You use your phone for more than just making calls. You use your TV for more than just watching shows. Shouldn't you use your car for more than just getting around town? From portable GPS units to wired-for-everything stereos to remote car-starters, this guide will teach you about the products and features that can turn your car into a connected car.
Car Stereo Receivers
With the latest car stereo receivers, you can take total control of your in-drive experience: Stream your favorite smartphone radio apps or your device's music library from a high-definition touch-screen display. Use voice commands to make hands-free calls and plan routes with GPS navigation. Ratchet up the sound quality and volume with an upgraded audio system. Let Best Buy and Geek Squad® help you find and install the perfect receiver for your needs.
Supported Media — Many of today's car stereo receivers can wirelessly connect through Bluetooth to your smartphone to play music from your library, make hands-free calls and access your favorite apps, including Pandora and iHeart Radio. Wired connections can also be made through a USB port or AUX port. As more states limit the use of phones while driving (at least 14 have enacted complete bans), these functions are increasingly essential to stay connected on the road.
Most receivers still give you the option of playing CDs, while some receivers support DVD playback. These connect with an overhead or headrest-mounted screen so passengers can enjoy movies and TV shows during a road trip.
Display — Large, touch-screen displays make it easy to access your devices and manipulate multiple apps and functions without the distraction of looking at your phone while you drive. These larger displays start at around 6.1" (measured diagonally). Some support video playback from a camera mounted near your rear license plate for enhanced backup visibility.
Traditional CD receivers have also received a technology facelift, with many now capable of wired and wireless Bluetooth connections to your devices. You can also tap into nifty functions like personalized music mixes and multicolor displays that can be matched to your car interior's color scheme.
The dimensions, including depth, of a dashboard opening vary from car to car, so ensure the display you choose can fit within your opening. If the opening is too large, installation adapters can be added around the edges to provide a snug fit.
Satellite Radio and HD Radio — Some receivers come equipped with satellite radio, HD Radio or both. HD Radio allows you to listen to your favorite local stations with increased clarity and sound quality. With satellite radio, you can listen nationwide to commercial-free stations covering every genre of music, sports, and the biggest names in talk radio.
Make sure you know whether these capabilities are built into the receiver or if the receiver is merely compatible with them. If the receiver is marked "ready" for HD Radio or satellite radio, you'll be able to access these features by buying and installing additional hardware.
GPS — Some car stereo receivers double as in-dash GPS receivers. These can perform all the functions of a standalone portable GPS receiver, though specifications may vary. If the receiver has built-in GPS it will come with the unit, but if it's GPS-ready you will have to purchase additional hardware to connect with the receiver.
Peak Power — Too much power output from your receiver or amplifier can damage your speakers, while too little will result in less-than-optimal sound quality. There are two power measurements (in watts) to know: peak power, which your receiver can only sustain for short bursts; and nominal power (sometimes noted as RMS), which is the average power output during normal use. The power output is divided among the channels (speakers and subwoofers) your receiver is connected to. For the best sound quality, you'll want a receiver with an RMS that approaches the maximum handling capacity of your channels.Shop for car stereo receivers
Car Speakers, Subwoofers and Amplifiers
Listening to your music in high quality is a big part of enjoying your drive to the fullest. By replacing your factory speakers and adding a subwoofer, you can listen louder, with better clarity and a greater range of sound. Running these components through an amplifier ensures that they're getting the power needed for optimal performance without distortion.
Car Speakers — After-market car speakers recreate your music's vibrant highs and midranges. There are two types of car speakers, based on how the tweeters (responsible for highs) and woofers (for midranges) are housed:
- Coaxial — Usually sold in pairs, coaxial speakers pack multiple components such as tweeters and woofers into each unit. They split the audio frequencies coming from your receiver multiple ways and direct them to each component. The number of ways the sound is split is a good indication of the clarity and detail your speakers will produce.
- Component — At the higher end, component speakers are a separate unit for each tweeter and woofer, allowing you to place them in your car wherever you prefer for the best sound. Installing your tweeters near head level results in clearer highs.
Subwoofers — A subwoofer provides the deep, rich lows and bass that give your music an authentic depth of sound. Forget the idea that subwoofers are only for trunk-rattling, bass-heavy music: they can improve all genres of music. In fact, not all of them are housed in the trunk anymore. You now have the option of compact, game console-sized subs that can fit under a car seat and include a built-in amp, making installation easy.
Amplifiers — To wring every drop of sound quality possible out of your audio system (especially power-hungry subs), you'll need an amplifier that can produce more power. Car amplifiers range from mono amps that power just one channel — usually a subwoofer — to up to five-channel amps.
Installation — Make sure that the speakers you choose will properly fit into the area of your car (door panels or rear window dash) you plan to install them. Similarly, traditional-sized subwoofers need to be housed in a fitted enclosure in your trunk for optimal sound. Amplifiers are smaller but still require wiring kits and adapters to connect with your speakers and subs. Geek Squad® can help you determine the perfect setup for your car, install it and ensure all components are connected properly.
Power Handling — Measured in watts, power handling capacity indicates the maximum power signal that a speaker or subwoofer can accept. Feeding a speaker more power than it can handle can damage the speaker, but many speakers with high power handling capacities actually require more power to sound their best. For best results, choose speakers that can handle approximately the maximum output of your receiver and amplifier. Peak power capacity indicates the maximum power your speakers can only handle for short bursts. More importantly, nominal power (RMS) is the amount of continuous power the speaker can handle throughout use.
GPS navigation can become an essential part of your driving experience by shaving time off your commute and keeping you on track when driving through unfamiliar areas. You can get GPS navigation in your car in a number of ways. An in-dash GPS, which is a function of some car stereo receivers, can be viewed and controlled without obscuring your windshield visibility. Portable GPS receivers are easily mounted on your dashboard and offer many of the same functions as an in-dash GPS. Handheld GPS receivers can fit in your pocket and be taken wherever your outdoor adventures lead you.
Dedicated GPS navigation systems are designed with some helpful features you won't find on a smartphone.
Preloaded Maps — Maps of the United States, and occasionally other North American and Caribbean countries, come preloaded. Some are even in 3D, giving you a realistic bird's-eye view of the surrounding landscape. Lifetime map updates are included with many units and can be downloaded directly or by using a USB connection or Bluetooth-enabled smartphone.
Voice Control — Instead of looking back and forth from the screen, you can keep your eyes on the road and listen as your GPS copilot gives you turn-by-turn directions. Some GPS receivers recognize your voice commands as well, making your navigation completely hands-free.
Traffic Avoidance — No one wants to be delayed by a traffic jam. Some portable GPS receivers inform you of traffic conditions ahead in real time and automatically redirect you onto a less congested route. In some models, lifetime traffic updates are included.
Trip Computer — Many GPS receivers record all the information about your trip, including your maximum speed, estimated arrival time and total mileage.
Smartphone Connectivity — Connecting your GPS receiver with your smartphone through Bluetooth or a wired connection is a feature that allows you to make calls or access other features on your phone through your GPS receiver's interface. Less expensive units may need to be connected to your computer via a USB connection in order to access updates.
With a SiriusXM Satellite Radio in your car, you can listen to commercial-free stations covering every genre of music, sports and the biggest names in talk radio. Unlike your local radio stations, satellite radio is available everywhere in the United States, all day every day, so you're always connected wherever your travels take you. Satellite radios require a monthly subscription in addition to your initial radio receiver purchase.See the SiriusXM Channel Guide ›
Shop for satellite radio ›
Vehicle Diagnostic and Tracking Devices
Devices like Zubie Key offer a glimpse into the future of the connected car. Compatible with most vehicles manufactured since 1996, these products plug into the diagnostic port underneath the steering wheel of your car.
With features like vehicle location updates and dangerous driving alerts, these tools are invaluable for a concerned parent of a novice driver.
Updates and Alerts — Accessible through a smartphone app or Internet portal, you can view constant updates and alerts about where your car is and how it's performing. Set check-in points so you're automatically alerted when your car arrives home, to work, school or other locations. You can also get alerted to potentially unsafe driving behaviors, such as hard braking and accelerating too quickly.
Engine Health — Daily engine health assessments, including battery health, can help you avoid breakdowns and catch potentially costly repairs before they get worse. They can even tell you what the worrisome check engine light means and turn it off when the problem is fixed.Shop for car diagnostics and tracking devices ›
Car Security and Remote Start
If you've ever wished that you could get your car warmed up or cooled down without having to go outside and start it, a remote starter is your answer. Many of these devices also offer additional security measures and automatic starting once you're within a defined range of your car.
Work with Geek Squad® to determine which remote starters are compatible with your car. They can also professionally install your remote starter and help you customize the features and settings that are available.
Starter Range — Consider how far away from your car you'll typically be when you want to start it remotely. You may want it primarily for starting your car from your home, but also think about whether you'll use it at work, the shopping mall, or other locations you often go. Common ranges span from several hundred feet to a mile or more. Starters that can connect with your smartphone via an app extend their range to practically anywhere.
Security — Remote starters can double as security systems, sounding the alarm and alerting you to potential break-ins or collisions that occur when you're away from your car.
Customizable Functions — Remote starters usually have buttons for starting, locking and unlocking your car, but some have additional buttons you can program to your car's other functions, such as defrosting or heated-seat activation.
Shop for car security and remote start products ›
Radar detectors for your car keep you informed of who else is on the road, including police and other emergency vehicles. Many radar detectors also show you where red lights and speed cameras are located so you can adjust your driving accordingly.
Make sure you are in compliance with the law in the area you want to use your radar detector. Radar detectors are allowed in most areas, but they are illegal to use and not available for purchase in Washington, D.C., or Virginia.
Display — Look for a radar detector with a display that you can easily read. You should also be able to customize the display so you only see the information you need to know.
Detection and Sensitivity — Radar guns use a number of different frequency bands, and the more frequencies you can detect, the better your chances are of catching them. Look for a radar detector that can detect X, K and Ka radar frequencies as well as laser frequencies.
In addition, the distance a radar detector can detect a frequency from is determined by its sensitivity. Look for a detector with at least 10 decibels of sensitivity and that can switch sensitivities between highway and city modes so you aren't constantly getting false alarms.
Shop for radar detectors ›
Dash and Back-Up Cameras
A dash camera can help you prove who was at fault during a collision or other accident. These camcorders record high-quality video (some include audio, too) and store it so you can play it back and see exactly what happened during your drive.
Similarly, back-up cameras let you see a complete, real-time video of what's going on behind you so you can reverse into and out of your driveway or parking stall with confidence. The video camera is installed near your rear license plate and displays on your video-enabled car stereo receiver. Make sure that the display is large enough for you to view and use easily.Shop for dash and back-up cameras ›
Geek Squad® Installation
If you want your connected car products installed by knowledgeable professionals, consult Geek Squad® online or in store. You can mount some products yourself, but for products ranging from car speakers to remote starters, call in the experts. Geek Squad® does more than a million car installations a year and stands behind the workmanship for as long as you own your car.
Get help installing your connected car products ›
Shop Online or In Store
Find a wide variety of connected car products and accessories at BestBuy.com. Your local Best Buy store also has a selection of connected car products. Plus, our friendly Blue Shirts are there to answer questions and help with choosing the best technology solutions to connect your car.