How to connect my phone to my 2005 Prius -- no audio jack
May 9, 2014 3:20 PM   Subscribe

I have a 2005 Prius, a model that does not have an audio jack or bluetooth. I'd like to connect my phone (a Google Nexus 5) to my car stereo but can't see how I can do it, short of totally rewiring the dashboard, which seems like a bad idea to me. I'm looking for ideas for how I can achieve this. I'm not an audiophile, but I'd like to find a way to do it that doesn't make the sound quality awful. Perhaps the simplest thing would be for me to just buy a new car stereo and have it installed? Or is there something else that will solve this problem? Note: I'm not particularly well-informed on things technical, but I'm really good at following directions.
posted by pleasant_confusion to Technology (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You can get a thing that'll plug into your cigarette lighter that is a very low-power radio broadcasting thing, you pick a station, tune your car to it, and *it* connects to your phone by bluetooth. It can be challenging sometimes if you regularly drive between cities and the radio interference differs, but mostly my old one worked pretty well. They also make some that work with tape decks if your car still has one of those.
posted by Sequence at 3:27 PM on May 9, 2014

If you want to the new stereo installed route, I priced them recently at Best Buy because I too really want an AUX jack and a USB port on my car stereo. The cheapest option was about $70 for the stereo and $60 for the installation, IIRC.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:33 PM on May 9, 2014

I'd recommend the tape deck route over radio transmitter unless they've gotten a LOT better over the past several years.
posted by supercres at 3:41 PM on May 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I also have a 2005 Prius without an aux jack or Bluetooth. I've also been looking for a good solution.

If audio quality isn't a burning priority (and I'm not sure it would even make any difference on a stock Prius sound system), the best I've seen is any of a bunch of different aftermarket bluetooth adapters.

Otherwise, it looks like replacing the stereo entirely is the best option. Adding on an aux jack isn't much cheaper.

I am not entirely satisfied by any of these options, so I'll be watching this thread.
posted by cmoj at 3:44 PM on May 9, 2014

I believe the Prius stereo is pretty integrated with the rest of the dash that putting in an aftermarket unit might not be a good solution. On my car (not a prius) I was able to find someone who sold a widget that plugged into the internal header on the original stereo where the tape deck would have otherwise connected. A quick google for "2005 prius aux in" suggests you can find something similar.
posted by ckape at 3:45 PM on May 9, 2014

I have the same car and virtually the same phone. I've had great results with the tape deck thingy, which was under $20 and has performed perfectly for 2 years.
posted by jessicapierce at 3:46 PM on May 9, 2014

Another vote for the tape deck thing. I used one for years. They're great.
posted by something something at 3:48 PM on May 9, 2014

Best answer: Unless I'm missing something, you do not have a tape deck, do you? It's ironic that CD players coming standard in cars was a step backwards for exactly this reason.

I'd highly recommend against the radio transmitter thing- they're maddeningly ineffective unless maybe you live in an area with no stations whatsoever broadcasting over-air.

What I did with my Toyota Yaris was buy a stereo off Amazon for around $100 that had Aux and USB, and then found the best installer near me by searching Yelp. It cost more than Best Buy, but people like that can deal with just about any kind of car no matter how "integrated" the stereo may be.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:28 PM on May 9, 2014

Best answer: I'm assuming you're doing this so you can play music - if you want handsfree phone support you need different stuff.

I have the same model year Prius.

You can't change the stereo on a Prius, it's built-into the console. You can use the cassette adaptor but it sticks out, runs the cassette motor, and the sound quality is dodgy.

You can use an FM modulator. There are small ones that you plug into the cigarette lighter socket but the quality is not great and interference is common. You can get a hard wired one installed by a car stereo place that is wired directly to the antenna and gives better quality.

Thirdly, you can get a weird interface box with a cable that runs to the back of the stereo from the glove box. I have just such a weird box hooked up in my glove box that gives me a 30 pin iPod jack and a regular aux input, and it tells the car it's a Minidisc changer with 99 discs. Apparently a Minidisc changer was an actual Prius option in Japan, so it's what these boxes masquerade as.
Sound quality is great, it shows track names on the screen, and the steering wheel controls skip tracks.

Mine was made by VAIS and was sold through some Prius web board I used to frequent back in 2005. I have no idea what boxes are available now, probably much better ones including ones that support Bluetooth and Android phones, but even the one I use would work for you in aux mode.

Due to the age of mine I have had to hook up various adaptors over the years to the 30 pin iPod jack to accommodate the change in the 30 pin spec power, then the change to Lightning, and finally to accommodate Bluetooth audio. It all seems to work though.

Personally I'd ask in a decent car stereo place, they would be clued in on what boxes are available these days. The installation of mine involved removing part of the dash and reaching around inside to hook up the digital cable - you would probably want to get someone else to do that anyway.
posted by w0mbat at 4:43 PM on May 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Here are some kits for your 2005 Prius. It looks like they rely on attaching the new stereo either below or bolted in front of (!!!) the factory stereo, but it clearly can be done. I'd consult a pro though.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:58 PM on May 9, 2014

Response by poster: Point of clarification: the car has no cassette player, just a cd player.
posted by pleasant_confusion at 5:33 PM on May 9, 2014

Best answer: Here's an example of a modern Android-friendly aux interface box that fits a 2005 Prius. It plugs into the CD changer port on the back of the existing radio. As I said, plugging something in there is a little tricky. I managed it but I had to buy a very long Philips screwdriver to remove part of the dash, and then grope around in a dark area behind the radio filled with sharp bits of metal.
Note - I used a 2005-era VAIS box designed for an iPod not the modern one linked to.
posted by w0mbat at 6:40 PM on May 9, 2014

You can add a Mac Mini to the car, which should give you all the sound options you want.
posted by Sophont at 7:13 PM on May 9, 2014

Best answer: I had the same issue with my last car (2005 rav4) and ended up getting a Bluetooth fm transmitter (that I was happy with. I lived in a fairly populated area when I used it (Toronto area) and didn't have any major issues with sound quality. Might be worth a look.
posted by snowysoul at 7:35 PM on May 9, 2014

Best answer: I just came in to recommend the same Bluetooth transmitter. It comes with a cord, which I use instead of the Bluetooth. It has a strong enough signal I almost never have to mess with the station, even while traveling. The other ones I've tried have been crap but I use this one every day, and like it so much I bought two.
posted by hairy terrarium at 7:44 AM on May 10, 2014

Somewhat late to the party.... I have a 2005 Prius. I used to have PDF somewhere for a line-in installation guide (which I never got round to doing). I've searched various caches on line and I think this is it. Essentially you're supposed to be able to exploit a CD change input on the back on the stereo.
posted by NailsTheCat at 8:14 PM on May 12, 2014

I got the GROMM-USB2, w0mbat linked to on Amazon. I would not recommend it. I returned it.

It was somewhat hit or miss whether the car wold recognize it any particular time you started it. It worked fine when it worked, but you have to use their crappy proprietary media player, which means you can't listen to Pandora or anything like that. It stopped working altogether after a couple weeks, and I figured I'd rather have my money back than deal with it any more.
posted by cmoj at 2:47 PM on June 21, 2014

I ended up buying the GOgroove FlexSMART X2, as recommended here. (There is a newer X3 but the Amazon reviews warned away.) I'm incredibly happy with it. Within a few seconds of my car starting my phone connects and I switch on my tunes. There is occasional FM interference but it's not every journey and only lasts for a second or two. I really wish I'd bought it years ago!
posted by NailsTheCat at 8:03 PM on June 28, 2014

For the sake of complete reporting: I ended up buying and installing a ~$120 aftermarket stereo. I have bluetooth streaming and calling, an aux or USB port if I prefer, improved sound, and groovy color changing lights in my dashboard.

It was cheaper than that stupid GROMM box, but more expensive than an FM transmitter, and way more features than either. It was the right solution for me.
posted by cmoj at 9:24 AM on June 29, 2014

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