10 Useful Gadgets That Will Help You Turn Your Old Car Into a Smart Car

You don’t need a whole new whip to enjoy the benefits that come from having a smart car, and these affordable accessories can help.

“Alexa, play 'On the Road Again.'”
“Alexa, play 'On the Road Again.'” / Amazon / Apple / Carpuride / FIXD; Justin Dodd, Mental Floss (background)
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Cars are great for getting from point A to point B, but sometimes you want to get to point B in style. These days, newer automobiles are filled with modern conveniences like built-in Bluetooth and GPS navigation that help take the stress out of driving and make the whole experience feel more luxurious.

But if you have an older vehicle that you’re trying to hold onto because of how bad the current new and used car markets are, you might not have access to those kinds of innovative features. Not to worry, though, because there are plenty of ways to upgrade your whip without having to buy a whole new automobile in the process.

Below, we’ve rounded up some of the best smart car accessories to grab now, which will help you transform your “dumb” car into something else entirely.

1. Anker Roav Bluetooth Car Adapter; $20

Best smart car products: Anker Roav Bluetooth Car Adapter and Charger
Anker Roav Bluetooth Car Adapter and Charger / Anker / Amazon

If you have an older vehicle, chances are you can’t connect your smartphone to it for music streaming. But with the Anker Roav Bluetooth car adapter, you never have to listen to cassette tapes or CDs in your car again (unless you really want to).

This handy gadget simply plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter to give you an instant Bluetooth signal. Now just pair your phone, then look for an unused FM frequency (you can find one here) and set it on the device, then sync your radio to the same FM transmission—that’s it.

Once it’s all done, you’ll be able to listen along to your favorite tunes and podcasts without ever having to dust off the old CD organizer. The Roav even doubles as a phone charger and has built-in USB and USB-C ports.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Yakry HD Backup Camera; $38 (Save $12 with the on-page coupon)

Best smart car products: Yakry HD Backup Camera
Yakry HD Backup Camera / Yakry / Amazon

Modern automobiles often come with built-in rear cameras, so you can get a much better view when you’re backing up. This is really useful when pulling out of a driveway or attempting to parallel park. Even if your ride was made in 2003, you can still incorporate a high-definition (HD) backup camera into it, thanks to Yakry.

The unit comes with a few pieces, such as the backup camera itself, a 4.3-inch HD monitor, cables, and assorted power options. You can either plug it into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter for simplicity, or advanced users can dive right in and install it directly to the car’s power supply. The backup camera installs on top of your rear license plate, while a long cable snakes through your vehicle and attaches to the monitor, which is placed on the dashboard.

Once it’s fully installed, you’ll be able to check out the video feed to see what’s behind you. This gadget even offers safety lines, to let you know your proximity to other objects (and so you don’t accidentally bump into something you shouldn’t).

Buy it: Amazon

3.  FIXD Bluetooth Diagnostics Scanner; $28 (Save $32)

Best smart car products: FIXD Bluetooth Diagnostics Scanner
FIXD Bluetooth Diagnostics Scanner / FIXD / Amazon

Nowadays, new vehicles collect all sorts of data about maintenance and performance, so owners can get a better idea of their car’s overall health before going to a mechanic. You can get the same information about your older whip (provided it was made after 1996) with the FIXD Bluetooth diagnostics scanner, which works with both iPhone and Android devices.

To start, just plug the adapter into your vehicle’s OBD2 port (which is located underneath most steering wheels), then pair it to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Once you download the FIXD app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, all you need to do next is start the engine. All of the information about your car will pop up in the app, including check-engine diagnostics, maintenance alerts, and more.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Rove R2-4K Dash Cam; $80 (Save $40)

Best smart car products: Rove R2-4K Dash Cam
Rove R2-4K Dash Cam / Rove / Amazon

Dash cams have become more and more popular lately. If you’re ever in a car accident or an emergency situation, this one from Rove could get put to good use and help settle potential legal disputes. 

Just stick it to the inside of your windshield with its built-in suction cup; once it’s there, it will capture video footage with a 150-degree viewing angle, and in a glorious 4K resolution on a microSD card (sold separately). It can even upload the footage to your iPhone or Android smartphone, including timestamps with the date of the incident, your driving speed, and even your location. The dash cam also has night vision, so it still works well for night drives.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Apple AirTag Bluetooth Tracker; $29

Best smart car products: Apple AirTags, Pack of 4
Apple AirTags / Apple / Amazon

Apple AirTags are one of the easiest ways to keep track of something like an automobile. Sync one of these trackers to your iPhone via the “Find My” app, then place it somewhere in your car (think: the glove box, under a seat, or attached to a visor).

If your car ever goes missing or you just can’t find where you parked it in a large parking lot or garage, you can use your iPhone to pinpoint its exact location. You can also use it for your keys or any number of accessories that are easy to misplace.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Tile Pro Bluetooth Tracker; $31

Best smart car products: Tile Pro Bluetooth Tracker, Pack of 4
Tile Pro Bluetooth Tracker / Tile / Amazon

For Android users, the Tile Pro Bluetooth tracker essentially works the same way as AirTags do, but with the Tile app and an Android smartphone. To use it, simply sync the tracker with your phone and the app via Bluetooth, then attach it to a small item. It will help you find the lost item, and it’s even compatible with the iPhone, just in case AirTags aren’t your thing.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Carpuride 9-inch Touchscreen Stereo Display; $220 (Save $70 with the on-page coupon)

Best smart car products: Carpuride 9-inch Touchscreen Stereo Display
Carpuride 9-inch Touchscreen Stereo Display / Carpuride / Amazon

While holding and using portable electronic devices while driving is frowned upon, you can use hands-free, dash-mounted displays for navigation. The Carpuride 9-inch touchscreen stereo display actually mirrors your smartphone’s car-enabled apps—so it includes the phone, music, and maps functionalities, among others—but it offers bigger icons via Apple Carplay or Android Auto.

The display screen works with any car that has a built-in cigarette lighter and stereo system. Pair your device to the 9-inch display, latch it on your dashboard or windshield for easy access when driving, and then find an unused FM radio frequency to sync it to your car’s stereo, and you’re in business. You can also use your car’s auxiliary-in audio jack to plug in directly.

This smart car accessory will automatically take you to a home screen where you can get turn-by-turn directions via Google Maps, Apple Maps, or Waze, music streaming from Spotify, Apple Music, and others, and even weather updates from your voice assistant. It’s one of the best ways to get a modern GPS touchscreen for navigation in an older car.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Echo Auto (2nd Generation); $45 (Save $10)

Best smart car products: Echo Auto (2nd Generation)
Echo Auto (2nd Generation) / Amazon

The Echo Auto (2nd Generation) instantly adds Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant, to any older automobile. It can connect through a car’s cigarette lighter and auxiliary-in audio jack, as well as through your smartphone via Bluetooth.

Once synced, it offers directions, plus you can use it to control music and podcasts, dictate text messages, and make and receive phone calls. Best of all, you can do everything without ever taking your hands off the wheel.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Lamicall Car Headrest Tablet Mount; $20

Best smart car products: Lamicall Car Headrest Tablet Mount
Lamicall Car Headrest Tablet Mount / Lamicall / Amazon

Instead of installing an expensive touchscreen display or a DVD player with a monitor combo for your backseat passengers, we found a quick and easy fix to get the job done and save you some money at the same time—especially if you already have an iPad.

The Lamicall car mount is a simple solution for backseat entertainment. Designed to hold a tablet or smartphone up to 12.9 inches in size, it’s fully adjustable and fastens to the back of virtually any headrest. You can also set it to portrait and landscape viewing modes—not bad for just $20.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Huawei Mobile Wi-Fi; $85 (Save $7)

Best smart car products: Huawei Mobile Wi-Fi
Huawei Mobile Wi-Fi / Huawei / Amazon

If you’re going on a long road trip with the kids, getting a mobile hotspot just might save your sanity. The Huawei Mobile Wi-Fi delivers 4G LTE internet speeds for up to 16 devices at the same time, including smartphones, laptops, portable gaming consoles, and tablets. Think of it as a Wi-Fi router, but for your car. 

To start using it, just insert a SIM card from any U.S. carrier (like T-Mobile or AT&T) into the mobile hotspot for instant internet throughout North America. You can place it anywhere in your car, but we recommend you keep it in a central location so Wi-Fi signals won’t be interrupted and obstructed.

Buy it: Amazon