A Bluetooth car adaptor can bring new life, phone calls, wireless music and safer driving to older cars.
I’m in a hurry. Just give me the best recommendations.
- Kinivo BTC450 Bluetooth Car Adaptor
- Mpow BH129 Bluetooth Adaptor
- IMDEN Bluetooth FM Transmitter Car Adaptor
A Bluetooth car adaptor is a perfect solution to modernise an older car. If you have a 12v socket, an FM Radio or an AUX input, you can connect your iPhone or Android phone (or iPad/Tablet etc) for wireless music and wireless hands-free phone calls.
We’ll break it all down here and give you the list for the best Bluetooth car adaptors for your car.
Why you can trust our opinion – we’ve owned more than 6 of these units in recent years over 7 cars. We’ve used and sold visor mounted units, FM Transmitters, 12v in-dash and dash mounted units. We’ve used these with iPhone and Android units. We’ve used Bovee, Kinivo, Motorola and more. We know Bluetooth adaptors well.
- A Bluetooth car adaptor can bring new life, phone calls, wireless music and safer driving to older cars.
- Types of Bluetooth Car Adaptors
- Considerations when purchasing a Bluetooth Audio Adaptor
- Connectivity to Car – inc. Cable length
- Distance from transmitting device
- Audio quality (audio codecs)
- USB Power (some have battery)
- Bluetooth Versions
- Ground loop isolator for Car Adaptors – what’s the buzz?
- FM Transmitters with Bluetooth
- Key Features to look for
- 7 Best Bluetooth Car Adaptors
- 1: Kinivo BTC480 Bluetooth Car Adaptor
- 2: Mpow BH129 Bluetooth Adaptor
- 3: Nulaxy Bluetooth Car FM Transmitter
- 4: Mpow MBR2 Bluetooth Car Adaptor
- 5: IMDEN Bluetooth FM Transmitter Car Adaptor
- 6: Kinivo BTC450 Bluetooth Car Adaptor
- 7: TaoTronics Bluetooth Car Kit Adaptor
- What about the echo Auto?
Types of Bluetooth Car Adaptors
- FM Transmitters – these are perfect for cars with no AUX-in 3.5mm plug options.
- Visor Mount adaptor kits – expensive and fussy to install. You can get Visor mounted FM transmitter/Bluetooth units too. These often only support Bluetooth calling, not always music.
- Aux-in units – these connect to your phone via Bluetooth and then connect to the car using the AUX plug input. These come in USB powered and battery powered models.
It’s an important distinction to clarify something early on. If your car has Bluetooth that already supports A2DP, which is ability to stream music from your phone direct to your Car’s built-in Bluetooth, then you shouldn’t need one of these units unless you lack handsfree calling with it too. If in doubt, ask in the comments section at the bottom and we can help.
Considerations when purchasing a Bluetooth Audio Adaptor
There are a few things to consider when purchasing a Bluetooth car adaptor. These include
Connectivity to Car – inc. Cable length
It’s important to consider where the unit will sit in the car and how you will connect it. If you are forced to use an FM Transmitter this will matter less. As we usually avoid FM transmitters due to their slightly lower sound quality, we’ll focus on units that plug into your car audio system directly.
We’re not saying FM Transmitters are not a good option, they are great if you don’t have an AUX input, we’re just saying if you have an AUX input option, try to go for that first.
A Bluetooth car adaptor will typically connect to the vehicle via a 3.5mm or 2.5mm audio jack plug. This is the same plug size that you typically see on portable headphones.
In a car, the plug input on the car is typically labelled as an AUX input and is most often found in the dashboard somewhere. It might be actually in the stereo unit of the dashboard or sometimes in the tray area of your dashboard. In some cars, like my older BMW, the AUX input is in the armrest console.
It looks something like this:
You want to make sure that where you put the receiver (Bluetooth adaptor) is close enough to the AUX input for the cable to reach from the adaptor to the car audio plug.
Distance from transmitting device
If the transmitting device (which is your phone 9 times out of 10) is too far from the receiving device (the Bluetooth car adaptor) then you will have dropouts and issues connecting. These days Bluetooth is pretty good so anywhere in the front cabin area of your car should be fine.
In the old BMW model we have the Bluetooth adaptor is closed inside the armrest and it works fine. We’ve used two units, both in the same place, and no problems. Our older CRV is similar and we also have an FM transmitter on the Visor in that car for in-car phone calls.
Generally, this won’t be an issue for you but look at the questions and answers for your specific choice in case the unit has a weak reach.
Audio quality (audio codecs)
Audio quality can be a subjective thing. What one person thinks is good enough, another finds too poor in quality.
These days most Bluetooth units will be sufficient for the average listener but the audiophiles of the world might be better looking for an aptX HD codec model.
The aptX Codec is built into Android phones but not Apple iPhones sadly. You can also get aptX (without the HD) and you’ll be fine.
As mentioned the best audio quality comes from a hardwired solution. It’s a real pain to plug your phone into your car each time you get in and out so a Bluetooth adaptor makes perfect sense, we’d just recommend plugging that in if possible.
FM Transmitters work and sound fine, but AUX input Bluetooth units sound better.
You can get Bluetooth adaptors for calls only, you can also get them for calls and music. The later choice is better and usually not more expensive.
USB Power (some have battery)
Most of these units we’ll feature below use the 12v power plug on your car. Like the Connectivity in Car section above you should also consider where you can power this and will it fit into the specific space. Some units can use battery power, especially Bluetooth visor mounted units like the Motorola Sonic Rider (doesn’t really support Music well, only calls)
Some Bluetooth car adaptors, especially FM transmitter units can be quite large. These then plug into your cigarette lighter/12v adaptor plug on your dashboard. Like this Nulaxy Bluetooth FM transmitter shown below:
So if you are going for an FM transmitter you might want to consider if it will fit – think about thinks like the handbrake or cup holders or gear stick positioning relative to this.
Others connect via the same 12v plug but connect via a wire to the unit meaning you have more flexibility on position and placement. They are also usually a lot smaller like the Kinivo BTC450 Bluetooth Car Adaptor which we currently own in one car, as seen below:
It’s about the size of a large coin.
You will want to look for anything that is Bluetooth 4 and above. Bluetooth 5, even better. The better the Bluetooth the better the energy efficiency, range strength, processing capacity and feature enhancements but most should have at least Bluetooth 4.1.
Ground loop isolator for Car Adaptors – what’s the buzz?
When you are looking at choosing a Bluetooth Car Adaptor you might see people talking about group loop adaptors or ground loop noise isolators. I’ll try to explain this as easily as possible so you know exactly what they do.
When the source of your audio and the speakers for your audio both share the same power source you can get a buzz in your audio sound. This is true for home stereo, concerts and also car stereos.
So if you have purchased a Bluetooth adaptor, or if you do buy one and you notice a buzz in the sound (you’ll know it’s there) you can get a second adaptor which connects to your Bluetooth Car Adaptor and removes the buzz.
A good unit and good example of what you need is the Mpow ground loop isolator, available at the link.
FM Transmitters with Bluetooth
FM Transmitters are included here because they are still a Bluetooth car adaptor. They just connect a little differently to your car stereo. They have been in use for over 15 years for this purpose so they have improved in quality over time so something quite sophisticated.
So, how do FM Transmitters in your Car work?
First, you choose an empty FM band on your car stereo. For it to work best the FM band on your car stereo must be clear. You don’t want it to have any signal noise from a radio station. You also, ideally, don’t want it to find a radio station as you drive.
So where ever you are driving to will hopefully not have any radio stations that use that specific frequency on the way. The bandwidth is generally between 87.5 to 108.0MHz.
The FM Transmitter in your car then connects to that FM frequency on your car radio.
So here are the steps again:
- Turn on your car stereo and select FM.
- Go through the bandwidth frequencies until you hear a clear frequency that has nothing on it, ideally not even close to a radio station. For example 89.5FM.
- On the FM Transmitter choose the same frequency as the radio. e.g 89.5FM
- That’s it really. When you play music it will transmit to your car stereo using FM.
It’s like having a mini FM radio station in your car.
If you do hear static when it’s connect, try another frequency. You will know when the FM Transmitter has connected as the frequency will go silent.
Key Features to look for
- Microphone capabilities – for phone calls.
- On unit control buttons – for skipping tracks, play/pausing music, answering calls, summoning smart assistants.
- The number of microphones – for audio phone calls, if the unit features it. Most only have 1 which, if positioned well, can be enough.
- Audio codecs – aptX HD might appeal to audiophiles
- Bluetooth version – 4.0 or 4.1 and up a good choice.
- Audio support type (calls and audio, or just audio) – see our echo auto review for a table of Bluetooth audio support options.
7 Best Bluetooth Car Adaptors
The Kinivo brand has been building Bluetooth car adaptors for a long time so for that reason we’ve included 2 of their models on this post.
At #6 you’ll see we’ve included the BTC450 which is an earlier model of the BTC480. With the BTC480 Kinivo have added (and removed) a lot features based on customer feedback over the years.
The BTC480 includes a couple of really nice features the main one being you can connect 2 phones to the unit at the same time. This is awesome when you travel with a partner a lot and both want to utilise it. One could be playing music and if the other persons phone gets a call it can switch over.
There is also a nice addition with a magnetic plate for the microphone. It attaches to the dashboard (or wherever else you want to connect the buttons/microphone unit) using 3M tape, which is reportedly un-marking. Then you don’t always have to have the microphone connected to the front of the dash. You can remove it.
The control buttons on the BTC480 are easy to use. There is one for answer calls/long-press assistant, and skip forward and back buttons for skipping through music tracks.
Supports hands-free calling and wireless music payback. Auto connects as soon as you start up your car and does not have batteries that you need to charge.
- Twin piggybacked USB charge unit
- Magnetic mount for the receiver
- A2DP Bluetooth for wireless music streaming functionality
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Phone calls + voice commands
- 2 phones/devices can be connected at once
- No apt-X if that’s important to you.
Any last comment on this Kinivo BTC480?
A newer Kinivo model with dual connectivity for those who travel with other people in the car.
Don’t just take our word for it, although we trust ourselves. Check out more No products found.
This Mpow Bluetooth Adaptor is versatile, compact and works with your Car OR other stereo equipment (anything that has an audio in 3.5mm plug input really).
Comes in two colours, Grey or Black, although not sure why Grey costs $1 more…anyway…
This unit is battery powered. This allows it to be small and nimble but also means it needs to be charged from time to time. This might be a deal-breaker for some, especially as you get in and out of your car constantly so having an auto-on unit will run down fast.
One reason it makes the list is that some people have an AUX in but no easy way to power a unit – this is a good solution for that.
It does have auto-reconnect to the last unit it was paired with.
- Small unit
- CSR Bluetooth chip – better audio, probably not better than aptX IOO.
- Can connect 2 Bluetooth devices at the same time
- The ON/OFF switch feels like you have you control. Small deal but nice tactile addition.
- Hands-Free phone calls in the car
- Wireless music streaming from phone.
- Can use it on any 3.5mm plug. This means not only in your car but also on your home stereo etc for wireless music from your phone.
- Supports Voice Assistants
- Battery-powered. 15 hours of use is plenty but it can be a hassle remembering to charge it. You do get 2 hours playback from a 5-minute charge though.
- Full charge 45 minutes.
- Fixed 90-degree plug angle might not suit everyone.
The last comment on the Mpow?
If you need a battery powered unit then this is a great choice. 15 hours of constant audio playback is a decent amount of time, especially if your commute is less than 30 minutes, and a quick charge when needed will get you going.
Don’t just take our word for it. Check out more reviews on Amazon
We’re going to put in 2 FM transmitters for this review. The first winning pick is the Nulaxy Bluetooth car adaptor (KM18) which comes with a couple of cool additions.
The first cool addition is the option to use a TF card with it. So let me clarify the three ways this connects as it is a good option and doesn’t have to be used only as an FM transmitter. You can connect it to your car via:
- Bluetooth (FM connection to car stereo)
- AUX-in – so you can plug into your car AUX-in directly (Bluetooth to Nulaxy and AUX into car)
- TF Card (FM connection to your car or AUX connection)
The TF Card option means you can load music on a TF Card and then insert it in the unit and play your music that way.
The AUX-in means you can plug into your car AUX plug if you have one.
The FM Transmitter option is perfect for cars with no AUX in option, or if you only want one unit in the car and don’t want lots of wires everywhere.
The Nulaxy KM18 plugs straight into your Cigarette lighter/12v socket and that’s it. Tune it in and it’s ready to go.
- Single unit (No wires etc)
- Large display screen
- Multiple output and input options
- Strong signal strength
- TF Card a nice touch
- AUX-in to car
- Hands-free phone calls with ability to control and voice command calls is good.
- Not a small unit so consider space if it’s close to your gear stick
- Bluetooth 3.0
- Bright blue display if that doesn’t rock your world
Any last thoughts on the Nulaxy KM18?
A good looking unit without the wires. Multiple input and playback options. The option to use FM Transmitter functions OR AUX in is great.
Don’t be a sheep though. Check out more reviews on Amazon
This Mpow car Bluetooth kit gets included expecially as it has a built-in inline ground loop. We’ve discussed what a ground loop is above so check that if you missed it.
Your phone/tablet or any other Bluetooth music unit (I have also used an Astell & Kern music player that works) connects to the receiver, the receiver goes through the connected ground loop, the ground loop plugs into your car AUX-in plug.
That probably sounded more complicated than we meant it to. Essentially, you connect to it and it connects to your car via the AUX plug.
Like the Kinivo, it connects automatically when the car powers up which makes it painless.
It also includes multi-connect Bluetooth which means you can connect two devices to it at once. Makes it easier for switching who’s playing the best music in the car.
- Included ground loop
- Wireless music
- Hands-free calling
- Multi-connect (two phones at once)
- Dual plug charger
- Price is higher than some
Any last comment on this Mpow MBR2?
The built-in ground loop makes this more attractive and explains the slightly higher price to some other units. Mpow are a well known brand. Dual connectivity a great addition.
Don’t just take our word for it. Check out more reviews on Amazon
This is our second Bluetooth FM transmitter for Cars in the list. It’s a nice looking unit…so we have to admit that’s what first attracted us to it. The Best Seller rank on Amazon was another contributing factor. 😉
It has two USB ports on the back with one of those being a quick charge option. You can also plug in a USB stick with music on it and play music directly. We prefer this to the TF card option on the Nulaxy, mostly as it’s easier to put music on a USB stick than a compact flash card.
There is a built-in microphone on the receiver for hands-free phone calls. This includes a noise suppression filter to help block car noise for the other person on the line.
FM Transmitter bands 87.5-108.0 MHz and full music streaming Bluetooth capabilities.
As mentioned we personally prefer a connection via AUX into the car but if you don’t like wires, don’t care for the ‘best’ audio signal OR you don’t even have an AUX 3.5mm plug in your car, then an FM Transmitter like the IMDEN is a perfect choice.
It includes control buttons for answering calls, ending calls, skipping tracks etc.
- Built-in current protection
- USB Drive option for music playback
- Nice form factor – small, attractive
- Supports voice commands
- Quick charge port
- Car battery health voltage assessment? (might be a bit gimmicky)
- Bluetooth 4.2
- No AUX output like the Nulaxy reviewed above
Any last declarations for the IMDEN ?
Form factor alone makes this a beautiful choice. That and the stellar features and functionality. Top pick.
Explore more. What would Bear Grylls do? Check out the Reviews on Amazon
This is a unit we own so it goes straight into the list. We’ve road-tested this for around 1-2 years and it’s worked flawlessly. The latest model is the Kinivo BTC480 which we have mentioned above and is worth a look – I like the appeal of the older unit for some reason. If you needed a ground loop included the BTC460 had it built-in but it’s hard to find to buy now.
This unit has been so well-reviewed and used over the years it seemed crazy not to include it here.
Some of the best parts of this unit include good quality and lengthed cabling, a decent microphone for phone calls and subtle control buttons on the side of the microphone unit.
You can control music and phone calls from the main control end. The centre is one main button, the skip controls are on the site
The thing that is also great is that the USB power and the main unit are run on separate cables.
It automatically starts up and connects as soon as you connect your car.
- aptX for better audio quality
- Word with any Bluetooth phone
- A2DP Bluetooth
- Good looking unit that attaches to the dash nicely
- Piggybacked USB power unit (can plug another USB device in the back of it.
- Handfree calling
- Music streaming
- Auto connects when you start the cart
- No built-in ground loop (the BTC460 had it but can’t find it for sale)
The last comment on the Kinivo BTC450?
We recommend it because we’ve used it and it’s never failed. Easy to recommend this one. If you need a ground loop they do a model with it included.
This one you can trust us on, because we own it. Check out more reviews on Amazon
Seems unfair to feature 3 x wired, 2 x FM transmitters and only 1 x battery-powered option. So, we present our final recommendation for a Bluetooth car kit as the TaoTronics adaptor.
This Bluetooth aux adaptor works with any other stereo/speaker that has a 3.5mm input on it, which is a bonus.
TaoTronics has been around a long time. Like Anker and similar brands its proved its reputation by producing good quality products.
This unit has Bluetooth 4.2 and controls to play, pause and skip tracks. The same buttons can answer and end phone calls.
It’s a really nice small unit that is super easy to travel with; about 1/3 the size of a credit card. You can even connect your earbuds to it and put your phone in your pocket.
The battery gives you 10 hours of talk time and 200 hours standby.
The final cherry on the cake for this Bluetooth kit is that it has multi-device built-in. So you can connect two Bluetooth source devices to it at the same time. Maybe your iPad for music and your Phone for phone calls.
- Bluetooth 4.2
- Battery-powered for portability
- Use with other music players/speakers – not limited to your Car.
- A2DP for wireless music streaming
- Built-in microphone for hands-free phone calls
- Click to hold to activate Siri
- Multi-connect so two devices can connect to it at once.
- Battery-powered – but also a Pro
- None of note at this price.
Any last deep feelings about the TaoTronics Car Kit?
Another strong contender in the Bluetooth Car Adaptor with battery power. A2DP Bluetooth protocol for wireless music streaming and built-in microphone = thumbs up.
Public opinion matters. Check out more reviews on Amazon
What about the echo Auto?
It seems that it wouldn’t be complete without including the echo Auto from Amazon. This unit is getting mixed reviews. We like it, and we did an echo auto review – it’s in our car but we still have to use it in connection to our Bluetooth Car connector.
So it’s smart, helpful but it doesn’t act as a Bluetooth car adaptor or connection kit.
We have used two Bluetooth kits to connect our Auto to our car.
The first is the Kinivo mentioned above at #6 in the list. The second is the Bovee tune2air WMA3000B. The reason we didn’t include the Bovee is that it’s specifically designed for older BMW and Mini cars. So if you have an older BMW (e90 especially), then the Bovee tune2air will plug in to your armrest plugs and if you have the iDrive (with USB in the armrest – very important this bit) then it’s perfect.
I don’t have USB in the armrest but I power it using a 12v adaptor and it still works great, just can’t control the playlist from the iDrive system.
Most of these units share common qualities.
If you don’t want wires, then an FM Transmitter might be your best choice.
If you really care about audio quality, then the Kinivo units might be a good choice.
If you want to play music from a USB of CF/TF Card then the FM Transmitter options above will do that too.
If you don’t have a 12v plug then the Mpow BH129 is a good choice as it will run on batteries.
Consider the space you have, the features you want and from there this list should have a solution for you.
Let us know how you go and ask any questions you have below. We’d be happy to answer them.
Last update on 2019-11-20 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links