Closeup of car stereo showing FM frequency on screen

The Best Bluetooth FM Transmitters for Cars in 2022

By John Ericson Accessories, Sound, Vehicle Tech2 Comments

Cruising in a classic car loses a bit of its appeal if you don’t have your favorite tunes along for the ride. At a time when we play almost all of our music from our phones, who wants to be messing around with tape players and CD stackers any more?

That’s where Bluetooth transmitters come in, giving access to your favorite playlists on the road even when your car is older than you are. These transmitters pair with your phone and other devices, then transmit an audio signal to non-Bluetooth devices like your car radio.

You’ve usually got two options about how you connect: a physical cable, or broadcasting on an FM radio frequency. Some transmitters offer both, but many are FM-only. Whichever approach you use, though, the end result is sweet tunes in your vehicle.

Or at least that’s the theory.

The reality can be a little different, however. Dropped connections, static, and low-quality audio are frequent problems with many car Bluetooth transmitters, and given how many options there are on the market, sorting out the good from the terrible isn’t easy.

That’s where we come in. After trawling through the hundreds of options, reviewing as many devices as possible, and endlessly discussing the pros and cons of each one, we eventually managed to cut the list down to a manageable number. It took a while!

The result, however, was what we believe to be a good mix of the best Bluetooth transmitters for your vehicle. Here’s the criteria we used.

Category Breakdown

First, we divided our initial list into three basic categories. These were based on features and quality rather than price, although we found that budget devices usually also weren’t as well-constructed and had fewer features, and audio quality typically wasn’t as good.

  • Low end: These are simple devices with limited features. Some, but not all, of the models in this price range came with built-in microphones and LCD displays.
  • Midrange: These units are typically made from higher-quality materials, with a longer connection range and additional options for charging your devices.
  • High end: The products in this category offer the most features, are typically more compact and stylish, and include extras like built-in voice activation and high-end noise cancellation when making calls.
Sale
Best Bluetooth Transmitter: UNBREAKcable FM Transmitter

  • Connectivity: USB stick, Bluetooth 5.0 (in), FM (out)
  • USB Ports: 1x USB C, 2x USB-A
  • Max USB Power: 20W PD, 18W QC 3.0
  • Bass Boost: Yes

Sale
Best Midrange Bluetooth Transmitter: Syncwire FM Transmitter

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.1 (in), FM (out)
  • USB Ports: 1x USB C, 1x USB-A
  • Max USB Power Output: 20W PD, 18W QC 3.0
  • Bass Boost: Yes

Sale
Best Budget Bluetooth Transmitter: IMDEN FM Transmitter for Car

  • Connectivity: USB stick, Bluetooth 5.0 (in), FM (out)
  • USB Ports: 1x USB C, 2x USB-A
  • Max USB Power Output: 18W PD, 18W QC 3.0
  • Bass Boost: Yes

Best for Input Options: Guanda Technologies FM Transmitter

  • Connectivity: USB stick, Bluetooth 4.2, aux, microSD (in), FM, aux (out)
  • USB Ports: 1x USB C, 2x USB-A
  • Max USB Power Output: 20W PD, 18W QC 3.0
  • Bass Boost: Yes

Runner-Up, Best Midrange Bluetooth Transmitter: Anker Roav FM Transmitter

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 (in), FM (out)
  • USB Ports: 1x USB C, 1x USB-A
  • Max USB Power Output: 18W QC 3.0
  • Bass Boost: Yes

Runner-Up, Best Budget Bluetooth Transmitter: Virfine FM Transmitter for Car

  • Connectivity: USB stick, Bluetooth 5.0, (in), FM (out)
  • USB Ports: 2x USB-A
  • Bass Boost: No

How We Chose the Best Bluetooth Transmitters for Cars

Audio and Hands-Free Ability

The main function of a Bluetooth transmitter is to allow you to access audio and hands-free calling through the car’s speaker system.

A few lower-end transmitters broadcast on a fixed FM radio frequency, while better-quality units let you utilize an unused spot on the local FM band. This reduces the amount of interference and static you’ll hear.

To facilitate hands-free calling, microphones of varying quality are included in the transmitter. We preferred devices where these onboard microphones were assisted by noise cancellation software that isolates your voice from whatever’s going on in the background.

Bluetooth Versions

The vast majority of our picks utilize Bluetooth 5.0 or higher. These newer Bluetooth versions provide faster transmission speeds, have much greater range, and consume a lot less power than older versions. The end result is higher audio quality and less battery drain on your phone.

USB Ports and Charging

Being able to charge your device from a USB port is an important factor when buying a Bluetooth transmitter. Many cars that don’t have a Bluetooth entertainment system don’t have inbuilt USB charging ports either. If they do, their power output typically isn’t up to the demands of modern phones and tablets.

The number, type, and power output of USB ports varied significantly between the different transmitters. We looked for devices that could safely and reliably provide fast charging to a variety of devices, ideally via both Power Delivery and QC 3.0.

Design and Display

Displays that let the driver see vehicle battery voltage, caller information, or playlists are useful, but the way it’s done matters. The displays on many units really didn’t add any value, and some had excessively large screens that flashed, changed color, or were otherwise very distracting.

We also considered the overall design of the transmitter. While it’s a matter of taste to a certain degree, we favored smaller, less-obtrusive units that didn’t distract the driver. These aren’t without their issues either, though: sometimes the reduced size made controls harder to reach and use.

Additional Features

SD and TF card readers let you play music directly from your cards, rather than via a phone or tablet. Some transmitters also let you plug in a USB stick to do the same thing.

If you’re having trouble finding an available FM band in your area, a few devices have a standard aux (3.5mm) socket as well. This lets you plug directly into the entertainment systems in many vehicles, especially older ones.

It often also works as an input, so you have the option of running a cable to the headphone jack on your device rather than connecting via Bluetooth.

We didn’t consider any of these features a “must have”, but where two or more models were otherwise very similar, we chose the one that provided this kind of extra flexibility.

Now that you know what we’re looking for, let’s check out the recommendations!

Best Bluetooth Transmitter: UNBREAKcable FM Transmitter

UNBREAKcable Bluetooth 5.0 FM Transmitter for Car, [PD 20W + QC 3.0] [Stronger Microphone & HiFi Bass Sound] Cigarette Lighter Radio Music Adapter Charger, Supports Hands-Free Siri Google Assistant

There’s a tendency among the makers of Bluetooth FM transmitters to cram in as many features as possible to make it stand out among a sea of similar units.

Done badly, you end up with large, ugly gadgets that are hard to navigate and difficult to fit into the cramped dashboards and consoles of many vehicles. Done right, you end up with a high-quality device packed full of features you’ll get real value from.

Fortunately this Unbreakable unit goes for the second approach. It’s easy to use, has a bunch of features you’ll actually want to use, and most importantly, is the best-sounding Bluetooth FM transmitter we reviewed.

Audio and Hands-Free Ability

This unit had by far the best quality audio both for music and on calls. We experienced crystal clear sound across the spectrum (within the limits of the existing car speakers, at least) and the bass boost added a little extra oomph in the low and mid-range.

There’s a slight but noticeable hum at low volumes, an issue common to many FM transmitters. Turn up the volume a bit on your device and/or the car speakers, however, and it disappears into the background.

Voice calls were clear and easy to hear, both in the vehicle and by the caller. The noise cancellation noticeably reduced the amount of road and traffic noise that made it to the person on the other end.

Charging and USB Ports

Fast-charging your devices is handled in one of two ways: a 20W USB C socket with Power Delivery, or a USB-A port with QC3.0. Most phones and tablets will charge at full speed from one or both, depending on which charging standards they support.

Either way, the end result is fast charging, with very little heat build-up in the unit even during extended use. There’s no problem with leaving your phone plugged in throughout a lengthy road trip.

Design and Display

The display is very clear, with large numbers that are easily seen from the driver or passenger seats. As well as the FM station that’s being used, the unit also shows the vehicle battery voltage for a few seconds when it’s first turned on.

One aspect we didn’t love, however, is the blue ambient light ring that pulses in time with the music. It’s less distracting than you might imagine, but still unnecessary, and detracts from what is otherwise well-designed and high-quality unit.

Navigating through the options is handled a little differently from the other units we tested, using a mini joystick rather than buttons. It’s a faster way of starting and stopping music playback, skipping through playlists, changing volume, and answering or ending calls.

Other Features

As well as the two ports intended for fast charging, a third socket lets you play music from a USB flash drive rather than your phone or tablet. You can also charge low-power (5W) devices from it if necessary.

The transmitter is compatible with both 12V and 24V vehicle power, and comes with a 36-month warranty. Customer service is great, with swift responses to queries and warranty issues.

Pros
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Easy to use
  • Can also play music from USB stick
  • Good fast-charging options
Cons
  • Some background hum at low volumes
  • Could live without the pulsing blue light
  • No aux in/out
Buy on Amazon

Best Midrange Bluetooth Transmitter: Syncwire FM Transmitter

Syncwire Bluetooth 5.1 FM Transmitter for Car, 38W PD&QC3.0 Fast Car Charger Wireless Bluetooth FM Radio Adapter Bass Sound Music Player FM Car Kit with Hands-Free Calling Support USB Drive

There are many competing brands at the midrange level, but for us, none of them come close to the quality and simplicity of the Syncwire product.

With an appealingly minimalist design and getting all of the basics right, if you’re after a high-quality Bluetooth transmitter at a very reasonable price, it’s hard to go past.

Audio and Hands-Free Ability

Supporting Bluetooth 5.1 (and below), pairing was quick and easy across a range of devices, with few of the dropouts and audio glitches that plague lower-quality models.

The built-in microphone and noise-canceling technology do a good job of providing clear sound quality on cell phone calls. Audio quality is good, although the output volume isn’t as high as some of the other models out there.

The bass boost noticeably improves music playback, and we’d suggest using it most of the time. The textured control dial around the outside is responsive and easy to use, controlling both volume and FM channel.

Hands-free mode is handled by a single button on the bottom of the unit controlling answering, ending, and rejecting calls.

Charging and USB Ports

As with many of its competitors, the Syncwire transmitter provides both 18W USB-A QC3.0 and 20W USB C PD fast-charging options. You’ll get full power from both ports even when charging two devices at once.

Design and Display

The display is clear and large enough to see easily, and given the minimal information it provides, you’re unlikely to need to look at it while driving in any case.

There’s a fairly bright light around the transmitter’s outer ring, useful for quickly finding it in the dark, but equally annoying when you’re driving. Thankfully it can be disabled via a long press on the bass-boost button.

We rate the build quality highly, and were impressed by the solid construction and firm feel of the controls. The volume and frequency selector ring is sturdy, and produces an audible click when moved from position to position.

Overall we liked the Syncwire’s small, unobtrusive design, although it does create one problem: the handsfree and bass boost buttons are designed to sit on the bottom of the unit, which can make them hard to access depending on where your vehicle’s accessory port is.

If that’s an issue in your particular vehicle, you can rotate the transmitter by 45 degrees when you insert it: it just means that the display won’t be horizontal when you look at it. The handsfree button is at least raised slightly, making it easier to identify by touch alone.

Additional Features

The battery voltage display is a nice extra, but that’s about it for extra features: there’s no aux socket, or support for playback from a storage card or USB stick.

Pros
  • Well-constructed
  • Attractive, minimalist design
  • Noticeable bass boost
  • Good fast-charging options
Cons
  • Relatively low volume
  • Hands-free and bass boost buttons can be hard to access in some vehicles
Buy on Amazon

Best Budget Bluetooth Transmitter: IMDEN FM Transmitter for Car

IMDEN Bluetooth 5.0 FM Transmitter for Car, QC3.0+Type-C PD 18W Wireless Bluetooth FM Radio Adapter Bass Sound Music Player FM Car Kit with Hands-free Calling and 3 USB Ports Charger Support USB Drive

This IMDEN model is one of the best-selling budget FM transmitters at the moment, and it’s not hard to see why.

The build quality and ease of use set it apart from pretty much anything else in the same price bracket, and it avoids most of the mistakes found in many other low-cost alternatives.

Audio and Hands-Free Ability

Installation, pairing, and setup are all very simple. The audio quality and reliability is as good as most other Bluetooth 5.0 transmitters, but playback volume is an issue. Especially when driving at higher speeds, the maximum volume really would benefit from being a little louder.

You may need a more powerful unit if you plan on using it in your truck or delivery van, or do a lot of highway driving, but it works just fine for most cars.

Surprisingly, this unit comes with a degree of noise suppression for hands-free calls, and even more surprisingly, it actually does a pretty good job of reducing background noise. It’s not the best we’ve come across, but at this price, anything is a bonus.

Charging and USB Ports

Despite being a budget model, you still get the usual fast-charging options here: there’s a USB-A and USB C port, both capable of 18W output. The USB C output is slightly less than some of the other models we recommend, but it’s unlikely to make a difference to charging speed in the real world.

Design and Display

The display is nice and clear, with large numbers providing battery voltage and FM frequency information that’s easy to read at a glance. The handsfree/control dial and bass boost buttons are both on the front, which makes them easy to access as required.

The result of that choice, however, is that both of the charging sockets have been pushed to the bottom of the unit. This make them hard to use if your vehicle has a recessed cigarette lighter, or doesn’t have much space below the accessory port.

As with the Syncwire above, you can always rotate the device slightly if you need to: it just means the display will sit at an angle.

Additional Features

The transmitter also supports playing music from a USB flash drive, which is a nice touch. The port for this is on the front of the unit, which makes more sense than the location of the charging sockets: it provides plenty of space for the flash drive to stick out.

Pros
  • Simple design
  • Good fast-charging options
  • Can play music from USB stick
  • Low price
Cons
  • Can be hard to access charging ports
  • Max volume not high enough for loud environments
Buy on Amazon

Best for Input Options: Guanda Technologies FM Transmitter

Bluetooth FM Transmitter in-Car Wireless Radio Adapter Kit W 1.8' Color Display Hands-Free Call AUX in/Out SD/TF Card USB Charger PD 20W for All Smartphones Audio Players - RM100C Black

Although the Guanda Bluetooth transmitter is a well-constructed device with plenty of features, it missed out on being one of our top picks due to its awkwardly-designed gooseneck and busy display.

Despite its flaws, we ultimately decided to include it on our list because it has the widest range of input options we’ve come across, clear audio, and good noise cancellation in hands-free mode.

Audio and Hands-Free Ability

Despite only supporting the older Bluetooth 4.2 standard, the quality of the audio was towards the higher end of the devices we looked at, with clear, interference-free music and phone calls. The CVC noise cancellation does its job well, even when there’s a lot of background traffic or road noise.

As with many FM transmitters, there can be some audible hum or static at low volume levels. Turn things up a bit, and the problem goes away.

Charging and USB Ports

A pair of USB ports are easily accessible on the front of the unit: the usual 20W USB C PD and 18W USB-A that provide fast charging to almost all phones and tablets.

Note that the company makes two versions of this transmitter: the one we recommend, and another with two USB-A ports. The latter puts out less power, but if your devices and cables are all USB-A and it makes more sense for your situation, you’ve got the option.

Design and Display

The large display is bright and very visible, but in this case that’s more of a negative than a positive.

While the built-in equalizer works well for music playback, with 5 different modes that you can quickly switch between, the pulsating EQ display doesn’t add anything to the unit’s functionality and can get quite distracting, especially at night.

The gooseneck design means this unit is usable in a wider variety of vehicles than most of its competitors, but also creates downsides. It’s harder to answer or end calls while keeping your eyes on the road, since the display and buttons move around while you’re driving, especially at higher speeds.

To make things worse, the gooseneck tends to become less stable over time, making the movement more pronounced. You do get used to it, but since it’s not an issue with other types of design, we think Guanda would have been better off leaving the gooseneck out entirely.

Additional Features

With four different input options (Bluetooth, USB, aux, and SD/TF card), you’ve got more options than usual about where you’d like your music to come from. Throw a bunch of music files onto a flash drive or memory card, or plug a cable into anything with a headphone jack, and you’re good to go.

Pros
  • Good noise cancellation
  • Two fast-charging ports
  • Impressive range of audio input options
Cons
  • Gooseneck design isn’t very stable, especially at high speeds
  • Display overly busy and distracting
  • Some hum/static at low volumes
Buy on Amazon

Runner-Up, Best Midrange Bluetooth Transmitter: Anker Roav Smartcharge T2

Anker Roav Bluetooth Car Adapter and Car Charger, Power IQ 3.0 Type C PD, Bluetooth FM Transmitter for Car, Wireless Calling with Bluetooth 5.0, Noise Cancellation -T2

Anker is known for the quality of its chargers, batteries, and other accessories, and the Roav range of Bluetooth FM transmitters is no exception. We used an earlier model for a few years, and it proved a simple and reliable companion on many road trips.

In general we weren’t disappointed by the latest Smartcharge T2 version either, which is equally straightforward to set up and use, and has features rarely found in other units. A few audio weaknesses ultimately kept it off the top spot in our list, but it was a close call.

Audio and Hands-Free Ability

The Anker doesn’t have a bass boost button or separate EQ settings, which means there’s no way of compensating for the T2’s lack of low-end punch. The volume level is also relatively low, so expect to turn things up on both your device and car speakers to overcome road noise.

As with many other units, static and hum at low volumes is also noticeable. On the upside, with volume set to a reasonable level, music sounds good and there’s little in the way of distortion and other problems. The Bluetooth connection is also rock-solid, without dropouts or other audio glitches.

The microphone works well for handsfree calling, with good noise suppression, but it can be a little quiet for people on the other end. You’ll likely need to speak more loudly than usual if your vehicle’s accessory port is comparatively far from your driving position.

Charging and USB Ports

Given Anker’s experience with chargers, you’d expect that aspect of the unit to perform well, and it does. The 18W output from either of the two USB sockets is enough to fast charge almost any modern phone or tablet, whether you plug into the USB C or USB-A port.

Design and Display

The large-format display is easy to read, with a simple design free from distracting lights and busy EQ graphs. If you’re looking for an understated, minimalist approach rather than something that creates a nightclub in your vehicle, the T2 is the way to go.

Answering or ending calls is handled via a big button on the front of the unit, with track/volume controls on either side. The handsfree button has a small raised section in the middle, making it easy to find without taking your eyes on the road.

Additional Features

We particularly liked the autoscan feature, where at the touch of a button the T2 scans for unused FM bands. This is a godsend on a long road trip, where available bands can and will change regularly: there’s no need to stop and manually tune in a new frequency.

Pros
  • Fast charging
  • Simple, minimalist design
  • Useful autoscan feature
  • Good noise suppression
Cons
  • Max volume could be higher
  • Lacking in low-end punch (and no bass boost option)
  • Some hum/static at low volumes
Buy on Amazon

Runner-Up, Best Budget Bluetooth Transmitter: Virfine FM Transmitter for Car

Virfine Bluetooth FM Transmitter Car, V5.0 Bluetooth Car Adapter, Bluetooth Radio Car, MP3 Player QC3.0 Quick Charge, Hands Free Calling, 2 Playing Modes, Blue led Display, Black, Medium (BH347)

In some ways, the Virfine FM Transmitter is very similar to the more expensive Syncwire unit. It’s not quite as well-finished and doesn’t have Syncwire’s quality feel, but for how little you’re paying, we were pretty impressed by what this unit had to offer.

If you don’t need a USB C port or multiple fast-charging options, it’s a great way of getting a solid FM transmitter at a very low price.

Audio and Hands-Free Ability

Despite typically being the cheapest option on this list, the little Virfine unit performed well, with above average sound quality across the board. With Bluetooth 5.0 and CVC noise-canceling technology, it produced clear music playback, and cell phone calls remained audible to both parties and largely free from outside noise.

Just like the majority of transmitters here, a little background hum is audible at low volumes.

Charging and USB Ports

Compared to the other devices we recommend, charging isn’t the strongest suit of the Virfine.

It’ll still do a good job of fast-charging phones and tablets from the top USB port, as long as they support QC3.0. The bottom port, however, only has a 5W output, and is intended mostly for playing music from a USB stick. It’s not powerful enough to charge a phone that’s being used for navigation with the screen on and GPS enabled.

There’s also no USB C port, so if you’d prefer that, you’ll need to choose a different device.

Design and Display

The display is nice and clear, with a large-format readout providing battery voltage and FM frequency details. Similar in design to the Syncwire model, it also shares its downside: having the handsfree and skip/volume buttons on the underside of the unit.

Again, you can rotate the transmitter in the accessory port to make the buttons more accessible, at the expense of putting the display on an angle.

Manufacturers’ obsession with bright lighting continues with the Virfine, and despite the marketing material assuring us that our car would look “cooler and more attractive” as a result, we’d much prefer it wasn’t there. Thankfully it can be turned off by holding down the channel button.

Additional Features

Being able to play music files from a USB stick is always a nice touch, especially in such a low-cost device.

Pros
  • Low price
  • Good handsfree calling
  • Can play music from USB stick
Cons
  • No USB C port
  • Fast-charging only available from one port
  • Can be hard to access handsfree/skip buttons
  • Some background hum at low volumes
Buy on Amazon

Main image via Everyonephoto Studio/Shutterstock.com, product images via Amazon

About the Author
John Ericson

John Ericson

Once the owner of a small computer repair shop, John swapped fixing tech for writing about it when he hit the road to travel. A lover of backcountry hiking, language learning, and good wine, he dreams of a smartphone battery that lasts as long as his Nokia from the early 2000s.

Comments

  1. Avatar

    In the Southern Calif area, it is virtually impossible to get an empty frequency that works.

    1. Dave Dean

      Yeah, I can definitely believe that. How well these sorts of devices work is very dependent on how crowded the FM band is in the area you’re living in/driving through.

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