Do you remember when a car TV was only for the limousine crowd? Or when you could only watch television at certain times of the day and only in one specific location? It's funny, right? But that's hardly the case anymore. Today, thanks to technological advancements, you too can watch live and recorded TV programs at any time of the day and in multiple locations — even while zipping down the road. Some new vehicles even come already pre-installed with car TV systems. Most don't, though. And fortunately, that's not a problem anymore either.
Today, you can easily buy a car TV, and install it yourself. Some don't even need to be installed. You just need to put them where you want them. And not only can you watch live programs, but you can also tune into your pre-recorded content or even stream.
But now the question is, how do you find a great car TV? The answer is to know your options — and to know your needs.
Different Ways to Watch
It's awesome that we have more options for watching TV now, unlike in the past. You can view pre-recorded material. You can stream using your mobile data, and you can use an antenna to watch local broadcasting. Or you can splash out on satellite equipment and a subscription. But this last one is complicated, and it's expensive, too. And the truth is, for a road trip, you really don't need the hassle. Instead, let's take a look at the two most interesting — and easiest — options: antenna and streaming.
Do you want to watch free, local broadcast content while on the road? You'll need some special equipment. First, you'll need a video display unit. You'll also need a tuner. Finally, you should buy an antenna. You can buy these pieces separately, though some display units come with some of the pieces built-in. One way or another, most of the car TVs we reviewed in this article will allow you to watch antenna TV.
The display unit
The display unit should have multiple inputs, so you should check any unit you're considering purchasing to make sure. If it doesn't, you'll need to buy a unit that has an input selector or external splitter. An ASTC tuner receives over the air signal (OTA) and converts it into what's displayed on the screen. You need one that's powerful enough to receive live broadcasts.
Some display units have built-in antennae which makes it easy to receive wireless TV. But external antennae are more powerful because they can pull in weak signals. However, you'll be unable to receive signals in certain locations that are not close to broadcast antennas. In order to maximize signal reception, you could also buy an omnidirectional external antenna. Note, however, that once you're outside a particular range, you'd be unable to receive some signals.
Streaming means watching digital content over an internet connection. Through streaming, you can watch most internet content. As long as you have a fast internet connection, you can stream most programs. What will you need to get started?
First, you'll need to sign up for a data service and download the appropriate app. Then you can connect your phone, tablet, or another device to a display unit of your choice. Naturally, streaming will consume a lot of data, and that may run up your bill. So be mindful of that.
You will also need a display unit. Although you can use your tablet or device as a display unit, you may want a dedicated, separate unit instead. Many of the car TV units in our survey will work with streaming media as well.
Another display unit option is a dedicated streaming media player. Lucky you, you can get one for about $100 to $110. The top streaming media players are Roku and Amazon Fire TV cube. Both are portable. The best one for you will depend on the service you want to use it with. Most TV, gaming consoles, and Blueray players also enable streaming.
Car TV: Hardware Options
Now that you know what kind of equipment you need let's take a look at the design.
You could, for example, install your car TV permanently or you could have a portable one. Also, you could have one that attaches to the dashboard, or to the headrests. By contrast, you could mount a flip-down model to the ceiling. Finally, you could have someone install it for you or you could install it yourself. Some of these units can also double as a backup camera, so maybe a dash-mounted set fits your bill.
But the important thing is, you don't need to mess around with complicated installation instructions or expensive installation professionals. There are a lot of car TV models that you can get up and running yourself, quickly and easily. You just need to know what to look for.
How to Choose the Best Car TV
What are the major factors to consider in choosing the best car television? They include:
- Extra features
Like most things in life, there are different types and sizes of car TV equipment to choose from. Each has its distinct features, which naturally affect the cost. Fortunately, most car TV sets are highly affordable. So, it depends on your taste and budget.
Just as there are different vehicles of different sizes, there are car TV sets of different sizes depending on where in the car you'd like to install them. You have sizes ranging from 2.5 inches to 42-plus inches. If your vehicle is big, you'll naturally be able to install a large car TV, which will make viewing even more enjoyable for your passengers.
There are a few places in your vehicle that are ideal for the placement of the TV. The type of vehicle you have and its configuration are vital factors to consider. But, in general terms, you could mount a car TV on the ceiling, on the dash, on the back of a sun visor, or on the headrests at the back of the front seats.
The last position is the most popular, especially in a family vehicle. But, it means that only those at the back can watch the programs. The passengers in the front seat would need one in the front. Headrest-mounted car TV sets are usually small, because of the constraint imposed by the headrest's size. And, naturally, there's often no space for a DVD player on some models.
Stationary or flip-down?
Stationary sets have a number of advantages. Headrest-mounted sets are convenient for the people in the back. A stationary set on the dash could be larger because the space is larger. On the other hand, it wouldn't provide the best viewing for people in the back. Plus, it might physically get in the way once viewing time was over.
Flip-down sets are more convenient, in that you can fold them away until you need them. You can choose from models that flip down from the car ceiling, from the headrests, or the sun visor.
Whichever you choose, you will, of course, need to take the possibility of driver distraction into consideration.
You may want a car TV that has some extra features, and there are plenty of special features to choose from. Some car TV's can also serve as a GPS, allow you to use headphones, DVD players, play games, and you may want to use yours as a CCTV, too.
We know from experience that different appliances perform differently. And there's often a correlation between cost and the quality of the performance. So check consumer and professional reviews carefully before you buy.
The Average Cost of a Car TV
You should be able to get a good car TV for between $100 and $200. Really? That's all? Yes. If you want satellite TV in your car, the extra equipment and service subscription will cost more. But do you really need it when there are so many other entertainment options available?
How We Reviewed
We consulted reliable tech sites such as lifewire, qualitymobilevideo.com, yourmechanic.com, and others, to find the best models. Then we looked at each model's specifications, rating, pricing, and the pros and cons of each model. Finally, we considered consumer ratings, to see what actual owners of these units thought of their purchases.
So, which car TV model will fit your needs?
- 12.1" digital 16:9 screen with 1280x800 SD resolution; H.265 Freeview TV / ATSC TV (MPEG4) for USA and other countries,Our TV can be use in all ATSC countries
- Long life LED Panel, Support play JPEG/MP3/MP4/MPEG/WAI/VOB/RMVB/AVI/MKV/M4V 1080P video by SD Card HDMI-in or USB.
- Built-in 4000 mAh Li-Polymer, stereo loudspeakers and Earphone socket; DC power supply from mains (110-240V 50/60Hz)
- FM function,Audio-video, input function;Super slim fashion design;Small screen for car or kitchen.(UN regulation power adapter,Manual(English/French/Spanish),antenna,remote control,Windscreen Car Mount Holder,AV line).
- We are the manufacture of portable car TV over 16 years.Support technical service by 24hours Service online and 365 days warranty.
Leadstar's digital portable LED TV is a sturdy 12-inch system. Just put it where you want it, and you're good to go. You can use it in all ATSC countries — and that includes North America. Its main features include a LED panel, remote control, built-in stereo loudspeakers, port for earphones. You can use it with an antenna, and also and for streaming.
The screen has an SD resolution of 1024 x 600 and a screen size of 16:9. It comes with a USB jack, so you can watch and listen to media saved on your flash drive. It has a mini-antenna and high sensitivity tuner which will make reception easy. It weighs 3.6 pounds. If you charge it fully, the battery lasts about three hours. Leadstar provides technical support and a one-year warranty. It's rated 3.9 out of 5 stars on Amazon, where you can find it for between $$ and $$.
Most users praised it — that it works as advertised. It can receive up to 80 channels.
Some users think it's a tad pricey and instead of plastic, it could have benefited from something sturdier. It also lost points for not being compatible with a DVD player. Finally, it has no WiFi capability.
- Rockville RDP711-BK 7” Black dvd/USB/SD car headrest monitors with ir transmitter and HDMI input
- 7” high resolution monitors
- One Front Loading dvd Player, RDP711-BK Rdp71 + One a/V unit RDP711-BK Rhp7
- 800 x 480 screen resolution.16:9 (wide screen) or 4:3 (letterbox) switchable Aspect ratio
- Built-in FM transmitter for wireless audio playback through vehicle stereo system.NOT compatible if you have motorized headrests or rear seat air bags
The Rockville RHP7-BK7 is a pair of mobile television monitors that you can easily attach to the headrests in your car. It has metal poles with which you can attach it. The Rockville comes in a variety of colors, so you can choose one that matches your vehicle. It has a 7-inch screen and has a resolution of 480 x 234. You can use it both with antennae and for streaming. It weighs 5.6 pounds, and you can use it in all kinds of vehicles. It has speakers and IR (Infrared) transmitters. It's rated 3.9 out of 5 stars
It's difficult to determine if there's a warranty. You can expect to pay between $ and $$.
- 10'' Widescreen LCD TV delivers sharp, clear picture through multiple Antenna Options
- USB/SD inputs for external audio/video playback, Dual AV inputs for use with DVD player or Game System
- Powered by AC/DC (adapters included) or Built in Rechargeable Lithium Ion Battery
- Full Band Digital TV Tuner supports ATSC/ NTSC
The Tyler TTV703 is a portable and rechargeable TV. It has a built-in digital tuner, so there's support for ATSC/NTSC. You'll have a great viewing experience because of its multiple antennas. It has AC and DC adapters so that you can use it at home, and on the road, and its battery lasts for an hour and twenty minutes. It has a 10-inch screen and weighs 3.5 pounds.
You can use it for gaming and also with a DVD. You can use it with antennas and for streaming. It is rated 3.8 out of 5 stars. Its price on Amazon is between $ and $$. Most customers love it, though some users deducted points for battery life.
- 10.1 inch Computer Display: High resolution : 1024*600 RGB; Aspect ratio: 16:9;Built-in speaker;Power supply: 9-30V DC(AC adapter: 12V); Video system: PAL / NTSC.
- Multi-functional Mini TV Screen: It support VGA / AVI / HDMI / DVD / PC / CCTV / TV, compatible with security system, vehicle monitor, backup camera system, it is suitable for gaming, computer and so on.
- 2-channel video inputs: Automatically switch to backup camera picture when car backup. And back to your DVD/VCD video when you finished car reverse.
- Easy to mount and pack: The stand is perfect allowing you to adjust the viewing angle and rotate the screen to meet all your needs. Portable to carry so that you can enjoy your favorite shows at home, on car or during travel. There are four holes on the back of the monitor, so that you can hang it on the wall as a TV. (screws not included). Include a remote control, requiring a CR2025 button battery. (battery not included)
- Worry-Free Service: 30-day Money-Back Service; 12-month Replacement, Any questions, please contact us, we will reply within 18 hours.
This unit has a very high resolution of 1024 x 600 RGB. And it supports TV/AVI/VGA/DVD/PC/CCTV. You can also use it to play games, and it can serve as a backup camera for your vehicle. What's more, you can use it with an antenna, as well as for streaming. It's highly portable since it weighs only 2.43 pounds.
It's rated 4.3 out of 5 stars, and its price ranges from $ to $$, though it's not clear if there's a warranty.
- KEEP KIDS ENTERTAINED: The Pyle headrest with built-in DVD player is perfect for long road trips It provides otherwise bored kids with an entertaining audio and video experience
- UNIVERSAL VEHICLE COMPATIBILITY: Pyle DVD monitor player allows you to easily install the headrest posts into all of today’s car makes and models
- WIRELESS HEADPHONE SUPPORT: Car audio tv headrest system also features an integrated FM transmitter and IR transmitter for wireless IR headphone support
- CONNECT OTHER DEVICES: Connect additional multimedia devices to the Pyle DVD player for car via the included wiring harness that features RCA (audio/video) connectors
- WHAT'S IN THE BOX: The car audio tv headrest includes headrest monitor assembly, power and wiring harness, cigarette lighter power cable and remote control
The Pyle Headrest Display is seven inches, with a built-in DVD player. It weighs 4.4 pounds, and its display resolution is 1440 x 234. You can use an SD Memory Card Readers and USB Flash with it. Its video system is PAL/NTSC compatible. You can easily mount it in any vehicle.
This unit is available from Amazon, where it has a user rating of 3.6 out of 5 stars. That's a budget unit, which will cost you about $ to $$.
- Experience stunning picture result with cost-effective LED backlighting
- 16 9 aspect ratio to display content on full screen
- ATSC digital tuner to connect you with free-to-air HD television signals in North American region
- Horizontal Viewing Angle 165°
- Vertical Viewing Angle 165°
Supersonic is another inexpensive unit that may be worth your time. It has a built-in digital tuner and a powerful resolution of 1280 x 800. The display is very bright at 500 nits. It is portable at 2.9 pounds. You'd need to buy an external antenna for better reception, and you'd need a streaming device if you want to stream. It's rated 3.7 out of 5 stars. It sells for $$ to $$ on Amazon.
Many users rave about the television. However, some complained that the manual was not easy to understand and that the picture quality is a bit poor when viewed from an angle.
Which car TV was our favorite? We liked the Leadstar Portable. Why? Well, first, it's attractive and sturdy. It also has a mini antenna and high sensitivity tuner, which helps with receptivity. It also has a decent consumer rating. And, lastly, because it has a warranty of one year.
Which features are most important to you in a car TV? Do you have a model you'd like to recommend? Tell us about it in the comments!
Last update on 2021-06-19 at 17:20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API