acura nsx how to make your old car feel new featured / CC0 1.0.

How to Make Your Old Car Feel New: Car Upgrades You Should Not Ignore

There’s nothing like owning a brand-new car. Then again, not having a car payment is nice too. If your car is getting on in years but you’re not in the position to buy a new one, don’t worry. With a few simple steps, including a few easy upgrades, some cutting-edge gadgets and a bit of maintenance, you can bring your car zooming into the modern era.

While many of these steps involve spending money, the overall cost is still drastically lower than buying a whole new car. As long as you’re willing to devote a little time and money to the endeavor, you can be the proud owner of a modern car without taking on a pricey new car payment. Here are some quality of life upgrades that will make your old car feel new.


Invest in these upgrades to modernize just about any vehicle:

Rearview Camera

Image courtesy of Ray Bouknight on Flickr, licensed under CC by 2.0.

Image courtesy of Ray Bouknight on Flickr, licensed under CC by 2.0.

Starting in 2018, rearview cameras, or backup cameras, will be required features on all new vehicles. Luckily, you don’t have to wait until then to enjoy this convenient technology, as plenty of affordable, easy-to-install aftermarket cameras are available these days.

For as little as $60, you can get a wireless rearview camera that includes all of the features of those that come from the dealer, such as parking assistance, night vision and distance scale lines. The best models are also waterproof and can be retrofitted to just about any vehicle in a matter of minutes.

In most cases, installing the camera involves hardwiring it into the car’s reverse lights, which means removing some insulation and routing wires from the license plate bracket into the car. You might also have to drill a small hole.

Having a Tablet will Make Your Old Car Feel New

If you’re jealous of newer model cars and their slick navigation systems, consider getting a tablet to use exclusively in your vehicle instead. Due to space constraints, a seven-inch tablet typically works best. You don’t have to buy a pricey iPad, either. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 Wi-Fi costs only $180.

It's great for taking pictures. But it's better in the car. / CC0 1.0.

It’s great for taking pictures. But it’s better in the car. / CC0 1.0.

Load the tablet with apps that will help you drive better. Turn-by-turn navigation is a must, as are music-streaming apps. The tablet can also be used by passengers to watch videos.

Your tablet will need to be connected to the Internet somehow. You may be able to tether it to your smartphone and share its data. Otherwise, a data plan will be necessary.

Additionally, invest in a quality gooseneck stand that mounts to the seat, and use the provided power cord to keep your device up and running wherever you go.

Smartphone Apps / CC0 1.0. / CC0 1.0.

Whether they’re used on a tablet that’s mounted in your car or on your smartphone, the right apps can transform your driving experience. Check out our piece on the best driving apps to learn more.


Track your vehicle’s status and get useful analytics about your driving habits with special dongles for your car. Progressive’s Snapshot is a prime example. The insurance provider offers it as a way to enjoy usage-based insurance, which may qualify drivers for discounts based on good driving habits. You can even try Snapshot for free for 30 days without switching to Progressive.

Automatic Pro and Mojio are two others, and they aren’t tied to any insurance plan. All of these devices simply plug into your car’s OBD-II port, which all modern cars have. It is typically located under the driver’s side dashboard.

These dongles inform you about accidents, provide real-time location information, track analytics regarding your driving habits, and even alert you when you accelerate too quickly or slam your brakes too hard.

Full Infotainment Systems

make old car feel new: apple carplay. Photo by smoothgroover22 on Flickr / CC BY -SA 2.0.

Photo by smoothgroover22 on Flickr / CC BY -SA 2.0.

Instead of cobbling together various pieces of technology, consider adding a complete infotainment system to your car instead. It’s cheaper and easier than you probably think.

The simplest, quickest way is to connect a smartphone to your car stereo with an auxiliary jack. Add a mount and a remote microphone and operation button to stay connected wherever you go.

A slightly more ambitious option is to purchase an aftermarket system like the Parrot system, which is compatible with any car stereo that works with Bluetooth devices. You must take out your radio and connect the device to the radio harness. The four-inch screen mounts neatly, and a remote mic is included. Installation is simple enough for a novice to handle, and it costs right around $230.

If you’re willing to ditch your car stereo entirely and have a little money to throw around, consider buying a new head unit. Brands like Pioneer and Kenwood offer all kinds of aftermarket infotainment systems starting at around $700.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Make old car feel new with proper maintenance. / CC0 1.0. / CC0 1.0.

Another huge part of keeping your car like-new is properly maintaining it. Here, a few small steps go a long way.

First, purchase the best tires that you can afford to buy. They should be designed to accommodate the inclement weather that you deal with the most, be it rain, snow, or ice. Look for long tread life, and stick with high-profile tires if possible because they handle better and are safer in general. With great new tires, your car will be easier to drive, and you will feel safer and more in control.

Next, deep-clean your car. Scrub every nook and cranny. If possible, remove the seats before vacuuming and shampooing the upholstery. Alternatively, bring your car in to be detailed.

Protect the interior by investing in a few items. New floor protectors are never a bad idea, and coverings for frequently handled components like the shifter and steering wheel work well. Protect the seats with seat covers.

Finally, keep up with all of your car’s required maintenance. If you notice strange noises or behaviors, bring it in for service right away. Check tire pressure and fluid levels frequently to ward off potential problems.


You don’t have to spend a ton of money to have a like-new car. With a few simple tech upgrades, including aftermarket solutions and apps, you can easily keep it up to date. Throw in proper care, maintenance, and top-notch tires to keep your car in the best shape for a long time to come.


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