silly, but signal boosters really work if you buy a good one. If you travel often or drive to remote locations, like a family cabin, a cell service booster can work wonders. Most models work with any carrier and will extend your cell service (including 4G/5G internet) quite far.

Signal boosters are bigger and have more power than the tiny chip inside your phone, which is why they draw a stronger cell signal. The WeBoost Drive Reach is one of the most popular options, and from personal experience, I can say it works great. These boost the signal for any carrier for the entire car, so it’s not just limited to one person or device. Anyone inside the vehicle will benefit from the boost.

Put Some Heat In Your Seat

heated seats kit
Dorman, Amazon

Many new cars come with heated seats, and sadly, it’s a luxury we all don’t have. However, did you know you can easily add some to your car for not a lot of money, and even mount a fancy on/off button on your dash?

The Dorman universal seat heating kit is affordable, easy to install, and works great. As long as you have an average DIY mindset and some spare time, you can push these inside your seats and route the wire nicely to your dash. Then tap the on/off button when it gets cold, and enjoy some warm heated seats in your rust-bucket.

Heated Seats Kit

Easily add heated seats to your car or truck.

Add Alexa to Your Vehicle

Alexa in the car

You can put Alexa almost anywhere these days, and that includes in your car. Alexa is great for hands-free help with calls or messages, music, news, weather info, or to control your smart lights and house as you’re driving home.

Turn your car into a voice assistant with the Amazon Echo Auto, which plugs right into a USB plug or the 12-volt cigarette lighter outlet.

Amazon Echo Auto

ODB2 Code Reader/Clear

ODB2 scanner

This next little gadget is great for those who like to tinker with their vehicle or want to save money by doing their own maintenance. An ODB2 reader can scan your car’s computer and check over 3,000 error codes, including issues with a check engine light, or display real-time information. Better yet, you can clear a check engine light with this nifty tool.

The KOBRA ODB2 code reader works over BT or Wi-Fi and supports both iPhone or Android.

Add Emergency Services (Similar to OnStar)

Hum emergency service
Hum, Verizon Wireless

OnStar is GM’s system for vehicle-based communications, security, GPS, emergency services, navigation, remote diagnostics, and more. But you need a newer GM vehicle to enjoy all of those features. Thankfully, those with older vehicles can get something similar from Verizon Wireless.

Hum, by Verizon Wireless, integrates all of the features mentioned above along with the Google Assistant to almost any car made after 1997. You plug the dongle into the ODB2 port under the steering wheel, and it does all the work for you. There’s even a companion app that makes it easy to check diagnostics, track a vehicle, and much more.

Like OnStar, but better

Hum by Verizon

Get OnStar-like features on your older vehicle from Verizon.

Headrest DVD Player

car dvd screens
Fangor, Amazon

We know a lot of kids have phones or an iPad in the car these days, but a headrest DVD player is a great way to keep the little ones entertained easily. Not only that, but you can get two 10-inch screens that easily mount to the headrests, making it a quick and affordable upgrade to your car.

While portable DVD players can vary wildly in size and price, the Fangor 10-inch dual screen on Amazon is a great budget pick. You get one DVD player that plays on two different 10-inch screens, mounting hardware, and more to ensure both rear passengers can enjoy a flick.

Cassette Tape Bluetooth Adapter

cassette fm adapter
ArsVita, Amazon

Just like 8-tracks, cassette tape players are a thing of the past and are wasting space on the dash in vehicles everywhere. If you want to stream music from your phone to the car stereo over Bluetooth, but all you have is a tape player, this little gadget is exactly what you need.

The Arsvita Bluetooth Cassette Receiver pairs to your phone for music, navigation, or hands-free calling, then transmits it into the tape player and through your car stereo. These are awesome little accessories that will make the oldest of vehicles feel a little more modern.

Cassette to BT

Fill Your Cup Holder with Power

Car power inverter
Bestek, Amazon

Last but not least, we wanted to recommend a cup holder power inverter. What is that exactly? It’s a device that plugs into your 12-volt cigarette port, then converts that power into multiple USB ports and even an AC wall outlet for other electronics. Basically, turning one old port on your dash into several useful ports for these modern times we live in.

The BESTEK 200w inverter will let you charge or power laptops, cameras, and more with two AC outlets, then charge phones or tablets with two USB ports. Plus, there’s still a 12-volt cigarette lighter if you need it. This little tech gadget will give you more options in the car than ever before.

If you’re like me and love your old vehicle, don’t trade it in. Instead, just buy one of the many cool car gadgets or tech upgrades mentioned here. Whether that’s an affordable Bluetooth adapter or a fancy stereo with Apple CarPlay for your rust bucket. Any of these upgrades will make your old car feel a little newer.

Cory Gunther Cory Gunther
Cory Gunther has been writing about phones, Android, cars, and technology in general for over a decade. He's a staff writer for Review Geek covering roundups, EVs, and news. He's previously written for GottaBeMobile, SlashGear, AndroidCentral, and InputMag, and he's written over 9,000 articles. Read Full Bio »