Modernise your car on a budget

Bring that classic up to date with these modern-day features.

VW Beetle

by Myles Warwood |

The youth of today will never know the struggles of having a wire dangling from the cassette player to plug in an MP3 or mini-disk player. These are the levels that most of us had to go to just to get some music through terrible speakers - the bass was distorted, and you could barely hear the lyrics, but at least you were playing your music.

Most modern cars now have features that render these previous efforts completely useless. With their Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay, it’s never been easier to be more connected to your vehicle.

However, some cars on the ‘modern’ era cusp missed out on things like Bluetooth, sat navs, USB ports and similar. We’ve gone through some easy fixes and made a nice little list of things that can help you modernise your motor.

We’ve gone through a range of items that can help you bring your car into the future to suit various budgets. Some aren’t cheap, such as the double DIN car stereo options, but they’re an excellent fix for your older car.

Phone Mounts

Quite rightly, we shouldn’t be touching our phones while we’re driving - new laws make it illegal even to open or unlock your phone.

However, it’s okay if we’re using a phone as a sat nav, and if we are, we have to be able to see which way we’re going. Here’s a mix of phone mounts that will help you on your way, from magnetic ones to ones that mount onto your headrests to keep kids in the back happy.

The iOttie Easy One Touch 2 is a clever little mount that will recharge phones wirelessly. This little unit is nicely made and has various options for mounting it inside your vehicle, from the windscreen, dashboard, or even your cupholder.

The telescopic arm and pivot will allow you to get your phone exactly where you need it the next time you get in the car.

It's a blindingly obvious simple design that just works. The YOSH mounts into your air vents without an awful lot of fuss and will hold almost any phone in place. The magnet is strong enough to be sturdy in keeping your compatible phone in place. YOSH has built something good here, and we think it knows it.

With it being a budget solution but incredibly capable, if lost or left in a hire car, you won’t be too upset if it’s lost, but you’ll have to question if it’s efficient just to keep buying more.

This phone holder mounts to your dashboard super tight. A gel pad with a suction cup sticks like a limpet to a rock, so there will be no fear that it’ll come flying off as you circumnavigate a roundabout.

It's affordably priced and has a 360-degree rotational design to point your phone exactly where you need it.

This is a bit of a curveball but hear us out on this one… So, maybe the phone mount isn’t for you. Maybe this mount is for a tablet to keep the ankle-biters in the back quiet.

This super simple design works so well; a spring-loaded arm holds the mount secure on the headrest with a good solid, sturdy grip on the tablet.

It can be angled if you’ve more than one back seat passenger and will be sure to give you a small amount of respite from the “are we nearly there yet” brigade.

Floor mats

Interesting one this - you might not think it, but this inexpensive option can be a luxurious upgrade. If the carpets in your car are worn and past treated to bring back their original colour, fresh floormats can help.

They will hide a multitude of sins and give the floor of your car a new lease of life. The great thing is that these are removable to be washed and vacuumed correctly if they’re dirty. There are plenty of options on these and one to suit every car; if you do enough looking around and internet trawling, you can probably find original ones for your vehicle.

With a healthy mix of carpet and rubber, these will wear well and last a good while. The carpets aren’t too plush either, meaning they’ll give up any grit and dirt readily when vacuuming; a nice little bonus is the mats are trimmable, so you can make sure you get them to fit just right.

Ring’s RMAT1 had a mix of carpet and PVC. At 72 x 45cm, the front mats go well under the pedals and suited left-hand drive or right-hand drive cars. They are easily trimmed for a good fit, and the combined area of all four mats made them one of the most extensive sets overall. The PVC will make them super durable and easy to get small stones and grit out of when vacuuming.

This thick-pile carpet will add a sense of luxury to any motor, not quite thick enough to take your shoes off and sink into, but nice nonetheless. The large, soft rubber heel pad on the drivers’ mat is a nice touch.

These are excellent mats that will vacuum well and withstand some wear. However, they're not trimmable like rubber mats, making it a bit hit and miss if they fit your car.

Audio Systems

CAR has deeply delved into the best car stereos you can buy for your vehicle, but there is much choice here.

You can even purchase aftermarket DAB radio ariels that plug into your cigarette lighter and connect your phone. They can be convenient if you don’t fancy taking out your old car stereo.

There are two car stereo chassis types you’ll come across, Single DIN and Double DIN. Essentially this is the height of the car stereo system. Below we’ve listed some Double DIN car stereos because, if you’ve space and a little bigger budget, these are probably the way to modernise your car.

This has everything which you’d want from a Double DIN display. No buttons, a clear touchscreen, USB extensions, and more.

If you’ve never used Apple CarPlay before, you’ll find apps such as Podcasts, WhatsApp Audible and Spotify. You’ll also be able to make calls, receive text messages and respond to messages via Siri.

This from Pioneer doesn’t have the quickest of wakeup times, but that’s bearable when you start using it as it’s then rapid quick.

It has a quirky feature in that you’re allowed to pause live broadcasts if you want to take a call or chat with your passengers.

You don’t have to buy a big stereo to bring your car up to date; you can spend a lot less on something like this, a DAB ariel for your vehicle.

Providing voice control, a better quality of audio, and features such as Spotify Radio and Bluetooth. You’ll be able to make phone calls and stream music with ease and confidence.

Parking sensors

You might not think you need these until you have them, but they make everything easier. Chrome parts can be expensive to replace, so a decent set of aftermarket parking sensors can help save hefty amounts if your dink a bumper.

Aftermarket car stereos are also ready to be hooked up to parking sensors. It’s a sensible option to future-proof your car if you get a new stereo to get one prepared for parking sensors.

Available in a large variety of colours in matte and gloss are these Dolphin DPS400s. The set comes with everything you’ll need to install the sensors. They will start notifying you will hear a beep when objects are around 1.5 meters behind you and flatline at approximately 30cm away from an object.

If we’re going to suggest you use Dolphin for your rear parking sensors, it’s no surprise if we recommend them for both front and rear sensors.

As with the above, easy to install and very easy to use.

If you want a super cheap option, there are these by Zonetech. The LED display can be stuck onto your dash underneath your rearview mirror, it reminds us of an early system, but it tells you how far away you are from an object and either side of you.


It could be argued that headlights are one of the most considerable advances in the automotive sector - we've said so before in our headlight guide. Over the years, they have come on leaps and bounds; today’s LED lights are so bright that some money makers have even started making night-driving glasses.

You can do some simple things to improve your headlights, from cleaning them to changing them.

These bulbs claim to be up to 200% brighter and will extend your headlight beam over 80 meters further than the minimum legal halogen bulbs. They’re fully road legal with a bulb design that provides higher luminance for a brighter view of the road.

Made from some of the best automotive LED chips, the 6000k Xenon white colour ensures maximum light output.

The headlight adopts the latest 360-degree adjustable mounting collar. You can rotate the headlight for the perfect beam pattern without dark spots, shadow areas, or blinding people driving in the opposite direction.

If changing lightbulbs isn’t your thing, and you think your car would just benefit from having its headlight cases cleaned, a restoration job can be time-consuming but rewarding.

Make sure you have the correct tools, and this kit by Belupai can help you take years off of your headlights and bring clarity back to frosted lenses.

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