You can’t go really anywhere anymore without WiFi looming overhead thanks to smartphones that can allow you to Google where you’re going to eat while you’re on the road. You can also check Yelp reviews as needed to make sure you’re going to the right restaurant that serves only organic, gluten-free food.

It sounds crazy, but the world without WiFi seems entirely foreign to so many people. The idea of not being able to connect can even make some people panic. What, no Tweets? Where are the notifications? What about Snapchat? Oh, no, the filters aren’t downloading!

Yes, having or not having WiFi for cars is entirely a first world issue, but it’s a convenience that we have grown to love. Thanks to continuing advances in technology, getting WiFi in your car is easy as streaming Netflix for the kids at home.

 have your phone be a mobile hotspot

Getting WiFi In Your Car With Your Smartphone

By far, the easiest method to get WiFi in your car is going to be your smartphone. If your data plan supports your connection, you can turn on the hotspot option and have your phone be a mobile hotspot for all your wireless needs. Depending on how much data you use, you may just have your data cut off at some point.

The price for using a mobile hotspot can vary by provider. Certain plans have unlimited data on their phones, but others charge by how much you’re streaming. If you don’t have an unlimited plan, you can expect to pay hundreds of dollars if you’re going to be using your hotspot for anything other than Google research.

Videos tend to have a higher streaming rate which means more data usage and a higher price tag. If you intend to use your mobile hotspot to allow your children to connect their iPad minis so they can stream movies while you’re on a road trip, that price is going to get pretty high.

Other drawbacks to using your phone as your hotspot include a highly limited pipeline. Your data connection is only as good as your phone can provide. That means if you lose connectivity on your phone because there is no signal out in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, your kids will be forced to look out the windows and enjoy the scenery.
Wifi For Car USB connectors

Using A Dedicated WiFi Device

WiFi for cars has never been better, thanks to tech advancements that keep on going. One of those advancements is the availability of things like dedicated dongles and self-contained hotspots.

Dongles are the ones that plug into USB connectors and simply offer a data connection to allow you to surf the interwebs. Most of them plug into laptops and then create a hotspot. Others will work in any USB connector once they have been previously configured on your computer.

If you’re using a self-contained hotspot, prepare to pay a slightly higher price compared to a dongle. These do not require a USB connection and will work once you plug them into an outlet so they can get power. Devices like these are typically available from your data carrier.

Depending on who the provider is, you may have a recurring cost every single month for the length of time that you have the product. You may also have to purchase the product for up to a few hundred dollars. Others may only charge by use, so you’ll have to see what is available.

Routers Are Not Just Attached To Walls Anymore

Yes, you read that right. There are now routers that you can install in your vehicle to provide a permanent WiFi for your car. Some allow for limited mobility outside of your vehicle, and others are limited to your car.

Having WiFi for cars this way is the most expensive way to ensure you have connectivity wherever you go, but it is also the most reliable. Little Johnny will appreciate that, and so will you because you know that Minecraft video he’s watching on Amazon Prime won’t just stop because you lost the signal. Cheers for no tantrums!

Installing one of these can be a bit of a learning curve, but you can also take your car somewhere to have the router put in. If you’re in the market for a new car, many different models have onboard WiFi due to having one of these routers installed already.

Do keep in mind, that even with an installed router, your connection is not entirely guaranteed. While providers will brag about the size of their networks, data speeds may not be what you’re hoping to see. The fastest 4G speeds may only be around in city areas, so if you’re going to be trekking across Texas, you’ll probably need to make sure you have games and books for the kids when the screens stop working.
man using phone in the road

Other Things To Consider About WiFi For Cars

Let’s say you decided to take the plunge and buy that new car that has WiFi connectivity built-in so you can make sure Little Susie never misses out on watching episodes of My Little Pony. Fantastic!

You may be pleasantly surprised to find out that some providers offer limited data plans for free to give you a taste of what your WiFi experience could be if you bought a subscription. There are some major considerations making that decision though.

Coverage And Speed Both Matter

As an example, you would need to verify the network coverage available from the provider. You’ll see that most providers offer unlimited data plans. While that sounds great on the surface, what they don’t say is that not all data is created equal.

The largest networks may look good on paper, but the true speed of the connection may be much slower than what you’re used to getting either on your phone or in the city. More rural areas are just going to have slower connections with some not having connectivity at all.

Something else you’ll need to think about is whether or not the data connection would be stifled at some point. Many providers will slow down connectivity after a certain amount has been passed down through your device. In other words, your data connection may start out as a 4G connection, but after a couple of movies, it can just as easily drop down to 3G thanks to your provider.

The Cost Of Data Services

You’d also need to think about how much the data service would cost. Streaming Glitter Force or Teen Titans Go isn’t cheap, especially on a six-hour drive where you’d need plenty of episodes to cover that timespan. Yeah, we know, and you know that the most likely reason you’re even considering a data plan for a car is bec you have kids.

Either way, the moment your data connection is restricted by the provider, the more times you’re going to hear groans from the backseat because something is buffering. Knowing about when that is going to happen is useful because you’ll be ready for it. Maybe your kids will be asleep by then.

woman using wifi for car

A Few Last Words On WiFi For Cars

It may be a generalization, but while adults would find a data connection on a car useful if they’re working or even if they’re watching a movie, chances are they’d be using a smartphone or a WiFi-enabled tablet. If you’re looking for a way to provide mobile data with a reliable connection, it is going to be because you want your kids to be able to stream Netflix, so they don’t bicker in the back.

As the days of yelling, “Don’t make me turn this car around,” are passing you by, screens conveniently give kids something to do and having streaming video makes life that much easier. There is no shame in that game.

 Just remember, if you do go on a long car trip, you may still hit dead zones. Networks capable of carrying this kind of data haven’t completely reached more rural areas, but it is improving. Give it a little more time, and you’ll probably see that all soon. Happy trails!

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