If you’re in the market for a new car more often then not there will be some kind of connected car option. From being able to use your own phone for navigation and playing music using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay to being able to track the location of your car and lock/unlock your car doors from your phone, getting into a connected car is a lot more accessible if you’re buying a new car.
So lets say these features interest you but you don’t want to spend the money on a brand new car, there are actually are a few options out there for you. Adding Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is as easy as adding an aftermarket stereo, which you can read about here.
For the other features if you don’t need anything fancy like remote start or being able to lock/unlock your car from your phone T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T have good entry-level offerings for around $150. All three wireless providers pretty much offer the same thing; they use an OBD-II reader with a Wi-Fi connection and GPS that plugs into your car’s OBD-II diagnostic port. All cars made from 1996 on will have this port.
Depending on the carrier, some have promotions that will give you the device for free with a 2-year cellular data plan contract.
Besides the device you will need to purchase a monthly cellular data plan as well to get all of the available features.
Monthly Data Plan: $10 – $20 per month
While these devices can’t control functions like starting your car or locking/unlocking your doors there are some useful features that some people might want:
Location, Boundary and Speed Alerts: With the built in GPS you can monitor the position of your car anytime you want within the included app for your phone. Say you want to only let your teenager drive within a certain radius, with these devices you can set a geo-fence around the area they are supposed to drive in. If the car goes beyond a specified area or over designated speed you will receive a text message so you can call young Bobby and tell him to get his butt home or he’s grounded.
Wi-Fi Hotspot: Useful if you need to connect a laptop or tablet that doesn’t have a cellular data connection.
Vehicle Maintenance and Diagnostics: Because it is plugged into your OBD-II port it can monitor certain performance features of your car like battery voltage and if there are any check engine codes.
Trip History: This varies by brand but with the T-Mobile SyncUp Drive app it will show your route on a map with the trip duration, distance, average mph, max speed, max RPM and fuel efficiency.
Roadside Assistance: All three include roadside assistance in case your car needs to be towed or change a flat tire.
These devices offer a decent entry point into making your car a connected car. Installation literally is as easy as just plugging it into your car and downloading an app. However many of these features seem to be geared towards those with a teen driver or if you go on long road trips with the family, the Wi-Fi hotspot would come in handy to keep the kids entertained. Vehicle diagnostics is a nice feature but assuming your car is in good running order you’d rarely need to use this.
If you were looking for something with more connectivity your better option would be to check out connected car alarms. Read more about them HERE.