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How Does Car Wi-Fi Work and Is It Worth the Money?

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Car Wi-Fi systems are becoming more and more common, but it’s not always easy to find out how these devices work, how fast they are, or what you should look for when shopping for one of them.

Besides the price, there are plenty of things to consider before you settle on a brand new car Wi-Fi system. And if you are new to this automotive technology, stick around to learn the basics.

Cars With Wi-Fi: What You Need to Know

Tesla screen

If you’re considering buying a new car, you should know that quite a few of them already come with Wi-Fi installed. It’s also possible to install Wi-Fi in older cars.

Before we get into the benefits and drawbacks of in-car Wi-Fi, let’s take a look at what it actually is and how it works.

How Does Car Wi-Fi Work?

The short answer to this question is that your car’s Wi-Fi setup works like a hotspot. Your car has a transmitter and receiver, just like your home router does (albeit usually not as powerful). And that transmitter and receiver are connected to the internet by a cellular data connection.

Related: What Are the Risks of Cloud-Connected Vehicles?

This means you can access web content, stream your favorite TV shows, check email, etc., all while you’re driving. You can even make calls or look up directions without touching your device. The car’s system will handle it all for you.

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But, like everything wireless, there are some limitations and downsides.

How Fast Is Car Wi-Fi?

photo showing in-car screen displaying road navigation

Car Wi-Fi speeds are slower than home broadband speeds for two reasons. First, the transmitter in your car is typically not as powerful as that of a home router. Secondly, your car isn’t in one place. It’s constantly moving, and there is always something in the way of its connection to your cellular provider’s network.

Look at it this way: the metal walls of a car are similar to any large, solid object. They can block a signal from a router or cell tower, forcing you to adapt your Wi-Fi network accordingly. In essence, the fewer objects between the car and its signal source, the better your Wi-Fi will work.


A Few Other Things You Need to Know About Car Wi-Fi

Of course, you need to know a few other things about car Wi-Fi before deciding to invest in one. For example, the internet provided by your cellular provider is spotty. In some areas, you might have great reception. In others, it could be non-existent. So before you opt for car Wi-Fi, make sure that your provider’s network covers the areas you drive through.

Car Wi-Fi is an excellent alternative to using your phone while you’re on the road, but it’s not going to be as fast (or as cheap) as home broadband.

Why You May Need Wi-Fi in Your Car

photo of phone attached to car dashbooard

Now that you know how car Wi-Fi works, let’s take a look at why you may want to invest in it.

1. Safety

It goes without saying that internet use while driving is not the safest thing you can do on the road. But streaming movies and TV shows is the kind of thing many people are tempted to do while behind the wheel. A Wi-Fi feature in your car can provide an alternative to using your smartphone while you’re on the road and lessen some temptations.


2. Convenience

If you get a lot of work done on your commute (or if you bring your kids and need to keep them occupied), a car Wi-Fi system can make things much more convenient. And it can do more than just keep you entertained. Business owners can use it to make notes and organize tasks while they drive, for example.

3. Reliability

Most cars now come with at least some kind of entertainment system. But, like home entertainment systems, they can be unreliable and easy to damage. If you’re planning a long trip and want a little peace of mind that your kids won’t fight over a faulty DVD player, you might consider going for a Wi-Fi option.

4. Cost Savings

There’s a lot of talk about in-car Wi-Fi being expensive, but the truth is that it’s just another feature added to our vehicles that we pay extra for. And it can be costly if you want an advanced and feature-rich system. But if you do a little research, it’s easy to find everything you could want in your car at a very reasonable price.


How Much Does an In-Car Wi-Fi System Cost?

photo showing tesla screen

The price of in-car Wi-Fi varies, depending on the features you want. The best car Wi-Fi systems on the market today offer features like:

  • 4G/LTE speeds
  • Wi-Fi hotspots you can connect to from up to 30 feet away
  • Dual-band support
  • Device charging ports

That’s pretty much the kind of stuff you’d get if you built your own home Wi-Fi network but in your car. These systems can cost anywhere from $100 to $2000 or more. Some include all the bells and whistles you could want, while others offer a bare-bones service that you can add to any car.

So, Is an In-Car Wi-Fi Worth the Money?

If you feel like your current commute isn’t giving you enough time to get daily tasks taken care of, or if you get bored quickly on your way to and from work, it might be worth the money to get a Wi-Fi system for your car. As long as you know that you can use the internet instead of taking your eyes off the road, it may be a smart investment and even increase your safety.

Related: The Hidden Dangers of Smartphone Car-Vent Mounts

However, if you’re just looking for a bit of entertainment when you drive, you should probably save your money for now.

If you’re in the market for a car Wi-Fi system, it’s vital to do your research before committing to anything. Figure out which features you value the most, and choose a system that offers them at a price you can afford.

With so many options to pick from, it’s easy to find a high-quality product that will make your commute easier.


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