Auto / Tech

How to add new technology to an old car

Thankfully, you don’t have to shell out for a new ride to take advantage of modern vehicle technology.

Cars today come filled to the brim with all sorts of gizmos and gadgets. Not everyone drives a new car, though, and at times, that can be a bit of an inconvenience. Technology makes driving a more enjoyable and safer experience, but what if you don’t want to buy a new car? What if you’re happy with your old car?

Thankfully, you don’t have to shell out for a new ride to take advantage of modern vehicle technology. You have plenty of options when it comes to gadgets that can bring your old car into the digital age. Here are a few ways you can make your clunker a little more high-tech.

Head Units

Modern dashboards offer a variety of useful services, from navigation to smartphone connectivity. If your car is older, you may not have any of these, but you can buy a head unit that fixes that problem. As far as vehicle gadgets go, these are on the more expensive side, but they also offer the most value.

These units can cost you anywhere from $200 to upwards of $1,000, depending on features and installation fees. Still, that’s a lot cheaper than buying an entire car, and they often come with a range of services. You can use them for navigating, taking calls, or playing music and podcasts wirelessly from your phone.

The connectivity that head units offer also represents a substantial safety benefit. Being able to use your Apple CarPlay or Android Auto helps reduce the temptation to look at your phone. Since distracted driving kills thousands of people a year, that’s a considerable advantage.

Rearview Cameras

Backup cameras are a helpful tool to have when parking, and they’re an excellent safety feature as well. Their safety benefits are so high that the Department of Transportation has required them in all new cars since 2018. You may not have one if you drive a pre-2018 vehicle, though.

You can get a variety of rearview cameras, but not all of them are as convenient as you’d think. Avoid systems that use your phone, since these may have feedback lag. Look instead for options that connect to your mirror or other display.

Most rearview cameras attach to your license plate fastener. You can find cameras built into replacement parts for your specific make and model, though. The most basic models cost less than $100, but more advanced options can be several hundred dollars.

Dashcams

While on the subject of cameras, you might also want to consider installing a dashcam. Even newer cars don’t typically come with pre-installed dashcams, but they’re useful pieces of technology. These gadgets can be a lifesaver when it comes to filing an insurance claim, and some have additional security features.

You can find dashcams with built-in lane departure and collision warnings, which an older car won’t have. Some even offer Amazon Alexa support so you can control them by voice commands. If you want to see inside your vehicle as well, some dashcams have an additional camera facing the interior.

Dashcams usually run for a couple hundred bucks, but you can find cheaper models too. Some also require monthly connection fees, so make sure you read all the fine print before making a purchase.

Alpine iLX-F309 old car technology
This Alpine iLX-F309 is one way to bring new tech into your car.

Garage Door Openers

Many new cars can connect to your garage door so you can control it from your dashboard. Garage door openers may not be the latest piece of technology, but they have improved over the years. You can find systems that connect not only to your car but your smart home network as well.

When you’re looking at openers, make sure you consider how they fit your garage, not just your car. For example, a rail or track made of a single piece will be much more durable than multi-piece options. Be sure to find one that works with whatever system you’d like to control it with.

You can get an Amazon Echo Auto that will let you control your smart garage from your home. There are also third-party accessories for Google Assistant in your car if you prefer that system. 

Audio Improvements

If you install a head unit, that will most likely come with Bluetooth connectivity. You can get Bluetooth receivers that plug into your tape deck or car outlet, too. That way, you can listen to music from your phone at a significantly lower price than a head unit.

The speakers in your old car may not offer the best performance, but you can change that too. Getting an amplifier for your vehicle will improve the sound without requiring an entirely new sound system. These usually cost a couple hundred dollars plus installation expenses, since you should probably get professional help with installing it.

You can also replace your in-dash stereo to improve sound quality and connectivity. Bluetooth car stereos can be under $150, and you can install them for less than $100.

Security Upgrades

There are more than 700,000 incidents of vehicle theft a year, so car security is essential. You can get camera systems that monitor your car while it’s parked, but these can be expensive and difficult to install. Some backup cameras may have an option for you to leave them on while the car is off, though.

Some of the best security upgrades you can get are on-board diagnostics (OBD-II) monitors. These devices plug into your OBD-II port to monitor your car’s performance and send relevant updates to your phone. Many let you track your vehicle’s location and receive alerts if someone bumps into it.

Most remote starters also come with alarm systems built-in. These are an excellent two-in-one option that gives your old car some modern features.

Bring Your Clunker Into the 21st Century

You don’t need to buy a new car to experience all the technology they offer. For nearly every innovative electronic feature in modern vehicles, there’s an aftermarket equivalent you can get. With enough of these gadgets, your 15-year-old sedan can be every bit as digital as a brand new one.

Some of these upgrades will cost you a pretty penny, while others are surprisingly affordable. No matter what your budget is, you can find something that works for you. Today’s technology can give new life to your older ride.

How have you modernized your old car? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter, or Facebook. You can also comment on our MeWe page by joining the MeWe social network.

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