These days, it seems as though more and more vehicles are being equipped with car video devices like DVD players and navigation systems. No longer simply a mode of transportation for getting from point A to point B, the automobile has become more like a multimedia experience on wheels.
In this buyer's guide, we'll take a look at what's available in the world of car video and navigation systems so you can find a solution that satisfies your needs while fitting within your budget.
Car Video Systems
Car video has become one of the fastest growing aftermarket purchases, especially among drivers who have children. Rather than being relentlessly pounded with the nerve-wracking question "Are we there yet?" the modern parent-driver is more likely to hear, "What can I watch next?"
While car video is one of the most in-demand accessories on new car or mini-van purchases, it's not new. For many years, built-in VHS players were available for certain models of vans, but they didn't last due to their bulky size and less-than-perfect play. Ever since the introduction of DVDs, though, car video has become streamlined and virtually unnoticeable in most vehicles until the device is in use.
Types of Car Video Systems
In-dash DVD players-An in-dash DVD player is permanently installed in the vehicle's dashboard, and depending on the model, it may even take the place of the existing car stereo. Some higher-end in-dash DVD players feature a built-in or motorized screen that allows the person sitting in the passenger seat to enjoy the show as well, but the more economical versions do not feature a dashboard display.
Under-seat DVD players-Under-seat DVD players are conveniently and inconspicuously installed under one of the vehicle's seats. This type is controlled by a wireless remote, and depending on the model of vehicle, the DVD player may be able to simply be plugged into the existing in-dash stereo for sound through the vehicle's speaker system.
Portable DVD players-Portable DVD players make it possible for each of your passengers to watch his or her own DVD, and because the units are portable, they can be removed and taken with you. Portable DVD players typically come in tablet and laptop styles, and car mountable bags are available that will allow for hands-free viewing.
Car DVD multi-disc changers-A car DVD multi-disc changer is like a CD changer but for DVDs. The typical multi-DVD changer holds either six or ten DVDs and is usually installed in the dashboard; however, there are under-seat models available. This type of car DVD player is best suited for the family that enjoys long trips during which swapping out DVDs can prove to be a hassle.
Types of Car Video Monitors
Car video monitors typically come in two varieties-flip-down monitors and headrest monitors.
Many flip-down monitors feature their own independent built-in DVD players so all that's required is a power source and a stable installation spot. When your child is finished watching a DVD, the monitor can be folded up into the mounted unit so it's out of the way. Screen size can also vary, with most models featuring monitors ranging between 5.6 inches and 20 inches.
Headrest monitors are generally smaller in size, as they have to fit within the confines of the headrest, but they eliminate the need for installing a sometimes large flip-down monitor assembly. These types of monitors are usually available as perfect vehicle-specific headrest replacements or universal headrest replacements. Another type of headrest monitor can be installed into the existing headrest, but installation requires the experience of a professional.
Car Navigation Systems
Car navigation systems are another hot feature that many drivers are in the market for, and these systems come in a wide assortment of styles and types. With voice-delivered directions, GPS accuracy and easy installation, these devices are becoming so commonplace in modern vehicles that paper maps are quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Types of Car Navigation Systems
In-dash GPS navigation-In-dash GPS navigation systems feature large LCD screens and can come either installed directly from the factory or as an aftermarket replacement for your existing stereo. High-end models offer touch-screen control and Bluetooth convenience.
Portable GPS navigation-Portable GPS navigation devices are a snap to install, and they have no bearing on your existing stereo unit. These devices are small LCD screens that are typically secured to your dash or windshield using a removable arm with a clip-on clamp for holding the GPS unit. Some models offer both battery and plug-in power support, and most feature touch screen controls and pre-loaded maps. Bluetooth connectivity and real time traffic information are also available on some models.
Navigation car radios-If your vehicle didn't come with a GPS system installed, you can replace your existing factory radio with a navigation car radio that is made specifically for your make and model of vehicle. Because it is made specifically for your vehicle, installation is easier than having to deal with modifiers and other installation kits.
Portable hand-held GPS navigation-If you love the outdoors, then you might like that a portable hand-held GPS navigation device will follow you from the car and into the mountains or down the river. Resembling walkie-talkies, these hand-held devices keep accurate track of your travels, including altitude, traveling speed and location.
Your vehicle is like your second home, so get the most out of it. Adding a car DVD player or navigation system will add value to the vehicle, and either system will make those long drives much more enjoyable.