For cars without built-in AUX (auxiliary) or Bluetooth, it can sometimes be a challenge to enjoy our smart devices in older vehicles. Fortunately, there are several simple ways you can connect your phone to your car, allowing you to enjoy music, hands free calling, and navigation through your car speakers.
Which ways can I connect my phone to my car stereo?
Below is our list of the most common and effective ways to connect your phone to your car stereo, if your car does not have built-in AUX or Bluetooth capabilities.
It’s worth noting that these solutions allow you to play music through your existing car stereo and speakers, and will not require any expensive or permanent physical modifications.
Jump to any section by clicking a link below:
- Bluetooth FM transmitter – Editor’s Choice Inexpensive, Excellent Sound Quality, Wireless, Adds PhoneCharging Ports & Hands-free Calling
- Cassette tape adaptor – Car must have a cassette player
- Bluetooth hands-free phone app – A workaround for when your car has Bluetooth for Phone calls, but not music
- Android Auto and Apple Car Play
- 30 pin connector – Only works for iPhone smartphones
- USB stereo jack – Not all cars have this, so check your owner’s manual
These are some of the common ways by which you can connect your car stereo and your smartphone. In this article, we are going to focus on the ways of connecting other than using built-in Bluetooth and aux cable.
Bluetooth FM Transmitter – add Wireless Bluetooth to any vehicle
Many older vehicles do not have Bluetooth built-in, but every smartphone does. The simplest solution to be able to play music in a car that does not have built-in Bluetooth technology is to add it via a Wireless Bluetooth receiver. This can be done easily by installing (plugging in) a Bluetooth FM Transmitter device (the above image is an example of one).
A Wireless Bluetooth FM Transmitter device (FM Transmitter for short) works by receiving the Bluetooth signal from your smartphone, and converting the signal to FM radio waves. The device then broadcasts FM radio waves which can be picked up by your car radio, allowing you to play music from your phone through your car speakers.
How to Implement
- Plug the Bluetooth FM Transmitter device into the car’s auxiliary power outlet (also know as car cigarette lighter port)
- Tune your car radio to the same FM station displayed on the Bluetooth FM Transmitter device, or station recommended by your device instruction manual
- Pair your smartphone to the Bluetooth FM Transmitter device
- Success! You should now be able to play music through your car speakers
Benefits & Other Considerations
- Easy to implement
- Excellent sound quality
- Most FM Transmitters are designed with Music and Call controls
- Most FM Transmitters include USB charging ports for phones and other devices
EDITOR’S RECOMMENDATION – My top 3 favorite FM Transmitters. I considered features, sound quality, and price. Enjoy!
Cassette Tape Adapter – your car must have a cassette player
If your stereo has a cassette player then you can connect your phone to the car stereo using a cassette tape adapter.
The cassette tape adapter’s 3.5mm audio cable needs to be plugged into the phone’s headphone slot.
The adapter is then inserted into the audio system’s cassette slot. Then look up at the audio system’s menu to find “tape” mode. Press ‘play’.
There is also a cassette tape adapter that allows you to connect your phone by using Bluetooth.
This is not so common now – I don’t think I have seen a cassette tape on a stereo in many years!
Download an App to your phone
This is your best option when you want to play music from your phone to a car that has a hands-free Bluetooth call feature but without the option to play music via Bluetooth.
Many older model cars come with this hands-free calling feature.
You download an app on your phone specifically designed to play music through you hands free feature on your car.
Now when you connect to hands free bluetooth on your phone you can play music from your phone directly through the car stereo.
The same tool which is used while you are making a call will be used to play music via your phone on your car speakers.
This is a great way to connect to your stereo and doesn’t need a FM Bluetooth Adapter.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
These days many cars come with Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto apps.
These apps can link up your phone to the head unit of your car to play music from your phone.
With this feature you can even display your phone screen straight away; view navigation maps send messages, and many more.
They are not supported in all cars. But they are great features to have if your car model supports these apps.
You can also integrate your voice using Google Assistant and Siri which is fantastic.
If your car lacks these features, you can utilize the Android Auto on the screen of your phone.
Link up with a USB cable you can get similar sound quality. However, currently there is no such feature for Apple phones.
The option of USB input is a more recent feature. Most new model cars feature a USB port. This allows you to even charge your phone without a standard power socket adapter.
You can either use the USB flash drive or directly plug your phone to play music from your phone to car.
For cars which have USB ports, this is the best option when it comes to playing music from the phone to the car stereo.
It comes with a reliable connection and a decent sound quality. It also charges your phone and allows you to make hands-free calls while driving.
You must have a secondary cable for it to function. USB connections generally have better sound quality than auxiliary inputs.
30 Pin iPod Adapter
Some vehicles have the option of connecting to your phone using a pre installed 30 pin adapter. This lets you to link your iPad and iPhone directly to the stereo.
An iPod adapter will always give you better audio quality than an FM transmitter.
Will I lose any sound quality by connecting in these ways?
USB, hands free bluetooth phone app, 30 pin connector, Android Auto and Apple car play will give you the best sound with the least interference.
Using an FM transmitter is the option most likely to give you interference. This is because the sound quality depends on how good your signal is to the radio stations in your area.
Although some of these methods (such as FM transmitter) don’t produce excellent audio quality, many people are happy enough and are just glad to be able to play their own music whilst driving.
Also the audio quality will be affected by the quality of the transmitter. There will be more interference on lesser quality versions.
What is the best way to connect my phone to my car stereo?
If you don’t want to compromise on sound quality, then a direct (built-in) AUX Cable or Bluetooth Connection are the best options.
However, this article is focusing how to connecting without these two ways.
For many the best way to connect your phone to your car stereo is via hands free bluetooth app on your phone.
As you can see there are many ways we can play music on our car stereo from our phones.
From old school FM transmitters, Bluetooth tech, to newer apps provided by android and ios. Thankfully nowadays we have many options to choose from depending on your own car setup and your budget.