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How to Play Music from Phone to Car without AUX or Bluetooth?

Modern car owners have no problem using their smartphones to listen to music or favorite podcast. But, if your car wasn’t built in the last ten years or so, there’s a good chance that it won’t have the luxury of Bluetooth or the ability to plug your phone in through an AUX (auxiliary) cable.

Luckily for you, there are several quick and easy fixes for how to play music from phone to car without AUX or Bluetooth. In no time, you’ll be able to link your phone to your car stereo and speakers if you use one of these methods. 

How to Play Music from Phone to Car without AUX or Bluetooth

Bluetooth FM Transmitter

Whilst your car may not have built-in Bluetooth, your smartphone certainly does. All you need to do now is find a way to take advantage of that. The easiest way to do this is by buying and installing a Bluetooth FM transmitter. This isn’t nearly as complicated as it sounds.

Bluetooth FM transmitters work with your phone by receiving the Bluetooth signal from your device and converting it into FM radio waves. The transmitter then broadcasts these waves, which are then picked up by the car radio, and voila! You’ve made your very own Bluetooth connection.

Setup

  • Locate your car’s cigarette lighter port and plug in the Bluetooth FM transmitter.
  • The transmitter will display an FM frequency. Make sure your car radio is tuned to the same frequency.
  • Make a Bluetooth connection between your phone and the transmitter, and you should be able to hear that sweet music coming through the speakers.

Benefits

  • Very cheap.
  • Easy to install.
  • Good sound quality.
  • Usually comes with extra USB ports for charging.

Cassette Tape Adapter

For those of you with a car old enough to still be rocking a cassette player, you can make a connection between your phone and the stereo by using what’s called a cassette tape adapter. This device looks like an old-school cassette tape but with a 3.5mm audio cable attached to it. 

Cassette tape adapters work by converting the electrical signal from your phone into a magnetic one. The reading head in the tape deck then receives the magnetic signal and converts it back into an electrical one that can be played through your car’s sound system.

You can also buy cassette tape adapters with a Bluetooth receiver built-in. This is especially handy if you have an iPhone that doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone socket.

Setup

  • Plug the 3.5mm audio cable into your phone’s headphone socket.
  • Then insert the cassette-shaped adapter into the cassette slot on the deck.
  • Normally this will activate tape mode on your stereo’s sound input. If this doesn’t happen, you will have to do it manually.
  • You should now be able to hear the music playing from your phone through the speakers.

Benefits

  • Under $10 on Amazon. Closer to $20 for the Bluetooth version.
  • Better sound quality than Bluetooth FM transmitters.
  • Couldn’t be easier to set up.

USB Connection

USB Connection

Nearly all modern cars have a USB port built into the head unit. You can use this to play music from a memory stick or a smartphone by using a USB cable.

This will give you the most reliable connection of all the methods in this article on how to play music from phone to car without AUX or Bluetooth. Using a USB connection also allows higher quality bitrate playback of your music. 

You also get the added benefit of being able to charge your phone at the same time. Whether your phone takes a USB-C, a micro-USB, or an Apple Lightning cable, this method of connection should work just fine.

Setup

  • Connect the USB cable to the USB port on your stereo head unit.
  • Connect the other end to your phone.
  • You will receive a notification to permit access to the audio files on your phone.
  • Allow access, and away you go.

Benefits

  • Dependable connection.
  • Highest quality playback.
  • Can also charge your phone.

Sound Routing Apps

Many older cars built between the years 2000 to 2013 can make hands-free phone calls via Bluetooth, but not the ability to play music that way. However, several sound routing apps that connect a phone to a car stereo can help you get around this issue. 

They trick your stereo into thinking that you are using hands-free Bluetooth to make a call. These apps only cost a few dollars and are cheaper than buying a Bluetooth FM transmitter.

Setup

  • Make sure that your phone is paired to the car’s hands-free Bluetooth.
  • Download and install the appropriate sound routing app.
  • Switch the app on, and you’ll be able to play music through hands-free Bluetooth.

Benefits

  • Cost-efficient.
  • No Bluetooth FM Transmitter is needed.

Which Method Will Give the Best Sound Quality?

Which Method

The most unreliable method in terms of sound quality is using a Bluetooth FM adapter. You will have to find a frequency that is not currently being used by any local radio stations. This can be a little tricky if you live in a larger city. 

You may find you get a fair amount of interference, and you keep on having to change the frequency you are using. But, this isn’t such a problem in less built-up environments.

As for the other methods…

You will get slightly better sound quality from a cassette tape adapter. Although, your listening can be affected by some background noises. These come from the moving parts of the adapter. It’s worth checking out reviews as some are worse than others in this department.

Sound routing apps offer the next best sound quality. Furthermore, if your car has a USB port, this connection method will give you the highest level of sound quality.

Interested in Getting Great Audio in Your Car?

We can help with that. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Cassette Adapter, the Best Car Amplifiers, the Best 1-Ohm Stable Amplifiers, the Best Monoblock Car Amplifiers, the Best 2000 Watt RMS Amps, and the Best 3000 Watt Amps you can buy in 2023.

Also, take a look at our comprehensive reviews of the Best Car Subwoofers, the Best Under Seat Subwoofers, the Best Subwoofers for Single Cab Truck, the Best 12-Inch Subwoofers, and the Best 15-inch Subwoofers currently on the market.

And, don’t miss our handy articles on How Much Does It Cost To Install A Car Stereo,  Why Car Radio Won’t Turn OffHow to Remove Car Stereo Without Keys, and How Do I Get Sirius Radio In My Car for more useful information.

How to Play Music from Phone to Car without AUX or Bluetooth – Final Thoughts

So, as you can see, all is not lost if you want to connect a phone to a car without AUX or Bluetooth. All of these methods are cheap and simple to set up. But, you won’t necessarily get all the benefits of having a fully Bluetooth-integrated car stereo. If you want more control over your listening, and a bigger array of connectivity options, then you’ll have to bite the bullet and upgrade your car stereo. 

On top of the aforementioned benefits, most modern units come with a touchscreen display that can also be used for in-dash navigation. For extra convenience, you’ll also be able to use Android Auto and Apple Carplay too.

Until next time, happy listening.

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About Warren Barrett

Warren has spent nearly half a century (now that's a long time!) as an ink-stained wretch writing for music magazines and websites and has no plans on giving up soon.

He is curious about all types of music and instruments apart from any genre with 'Urban' in the title. He's also not so keen on Plastic Potted Plants, Reality TV, and any movies with Kevin Costner in them.

He lives in Delaware with his wife Wendy and lots of great memories...

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