Stuck in the past? Here’s how to update your car with the latest tech features

how to update your car

In-car technology moves so fast that it’s easy to get left behind. Features we take for granted today, like navigation and a rear-view camera, were uncommon at best 10 years ago. You don’t necessarily have to trade in your car to take advantage of the latest advances in tech, however. Whether you’re concerned about safety or sound, there are numerous aftermarket solutions that let you modernize your ride. Here’s how to update your car with some of the most cutting-edge tech features and driving aids on the market.

Add GPS

Garmin DriveAssist 50LMT review
Nolan Browning/Digital Trends
Some argue smartphone applications like Google Maps killed the GPS. The market has undeniably dipped but we wouldn’t write its obituary yet. Modern-day GPS systems function without leeching your data plan, they live in high-resolution screens, and they’re compatible with Bluetooth connectivity and voice commands. Besides, using a GPS instead of a phone encourages you to keep your eye on the road.

We’ve tested numerous GPS systems and picked the Garmin DriveAssist 50LMT as the one to buy. It provides real-time traffic information, turn-by-turn directions, and it even comes with a built-in dash cam. Better yet, the camera on the back of the device warns you if a collision with another car is imminent. It’s surprisingly affordable for such a feature-packed device.

Add infotainment

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It’s getting increasingly difficult to find a brand-new car not equipped with a touch screen-based infotainment system. Putting a touch screen in an older model is harder than adding, say, a GPS but it’s not impossible, either. If your dashboard has a large enough slot, you can purchase an aftermarket head unit that will instantly give your ride all the features commonly found in new cars.

We recommend Sony’s XAV-AX100, which is built around a high-resolution 6.4-inch screen. It figures on the growing list of aftermarket head units compatible with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It’s also compatible with most aftermarket rear-view cameras so you won’t need a separate screen to see what’s behind you. Bluetooth connectivity, voice commands, and a 10-band equalizer sweeten the deal.

Add a rear-view camera

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Starting in May of 2018, every new car will need to come standard with a rear-view camera. Once a luxury in the world’s most expensive models, the rear-view camera has become a safety feature that helps save lives by showing motorists what’s behind them before they hit the gas pedal. If your car was built after 1996, and if you have the budget, we recommend getting the RearVision. While it’s not cheap, it’s the best aftermarket rear-view camera on the market.

If your car is older than 1996, or if you don’t want to spend that much money, you can select a basic unit like the Auto-Vox M1. It displays footage on a screen you can either attach to your dashboard using an adhesive strip or secure to your windshield with a suction cup. The RearVision is wireless, but the M1 will require you to spend a few minutes wiring everything up.

Add a dash cam

garmin dash cam 55 007 1
Nolan Browning/Digital Trends
Installing a dash cam in your car can make your life considerably easier in the event of an accident. The compact device records everything that happens in front of you so you’ve got proof that someone else ran a light and hit you, not vice versa. But, let’s not get dramatic. You can also use your dash cam to capture the scenery on a road trip or get something hilarious on video to instantly strike Youtube gold.

Garmin’s Dash Cam 55 is the best unit on the market. It boasts a ton of features, it’s well built, and it comes with a reasonable price tag. It shoots 30 frames per second at 1440p HD resolution so images are crystal clear by day. It even has a cool built-in time-lapse feature that lets you make videos and share them using a purpose-designed app.

Add a head-up display

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The head-up display (HUD) exists at the junction of safety features and tech features. It’s a device that aims to reduce distracted driving by placing key information about the car and its surroundings right in the driver’s line of sight. The HUD was first used on military fighter jets but it’s becoming increasingly common in premium and luxury cars.

Garmin makes the best all-around aftermarket HUD by adhering to the motto “simpler is always better.” It provides step-by-step navigation directions, the posted speed limit, and it even reveals the location of speed cameras. It needs to be paired with Garmin’s very own smartphone application, meaning it’s not compatible with Google Maps. Sorry, Android fans. The good news is it’s relatively compact so you can easily move it around from car to car.