Six ways to Play an iPod in Your Car

iPods are very popular devices, but many people have problems getting them to play in their vehicles. This article looks at the six different ways you can play an iPod in your car.

  • Use Headphones – I have seen many people do this. It is not a safe way to listen to your iPod in your car. If you do this, you should make sure you always leave one ear free to listen to traffic. The other methods described here are much safer to use.
  • Cassette Adapter – For $10 to $15 you can find a cassette adapter that plugs into your car stereo tape player. While these work fairly well, the sound quality is not very good. These adapters tend to wear out quickly and I’ve personally gone through several of them.  After about 20 hours they tend to start seizing up and the gears stop turning correctly causing the cassette deck to stop.
  • Radio Transmitter – There are devices that plug into your iPod and transmit to your car stereo. The quality isn’t particularly great, but it is a simple way to play your iPod through your car stereo without dealing with wires or complicated setup. Certian vehicles have their antennas mounted in a way that prevents them from receiving the signal properly.  Also some of the radio transmitters give out a very weak signal.  Sometimes you can compensate for this by repositioning the transmitter.  Certian transmitters get around this problem by permanently attaching between the car’s regular antenna and the stereo.
  • Auxiliary Input – Many car stereo’s have an input jack that you can plug the iPod’s headphone connector into. This gives good sound, but still requires you to use the iPod controls to change songs. This is a good solution that gives very good sound especially if you tend to turn on the iPod and leave it.  Unfortunatley this type of solution requires manually starting and stopping the iPod when you get in and out of the car, so it isn’t as convenient as listening to a CD or cassette. Also this type of solution doesn’t charge the iPod, so you’ll need to keep the batteries full, or use an auto power adapter.
  • Stereo Integration – The stereos in some cars can talk directly to your iPod. With this type of integration, you can control the iPod just like the radio. This is the idea type of solution because it makes the iPod act like it is part of the stereo.  The iPod itself can be left in the glove compartment, center console or even the trunk.  This keeps it out of the sun and fully charged so it is ready to go if you ever want to go mobile.
  • Stereo Integration Add-on Box – Some stereos are compatible with third-party add-on boxes that connect between the iPod and your stereo. Usually these boxes plug into the CD changer input and allow you to treat your iPod as if it were a CD changer.  If the vehicle already has a space for a CD changer, this gives you space to install the box and iPod without needint to remove the stereo or do anything else special to your vehicle. This is the idea solution for people who have a car with a stereo that supports a CD changer, but not direct iPod integration.  Devices like this usually run from $100 to $300, so if you were thinking of upgrading your stereo anyway, you might look at getting a newer stereo with direct iPod integration instead.