Connect a Smartphone to Your Car Stereo

Connecting a smartphone or mobile device to your car stereo is a great way to listen to music, audiobooks and podcasts while driving. There's a few ways to accomplish this.

  • Connecting with USB
  • First of all, if you have a newer car, it may actually have USB built into the stereo. This should work with most phones and iPods, and actually will allow you to access the audio on the device through the native car stereo interface. This is great because in many cases it will allow you to keep your eyes on the road instead of handling a phone while driving, which in many states is illegal.

  • Connecting through Auxiliary In
    This has become standard in newer car stereos, allowing you to connect any device that can play audio to the stereo. This won't allow control of the device through the car stereo, but is very simple to do. Just use an 1/8" to 1/8" auxiliary cable (available at RadioShack or any electronics store) and connect it from your phone's headphone jack to the car stereo's aux input.
  • Connect with Bluetooth
  • Some cars come with bluetooth built into the stereo, and if your car has it, check the owner's manual to find out how to pair it with your phone. Like the auxiliary option, you won't have control of the phone through the stereo interface, but it does offer added convenience. It's wireless, and will connect to the stereo automatically when you get in the car. A lot of stereos have built-in mics to handle hands free phone calls as well.

    If the stereo doesn't have bluetooth built-in, there's also bluetooth car kits that will give you this functionality. The Belkin Bluetooth Car Hands-Free Kit and GOgroove FlexSMART X2 are a couple of great inexpensive options.

  • Cassette Adapter
  • This may sound archaic, but for older car stereos, this is still a great way to integrate your phone.

  • FM transmitters
  • This is another way to integrate your phone into an older stereo without a direct way to connect. Mileage will vary here, since it depends on whether or not there are a lot of radio stations in the area crowding the dial.

  • Aftermarket stereos
  • Of course, you could always get an entirely new head unit that has some of these modern features, and it may not cost as much as you'd think. There are great Alpine head units that start at around $100.