I must have my "Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me"
May 19, 2009 11:25 AM   Subscribe

I am soon embarking on a trip which will involve a lot of time in a rental car. I am planning the in-car entertainment (podcasts). What are the odds I'll get a car with 1) an aux input for my iPod, or 2) the ability to play a CD full of MP3s?

I'm renting from Alamo at the Denver, Colorado airport. I have reserved a "Compact SUV", because that was the cheapest for some reason, but I'm going to try to downgrade to the smallest, most fuel-efficient car I can get. I know rental places generally have newish cars, and newish cars generally (usually? always?) can accommodate MP3 CDs and iPods. Do they make cars without those things anymore? Will I get stuck with one?
posted by Dec One to Technology (12 answers total)
I recently rented a car. I was given the option of selecting the car I wanted, and an Aux input was a major factor for me. Pretty much all of the available cars had one though. I would expect that to be the case with most rental cars these days.

MP3 CDs seems less likely, but I didn't even turn on the CD player, so I can't say for sure.
posted by willnot at 11:34 AM on May 19, 2009

We just rented a Kia Rondo from Alamo in Long Beach, it's a compact SUV and it had a 'aux' in port inside the box in between the two front seats. The size of a small headphone jack.

But, if you have to buy the cable anyway (I don't know if you do) you should just buy a cheapo FM transmitter from Target or Radio Shack. I got mine for $20, it plugs into the lighter port, charges my iPhone and scans the FM band for a clear channel to broadcast to. You tune in the station it tells you to and you are good to go.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:34 AM on May 19, 2009

I'm also going to be spending time in rental cars this summer. I figured every car has a radio, right? So I picked up one of these.

Now I'm just hoping that European cars have the same cigarette lighter / accessory jacks as American cars do. They do, right? Anyone?
posted by rusty at 11:34 AM on May 19, 2009

Most cars will have an Aux-in these days. And most car stereos will play MP3s. They do make cars still without them. The odds are good you'll not have a problem. But not 100%. Maybe 60%. And it doesn't matter which class of car. Some of the high end ones won't. Some of the econoboxes will. In the world of rental cars there is no rhyme or reason for features.

I rent a lot of cars (not from Alamo though) and if they give me a car without one, I'll ask for another car and that car will have the plug. I do this by checking the cars my car in the same category and seeing if they have the jack and will go to the little booth in the parking lot with that car and nicely ask if I can change.

The other option if Alamo are dicks about it and to guarantee you can listen to the iPod is to buy an FM modulator thingy. It doesn't sound as good as the line-in solution for $20 or so on a long roadtrip may be money well spent.
posted by birdherder at 11:37 AM on May 19, 2009

I just rented a car from Alamo two weekends ago from John Wayne Airport. I got a Pontiac G6 which not only had an aux input but had satellite radio. It was a pleasant surprise.
posted by aGee at 11:42 AM on May 19, 2009

Datapoint about the the cheapo FM Transmitter. We live in Denver, my husband uses one in his car for his iPhone/iPod and it works just fine--there is occasionally some interference, but he says it works just fine. My SUV (2007 no less) did not come with an aux jack so I use one of those belkin tape things.
posted by Kimberly at 11:55 AM on May 19, 2009

I got the cheapest available car from Budget at Burbank Airport last weekend, a Hyundai Elantra, and it had AUX in.
posted by nicwolff at 11:58 AM on May 19, 2009

rusty: Now I'm just hoping that European cars have the same cigarette lighter / accessory jacks as American cars do. They do, right?

We normally use them for nonchalantly lighting our Galois with- but yes they are indeed exactly the same design.

Dec One: I'd recommend just asking at the reception desk of the car hire branch - or perhaps calling ahead if you want to be double sure. As you suggest they are common.

The FM transmitter things have much worse sound quality and can be a pain to operate in big cities.
posted by rongorongo at 12:01 PM on May 19, 2009

For the people wanting to use the FM transmitter abroad: you might want to check that the radio frequencies are the same, and if small transmitters are legal.
posted by kg at 12:17 PM on May 19, 2009

All rentals have them these days, I think. BUT you sometimes have to search high and low for it. Check under the radio console and behind you inside the maps-and-coffee holder thing between the driver's seat and passenger seat.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:46 PM on May 19, 2009

Not all rental cars will have an aux jack.

Cars I've rented that have one: Ford Focus (also played MP3 CDs), Hyundai Elantra, Nissan Sentra, Chevy HHR.

Cars I've rented that didn't have one: Chevy Cavalier, Chevy Impala, Toyota Corolla.

Your best bet is to check your car and ask for an exchange if it doesn't have one.
posted by qvtqht at 2:18 PM on May 19, 2009

Does anyone even make cars anymore without an mp3 aux input? Bring along a tiny fm transmitter as a backup but I seriously doubt you will need it. The bigger issue will likely be finding where they hide the aux input.
posted by caddis at 5:36 PM on May 19, 2009

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