If you want to listen to your iPod in the car, there are three obstacles: connecting it to your stereo, keeping its battery running, and finding a place to put it. A Car Kit can do all three things or just the first two, while a Car Charger does only the second, and Car Mounts do only the third.
Car Kits vary dramatically by manufacturer, but they’re generally intended to connect your iPod to your stereo for audio and charging. High-end car kits sell for $100-$250, not including installation ($50-$100), while lower-end ones sell for under $50 and require no installation, but won’t work in many cars. The deluxe ones often hide your iPod inside of a glove compartment or otherwise limit your access to its screen and controls, instead enabling your existing stereo buttons to switch tracks and pre-programmed playlists.
In our view, this sort of defeats the iPod’s point: why give up a perfectly good screen and controls? Most simple car mounts give you a way to place your iPod somewhere in easy reach, such as a cup holder or an air vent, and the best ones hold an iPod that’s inside or outside of a case. Simple mounts range from $10-$75. Then you add a Car Charger, either with an audio output port or an FM transmitter, and continue to use the iPod’s controls and screen. Car chargers generally sell for $20-$40, depending on extra features.
Want to avoid buying multiple pieces? Two-in-one or three-in-one car mounts have become increasingly common over the past two years, combining a car mount with another feature, such as iPod charging, or two other features, charging and audio output, either wired or through an FM transmitter. The best of these more deluxe mounts use “goosenecks,” flexible metal pipes, to hold and charge your iPod. Other options include plastic tubes and combinations of an air vent mount and a cable. These sell for between $50 and $100.
Though we have been highly impressed by certain entries in all of these categories, the deluxe mounts have become better and increasingly affordable, while buying the simple ones with add-ons has become more expensive. There is no all-in-one mounting solution as good at mounting as the best mount we’ve tried, but the best all-in-one is considerably less expensive than that mount. You’ll need to decide what you need for your car, but whatever you buy, make sure that there’s an easy way to charge your iPod and output its audio while inside. Our review sections for Car Mounts, Car Chargers, and Kits are available here.