A car video system is increasingly seen as a must-have. They come standard in some new high-end vehicle models and are offered as factory options with some new SUV and minivan models. If your vehicle didn’t come with a built-in car video system, though, you can install one for less than you might expect. Whether you want to install a front seat unit for GPS navigation or a backseat system to keep the kids busy on long trips, you’ll probably be able to find a suitable system for under $2000.
Car Video Systems for Entertainment
The main reason many people want a car video system is to have something to watch-or to distract the kids with-on long road trips. Backseat video systems let passengers watch movies and, in some cases, play video games or watch satellite television. These systems usually work with headphones, so the passengers can enjoy the show while the driver has silence or can listen to the radio. On the other hand, if you want a theater on wheels, you can also have home-theater-quality surround sound for everyone in the car to listen to.
Car Video Systems for Safety
Entertainment is great, but an even better reason to install a car video system is the added safety they can provide. Some front seat video systems let you connect to a GPS navigation system that can give you turn-by-turn directions. With this system, you’ll not only spend less time driving around lost, but you also won’t have to risk stopping and leaving your car in less-than-idyllic neighborhoods just to ask directions. What’s more, you’ll no longer have to try to drive and read a map at the same time. There are also car video systems that can be hooked up to a back-up camera, which is an excellent safety feature for larger vehicles.
Car Video System Components
You can find car video systems ranging in complexity from self-contained portable unit to multi-monitor systems complete with surround sound audio. Many of the simpler systems you can install yourself. With some of the more involved systems, though, especially those that use overhead monitors, you may want to leave the installation to a professional. Whatever the set up, car video systems consist of three main components: one or more video monitors, a media player such as a VCR or DVD player and an audio component such as headphones or a radio.
Types of Car Video Systems
In most cases, car video systems can be classified into front seat systems and backseat systems. That said, many systems give you the option of combining the features of both.
Front seat car video systems
Most simpler car video systems are front seat systems consisting of an in-dash receiver with the media player and LCD monitor built in. If you want to use a GPS navigation system, this is the type of system you’ll need. These receivers fit in a standard-sized dash opening, so they tend to be the easiest to install. The monitors in these systems can usually be folded down or moved out of the way when not in use. Many also let you expand your system with additional audio or video components. As you might expect, though, because these systems are meant for drivers and front seat passengers, most won’t play video unless the car is parked.
Backseat car video systems
Backseat car video systems usually consist of monitors behind the headrest or on the ceiling, with a separate media player and audio component. The media player can be installed in the front console or under a seat. In smaller vehicles, monitors on the back of the front seat headrests are usually enough to let all the backseat passengers watch the video. If you have an SUV or minivan, though, you can install a monitor on the ceiling for easy viewing from all backseats. Ceiling monitors flip down for use and can be folded back up if you need to transport anything other than passengers in the back.
Another way to install a backseat video system is with a player/monitor combination. These units just strap onto the back of the front seats (usually onto the headrest) and use the cigarette lighter for power. They’re popular because they’re easy to install and can be taken out any time. On the downside, the picture quality is generally not too good
Car video systems audio components
Viewers can listen to the system’s audio in one of two ways: headphones or surround sound from the car’s sound system. Monitors that use wired headphones are fairly rare because not many people want to hassle with the wires. A more comfortable way to enjoy the audio is by using a transmitter for wireless headphones.
If you’re car video system supports Dolby Digital or DTS, you can have a veritable mobile theatre with surround sound by hooking up the media player to a surround-sound decoder. There are also in-dash receivers with surround-sound decoding built in.
Not long ago, a car video system was considered an extravagance only the wealthy could hope to have. Now, though, the prices have come down so much some vehicles come with video systems already built in and system components are easy to find at car audio-video stores. Whether you want to install a car video system for safety reasons or you just want something to keep the kids from making you crazy on long rides, take a look at the systems available and you’ll most likely find one that’s right for you.