Best iPod-in-car solution?

Having finally succumbed to the allure of the iPod, despite being a life-long Apple user, I am now in need of finding the best way to use it in my car.

A quick glance at Apple’s car integration page shows no options for any Toyota.

Now, what I’d really like is some kind of deck in which I could just insert the iPod like a cassette and then control the iPod through the deck. This would allow me to change tracks and such without having to look (like I can now with my CD player), which would be pretty hard to do with the iPod wheel. I also don’t like the idea of having wires coming out of my dashboard. It’s annoying enough with my cell phone charger, and I’d rather not deal with another one.

Another option is an FM transmitter. My friend uses the round iTrip (I think those also came in the mail with Frampton Comes Alive), and I really don’t like it- the sound quality is lacking, and I thought the software extension was horribly designed. I don’t know if the iTrip is just a crappy FM transmitter, or if the glut of actual FM stations is going to interfere with any “blank” frequency, no matter how good the transmitter is. Demo- recommends this TransPod. I do like the design of having the cradle be an extension of the car lighter. I don’t quite get “drift” but I certainly don’t want to have to recalibrate the frequency while I’m flying down the highway on a road trip.

So what say you, Dopers? How do you iPod your car?

There is now an iTrip without software, which allows you to dial in frequency via a small knob on the side. It is still only a marginal solution for any large metropolitan area. Even once you find a ‘dead’ frequency, it doesn’t stay dead for very long.

If I had it to do over again, I’d go with a direct connection, such as:

Check out this project.

In addition to Waverly’s link, Alpine makes a few head units (they had two about 6-12 months ago; I’ll assume they’ve come out with at least one more since then) that are specially designed to work with and control your iPod. I’m not sure what these units cost, but they were out of my price range at the time (which was probably ~$300).

Personally, I went with a head unit that has a 1/8" auxillary input in the front which allows me to connect my iPod to my car stereo w/ a male-to-male 1/8" cord. The head unit cost about $200 including installation, the cord about $5. Of course, I can’t control my iPod directly from the head unit, and it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing solution out there, what with the cord and all, but at the time the lower price point was worth the minor inconveniences.

Oh, I should probably add that the Alpine solution (and presumably Waverly’s) would run the cord for the iPod into the glove box, thus eliminating any unsightly cordage coming snake-like out of your dash.

How I iPod in my car:
I have a Mini Cooper and there is a specific iPod adaptor for it, but the dealer wants ~$300 (part + labor) for it.

I had heard how easily the aux cable install goes in Mini Coopers, so I laid out $30 for the cable on eBay. I installed it myself, bought a $5 stereo patch cord, my boyfriend drilled the holes under my stereo and mounted the faceplate for me, and away I went. I can’t control track forward/back from my steering wheel stereo controls, but I can control the volume from there.

My iPod fits perfectly upright in my cupholder, so if a track comes on that I don’t want to listen to I can tap track forward on it without even looking away from the road. Plus, for my car I make playlists, so I like all the songs.

I have heard quality suffers with the FM transmitters, so I avoided those.

There are Alpine head units that integrate well with iPods, also look into the Harmon Karden Drive and Play and iCruize (or is it iCruise?).

I wanted a solution that would hide the fact I might have an iPod in my car, so those other options were out for me. My Mini Cooper is my pride and joy and I don’t want to give anyone any reason whatsoever to break the window and see if my iPod is in the car…so the aux input cable is a good thing. I still take my iPod with me even if I stop at the store for five minutes, and it looks like I only have the stock stereo in there.

I had an auxillary audio input installed. It somehow runs through the CD player, although there’s no CD in the player. I just hook it up to the charger and the audio cable, and it’s good to go. We had it done at Circuit City. Much better than the iTrip, or the other radio gadget.

I use a good quality tape adapter plugged right into the headphone jack. With Dolbly noise reduction on, it sounds really good (wayyy better than iTrip).

I used to use a Sony tape deck adapter before my brother put a CD player in my car as a surpirse. Just made long playlists for driving so all I’d ever have to touch is ‘next.’ Sounded pretty good, and the adapter was only like 20 bucks.

I bought a little adapter box that plugs into the CD changer port underneath the radio in my Accord and strung the minijack plug to the center console. I followed these instructions. The Soundgate adapter fits in the dash above the accelerator pedal and the wire hides away in the console when not in use. I’m hoping it adds a touch to the resale value of my car, mainly because I don’t want to futz with pulling it all out again.

I don’t have a lot of experience with the other options, but I will say that I hated my experience with FM transmitters (and I tried two). I used mine once to travel across Connecticut - maybe a two hour trip - and was constantly searching for new stations. But above that, the sound quality was terrible and tinny. A tape adapter was far better and ended up being my permanent solution, but that doesn’t quite match up with your preference to not have wires sticking out of your dash.

Try Dension Ice>Link Plus. I got one at Best Buy (opened box) for ~$160. Installed it in my girlfriend’s Honda Accord in about a half hour or so, and I’ve never done anything more advanced in a car than driving it. She can control it through her normal car stereo controls, and the cord just runs out through her arm rest so she can stick it back in there if she doesn’t want it sitting around in her car while she goes to the store. I highly recommend it.

I have one of the Alpine units. I don’t see it on the website now; I wonder if it’s a discontinued model? I’ve had it for… I dunno, but probably less than a year.

The good: It sounds great. It keeps things nice and neat; the iPod plug goes underneath the floorboard and up into the center console, so everything is hidden. It charges the iPod while it plays. The unit is also XM compatible (although I have mine hooked up to my external XM player, which I had prior to purchasing the head unit).

The bad: Navigation is miserable; it’s extremely awkward controlling the iPod through the head unit, and when it’s plugged in, you can’t control the iPod directly. I see they have new models on the website; I hope they’ve addressed this. I can’t imagine I’m the only one who’s been frustrated by it.

My tape adapter sucked. My FM transmitter sucked. What finally worked for me was a gadget at Brookstone that was designed to be a speaker you could put the iPod in and use it in the pool (waterproof/ water resistant). It was $40.

I use this for audiobooks and the sound is acceptable for those. I’m still not sure it’s good enough that I’d enjoy listening to much music that way.

I don’t use my iPod in the car very often, but when I do, I hook it up through the car cradle for the satellite radio. Using a y-jack to get stereo feeds from both the XM receiver and the iPod, then use the in-dash FM transmitter (which has got plenty of power and no audio quality problems) to get the feed to the car antenna, then to the head unit, and out to the speakers. Only problem is that the satellite radio must be on and muted to get the iPod audio only.

It’s a somewhat kludgy work-around, but it works well with my existing hardware. And since I only use it on the interstate for 3+ hour trips, the small amount of time it takes me to get it set up and running isn’t a big deal.

Oh, I should have added that you can set it so you can control it from your stereo controls of the iPod directly (which ends up being a LOT more convenient for scrolling through big lists of songs). I promise I don’t work for them or have any interest in their company well being. :slight_smile: I just really like their product.

I bought the iTrip for my ipod photo, and tried using it in my cars. The funny thing is I have Pioneer in-dash headunits in both my cars, and it works fine in one, but not at all in the other - i literally have to hold it up to the head unit to get any reception.
Needless to say, this does not enamour me to the iTrip - I think its a piece of worthless shit.
However, both the headunits I have are advertised as being iPod-ready - I havent explored how exactly the interface would work, but i know it involves patching the iPod using a cable through te back of the head unit, and then controlling the iTrip through the AUX controls on the head unit and the steering remote. However, I’m pretty convinced there would be some visible cordage.

I bought my Jeep in 1999. I had a choice between a cassette deck and a CD player. The former was a little cheaper and I had things on tapes that I didn’t have on CD, I got the stereo with the cassette player. I could use my Sony car adaptor for my Discman. When I got my iPod I asked a question here about adapting it to the car. At the time I didn’t know that it could also use the car adaptor. But I tried it out just to see, and it worked.

Not as slick as having a docking port for the iPod, but I don’t need slick; just functional. Now I can take a two-week road trip and never repeat a song.