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It used to be cars were purely a mode of transportation. People cared about the engine, the style, the comfortability of the interior. These things still matter, but of equal importance today is how technologically enabled a vehicle is.

Modern vehicles offer digital dashboards that display the apps on your phone, infotainment, 360-degree cameras, keyless entry, and much, much more. But the reality is, many people drive their vehicles for years, sometimes until the engines seize. These older vehicles may have some modern capabilities, but not the kind of advancements that align well with mobile technology today.

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    10 Useful Gadgets to Make Practically Any Car Smart image

    Wouldn’t it be nice to somehow align your vehicle with the technological life you live, regardless of your vehicle’s age? Well, these 10 useful gadgets will make practically any vehicle feel modern. Here’s how you can make your car smart.

    1. Key Tracker

    Losing your keys is pretty much guaranteed to happen to everyone at some point. Whether you spend 10 minutes or an hour searching for them, it’s time wasted and anxiety created. You definitely don’t have to go this route, given there are several battery-powered key finders available from companies like Tile and Chipolo, which run about $25 on average.

    Key Tracker image

    These trackers are great because you can attach them to pretty much anything you don’t want to go missing. Using an app connected to the tracker, you can find the location of your keys via GPS or press a button that makes the tracker ring so you can hear it.

    2. Dash Cam

    It wasn’t until recent years that people started caring more about recording what happens on the road. Dash cams have since become a very common gadget for drivers to stick to their dashboard or windshield.

    Dash Cam image

    Right now, one of the hottest dash cams on the market is the Garmin Dash Cam 55, which is about $200. It’s compact with great resolution for a dash cam. It stores important video clips automatically and stamps footage with a time and location.

    What makes it really cool are features like voice control; alerts like when to reduce your speed or when a railroad crossing is coming up; and Travelapse, which speeds up recordings of your trips so you can share them as fun footage with others.

    3. Bluetooth Adapter

    CDs have been a thing of the past for a decade. The problem is, older cars don’t have the kind of technology that makes it easy to enjoy media from modern devices. That’s where bluetooth adapters can help.

    Bluetooth Adapter image

    There are three types:

    • AUX-in adapters plug directly into your AUX input. TaoTronics, Mpow and HAVIT models are all popular and fall under about $30.
    • FM transmitters plug into an outlet and use FM frequency to transmit. Nulaxy makes several that are popular and fall under about $30.
    • Visor-style connectors like Jabra transmit audio through their own speaker systems. These tend to be a bit more than other bluetooth connectors, upwards of $120, because they provide superior audio without any hassling with feedback or connectivity.

    Regardless of which option suits your needs best, you’ll be able to listen to Spotify and podcasts on the go now, even if all you have is a CD or cassette player.

    4. Car Tracking and Diagnostics Adapter

    As automakers leverage big data to improve the performance of their vehicles, older cars can have this luxury, too. By simply plugging in a car tracking and diagnostics adapter like AutoNation’s Automatic under your dashboard, you can start syncing data it collects about your car to an app.

    Car Tracking and Diagnostics
Adapter image

    This data informs you of things like where your vehicle is, why you have a check engine light on, and when it’s time to have some maintenance done. To access all data and features, Automatic is free for six months, then $5 a month. Or you can access it’s basic features free for three years.

    5. HUDWAY Apps and Display Glass

    Advanced digital dashboards are commonplace in new vehicles today, offering touch screen capabilities to control everything from AC and heat to GPS. It’s possible to implement aftermarket systems like this, but they can be pretty expensive. A great affordable alternative that works for any vehicle is HUDWAY Glass, which runs about $50, and its apps.

    HUDWAY Apps and Display Glass image

    HUDWAY Glass is a phone mount with a piece of specially designed glass that captures the reflection of your phone screen. HUDWAY apps like Go and Widgets provide all the info you need about directions, speed, traffic, etc. Their information is essentially projected onto the glass for you to see as you’re driving. There are more apps you can connect for other insights, too.

    6.  Smart Tire Safety Monitor

    You can’t drive if your tires are flat. And if they’re going flat slowly, you could end up with poor fuel performance or, worse, ruin your tires and eventually cause them to blow out.

    Modern vehicles usually incorporate some kind of sensor that tells you when you have low tire pressure–older cars definitely don’t–yet their alerts aren’t always accurate or in real-time. Nonda’s ZUS Smart Tire Safety Monitor’s are.

    6.  Smart Tire Safety Monitor image

    The ZUS monitor plugs into your USB car charger and collects data from the secure theft-protected sensors you replace your tires’ valve caps with. In addition to real-time alerts of slow tire leaks, ZUS informs you through its app when you have critically low tire pressure so you can prevent a blowout.

    It also shows you individual tire history so you can understand where you’re potentially having acute problems with specific tires. It runs you about $120.

    7. Alexa-Enabled 2-Port USB Car Charger

    You have virtual assistants like Alexa on your phone and in your home–why not bring Alexa into the car as well? With the Roav VIVA, you can, giving you the ultimate hands-free experience when it comes to playing music, making calls, getting directions, and more considering VIVA packs 45,000-and-counting Alexa skills for you to leverage.

    Alexa-Enabled 2-Port USB Car
Charger image

    A nice add-on is that you can also charge devices extremely quickly with VIVA’s two PowerIQ charging ports. So while you’re car may be from the pay-phone era, you can still enable it with modern communications technologies like VIVA for about $60.

    8. Air Purifier

    We all love that new-car smell, but it fades pretty quickly if you aren’t keeping your interior clean. Even with cabin air filtration in place since the ‘80s, after a few years, it’s not uncommon for a vehicle to begin to smell and feel a bit musty. Not only is it an unpleasant odor, it means your air isn’t that healthy. The Philips GoPure Compact air purifier can solve this for you for around $150.

    Air Purifier image

    The GoPure Compact is great for any vehicle, especially older vehicles with inevitably older air filtration systems that are less advanced than those in newer models. GoPure’s unique technology eliminates up to 99% of toxic gases and chemical pollutants, and it tells you how clean your vehicle’s air is with a sensor that displays blue (good), yellow (fair), and red (poor) so you know what you’re breathing.

    And you don’t have to worry about turning it on every time you drive–it turns on when you turn your car on and lets you know when it’s time to change the filter.

    9. GOFAR Mileage Logger and Diagnostic Monitor

    You might be able to see vehicle mileage overall and per trip on your dashboard, but numbers don’t really tell you much other than distance, which isn’t very helpful if you need to report fuel consumption and mileage for business reasons. What’s more, there’s no way to tell how efficiently you’re driving, aside from a general indicator of miles per gallon.

    This is especially the case for older vehicles that already get much lower fuel economy than their modern counterparts. GOFAR can help solve these and other problems.

    You simply plug in its diagnostics adapter and start tracking and logging miles through its app, which is designed to make it easy to report on for business trips with claim totals and spreadsheet reports you can export. The adapter also feeds you data on the health of your vehicle, usings the same technology mechanics use to diagnose issues and rule out false positives.

    GOFAR Mileage Logger and
Diagnostic Monitor image

    On top of mileage tracking and diagnostics, another component of GOFAR is the Ray. This sits on your dashboard and indicates with a blue light if you’re driving efficiently, a red light if you aren’t.

    This helps you save money on gas by understanding in real-time how to change your driving habits. You can then score trips in the app and compare your progress against others’ to really improve.

    10. CarMoji

    At the end of the day, you might not have the most advanced vehicle on the road, even if you’re leveraging aftermarket gadgets that enhance the capabilities of your older vehicle, but you can still be the most courteous driver on the road and show it with CarMoji.

    CarMoji image

    The concept behind CarMoji is simple. When you accidentally do something to annoy another driver, you can let them know it wasn’t malicious by pushing a remote button that lights up the happy face you’ve attached to your back window for six seconds before it automatically turns off. Instead of an unpleasant gesture or a horn, you’ll get a hand-wave or a smile from the person behind you. It’s about $20 for a button and $10 for an overlay.

    Old Meets New

    Adding this tech to your vehicle won’t make it as inherently advanced as the computer-like models rolling off the assembly lines today; however, these gadgets can help you create a more seamless transition between your high-tech lifestyle and your low-tech auto–and they’ll definitely enhance your driving.

    The biggest benefit is, by implementing this tech into any vehicle, you won’t have to drop $30k or more for a new car. Keep that sucker you have running as long as you can–and try not to let the engine seize.

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