I can’t help but get jealous when I get into a new car. All the gadgets, the refined cockpit, cool dashboard lights and music options are a siren song to my inner auto geek. My 2003 Ford Crown Victoria has none of these things. It is Spartan inside and out.
I’ve always been intrigued by the focus Americans put on a car’s exterior. Sure, it’s important. But you don’t spend most of your time looking at your car, you spend most of your time driving it. As such, here’s a list of interior car gadgets that can bring some new features to your used car.
Today’s higher end new cars can all but drive themselves. They can parallel park better than most of the people I know, monitor their surroundings, and help avoid accidents. One of the more impressive aftermarket gadgets in this category is the Mobileye 550. It provides drivers with real-time warnings directly to their smartphone. I call it a digital copilot, they call it a collision avoidance technology solution.
The system includes a camera to put on the inner windshield, providing a range of safety features such as pedestrian collision warnings, bicycle detection, lane departure warnings and, of course, forward collision warnings.
Car stereos are cool, especially if you can have the installation guy fit it into your dashboard as if it has always been there. The JVC KW-NT800HDT Navigation Head Unit is about as cool as they come. JVC’s top-of-the-line receiver has a 7-inch monitor that displays 3D maps, video and screens in vivid detail. Traffic updates, in-dash apps, and a free lifetime membership to Clear Channel Radio’s Total Traffic HD +/Total Traffic Connect comes standard. Of course the unit is capable with every music configuration and digital luxury you can imagine, including Pandora iHeartRadio, SiriusXM compatibility and Bluetooth hands-free calling.
By including radar detectors on this list I am in no way endorsing traffic law violations, and if you live in Virginia or Washington D.C. it's illegal to use one. These popular aftermarket car accessories have been around for decades. The Escort Passport 9500ix Radar Detector is one of the better units on the market. It’s not cheap, about $500, but if you’re trying to avoid a speeding ticket you might as well buy the best.
This one comes preloaded with thousands of safety camera locations, software that eliminates false alarms, 360-degree radar and laser detection, and an alleged immunity to VG-2 radar detector detection.
Smart car mirrors
Would you like your mirror to do more than simply adjust to darkness when driving at night? Now is the time for you. There are more and more smart car mirrors on the market these days, but one of them has been working out the kinks and building its reputation for years: OnStar. Previously an exclusive option for GM vehicles, OnStar FMV is now available to anyone with four wheels. The sharp, elegant rear-view mirror is well known for its ability to connect motorists with emergency services and its automatic crash response. The service also provides roadside assistance and can even help find your vehicle if stolen. OnStar now comes with Bluetooth for hands-free calling and the now ubiquitous turn-by-turn navigation.
Smartphones and some of the other items listed here may be replacing standalone GPS technology, but not completely. This is a story about having a cool cockpit, and the right GPS unit goes a long way. The Garmin Nuvi 3490LMT is one of the highest rated units you can buy. It has a clear 4.3 inch sensitive touch screen packaged in a sleek unit. The GPS is completely customizable, comes with voice-recognition capability, and the option to view landscapes in 3D. What’s more, it features Bluetooth hands-free calling via its internal speaker, microphone and screen.