Turn a Dumb Car into a Smart(er) Car with these Upgrades

By on February 26, 2020

Technology has improved cars significantly over the last twenty years, with a heavy emphasis on mobile technology that’s absolutely exploded in the last decade. Technology like rear view cameras, touch-screen dash panels, Wi-Fi hot spots, mobile device charging and proximity sensors have invaded cars at all price points.

Of course, if you are still driving a reliable car that’s a decade old (which is glorious for those who hate car payments), then you may be missing out on these new technological features. Here are several aftermarket upgrades you can buy to give your car a boost in smarts.

Apple CarPlay / Android Auto Receiver: Pioneer AVH-2300NEX


Featuring a 7″ WVGA touchscreen display, the Pioneer AVH-2300NEX receiver offers a multitude of options for both iOS and Android users. You can make phones calls, listen to voicemails, view text messages, connect to Apple / Google Maps or listen to music.

It also has Bluetooth connectivity, works with Spotify and Pandora as well as SiriusXM if you have a subscription. It also has a port if you want to connect up a back-up camera, utilizing the 800 x 480 video screen for that. 

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Roadside Assistance / Vehicle Diagnostics: HUM X

If you are looking for a service similar to OnStar, check out the HUM vehicle diagnostic tool made be Verizon. The HUM tool plugs into your vehicle diagnostic port on your car and scans your car for issues each time the car is started.

The HUM X includes a speaker/microphone unit that attaches to your car’s visor. It provides access to hands-free calls, 24/7 roadside assistance & a direct connection to a mechanic. It also has automatic crash response (which will notify emergency services) and will act as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 10 connections in your car.

The initial cost of the hardware is $70 + a $40 activation fee + a monthly subscription of $15 to the 4G LTE data connection for a minimum of 2 years. If you are looking for a cheaper option , check out Automatic. It provides lots of information about your vehicle along with automatic crash response & 5 years of 3G service (but without the OnStar-like functionality).

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Back-Up Camera: Accele RVCLPMBS


If you are looking for a simple solution for a backup camera (and you have a video panel installed already), check out the Accele RVCLPMBS backup camera. It screws into your license plate and is wired directly though your car (23-foot cable) to a video panel. It has a 170° wide viewing angle and works well in low-light conditions.

If you are looking for an inexpensive display for a wired connection, check out the Esky 4.3-inch display as well as the 7-inch model. You can also connect those panels to other video equipment in the car.

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Mobile Charging: RAVPower Car Charger


Many new cars come with USB ports built into the design for charging your mobile devices. Of course, you can have the same functionality using your car’s cigarette lighter port and the RAVPower car charger.

Obviously, there are a ton of options in this category. We like the RAVPower car charger for a few reasons. It’s more compact than most models, it includes LED lights on both ports for finding it in the dark, and it includes 2.4A  fast charging for your new mobile devices. If you simply need more ports, take a look at the 6-port charger.

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Parking Sensor: Striker Garage Parking Sensor


Basically the technologically advanced version of the tennis ball attached to your garage ceiling, the Striker garage parking sensor uses a sensor and a visual light panel to give you an indication how close your car is to the wall. Adjustable to distances between 6 inches and 6 feet, the light changes from green to yellow to red to indicate how close you are when parking.

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Smart Assistant: Echo Auto


If you are an Amazon Echo user already, adding Alexa to your car is probably a no brainier. The Echo Auto connects to Alexa through your smartphone and uses your car’s audio system. It’s specifically designed to hear voice commands over road noise and other sounds your car makes.

Similar to the voice assistant on your smartphone, it effectively offers up voice control for making calls, playing music, checking the news, asking questions or even opening your garage door (if you have smart tech installed in your garage).  It also supports apps like Waze if you need to find the best route to your destination. The Echo Auto retails for $50, usually goes on sale around $25.

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DashCam: Vantrue N2 Pro Dual Dash Cam


If you want to protect your insurance rates in case of an accident, a dashcam is a great way to record the incident. Vantrue N2 Pro dashcam offers two camera angles, one 170° front facing camera and one 140° inside passenger cabin recording at 1920×1080 at 30 framers per second.

It also include a night vision sensor for recording in the dark and a parking monitor motion sensor. The camera supports up to a 256GB microSD card, which will allow you to record a significant amount of video.

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Wireless Smartphone Charger: Scosche Dash Mount


If you need a windshield mount for your smartphone, you might as well get one with QI-wireless charging to keep your phone fully charged. The Scosche WDQM-ST1 dash mount has a 360* adjustable mount for your smartphone display as well as a stickGRIP suction base  for your windshield.

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About Mike Flacy

Editor-in-Chief for The CheckOut. During my free time, I love to write about pop culture, home theater, digital photography, social media, mobile technology and cool gadgets!

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