As technology and society continue to evolve, the need for people to “stay connected” grows. And this need drives the demand for faster car Wi-Fi service. The internet has evolved beyond the confines of a desktop and is now a part of our daily lives wherever we go. Most people now have the sum of all human knowledge at their fingertips, and when you're driving around you still want to have the ability to answer some of life's most important questions. Questions like, where do I find the nearest Starbucks, and how do I drive a car?
Whether you're in an unfamiliar city trying to find your business conference, or you want to listen to your favorite internet radio station, one thing's for sure. You'll need to have a good Wi-Fi connection. But how can we connect to Wi-Fi away from home or a free hotspot? The answer is a mobile hotspot that delivers reliable car Wi-Fi (or car wifi) wherever you need it.
One Important Thing to Think About Regarding Car Wi-Fi Hotspots
Car Wi-Fi hotspots allow you to connect your car and other devices to the wide area network (WAN). For example, a family could use their hotspot to connect their minivan, cell phones, tablets, and laptops to the internet on long trips. Or maybe you work from home and want to make your office mobile? Whatever your purpose for using car Wi-Fi, it's important to remember to take strong security precautions whenever you connect to a hotspot.
Hackers and cyber thieves have so far stolen over $ One Point Five Trillion in 2018. Security needs consideration when choosing how you connect to the internet, especially away from home. Criminals set up fake hotspots to lure unsuspecting travelers and steal their information every day. The need to ensure that your hotspot has strong security is a priority that we simply cannot overstate. Always make sure you have a strong password and turn off sharing when you're not at home.
Types of car Wi-Fi hotspots to consider
When it comes to automobile connectivity, you have several options for getting online. Some of these options involve using equipment you may already own, while others include buying a separate device. We'll take a look at all of the different options and analyze some of the benefits and drawbacks for each method.
One of the fastest growing ways that people are connecting to car Wi-Fi is by using their car manufacturers OEM or built-in Wi-Fi. Virtually every carmaker now offers customers the option of purchasing a newer vehicle that includes Wi-Fi service. One benefit is that this option usually provides motorists with a reliable internet connection. However, if you drive an older vehicle, the cost of a newer car may not be practical when there are much more affordable options available.
Many smartphones today give customers the option of turning their device into a mobile hotspot. Smartphones can be a very cost-effective option. However, factors like phone plan and device speed can make this option impractical for some drivers. Older phones don't have the most up-to-date Wi-Fi technology like 4G, which can make it harder to connect and stay connected while driving. And many phone plans have limitations on the amount of data that customers can use every month without accruing steep overages that can skyrocket the cost of your phone bill.
Another option is to permanently install a wireless modem/router unit into your vehicle. Just like an OEM hotspot, this option can provide stronger signal quality and may give you the opportunity of connecting devices via USB and ethernet cable. However, this option can also cost hundreds of dollars for the equipment, which does not include the cost of having a professional install it for you. Whenever you buy a newer vehicle with Wi-Fi connectivity, it's because the manufacturer installed one of these devices.
This option is less portable than a dedicated hotspot or smartphone, but way more portable than a built-in router. OBD-II Wi-Fi devices do provide advantages that other options may lack. These devices plug directly into your vehicle's OBD-II port, the same connector that mechanics use to run diagnostics on your car.
In addition to providing Wi-Fi access to multiple devices, an OBD-II device can also allow you to monitor your vehicle's health and other information through the use of an app on your cell phone. However, for those concerned about privacy, this type of device may make some people a little uneasy as you can also track your vehicle's travel history using an OBD-II device.
Our last option is using a dedicated device or mobile hotspot to connect your vehicle to Wi-Fi. Unlike a router, OEM, or OBD-II device, a mobile hotspot allows you the freedom of taking the internet anywhere you want to go without being constrained to your vehicle. Such devices are typically attached to a service plan, usually by a phone carrier or some other internet service provider.
How Much Should I Expect to Pay?
The cost of a car Wi-Fi hotspot can significantly vary depending on what technology option you use.
The equipment cost of using your smartphone as a hotspot depends on how much you paid for your phone; many companies offer free or discounted phones for signing multi-year service contracts. Also, keep in mind that some phones are not capable of being used as a hotspot. Recurring cost can range between free and $ per month, depending on your service provider and plan. Using an OBD-II device can cost between $ to $ depending on the contract, service provider, and device model. Recurring costs usually range between $ and $.
As for OEM and personal routers, several companies offer car Wi-Fi data plans tailored for these devices. The data plans work the same way as your home internet, except there are no wires to connect your router to their network. For customers who buy a new or used vehicle with OEM car Wi-Fi capability, the cost for monthly service can range from $ to $, depending on the service provider. Many manufacturers like Ford and Audi have worked out special deals with phone carriers to give their customers more exclusive affordable deals.
However, for personal routers that you add to the vehicle, data plans can be a lot more pricey, ranging from $ to $ for unlimited plans.
Mobile hotspots can cost between $ to $. Recurring costs for these devices also depend on the service provider, which is typically a phone carrier who can offer plans ranging from $ to $.
How We Reviewed
For this list, we found the top 10 mobile hotspots you can use to give your car Wi-Fi capability. We compared features, user reviews, and prices to provide you with a complete look at some of the best car Wi-Fi choices on the market.
Our Top 10 Car Wi-Fi Hotspots
We've decided to focus on mobile hotspots as the most practical solution for those who need quality car Wi-Fi that you can use in and out of your vehicle. Mobile hotspots have the advantage of generally being more affordable than buying and installing routers, and most certainly are more affordable than purchasing a newer car. It also has more functionality than OBD-II devices, which may not be transferable between different vehicles. An excellent mobile hotspot is also a must-have for anyone who travels.
- DOES THIS DEVICE NEED A SIM CARD: Yes this device needs a micro size SIM card, (not-Included though Free from most GSM Networks with activation of an account) There will be a sticker with the Unlock code enclosed on the box Label in case you need to reformat the device or change your Network provider.
- WHAT NETWORK FREQUENCIES ARE SUPPORTED BY THIS DEVICE: The Phone will support the folowing Technology Bands: 3G 4G HSPA+ UMTS 850 900 1900 2100MH. 4G LTE Bands 1 2 3 4 5 7 12 17 29 30 with enhanced backhaul with Global roaming supported. Please contact your Network provider (prior to purchase) and inquer if they support these bands in your area to ensure the device will work Properly.
- WHAT CAN I EXPECT OUT OF THE BOX: A removable 4,300mAh battery that lasts for 22 hours of continuous streaming (Removable W-9 Battery enclosed), as well as a Battery boost cable The charging port is a USB 3.0 port, which also lets you connect it as a USB modem, or to charge a device with the Battery Boost cable , you can also use a micro USB cable to charge the Hotspot the charger that comes with the device is a 2 PC Micro USB 2.0 (not a 3.0 although the port is 3.0). And a Waterproof back door
- WHAT DOES UNLOCKED REALLY MEAN: Unlocked devices are compatible with GSM carriers the kinds that Use SIM Cards for Service like AT&T and T-Mobile as well as with GSM SIM cards (e.g. H20, Straight Talk, and select prepaid carriers) Unlocked Devices will not work with CDMA Carriers the kinds that dont use sim cards for service like Sprint, Verizon, Boost or Virgin (contact your network provider prior to purchasing for verification that they support GSM frequencies).
- !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WILL NOT WORK ON VERIZON OR SPRINT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
AT&T's Unite Explore mobile is a version of Netgear's AC815S mobile hotspot that only works with the AT&T network. The AC815 has a rugged design that's dustproof, shockproof, and water-resistant. The hotspot has a very generous 22-hour battery life per charge. It offers 4G LTE roaming and is a 4G LTE Advanced-capable device for lightning fast download speeds around the world. The Unite Explore includes a content filtering feature for secure parental control. You can also set an optional timer while sharing a guest Wi-Fi connection.
Amazon customers rated the AC815S 3.7 out of 5 stars. Customers were highly impressed with its battery life and signal strength. Others complained about a cumbersome online sim card activation process, and a few reported defective units that would brick after an indeterminate amount of usage. The price of this model ranges between $ to $.
AT&T's Nighthawk LTE Mobile Hotspot router supports dual-band 802.11AC speed. You can also use AT&T's 4G LTE network, an Ethernet connection, or a separate Wi-Fi network. When using extended Wi-Fi, it only allows the use of single-band. It offers 5G signal strength, which provides an excellent range.
Amazon customers rated the Nighthawk 3.2 out of 5 stars. Customers were impressed by the speed and liked the fact they could use it as a media center via its SD Card reader and USB port. However, there were some mixed reviews about the “unlimited” data plans, as one reviewer claimed that AT&T severely throttled him after going over 150GB of data. Another reviewer claimed that removing a USB flash drive from the unit while it's still powered on can render it inoperable (more commonly known as “bricking” the unit). Speaking of “bricks,” this unit also weighs about 2 pounds. And the device does not have an LCD touchscreen.
The Nighthawk sells for between $ and $. AT&T places a 15GB cap on hotspots with their unlimited plan, which costs between $ and $ per month.
- Powerful Performance: Surf at top speed. Use a device that offers the latest in bandwidth, speed, and performance - ideal for stremaing videos, sending emails, and keeping your social status up-to-date while on-the-go.
- Powerful Battery - Recharging is the least of your worries. Last the day out with up to 24 hours of continuous use. The Jetpack 971L can also charge a smartphone or small portable USB device while on the go.Battery Up to 650 hours on standby
- Connect up to 15 Wi-Fi devices: Share a secure connection with friends and family, or simply connect all your Wi-Fi devices - whether it be a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or portable gaming device. LCD Screen 1.77” LCD Display with Touch Navigation Buttons
- Global Ready - Stay connected, even abroad. The Jetpack 791L is Global Ready, meaning you can bring Wi-Fi with you and use it in 200+ countries.
Verizon's Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot allows you to connect up to 15 Wi-Fi devices and has a 1.77 inch LCD with a touch navigation menu. The unit delivers fast 4G LTE speed and is also global ready for more than 200 countries.
Amazon customers rated the Jetpack 3.8 out of 5 stars. Customers gave its signal strength and quality high marks and liked its 24-hour battery life. However, a few complained about Verizon throttling their speeds and the price of their expensive data plans. Also, they said the buttons were a bit hard to press. The Jetpack's cost ranges between $ (with Verizon contract) and $.
- Jetpack also doubles as a charger for smartphones and small mobile accessories.
- Manage passwords and settings directly from the device using the built-in interface
- Access Verizon’s LTE Advanced network with the Jetpack MiFi7730L mobile hotspot and get up to 50 percent faster peak speeds in more than 450 cities coast to coast.
- Conveniently manage passwords and settings using the device’s large, color touchscreen.
- Easily navigate the interface’s onscreen menus, data usage information and more.
Verizon's Jetpack MiFi 7730L Mobile Hotspot offers 4G LTE speeds and doubles as a charger for smartphones and other mobile accessories. The device has a built-in LCD interface that allows you to manage settings efficiently. Verizon also promises up to 50 percent faster peak speeds in over 450 cities across the United States.
Amazon customers rated the Jetpack 7730L 3.9 out of 5 stars. They loved its powerful signal strength and incredibly high speeds. One customer claims to use it as his home connection. However, customers also complained that the battery is prone to “swelling” and that signal strength in remote areas might not be as strong as in some metropolitan areas. Also, the battery life for this unit doesn't last as long as some other models. The price of the Jetpack 7730L ranges from $$ to $$.
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AT&T's Unite (Netgear AirCard 770S) gives you the ability to connect up to 10 devices to Wi-Fi at one time. It utilizes AT&T's 4G LTE network for fast connection speeds. The AirCard 770S features a simple one-minute setup process. It has a larger 2.4-inch touchscreen for easy navigation. And it offers up to 10 continuous hours of battery life.
Amazon customers rated the AT&T Unite 3.1 out of 5 stars. One customer talked about AT&T's top-notch customer service when he called for help registering his sim card. Another raved about it's VPN pass-through feature, stating that it works better than the newer model. However, other customers complained about its short range and short battery life. AT&T Unite's price ranges from $ to $ (some AT&T plans may include this device for free).
- DOES THIS DEVICE NEED A SIM CARD: Yes it does Being that this device is T-Mobile it will work on any T-Mobile with a Micro size ACTIVE SIM Card The sim card does not come included, you will need to contact T-Mobile to acquire your complimentary Sim card (activating on T-Mobile Costs Approx $10 at any T-Mobile Store or over the phone).
- WHAT NETWORK FREQUENCIES ARE SUPPORTED BY THIS DEVICE: The device supports Bands FDD LTE: B2/4/12 WCDMA: B1/2/4/5 GSM: B2/3/5/8. Please contact T-Mobile and inquire whether they support these bands in your area to ensure the device will work Properly
- WELL, HOW LONG CAN IT LAST ME: A removable 1,800mAh battery that lasted for 6 hours of continuous streaming in our tests that's reasonable for a Small slick hotspot as well as a STANDBY TIME of 300 hours.
- This device will not work on any other network besides of the T-Mobile network it is a T-Mobile branded device and will only function for their Network, A mobile hotspot provides Wi-Fi to up to 15 devices within 150 ft so that they can all access Internet on the blazingly fast 4G LTE Spectrum
- IS THIS DEVICE UNLOCKED: No. this device will be locked unto the T-Mobile Network for the first 2 Years after that period you can contact T-Mobile to Unlock the device. THIS DEVICE WILL ONLY WORK ON THE T-Mobile NETWORK OUT OF THE BOX.
The Alcatel Linkzone on the T-Mobile network allows you to connect up to 15 devices. It has a battery life of up to 6 hours, and it uses the 802.11N wireless network standard. Amazon customers rated this device 3.5 out of 5 stars. Customers praised the company's customer service, fast shipping, and stable connection. However, others did not like the short battery life and noted that its connection speed isn't as fast as other hotspots. The price of the Alcatel Linkzone ranges between $ and $. T-Mobile's unlimited data plan for one device is $, but it caps hotspot speeds at 3G.
- DOES THIS DEVICE NEED A SIM CARD: Yes it does Being that this device is GSM unlocked it will work on any GSM Network with a Micro size SIM Card The sim card does not come included, Contact your Network Provider to acquire your complimentary Sim card (Free from most Carriers with activating of an account)
- WHAT NETWORK FREQUENCIES ARE SUPPORTED AND CAN BE RECEIVED BY THIS DEVICE: LTE bands 2/4/5/17/29 and UMTS HSPA 850/1900/2100. As well this device can provide WIFI: Dual-Band WiFi (2.4GHz or 5GHz) This variation of bands give it the ability to roam on LTE in many foreign countries, including all of Europe and much of Asia
- HOW LONG CAN I EXPECT THE BATTERY TO LAST ME: Well the battery has 2,800mAh which in a Usage time frame means 10 solid hours of streaming at 4G LTE speeds as well it has a Standby time of up to 240 hours before you need to recharge the battery. WHAT CAN I EXPECT OUT OF THE BOX: Well this device has a Single-Core Qualcomm MDM9225 Processor giving it the ability to Connect up to 10 devices simultaneously with Separate Guest WiFi to ensure security as well it will come with a charger and a manual
- WHAT DOES UNLOCKED REALLY MEAN: Unlocked devices are compatible with GSM carriers the kinds that Use SIM Cards for Service like AT&T and T-Mobile as well as with GSM SIM cards (e.g. H20, Straight Talk, and select prepaid carriers) Unlocked Devices will not work with CDMA Carriers the kinds that don't use sim cards for service like Sprint, Verizon, Boost or Virgin (contact your network provider prior to purchasing for verification that they support GSM frequencies)
- !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WILL NOT WORK ON VERIZON OR SPRINT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The ZTE Velocity 4G LTE Mobile WiFi Hotspot can connect up to eight devices and offers a six-hour battery life.
Amazon Customers rate this device 3.1 out of 5 stars. Some customers said that they liked the ZTE's connectivity and the ease at which they could add more data. Many customers also stated that their 10GB of data gave them more than enough data for their simple browsing needs. However, other customers complained about how quickly you could burn through the prepaid 10GB of data if you stream a lot of videos or play games. There were also a few complaints about poor speeds and customer service for defective units.
The price of the ZTE Velocity 4G LTE Mobile WiFi Hotspot ranges from $ to $ and will require a prepaid Boost data plan card which starts at $ for 10GB of data.
8. GlocalMe G3 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot
- 🌎【SIM free and Intelligent Network Selection】This new released mobile hotspot can work without any SIM card. Get instant domestic and international data by paying online. Patent Cloud SIM technology for smart selection of network with better signal. No more network congestion by dynamically network switching. Fast and stable 4G internet for home, outdoor and globally in 140+ countries. Also supports a SIM card slot, which means that you can easily use the data according to your own needs.
- 🌎【MULTIFUNCTIONAL】GlocalMe TriForce also works as a power bank. Built-in 7000mAh battery, make sure up to 28 hours non-stop using and one full phone charge. Supplies with USB-C, lightning (MFI Certificated) or Micro USB recharging for iphones, Android series phones, tablets, and more. This exceptional adaptability is essential in the world of connectivity, helping you stay ahead and always powered.
- 🌎【No contract, No Roaming Fees with More Free Data】Pay as you go WiFi. No contract nor roaming charges. Choose the more suitable data plan and get extra data from our Glocalme App anytime. Comes with Free 1.1GB global data and 8GB US Data.
- 🌎【Private and Safe WIFI】GlocalMe use the most security protocol to keep your WIFI connection safe. Self-Identified SSID Name and Password via Web Portal, no worries about the unsafe public WiFi anymore. Also with the GlocalMe APP, you can manage the data usage effectively and smartly. Easily track detailed interaction with the data, connect to personal network, purchase data, etc.
- 🌎【Shareable WIFI and Flexible Plans】Share your WIFI connection with up to 10 devices at once. Download GlocalMe App to easily manage your hotspot and purchase data plans at low cost. Flexible data plans allow you to buy service by the Day, Month, Region or GB. Support mainstream frequency bands and works in more than 140 countries around the world across America, Europe, Middle East, Asia, Africa and Oceania.
The GlocalMe G3 4G LTE Mobile hotspot can offer some excellent car Wi-Fi with its 4G LTE network providing upload speeds of up to 50mbps and max download speeds up to 150mbps. GlocalMe advertises a “worldwide sim free connection” that uses Cloud SIM technology that allows you to connect in over 100 countries and regions without a SIM card. It comes with a 1GB initial global package and offers an array of data plans.
They also advertise the most secure protocols aimed at ensuring the safety of your connection. They provide a free app that allows you to manage your data usage, purchase data, etc. Its battery life gives you up to 15 hours of non-stop usage. You can also use it as a mobile power bank capable of fully recharging the average cell phone over three times.
Amazon customers rate the GlocalMe G3 4.1 out of 5 stars. One customer, who took the device on a multi-country European tour, raved about how easily it could connect to a local partner network wherever he traveled. Most customers who loved this product were world travelers.
However, other customers complained about the speed at which the device can burn through your data. There were also complaints about the reliability of its 4G speeds. Another reviewer noted that the onscreen menu tended to default to Chinese (which seems to be its native language).
The price of the GlocalMe G3 ranges from $ to $ with many data plans to choose from. For example, an unlimited monthly data plan for the United States costs around $ on their website. And a yearly unlimited plan is around $$.
The Skyroam Solis Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot + Power Bank allows you to travel the world on Skyroam's fast global 4G LTE network. The unit also features an embedded 6,000 mAh power bank and a 16-hour battery life. The hotspot provides instant coverage in over 130 countries with its unique virtual SIM technology. The Skyroam Solis also offers an encrypted connection for up to five devices.
Amazon customers rated this product 2.8 out of 5 stars. One customer complimented the company on excellent customer service when he needed to replace a defective device. However, a large portion of customers railed against the company's misleading “unlimited” plan which seems to throttle you to 2G speeds once you go over 500MB per day. There were also complaints about its difficult configuration and failing units.
As for the price, the Skyroam Solis ranges between $ and $. Their website advertises 24-hour Wi-Fi for only $.
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Verizon's MiFi 6620L Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot allows you to connect up to 15 wireless devices. You can use it as a universal charger, and it gives you up to 20 continuous hours of battery life. It also features touchscreen navigation and can be used in over 200 countries.
Amazon customers rated this product 3.4 out of 5 stars. Customers loved its extra-longlasting battery life, fast speeds, and raved about Verizon's coverage. Most of the complaints seemed to involve defective units. A MiFi 6620L will cost between $ and $. Verizon's top unlimited plan offers a 20GB allowance of 4G LTE data for $, but after that, they throttle you back to 3G speed.
Which Car Wi-Fi Solution Do We Recommend?
After careful consideration, we believe that the Nighthawk LTE Mobile Hotspot Router by AT&T is pound for pound the best mobile hotspot you can buy. Its features, battery life, and reliable network are superior to many of the other brands we reviewed. This hotspot edged out Verizon's MiFi 6620L Jetpack, which came in at a close second place. If you're in need of reliable and fast car Wi-Fi, you can't do much better than the Nighthawk.
Last update on 2021-06-19 at 18:29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API