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How to Setup WiFi in Your Car

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Stay connected with WiFi in your car

In Car WiFiIn this day and age, everybody wants to stay connected. We have smartphones, tablets, notebooks and laptops. We may begin to feel a bit insecure if we lose contact with our electronic umbilical cord connecting us to the world at large. And some of us would like to extend that connectivity, that feeling of security, to our car. After all, we spend so much time in our automobile, commuting, running errands, family vacations, or simply enjoying the drive, that there is no reason to disconnect. And convenience is a major factor, too. 

Wouldn’t our drive time be more pleasant without the chorus of complaints coming from the backseat? Keep the kids occupied, rather than bored, by providing some entertainment. Cut down on time and aggravation by keeping on top of traffic conditions. Stay in touch with friends, family, and co-workers. If such a thing is possible, why shouldn’t we have all the conveniences of home WiFi in our car as well?

How to setup WiFi in your car

There are a number of ways to provide WiFi in our cars, from the simple and inexpensive, to the more expensive. First, understand that WiFi in the car will make use of cellular data programs, whether you are using your cell phone to connect, or some other device. You will be using cell towers to transmit data, just as your phone does. 

How to add WiFi to your car headrest monitors

Autotain Magic Mirror WiFi

Before we dive deep into the top 5 ways to setup WiFi in your car, if you're here to learn more about using WiFi to connect your Apple or Android devices to car headrest DVD players, then you want to go visit our page about the all new and exciting Autotain Magic Mirror.  The Autotain Magic Mirror is a 5G WiFi server box that connects to your Apple and Android phones or tablet devices using WiFi wireless connectivity and then converts the audio/video signal into RCA or HDMI connectivity that then transmits your video to your headrest DVD players.  Some call it "screen mirroring", some call it "Airplay".  Take a look at the Autotain Magic Mirror in car WiFi server if this is the solution you're looking for.

Low cost WiFi in your car

The first, and least expensive, is, naturally, to make use of the mobile hotspot available on most smartphones. 

phone in car wifi hotspot

The initial cost varies, from virtually nothing up to $600 or more. If you already have a phone which provides a mobile hotspot, you’re good to go. However, you may have to upgrade if you don’t, and this can cost hundreds of dollars. The cost may be less significant if you were planning to upgrade in the near future anyway. 

A mobile hotspot works in one of two ways. You may have to download an app to access it, or simply turn it on as an option on your phone settings. This will cause your phone to act as a router and modem, allowing other internet capable devices to connect through your cellular account. Of course, the obvious disadvantage of this is that using your device in this fashion will eat up your data allotment for the month at an alarming rate. 

You may have to decide if quiet in the backseat while the kids watch a movie is really worth it! And check out tethering, offered by almost all cell phone service providers, although not always by choice. Tethering apps provided by providers are likely to cost money, while there are some free apps available. Tethering allows you to connect your internet capable devices to your cell phone’s data usage.

Add a dedicated mobile hotspot to your car

Another way to add WIFI to your car is to purchase a dedicated mobile hotspot. These devices are available from your cell phone provider, but you are not limited to purchasing one from the same provider as your cell phone. You should be aware, that virtually every network provider offers data only plans, so you are not required to use the same provider as your cell phone service. If a competitor offers a better deal, or provides a better service, you can go with them without it affecting your mobile phone service. 

mobile wifi hotspot device in carMobile hotspots will cost you about $100 to $150, depending on the type you choose. Two versions are available - the dongle, and the self-contained unit. The WiFi dongle is the cheaper version. It is a USB device that can plug into any device with a USB port in order to provide the same type of connection to the internet that a cell phone would provide. Please be aware that an internet connection is all that these devices provide. They will not magically change your tablet into a cell phone! They will simply transport data. Some of these dongles, after the initial setup, can be plugged into any available powered USB port to provide an internet connection. This means that if you have such a port installed in your car, as many cars do nowadays, you will be able to use this type of device to add WiFi to your vehicle. 

The second type of device, the self-contained mobile WiFi hotspot, operates in much the same way, but can be more portable than dongles due to the fact that they are self powered, containing batteries to provide power. This makes them more portable, as they do not require an additional, external power source. This means that you will not be limited to your car. You can use it in the park on a sunny day (or cloudy day, if you’re into that!), and gaze at the clouds while you surf the cloud. You can catch up on things while your kids have lunch at a fast food place. Perhaps you fancy a day of internet shopping while lounging on the beach. These devices will also plug into the accessory outlet in your vehicle, turning your car into a WiFi hotspot as well.

Add OBD-II WiFi to your car

You can also add WiFi to your car by purchasing an OBD-II device, which should cost somewhere between $50 and

OBD-II car wifi device

$200, depending on the device itself, as well as your choice of carrier, your contract, and other considerations. This type of device is less portable than a cell phone or a dedicated hotspot, as it can only be used in your car, but more portable than a built-in router. The device plugs into the OBD-II port of your vehicle. This is the same port technicians use to diagnose problems. The device creates a WiFi network in your car, allowing cellular data access to internet capable devices. And it comes with yet another advantage, as well. The device acts as a ELM 327 scanner, allowing you to access to diagnostic data on your vehicle’s performance, as well as tracking data, through your cell phone. You will know where your car is at all times, as well as where it has been. You may not really need these additional benefits, but it’s nice to know they’re there!

Most reliable WiFi in your car

Car wifi routerWithout a doubt the most expensive, most reliable, and least portable way to provide WiFi in your car is to install a permanent modem and WiFi router unit. These devices will cost you anywhere from $200 to $600, and this does not include the cost of installation. There is some technical work involved, so you may not feel comfortable doing it yourself. Devices such as these provide a stronger cellular signal, and stronger WiFi. Although I have emphasized that these permanent units are not as portable as other options, but there is a way to get around this. Some of these devices may allow for the installation of a “cradle” in your vehicle, to which the device itself is connected. If you install multiple cradles in multiple vehicles, you may then transfer the WiFi modem from car to car. This may suit your needs if the connection is for your use alone, and not for whoever else may be using the vehicle. Also, some models are equipped with USB ports or Ethernet ports, allowing you to connect tablets, laptops, or any internet enabled devices in this manner.

Cars with built-in WiFi

If you’re really looking for the best option, and money is no object, consider purchasing a new car, complete with its own internet connection. Virtually all automobile manufacturers offer at least one model in their line so equipped. These models offer a built in cellular connection and are capable of creating a WiFi network. Additional benefits include access to internet radio, as well as services such as OnStar, which provides vehicle diagnostics and tracking, communications, navigation, and security. You’re never alone when you own a vehicle like this, adding to your sense of safety and community.

Other things to consider when adding WiFi to your car

An important consideration to bear in mind when thinking about adding WiFi to your vehicle is the carrying cost of such a service. Remember, you aren’t off the hook when you pay for the device, but must take into account how much you can afford, or are willing to pay, for such services. It’s always wise to shop around. Each service provider will have its own schedule of services and charges. You can choose between major cellular providers, smaller providers, or even resellers. Examine all plans available carefully, and decide which best suits your needs. And always remember to read the fine print. Some companies may emphasize their high speed offerings, but you may find that your speed is downgraded to 3G, or even 2G, access after a certain monthly allowance. Or that the advertised high speeds are available only in major metropolitan areas. You may find yourself lulled into a sense of security by a major company touting its wide coverage, but make sure the areas you are interested in are, indeed, covered. It wouldn’t be wise to find yourself in a rural internet wasteland with no internet access. This could be the difference between a pleasant getaway and the road trip from hell.

The choices are yours. You can choose a simple connection with basic service, or go for all the bells and whistles. The decision simply depends on your requirements, imagination, and budget.



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