The latest and greatest new vehicles that hit automotive marketplace each year never fail to feature cutting edge technology that give them that “latest and greatest” label. However, each of these vehicles suffer from the same problem every new car has – that huge new car price tag. Fortunately, you don’t have to buy a new car to have all the gadgets and updated technology. Below are some affordable ways to upgrade your old ride.
USB ports are handy little things, useful for charging your phone or connecting your portable music player to your vehicle’s stereo. The little ports are everywhere these days, but were only widely adopted in vehicles around 2011 or so. Fortunately, USB adaptors are cheap (well under $10), and slide easily into the cigarette lighter socket.
Who needs wires? Not your up-to-date ride. Bluetooth is a standardization of wireless communication that has seen a huge rise in popularity over the last 10 years. You can use it for wireless hands-free calls, or syncing to your phone’s media drive for music and audiobooks. There are two different types that can fit based on how your vehicle was equipped from the factory and its age. For vehicles with an auxiliary port on the stereo, get the simple aux Bluetooth connector. For older vehicles, you will need the slightly more complex FM receiver type. Either way, they are cheap and as easy as plug-in and play.
Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) were initially just military hardware, but the GPS system solved so many problems that it had to hit the open market. A lot of new cars don’t allow you to get lost thanks to on-board GPS, but if your GPS system is a paper map, there are several ways to fix that. Even the big names make affordable GPS systems under $100 with excellent reviews. With big, bright displays, updated maps, and turn-by-turn voice directions, the aftermarket GPS is highly recommended road trip equipment.
Back-up cameras used to be $1,000 options exclusive to luxury cars. Now, they’re $30 on Amazon. Let’s hook up your old Ford Focus and give it some safety and convenience technology. It looks a little intimidating, but this one is actually pretty simple. The rear-facing camera attaches to the back of the car using the same bolts as the license plate. A couple of wires run through the cabin to a screen you can mount anywhere on your dashboard. It doesn’t have to be permanent, so you can take the camera with you to your next ride.
Everyone wants Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, right? These are the ultimate digital co-pilots, providing seamless integration for your music, communication, navigation, and entertainment, all through your vehicle’s large onboard display screen. It’s slick, but also a rather rare factory option. The aftermarket supplies Android and iOS receivers to meet your Samsung/Apple preference, with designs that look like upscale factory options. With a ton of wiring, this is as complex as an aftermarket stereo upgrade, so installation might be best left to professionals.
One of the best things about new cars is the ability to be instantly comfortable no matter the weather. If it’s freezing cold outside, a heated seat can make all the difference between a cozy drive or sitting in temporary discomfort. Heated seats can be a really easy installation, especially with the seat cover type. This drapes over the seat and plugs into the car’s 12V power supply, so it should take all of a minute to assemble. If you are looking for a factory style permanent install, they make those too. The heated seat kit requires you to remove and disassemble the seats, but they have excellent reviews and seem worth the price.
The Head-Up-Display (HUD) is for tech geeks and drivers that want all the info immediately at eye level. Rather than taking your eyes off the road and refocusing on the gauge cluster, a HUD projects vehicle info onto the windshield in your line of sight. Speed, RPMs, fuel mileage, and more can be displayed. Like a lot of items here, there are two main types. The easy version is a stand-alone unit that plugs into your vehicle’s diagnostic port. The cheaper version is essentially a cell phone cradle that sits in your line of sight and uses an app on your phone to display the info.
Tire Pressure Monitor
Experts recommend checking the air pressure in your tires at least once a month. Do you? If not, this safety technology might be exactly what you need. A tire pressure monitoring system does exactly what the name suggests, and displays your current tire pressure on a screen mounted on your dash. There’s no need to take the time and get out in the bad weather to check each tire when your display shows each tire is fully inflated. This is one upgrade that saves you time and money, as under-inflated tires decrease gas mileage.