How to Get Wi-Fi in Your Car

Since you arrived here, it can only mean one thing:

You've ever wondered how to get a Wi-Fi in your car so that you do NOT waste time counting trees.

I mean, if you think about it, Wi-Fi in cars is such a God-send useful thing: music, YouTube videos, audible books, not to mention maps!

(And for parents out there: so the kids can play their video games during a long road trip. Can I get an amen?)

To quench this thirst of accessing the internet during your time in the car, we've compiled 5 of the best ways.

1. Using Hotspot from Another Device

I know what you're thinking:

But I can use the data right from my phone/tablet! No need to involve another device in it.

The thing is, not everybody has large bandwidth data in their phone. So, if this is the case for you, you may ask someone else in the car to use their device as a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Pros:

  • No additional tool needed (except if the devices included requiring a cable/an extra app to connect one another).
  • It's free.
  • It's super easy.

Cons:

  • The device acting as the Wi-Fi hotspot needs a consistently strong signal. This might be impossible (or painfully slow) during a long drive on the highway.
  • It drains the bandwidth data of the device used as the Wi-Fi hotspot. Be careful not to go over the limit, as to avoid paying extra.

person driving with a cellphone

2. Using a Dedicated Mobile/Travel Hotspot Device

This solution does incur a small price. First, for buying the device itself, and then, a monthly fee to keep your bandwidth topped up.

What is it?

A mobile hotspot, also known as a portable hotspot, is a Wi-FI hotspot similar like what you have in your phone.

But it's designed to have only one function, so don't expect it to use it for something else.

Most cellular companies also produce these devices. Check if yours provides one; you may have a discounted rate if you're a loyal customer. 

Two Types of Mobile Hotspot

1. USB devices/cellular dongles

Usually, you plug them into a laptop to create a Wi-Fi network which can then be shared to your phone.

However, it's entirely unrealistic to bring your laptop anywhere in the car.

Find one that can be set up to be plugged to any USB power source. If your car is equipped with one, you're golden.

2. Non-USB dedicated device

This is the most portable option of them all, but pricier as well.

They come with a built-in battery, but this won't cause a problem since you can charge it in your car power socket.

Another advantage of using this type is that you can bring it and use it anywhere, and not only in your car, for example, when traveling.

Pros:

  • Reliable connection.
  • Easy to set up.
  • Can be used to give internet access to multiple devices.

Cons:

  • It has a price tag.

The device itself can cost between $100 - $200. And then you have to add around $50 - $70 per month for the data (depending on the operator).

Some companies ARE offering free data, such as Freedompop

If you go down this route, know that the data is highly limited and/or slow to the point of frustration.

a perso using iphone and laptop in a car

3. Using an OBD-II Device

Wait, what?

This is a tool that you can plug into your car's OBD-II (or OBD2) port. You may have seen a mechanic using this port to diagnostic your car's status.

Using this device, you can have a Wi-Fi network in your car, but it can offer so much more:

  • It gives you a rundown of your car' tracking data (for example geolocalization).

  • It doubles as a diagnostic tool for your car via a smartphone app.

One of the most known examples of this type of device is Delphi Connect.

Pros:

Cons:

  • Not as portable as a mobile router.
  • Does not come cheap, although, can be less expensive than a travel router. The cost of the device varies between $50 to $200 and after, around $20+ per month. If you're not a DIY kind-of-person, you may also need to count in an installation fee.

 

4. Install a Router and Wireless Modem in Your Car

If you have the budget and want a more permanent solution, this is your answer.

Installing a router and wireless modem in your car results in the best and most reliable connectivity among the other three above.

You're probably going to need to have it installed by a professional.

If you've been in a car/bus where you have Wi-Fi access right when entering the door, it's because of this solution.

Pros:

  • An excellent and stable connection like using a regular router at home.
  • It has ethernet and USB ports, which will allow you to connect non-wireless devices to the Internet.
  • The connection can be shared with multiple devices.

Cons:

  • It's the least portable option. Some models are designed to be detachable, and thus, more portable. But many have to be hard wired to your car.
  • Expensive. Count $200 to $600 for the device itself, and add an installation fee on top of that. The monthly cost depends on the provider you choose.

a car with an integrated GPS

5. Get a Connected Car

Okay, this is probably the most expensive option out there.

But if you happen to be in the market for a new (or used) car, this may be something to be included in your list of criteria.

Most of the car manufacturers have at least one connected mode which also offers Wi-Fi connection.

And since our life becomes more and more connected, it's not impossible that pretty soon, most of the cars will be connected by default.

Pros:

  • Goes beyond the basic connection system that we've discussed before. The head unit provides many functionalities, such as infotainment, safety, road assistance, and system diagnostics. 
  • Hassle free since it comes with the car.

Cons:

  • Expensive. But hey, it's the car of the future.
  • An extra cost for data. Most manufacturers offer a free data allotment that comes with your car. But of course, beyond that, you'll have to think about how you want to continue 'feeding' your data bandwidth. The price will depend significantly on the provider and the contract you choose.

To Sum Up

There you have it:

Five solutions that can cost between very little to are-you-kidding-me expensive.

Besides the budget, also take into consideration:

  • the portability of your device,
  • the stability of connection,
  • how intensely you use the connection,
  • and how many people will use it at the same time at any given moment.

That should help you choose which solution you want to apply in your car.

Enjoy the internet in your car!

 

 

 

Serina Rajagukguk

Serina is a writer whose passion includes learning all about new technology and trying to explain it in a layman term. 

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