Sticker prices. Lean inventory. Fuel costs. Whatever the reason, more and more Americans are driving increasingly older vehicles. According to data from the Specialty Equipment Aftermarket Association (SEMA), the age of the average car on the road grew to just over 12 years by 2022. However, owning an older car doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the improved safety, convenience, and driveability of today’s vehicles.
The data from SEMA is clear: We are spending more on aftermarket automotive technology and electronics than ever before. Americans are doing everything they can to keep our cars on the road, and that means upgrading technology and electronics to keep up with today’s world. From hands-free modules to staying connected with Bluetooth adapters to streaming entertainment to dashcams and backup cameras, it’s easier and cheaper than ever to update older cars.
So what do we buy? According to SEMA Market Researchthe top five mobile electronics and the percentage increase among manufacturers in the last 12 months are:
- Sound system and audio accessories: 22 percent higher
- Mobile TV and video cameras: 18 percent higher
- Navigation systems: 18 percent higher
- Alarm and security products: 17 percent higher
- Wireless and smartphone integration products: up 11 percent
Well, people still love their sound systems – that much is clear. That obvious bit of information aside, the numbers show that, given the rapid pace of technological advancement, cars produced just five or ten years ago don’t have enough of the gadgets and gizmos that modern Americans want.
Here are some of the best-selling mobile technology and automotive electronics on the market today.
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Bestseller for hands-free connectivity
- Can hear your voice commands through music, air conditioning and road noise
- Compatible with most cars and trucks
- Multiple cords can complicate installation and make the aesthetics unsightly
Echo Auto connects to the Alexa app on your phone and plays through your car speakers via your phone’s auxiliary input or Bluetooth connection. Now any older car can stream music, podcasts, traffic and even audiobooks. It is fantastic for vintage cars and off road driving.
Upgrade the best stereo system
- Including reversing camera
- Front, rear and subwoofer preamp for speakers
- May require professional installation
BOSS audio systems‘ double-din head unit can turn an older stereo system into an Apple CarPlay or Android Auto-connected touchscreen gem. Access all your phone apps, including music, maps, and messages, with just one tap or even voice control where applicable. It includes USB ports for charging and with an available adapter it can be controlled from the handlebars.
- Google Maps, Speed and G-sensor readings
- Magnetic Click&Go Pro Mount
- Does not include Micro SD card (required for recording)
The NextBase 522GW front and rear dashcam kit features 1440 pixel Quad HD technology with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. It also rocks built-in Alexa connectivity, night vision capabilities, parking mode, and 280/360-degree six-lane shooting. There are tons of dashcams on the market and you could spend a lot less on them. But NextBase is one of the more established and reliable brands in the game. We have used this device and can highly recommend it.
Top Car Alarm Security System
- LCD display with backlight
- Revenger six-color siren
- You will probably have to pay for a professional installation
The Viper 5305V 2-Way LCD Vehicle Car Alarm Keyless-Entry Remote-Start System you can start your engine up to a quarter of a mile away. It comes with a four-button LCD remote and features like keyless entry and SmartStart compatibility.
Top Rechargeable Phone Holder
- Good looking unit; slim and streamlined
- Aluminum housing provides maximum heat dissipation
- May not charge through some phone cases
Today, most of us use our phone as GPS while driving, so a mount that we can see at a glance is essential. The iOttie Velox Magnetic Charging Air-Vent Phone Holder works fine (unless you’re using a thick, rugged phone case, that is; if so, all bets are off) and can be easily mounted on a vent. The charging component is only compatible with MagSafe phones, so you’ll need an iPhone 12 or newer. But a non-charging option is available for about half the price†
Top Wireless CarPlay Adapter
- Plug-and-play application
- 1 year warranty, free online upgrades
- Only works with models as old as 2016
If your car is a few years old and has Apple CarPlay, it may only support a wired connection. The Carlinkit 3.0 adapter changes that. Connect it once via Bluetooth and it will automatically connect to your phone every time, turning CarPlay into a wireless connection. That’s good news for those of us who can’t stand clutter in the cockpit.
Top audio sound quality upgrade
- Big sound from an affordable, unobtrusive unit
- Easy connection to almost any source
- The amplifier quality may not match that of the speakers
If you’re looking for more sound from your factory audio system (or your new double-din head unit, above), look at the MTX Audio RT8PT Universal Active Subwoofer† This 8-inch sub features a 120-watt amplifier, both high-level and RCA inputs for virtually any stereo system, and external bass controls for chosen acoustics. This complete installation kit includes everything you need, including wiring and fixings, in a sleek package.
- Available in different colors
- Lightweight and compact: 8 oz., 3.2″ x 2.5″ x 1.5″
- Continues to consume power even when no device is connected
Any older car with a 12-volt cigarette lighter socket can power or charge almost any electronic device with the BESTEK 150W Inverter DC 12V to 110V AC Converter† This 4.2A dual USB car adapter delivers 150 watts of continuous DC to AC power and 250 watts of instantaneous power from a wall outlet and two USB ports. It comes with low and high pressure insulation and a built-in 40A fuse to protect against overheating, under and over voltage charging, short circuit and overload.
Top Bluetooth FM Transmitter
- Analog joystick control in five directions makes operation easy
- Bass boost button
- Blue accent light pulses with the bass – and you can’t turn it off
The UNBREAK cable FM transmitter has a built-in Bluetooth 5.0 chip that provides a more stable connection for hands-free streaming, calling and quick pairing via any FM radio station. The built-in microphone supports smart voice navigation via Siri or the Google Assistant (sorry, Alexa† It also features two USB-A ports and a USB-C port for charging devices.
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