Advertisement

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Advertisement

Best hands-free car kit: Brilliant Bluetooth car devices from £14

Advertisement

Ensure you comply with laws relating to the use of mobile phones while driving with one of the best hands-free car kits

One of the best hands-free car kits is an essential piece of kit for anyone planning on taking calls, using map services or listening to music while driving.

The use of mobile devices behind the wheel for anything other than making contactless payments while stationary is illegal and you'll be subject to a £200 fine plus six points on your driver's license if caught.

Fortunately, hands-free car kits offer a simple way of accessing some of your phone's key features without breaking the law or endangering others. By connecting your phone to one of these handy devices, you can make and take calls, access maps and directions and listen to music without having to worry about being pulled over by the police.

Some Bluetooth hands-free kits play music directly, while others can output audio through your car’s stereo system, either using a USB or auxiliary input or by transmitting a short-range FM signal which gets picked up by the radio. If you want to stream music directly from your smartphone, that’s a massive bonus.

You'll find our pick of the best hands-free car kits available below, while at the end of the list there's a comprehensive buying guide packed with all the information you need to choose the right kit for you.

READ NEXT: The best satnavs you can buy

BLACK FRIDAY DEAL: Amazon Echo Auto £10 off

The Echo Auto from Amazon, now £10 off in the Black Friday sales, provides your car with a Bluetooth receiver and voice-activated Alexa. If you have to make calls or access music while driving, Echo Auto is of great help, particularly if you're already used to the voice-controlled user experience of Amazon's other products, like the Echo Dot. Amazon Was £50 Now £30 Buy Now


Best hands-free car kits: At a glance


The best hands-free car kits

1. Jabra Freeway: The best hands-free kit for call quality

Price: £63 | Buy now from Currys

The Jabra Freeway is a sleek-looking, high performance, in-car speakerphone. It turns on and off automatically when you get in and out of the car and will also automatically connect to your phone via Bluetooth once an initial connection has been established.

Three speakers offer virtual surround sound, and dual-mic technology provides noise cancellation while you’re on calls, which can be easily accepted with your voice. The Freeway can be charged either by micro-USB or car adapter, can be used while charging and charges in just two hours. That two hours will get you up to 40 days of standby time and 14 hours of talk time.

Key specs – Type: Bluetooth receiver unit; Bluetooth: Unknown; Operating range: Unknown; Connection to car stereo: FM transmitter; Power: 12v socket/USB (both included)

Buy now from Currys


2. Amazon Echo Auto: The hands-free kit with Alexa

Price: £50 | Buy now from Amazon

Amazon’s long-awaited entry in the automotive industry is a successful one, providing older cars with both a Bluetooth receiver and voice control via Alexa. The Echo Auto attaches to your dashboard via the included air vent mount and needs to be connected to a power source via its microUSB port.

Once up and running, you can hail Alexa and have her execute all the commands you’ve become accustomed to using through the various other Alexa-enable items dotted around your home. Commands are picked up extremely clearly in pretty much any circumstances: even when you’re doing 40mph with the windows down!

Making calls and accessing music and podcasts via the Echo Auto work as well as they do on other Amazon Echo devices but navigating using the Auto can be a little hit and miss. If you’re already part of the Alexa ecosystem and enjoy the voice-controlled user experience then you’ll get a lot of mileage out of the Echo Auto. But if you’re looking for a comprehensive navigation system, there are better out there.

Read our full Amazon Echo Auto review for details

Key specs – Type: Air vent-mounted hands-free unit; Bluetooth: Unknown; Operating range: Unknown; Connection to car stereo: Yes (via Bluetooth or AUX); Power: USB/12V socket


3. Kinivo BTC480: The best hands-free kit with an AUX-in

Price: £30 | Buy now from Amazon

This hands-free kit from Kinivo is a simple and cost-effective way of transforming your car's stereo into a Bluetooth speaker/speakerphone. The device plugs into your stereo via a 3.5mm jack, while the receiver itself sits in a magnetic mount that attaches to your dashboard. It supports multipoint Bluetooth pairing so can be connected to two devices simultaneously and controls couldn't be simpler, with a central button for playing and pausing audio and accepting/ending calls along with dedicated buttons for track skipping.

The kit also comes with a dual-port USB-A charger as part of the package, providing a handy way to charge your phone or any other devices in your motor that are in need of a top-up.

Key specs – Type: AUX-in Bluetooth receiver unit; Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0; Operating range: Not stated; Connection to car stereo: AUX-in; Power: USB/12V socket (dual USB-A charger supplied)


4. Pioneer MVH-S420BT: The best Bluetooth car stereo unit under £100

Price: £99 | Buy now from Halfords

The Pioneer MVH-S420BT is unlike the other entries on this list in that it’s a stereo system offering all of the functionality you could ever want from a hands-free car kit. It needs to be installed into your vehicle’s head unit, which you can do yourself or have done for you (though the fee matches that of the unit itself).

Once in your car, it can operate as an FM radio player, stream music from your phone, double up as a speakerphone while on calls, has a handy USB port to charge devices and there’s even a companion app that supports the use of Amazon Alexa. On top of all of that, the MVH-S420BT features 13-band graphic EQ, allowing you to customise your audio exactly to your preference, and supports the FLAC audio codec so you can enjoy lossless audio tracks to your heart’s content.

Key specs – Type: 1-DIN FM stereo head unit; Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0; Operating range: Not specified; Connection to car stereo: N/A; Power: Powered by the car battery

Buy now from Halfords


5. SONRU Bluetooth FM transmitter: The best cheap FM transmitter

Price: £14 | Buy now from Amazon

For such an affordable car kit, this FM transmitter, which plugs into your 12v socket, offers a lot. You can easily receive hands-free calls, play music from your phone via Bluetooth, a Micro SD card or U disk in MP3, WMA and WAV formats. The transmitter’s dual USB interface even allows you to charge two devices simultaneously should you wish.

On top of all that, there are seven different colour modes to choose from for those that enjoy a bit of extra colour while they’re driving. This small, lightweight transmitter features a very easy to use button layout and is perfect for those wanting simplicity and connectivity on a budget.

Key specs – Type: Bluetooth receiver unit; Bluetooth: 5.0; Operating range: Unknown; Connection to car stereo: FM transmitter; Power: 12v socket


6. Supertooth Buddy: The best budget visor hands-free kit

Price: £40 | Buy now from Amazon

The Supertooth Buddy has been around for years, but it’s a golden oldie. It attaches to an easy-fit metal sun visor clip with a strong magnet, making it easy to stow out of sight when you leave the car and runs from a built-in battery, which charges via a standard micro-USB port. The secret to the Buddy’s longevity is that it just works. The controls are simple, sizable and easy to find, it pairs quickly and stays connected, and it’ll stay in standby mode for weeks without a recharge.

Your new best Buddy supports voice dialling with phones that support the feature (which is nearly all of them these days), and the loud, clear speaker and sensitive, anti-echo microphone make for excellent calls. It’s not much cop for music – stick to the car stereo – but it’s the easiest and most effective way to just add hands-free calling.

Key specs – Type: Visor-mounted Bluetooth hands-free unit; Bluetooth: 2.1; Operating range: 10m; Connection to car stereo: no; Power: Li-ion battery, 20 hours talk-time, 100 hours standby


How to choose the best hands-free car kit for you

What kind of Bluetooth car kit do I need?

That depends on your car and what you want the kit to do. The simplest devices are designed specifically for hands-free calling and clip onto either the sun visor, a spot on the dashboard or a ventilation grill. These are usually powered by an internal battery and work much like a Bluetooth speakerphone, doing the job of a Bluetooth headset, just out loud where everyone can hear.

If you’re looking to stream calls and music through your car’s stereo system, then you’re going to need a device with a built-in microphone and a connection to the stereo. More recent cars and stereo systems may have accessible inputs, like a USB port or a 3.5mm jack, that make the whole business of adding Bluetooth much, much easier.

If you haven’t got a more recent car or stereo, then you need an alternative approach. While you can find kits that connect into an auxiliary port at the back of the stereo – which means getting hands-on, pulling it out and potentially rewiring – most people go for an FM transmitter. This broadcasts audio from your phone to the stereo, and the audio can be clear provided there’s not much interference. The only risk is that others could listen to your calls if they’re close enough and have their radio tuned to the same FM frequency, though the signal is usually too weak for this to happen.

READ NEXT: Guard your no-claims bonus with the UK’s best dash cams

How much do I need to spend?

Less than you might think. While there are some expensive kits available, some of which need professional installation, you can grab yourself a simple Bluetooth car kit for under £40 – and even less.

What should I look for in a Bluetooth hands-free car kit?

Sound quality is the most important thing. If you can’t hear the other person or the sound is shrill and tinny, then you’ll regret your purchase every time you have a call. However, the mic might be even more important. If the person on the other end of your call can’t hear you clearly or you’re constantly being asked to repeat, then that mic isn’t doing its job.

Here the form factor plays a major role. Visor-based kits and dashboard kits sit at a level where the mic is reasonably near your mouth – and there’s a lot you can do with more sophisticated microphones – but some car kits sit elsewhere or plug into the lighter socket, which might not be so conveniently placed for taking in your dulcet tones.

Controls and displays are also important. Some kits and devices keep these minimal and super-size the buttons so that you can adjust the volume or take a call quickly, but others are too fiddly to use when you’re out on the road. While caller displays can be handy, you’re probably not going to use them that much while you’re driving. Some Bluetooth kits used to pride themselves on voice dialling features, but now that you can do this effectively for free using Google Assistant or Siri, it’s a feature that’s not really worth paying extra for. It simply won’t be as easy or effective as using the built-in voice assistant, which already has all the contacts info it should need.

Is there anything else to consider?

Automatic switch-off is a great idea – providing it works – not only because you don’t want the kit or device running through its batteries (if battery powered) but because you don’t want your phone constantly connecting to the hands-free kit just because you’re still in range while inside your house. Some of these kits use voice activation, motion detection or the noise of the car door closing to turn on and off, saving you the bother of remembering.

With battery-powered devices, battery life is also important. Some kits will give you 20 hours or more of talk-time and a hundred hours or more of standby, but others may need charging three or four times a week. You don’t want to be out there driving only to find your hands-free kit has run out of puff.