US car iPod compatibility?
July 12, 2010 1:22 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be renting a car and want to make sure that my iPod can be hard wired into the stereo. Help!

My friends and I are going on a road trip to America, and are going to be hiring two cars: one a 'Chevy Tahoe or equivalent' and the other a 'Pontiac G6 or equivalent'.

I have a ton of playlists on my iPod which I've made specifically for the trip. I have no idea how far the US car industry has come in terms of iPod compatibility in their factory stereos. Do most factory stereos include an aux jack (in the front, or an accessible one in the back)? If they do, is it 3.5mm (like a headphone socket) or phono (white and red)?

If they don't have an aux jack, I'll have to burn them to CD. But this presents another problem - do they support mp3 CDs, or am I going to have dozens of 12-track audio CDs?

I've used FM transmitters like the iTrip before and have found them next to useless, so I'd prefer to avoid using these.
posted by edbyford to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The aux jack is typically a headphone socket so you'll need a 1/8th to 1/8th cord. Headphone plug on either end. I've had three rental cars lately of various makes and models. 2008, 2009, and a 2010. They've all had an aux.

Call the rental company to check. Or just request it at check-in.

The fm transmitters have improved as well as independent speakers.
posted by beardlace at 1:36 AM on July 12, 2010

Best answer: If you're using a name-brand national chain, chances are any '08 and above model will have an aux jack. And yes, it will be 3.5mm, never phono. (My deck has a phono input in the back, but this is rare, and the deck is old.)

When we arrived in Detroit at the Alamo rental desk, I asked if the guy knew if any "Mid-size sedan" cars they had would include an aux jack. He said none in that price range.

He then told me to go pick any mid-size I wanted. I picked the only one out there and lo and behold, aux jack.

So chances are good. Chances are MUCH lower you'll have an ipod jack or any mechanism for keeping things charged, so make sure you bring your own, and they won't supply the headphone cable either, so grab those.

I disagree with beardlace and have only had horrible experiences with the many FM transmitters I've dealt with.
posted by disillusioned at 1:43 AM on July 12, 2010

FM transmitters are ok for short use, but you'll HATE all music by the end of a long car journey. If you can't get a car with aux then try and get one with an old fashioned tape cassette deck. Tape cassette adapters are the next best thing to direct aux. They sound much better than an FM transmitter and once they are in there's no fiddling
posted by 0bvious at 2:54 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

You're likely to have the aux jack.

Most cars that I've rented in the last few years have also had satellite radio, so you should be well entertained.
posted by Frank Grimes at 3:39 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

You should bring a cord with male headphone jacks on both ends, the USB cable you use to connect your iPod to your computer, and a USB / cigarette lighter adapter. If the car you rent has only an auxiliary jack then you'll need all three pieces to play sound and keep the iPod charged. If you're lucky then the car will have a USB socket and the iPod's USB cable will be all you need.
posted by jon1270 at 3:55 AM on July 12, 2010

Best answer: I'm a frequent renter and 90% of the cars I've gotten in the last two years have a 1/8th jack, enough so that a cable now lives in my travel bag. Don't expect the desk staff to know (never hurts to ask), but don't be afraid to ask to exchange your car (before you leave the lot) if it doesn't have one.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 4:35 AM on July 12, 2010

Just a warning about USB plugs in cars: upgrades to your device can cause compatibility issues. My Honda Fit had built in USB for iPod use that I loved to use with my iPhone...until the latest iPhone OS 4 upgrade came out and my car couldn't recognize the phone when plugged in anymore. I can still charge it through the USB but it won't play through the speakers.
posted by ninjakins at 5:15 AM on July 12, 2010

Best answer: Adding to what These Premises Are Alarmed said: I've had good luck asking the people that clean them -- as opposed to the ones at the desk -- which models have aux ports.
posted by JohnFredra at 5:44 AM on July 12, 2010

All my rental cars have had aux jacks; just be aware that sometimes they're in weird places. I think my last two cars both had the aux jack and power adapter in a storage compartment in the middle by the shifter.
posted by cobaltnine at 6:11 AM on July 12, 2010

Best answer: Many cars have the aux jack these days. If it doesn't, go back and ask for another car. It won't be a big deal - I've done it.
posted by micawber at 7:42 AM on July 12, 2010

YEah, you might want to bring a headphone x headphone cord, with a plan to buy an FM transmitter if the car you get isn't compatible.

FM transmitters can really suck, but one thing that helped me immensely - use frequencies that aren't common. I believe mine has 99.5, 107.5, and 89.7, which were the leas-used FM frequencies when I looked it up a few years ago.

As I recall, Euro FM uses either every .1, or uses the evens (I.e. .2 .4 .6 .8 .0). In the US, the odds are used, which may make a Euro-spec FM transmitter suck worse.
posted by notsnot at 9:41 AM on July 12, 2010

Best answer: I have been renting cars weekly at O'Hare airport for the past six months from Alamo/National [mostly], Avis/Budget, and Enterprise.

I always reserve the cheapest "economy" car, and I believe there have been just a handful of occasions where the car has not had an AUX jack. If you're a class or two up from the Hyundai Elantra/Ford Focus/Chevy Aveo/Kia Spectra/etc that I've been renting, I suspect you'll be fine.

Renting through Alamo [and probably others], you get to pick your car, so you can just look for one with the AUX jack. I don't know that I've seen a compact car on Alamo's lot without one. Maybe a time or two.

Through Budget and Enterprise, you get assigned a car, and maybe those have been the no-aux-jack cars. I don't honestly recall.

Enterprise has been giving me a couple classes above my reserved economy car the last few weeks, and they've all had aux jacks [Chevy Impala, Dodge Caravan]. The Elantra Enterprise gave me yesterday has AUX in.

All the same plug as your headphones.
posted by chazlarson at 10:39 AM on July 12, 2010

ninjakins: "Just a warning about USB plugs in cars: upgrades to your device can cause compatibility issues. My Honda Fit had built in USB for iPod use that I loved to use with my iPhone...until the latest iPhone OS 4 upgrade came out and my car couldn't recognize the phone when plugged in anymore. I can still charge it through the USB but it won't play through the speakers."

This also applies to older iPods. My '09 Chevy Cobalt doesn't recognize my iPod Mini. It happily works with my iPod Touch, though, even after upgrade to iOS4.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:12 AM on July 13, 2010

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