How to Get Wi-Fi Connection in Your Car?

The easiest way to get a Wi-Fi connection for your car is to use your smartphone as a wireless hotspot. Other options include getting a wireless network or mobile data connection to your car with the help of Wi-Fi adapters, install a permanent router or modem, or even upgrade your car to a modern model that already offers Wi-Fi in the package.

Of course, the budget you have in mind may limit the options you can get as these methods come with different price ranges. Data plans will cost you. The hardware needed will cost you. And also, you have to think whether a certain method is the most convenient for you. More importantly, you should consider the quality of the Wi-Fi connection because we all know how frustrating it is to have slow connectivity.

Here, we list down the options available for you to get a Wi-Fi connection in your car and the expenses that you may encounter.

Getting Wi-Fi from your phone

How much will it cost?

You can do this for free! You can also spend as much as $600 if you still need to get a smartphone or a mobile plan. Of course, this expense will depend on how much you are willing to spend. There will surely be options available that can fit any budget for this method.

Recurring costs you need to know

If your cellular plan can support tethering, there are no recurring costs. However, this depends on your cellular service provider. Some carriers will charge extra so make sure to ask first.

How does it work?

Getting Wi-Fi connectivity from your phone is the cheapest and easiest option in this list. The only cost you have to worry about is if you do not have a smartphone (but who does not own one at this point?) or if you have to buy another model because your current smartphone does not have hotspot features.

All you have to do is use your smartphone as a hotspot. This is done by turning on the hotspot option in your smartphone’s settings. Another way is to download an appropriate app that makes your smartphone function as a hotspot meaning it will work as a router and a modem. When this happens, other Wi-Fi enabled devices can go online using the ad hoc network created by your smartphone.

The downside of this is that this can eat up a lot of your mobile data connection – especially if you have multiple devices connected to your network. If someone will be using it to download and watch videos, you may find that you have consumed most of your monthly data allotment. This is why sometimes, tethered data have slower speeds or are using 3G even if your smartphone is 4G. Another thing that you should worry about is that prolonged use can drain the battery of your smartphone. If you choose this option, always have a power bank with you or a car charger so your phone will not run out of power.

Getting Wi-Fi from a dedicated mobile hotspot

How much will it cost?

The price you have to pay will depend on what device you use. Typically, the price would be from $100 to $200.

Recurring costs you need to know

Depending on the cellular service provider or the cellular plan that you have, you can do this for free or spend as much as $70. The cheapest option for this method is to go with cellular service providers that offer free data. Major cellular service providers will charge you higher but you also naturally get a higher quality of service and connectivity.

How does it work?

A dedicated mobile hotspot device works similarly to a mobile data connection where you create a wireless network – only you are not using your smartphone. Most cellular service providers have their own dedicated mobile hotspot devices that you can get in addition to your cellular plan or buy separately.

You can get two kinds of dedicated mobile hotspot devices: self-contained devices and dongles. Dongles are USB devices that you have to plug into any USB power source to start getting a Wi-Fi connection. However, you must set it up first on your computer or laptop before it can function properly on other USB-powered devices such as the USB connector in your car. After setting up, you are good to use it on any other USB-powered device. The self-contained devices are more expensive compared to dongles but they are also more portable. They have built-in batteries so you do not have to plug them in all the time to use it. This way, you also get to bring it along with you when your drive is over and you have to step out of the car.

Getting Wi-Fi from an OBD-II device

How much will it cost?

This will depend on the type of contract or plan you have, your cellular service provider, and the device that you want to use. Generally, you have to shell out $50 to $200.

Recurring costs you need to know

You may be charged about $20 for the service but again, this will depend on your cellular service provider and the plan that you have. Always read the fine print!

How does it work?

OBD-II Wi-Fi devices are bigger than smartphones or dedicated Wi-Fi hotspot devices but they are smaller than a built-in router. It works by plugging into your car’s OBD-II port. Aside from providing you Wi-Fi connection, the OBD-II Wi-Fi device can also act like an ELM 327 scanner. This means that the OBD-II Wi-Fi device allows you to track the location of your vehicle and see where your car has been. It is a pretty cool option for families that share one car or for businesses.

Getting Wi-Fi from a permanent wireless modem or router

How much will it cost?

Getting a permanent wireless modem or router for your car can cost you $200 to $600.

Recurring costs you need to know

This will depend on your plan and cellular service provider. You will most likely be asked to pay an installation fee for the permanent router or modem.

How does it work?

If you want a reliable Wi-Fi connection in your car, this is the best option for you – but it is also an expensive one. Installation work must be done, hence the higher cost. Most of these devices are hard-wired so it is not a portable method. There are models that you can have removed and placed in another car too but they are most likely to cost more. Cars that have built-in Wi-Fi connectivity have a permanent router already installed as part of the package.

The Wi-Fi signal you get from a permanent router or wireless modem is more powerful than mobile hotspots because the cellular radio is stronger. If you want strong connectivity on the road, this is the best choice for you. Another bonus is that most models come with Ethernet ports and USB ports so it is a versatile device.

Getting Wi-Fi by upgrading to a Wi-Fi enabled car

How much will it cost?

This will depend on the type of car you get. This is the most expensive option when it comes to getting Wi-Fi connectivity in your car.

Recurring costs you need to know

This will also depend on your car dealership. Always take the time to read the fine print and ask questions. Try to see if you can sample the Wi-Fi connection when you take the car for a test run.

How does it work?

It’s pretty simple – replace your car with one that has Wi-Fi connectivity features. If you are thinking it is time for a new car anyway and you have the budget for it, why not simply take this option? Most vehicles now have a built-in cellular connection that can create Wi-Fi networks. These cars have a permanent modem or router already so you can be assured that you get strong connectivity on the road. Cars that are already connected provide other functions like Internet radio with the use of mobile data. You do not have to get a brand new one – you can also get a second-hand car or look for dealerships that allow you to trade in your old car for a better model.

Of course, you still need a cellular plan and provider to be connected. If you are getting a brand new car, you will most likely be given free mobile data allocation for a limited time, then you have to start paying for your cellular data after the said allotment.

Things to keep in mind when getting Wi-Fi for your car

Estimating data costs

When coming up with a budget, consider the cost of data plans. When you are thinking of data cost, you also have to consider the plan and the bandwidth that you will be getting. Make sure to do your research, read reviews, and compare details to make the right decision.

Estimating your data consumption

Be wary of cellular service providers that offer unlimited data or an unbelievably huge amount of data – they usually provide a slow connection. Sometimes, they switch to give you 3G service if you go beyond your monthly allocation so you should think twice if you know you consume a lot of data. If an offer is too good to be true, do your research first.

Network scope and availability

The availability of your network in your usual routes and possible routes in the future is also another factor. You have to be aware of the areas where there is coverage by your cellular service provider and the areas where they do not have a signal at all. This is important if you are most likely to go on long road trips, go to rural areas, or go from one region to another. The advantage of going with a major cellular service provider is that you are most likely to get a signal no matter where you are in the country.

Why do you need Wi-Fi in your car?

Of course, the amount of data you will need will depend on why you need to be connected while on the road. Is it to keep your kids busy during long road trips? Is it to make sure that your office can always contact you and that you can still go through e-mails when on the road? Kids usually watch a lot of videos and play a lot of online games so you might need a plan that gives you a lot of data. Meanwhile, if you do not have kids and you need it mostly for work, a plan with a smaller amount of data will do.

As you can see, it is so much easier for you to be online while you are on the road these days. Getting Wi-Fi for your car should not be a big problem. There are numerous ways to get a Wi-Fi connection for your car thanks to recent developments in cellular technology. With this guide, you will surely be able to limit your choices and choose a method that is best for you.

Emil S.

Emil is a Data & Design Specialist with a degree in BS Information System, specializes in Admin Support & Creative Design.

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