Even modestly priced cars now come packed with technology that would have cost a premium in years past (if it existed at all). Believe it or not, you used to have to pay extra for power windows and cruise control (if you don’t recall those dark days, ask your dad). In these more modern times, it’s hard to find a car that doesn’t include features like those as standard equipment. But there are a lot of other cool car accessories that can amp up your daily ride, making it more fun, comfortable, convenient and safe.
From dash cams to OBD2 code readers, there’s a veritable galaxy of car accessories that can transform your car in ways large and small. Want a better stereo? There are all sorts of ways to upgrade your in-dash receiver. Our advice? Add Sirius XM satellite radio to your car, either with a new head unit or an add-on that works in conjunction with your existing stereo. Likewise, a good OBD2 code reader like FIXD can tell you maintenance and diagnostic info you’d otherwise have to visit a mechanic to learn. And what could be cooler than adding a heads-up display to your car that projects your speed and other info directly on the windshield, as if your car was a fighter jet?
Those examples are just scratching the surface. We’ve rounded up the 10 best and coolest high-tech car accessories. Without a doubt, there’s something here for your car.
Best Satellite Radio
SiriusXM SXPL1V1 Onyx Plus Satellite Radio
SiriusXM beams music, sports and talk radio to your car via satellite, and offers hundreds of channels—a vast treasure trove of content that’ll be there even if you drive out of town and away from local stations. If your car’s stereo doesn’t support SiriusXM, you can add satellite radio without replacing your in-dash receiver.
The SiriusXM SXPL1V1 Onyx Plus Satellite Radio has a gorgeous and easy-to-use color touchscreen interface that can show off album art and other information along with the ability to set up to 20 favorite channels. It also includes the ability to pause, rewind, and replay live satellite radio, as well as features like TuneMix, which lets you create your own music channel by selecting favorite songs and artists. Best of all, it mounts inside your car and works with your existing stereo.
Best Dash Camera
Apeman Dual Dash Cam C550
If you’re a ride-share or delivery driver—or just want a record of your driving in case of an accident—the Apeman Dual Dash Cam C550 is a superb 1080p dash cam that mounts to the inside of your windshield with adhesive tape and includes a second 720p camera that you can mount in the rear windshield or above the license plate. All the wiring is designed to be hidden with the help of a small tool to embed it in the car’s pillars.
There’s a color display to see the rear camera in real-time, though of course it’s all stored in a continuous loop on an SD card. And don’t worry about the camera over-writing an important file; if it senses a collision, it automatically locks that video so it can’t be accidentally deleted.
Best In-Dash Radio Receiver
Kenwood Excelon DDX9907XR Receiver with Bluetooth & HD Radio
Looking to dramatically upgrade your car’s audio experience? Replace the existing in-dash unit with the Kenwood Excelon DDX9907XR. It won’t fit every kind of vehicle—you need a double DIN opening to accommodate this large 6.8-inch touchscreen—but if your car can handle it, you’ll get both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support so you can display your phone’s driving interface right on your center console.
It can play high-resolution audio files in formats like FLAC and WAV or stream music from online services like Pandora and Spotify via your phone. It accommodates CD/DVD discs and has a built-in HD radio tuner. The DDX9907XR even has four camera inputs so you can connect and view inputs from four different cameras positioned in and around the car.
Best OBD2 Code Reader
FIXD OBD2 Scan Tool & Code Reader
Your car’s dashboard is worse than useless. If you’re lucky, it has a few lights or dials that tell you about your car’s engine temperature and overall health, but for the most part, it won’t tell you anything of value until a catastrophic problem occurs. Your mechanic can diagnose problems in seconds by inserting a tool in the car’s OBD2 (onboard diagnostic) port, and now you can do the same thing.
FIXD plugs into the standard OBD2 port (it’s usually near your feet, under the dash) and can diagnose around 7,000 error codes and tell you what’s wrong in plain English. Leave it there, and FIXD syncs with your phone (both iPhone and Android), making it easy to monitor your car’s health and even get reminders about upcoming scheduled service.
Best Heads-Up Display
Anauto Head Up Display
Few car accessories are quite as exciting as a heads-up display, but only a few luxury models currently project details like your speed and navigation information directly on the windshield. If you want to capture a bit of this fighter plane aesthetic in your own car, the Anauto Head Up Display is a surprisingly affordable gadget that plugs into your car’s OBD2 (onboard diagnostic) port under the dash and projects onto a large 5.5-inch reflective film that you apply to the windshield.
The Anauto Head Up Display puts information like your speed, engine RPM, fuel level and more in a colorful graphical readout that you can see without ever glancing away from the road. Especially considering the low price, this is a great way to modernize your car.
Best Radar Detector
Uniden R7 Laser/Radar Detector
Thanks to the Uniden R7, you won’t just know that there’s a radar gun nearby, but you’ll know which direction the signal is coming from. An arrow on the color display tells you if it’s coming from the front, rear or side; combined with the signal strength and band data that the detector reports, you can quickly surmise if it’s a real police presence or just a false positive from a nearby car’s adaptive cruise control or some other unimportant source.
The R7 detects the four common radar bands as well as laser, and can alert you visually and with voice. Even better, Uniden includes GPS—this lets you tell the R7 to remember up to 2,000 locations where false alarms commonly happen so they don’t continue to bother you. The GPS feature means the R7 can warn you about red light cameras as well.
Best Cellular Signal Booster For Cars
weBoost Drive Reach Vehicle Cell Phone Signal Booster
Do you often find yourself driving across areas with poor cell phone coverage? You don’t have to live with dropped calls and poor connectivity—you can install a signal booster in your car. Signal boosters are the secret weapon for many road warriors, since a lot of drivers aren’t even aware the technology exists. The weBoost Drive Reach Vehicle Cell Phone Signal Booster isn’t especially inexpensive, but if you drive a lot through dead zones, it could be worth its weight in gold.
Keep in mind that the weBoost Drive Reach can’t create a cell signal—it can only amplify an existing one. So while it can’t help in regions where you are truly out of range of any cell tower, if there’s a small signal it can almost always boost it enough for reliable voice, text and data. It’s 5G-compatible and can even improve video streaming. The Drive Reach is easy to install in your car, tools free, and works with all major carriers including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and others.
Best Car Charger USB Adapter
Anker 36W Dual USB Car Charger Adapter
Even if your car has a USB port, chances are that it’s woefully underpowered—most car USB ports don’t deliver much juice, which means they can’t actually charge your phone. Anker’s 36W Dual USB Car Charger Adapter is your antidote. Plug this into your car’s power port, and its two USB ports offer 18 watts each. That’s enough to be Quick Charge 3-compatible, able to top off a Samsung Galaxy S20 from empty in less than two hours. And because it has two ports, you can charge two power-hungry phones simultaneously.
Best Bluetooth Transmitter
Nulaxy Wireless In-Car Bluetooth FM Transmitter Radio Adapter
If your car’s stereo lacks Bluetooth, you don’t have to keep listening to music or podcasts by playing it through your phone’s speakerphone. The Nulaxy Wireless In-Car Bluetooth FM Transmitter Radio Adapter is a low-priced way to let your phone talk to your car stereo. Your phone connects to the Nulaxy adapter via Bluetooth and then the adapter broadcasts high-quality audio to your stereo via an unused part of the FM radio band.
The gadget is elegantly designed; the control panel stands at the end of a flexible gooseneck that plugs into your car’s power port, and there’s even a USB input to charge your phone. A 1.44-inch LCD display displays information like the selected FM frequency, connection settings and more. It should work with most phones and any car with an FM radio.
Best Supercapacitor Jump Starter
autowit SuperCap 2 Battery-Less Portable Jump Starter
A dead car battery can stop your day cold, which is why many people carry compact jump-start batteries in their trunk. Unfortunately, you have to remember to keep it charged, or your jump-start battery will be as useless as your dead car battery when you actually need to use it.
A better alternative in most cases: A supercapacitor jump-starter like the Autowit SuperCap 2. There’s no battery here; instead, you connect the SuperCap 2 to your car battery as if you were getting ready to jump-start it, and let the capacitor charge itself up from whatever residual energy is left in the battery. When the onboard display says it’s sufficiently charged, you press a button and turn over the engine. The SuperCap 2 will charge the battery. That’s it.
The great thing about the autowit SuperCap 2 is that it’s maintenance free; you can forget it in the trunk until you need it. As long as your car’s battery isn’t completely, absolutely dead, it’ll get you up and running.