How to Get Bluetooth in Your Old Car

If you want to get Bluetooth in your old car, you can use a cassette adapter, FM transmitter, Bluetooth receiver, and more.
Written by Cameron Thiessen
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
If you’re driving a car that was made before The Age of Smartphones, it probably didn’t come with a sound system that could connect to your phone wirelessly. Luckily, there are plenty of ways that you can add Bluetooth to an old car, including a cassette adapter, FM transmitter, and Bluetooth receiver. And Bluetooth itself isn’t the only option!
If you’re sick of listening to those Creedence tapes in your 1973 Ford Torino and are looking for a way to listen to your digital music on your smartphone 50 years after it was produced, it turns out you can probably pull it off! The best way to set up Bluetooth in your old car depends on what sort of equipment your vehicle already has.
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If you have a cassette deck

CCR isn’t the only thing you can put in your cassette deck! While the technology in your car’s tape deck has stayed the same, people have long since been coming up with clever ways that they can use new technology to connect to an old car’s audio system via its tape deck.
Note that since there’s no microphone involved, you still won’t be able to take calls hands-free. You’ll be able to hear the audio from your phone through your speakers, but you’ll need to use your phone’s microphone to speak.

How to set up a Bluetooth cassette adapter

Approximate cost: $20
Available from
Amazon
Most Bluetooth cassette adapters have a fairly simple setup and are usually operated with only one or two buttons. They are shaped like a cassette tape, designed to be inserted into the cassette deck on your car.
Pros
  • Easy to setup if you follow the instructions
Cons
  • Needs to be charged after about 8 hours of use
  • Can’t use the adapter while it’s being charged

Alternative setup: AUX cassette adapter + Bluetooth

Approximate cost: $10
Available from
Best Buy
These little devices are also shaped like cassette tapes, they fit right in your tape deck, and all you have to do is plug right in! You don’t need to deal with connecting to Bluetooth every time you get in your car, and if you want to share DJ duties around, the 3.5-mm auxiliary connection—paired with the appropriate dongles—is by far the way to go.
Pros
  • Better sound quality since it uses a cable
  • Doesn’t need to be charged
  • Allows for hands-free calling
Cons
  • Uses a cable

If you have a power source in your car

Even many of the oldest vehicles on the road are equipped with a cigarette lighter that can provide electricity to devices designed to connect to them. Again, while the technology in the lighter mechanism itself has remained unchanged, folks have come up with established methods of using the power from cigarette lighters in old cars to charge all sorts of new devices.
You may even have a car that’s new enough that it was equipped with other sources of power. Usually, this comes in the form of a USB port. You can use this USB port to charge any compatible devices, but it’s also worth checking if your car’s USB port connects to the sound system—this connection often eliminates the need for Bluetooth, especially if your vehicle already has a microphone connected to its sound system for hands-free calling.
If you can’t connect to the speakers via USB, you can try one of these powered options.

How to set up a Bluetooth FM transmitter

Approximate cost: $30
Available from
Scosche
A fairly affordable option for installing Bluetooth in an old car is the trusty FM transmitter. These usually plug into your car’s cigarette lighter and connect to your devices via Bluetooth. Some also have available auxiliary cable or USB connections, allowing you to bypass Bluetooth. 
Pros
  • Easy to set up
  • Can charge while in use
Cons
  • Needs to tune to a radio frequency that isn’t already busy—which varies from place to place 
  • Doesn’t allow for hands-free calling

How to set up a universal Bluetooth kit

Approximate cost: $30
Available from
Best Buy
Some universal Bluetooth kits can wire into your sound system the same way as some of the devices listed above and offer an external microphone that you can place near your face for hands-free calling.
Other Bluetooth kits will simply be their own dedicated speaker, bypassing your car’s sound system entirely. This is especially good if you’re using your speakers to play your Creedence tapes, listen to the radio, or even play music from a wired device that can connect to your car’s audio system—like an auxiliary connection.
Pros
  • Allows for hands-free calling
  • Works with any FM radio frequency
Cons
  • Sound quality can vary
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If you have an ⅛-inch/3.5-mm auxiliary input

Many cars from well over a decade ago were equipped with basic auxiliary input jacks. This connection can link your device to your car’s sound system the same way that device would connect to a normal set of headphones.
There are plenty of Bluetooth devices that can be connected to your car’s sound system via a 3.5-mm tip-ring-sleeve auxiliary cable.

How to set up a Bluetooth AUX adapter

Approximate cost: $35
Available from
Best Buy
These devices are usually a lot more compact than FM transmitters and universal kits. All you’ll have to do is plug the adapter’s cable into your car’s AUX port and make sure that your car’s stereo is set to AUX mode. Then, just connect your phone’s Bluetooth to the device! Now you don’t need to have any wires connected to your phone!
Pros
  • More compact than other options
  • Doesn’t require a cigarette lighter
Cons
  • Requires charging

Alternative setup: auxiliary cable

Approximate cost: $20
Available from
Best Buy
If your phone can connect to headphones, it can probably connect to an AUX cord! You might need a dongle, which is just a fun name for short adapter cables. The right dongle can connect to a 3.5-mm auxiliary cable on one end and an iPhone’s Lightning port on the other end. You can also buy cables that already have a 3.5-mm connection on one end and a Lightning (or USB-C) connection on the other end.
Pros
  • Offers great sound quality
  • Allows you to connect to a different device for hands-free calls
Cons
  • Phone must be connected to the cable

Aftermarket audio systems

The most expensive way of installing Bluetooth in a car that isn’t currently equipped with it would be to upgrade to an aftermarket audio unit. You’ll usually need to get a professional to install this sort of device, and this sort of modification only works on certain cars with certain parts.
This option can also cost hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on how fancy of an aftermarket system you get.
Some car companies will have upgraded factory audio systems that they can install in some older cars through your local dealership.

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