Ask Mechanic Shop Femme: How Can I Make My Older Car Smarter?

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According to a AAA report, as of May of 2018, 92.7% of new vehicle manufacturers had some advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). These include things like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, forward collision technology, and blind-spot assistance. The 92.7% statistic doesn’t even cover the other smart technology that’s a standard requirement for many car shoppers, like satellite radio, Bluetooth, and for some even navigation. And ADAS itself is expensive, with the average package running $1950, which runs on average 5.4% of the vehicle purchasing cost.

As expected, the total number of cars sold in 2020 was well below forecasted numbers, and while there was a short run on used vehicles, by December that demand was back to normal.

If buying a new, or new-er car, isn’t something you’re willing to invest in during these tumultuous times, that’s understandable. Wanting access to better tech is also understandable. As we’ve fled from public transit and public places in general, many of us are spending more time at home, and consequently, spending more time in the car for a safe change of scenery. From car dates to drive-in movie theaters and road trips, safety and comfort are at the top of many consumers’ lists for their vehicles.

With that in mind, I pulled together a list of the smartest tech upgrades you can easily make to your old clunker without upgrading your car and the hefty price tag that comes along with it. Can you live without these? Of course. But maybe you’re ready for something shiny and helpful.

A Smart, Fast Car Charger with Siri and Google Assistant

Let’s talk about Bluetooth. When I drove around with my 2002 Toyota Camry a few years back, its lack of Bluetooth capabilities irked me. This charging device from Car and Driver adds a layer of smart to your car in a simple (and budget-friendly) way without installing a whole new unit. For $30, you get a smart USB charger, a radio transmitter, Bluetooth capabilities, and even Siri or Google Assistant. While reviews rave about the charger, you’ll also find that folks are focused on the value it provides, it gets the job done with no frills, which I expect for the budget-friendly price.

“I have a 2009 Toyota Camry that does not have the ability to connect a smartphone to the stereo system,” writes reviewer JediKnight on the Best Buy website. It pairs up quickly and easily with no radio static during play. I can now play my music library from my iPhone over to my car stereo and also have the capability of answering and taking phone calls hands-free. This item is priced reasonably as well.”

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