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This $15 Bluetooth transmitter almost makes my husband's '99 Toyota Camry feel like it's from the 21st century

It streams music, takes calls, charges my phone and more — and it's become a road trip must-have.

I don't drive, but my husband and I go on plenty of trips using his car. And while I'm grateful to have a partner who's willing to do 100% of the driving, I can't say I'm a huge fan of his vehicle: a 1999 Toyota Camry. Needless to say, it's not exactly equipped with high-tech features, or even low-tech features for that matter (it does have cassette and CD players — remember those?). And after one road trip too many spent listening to mediocre radio stations, I decided it was time to bring our vintage ride into the 21st century. I present to you: the Lencent FM Transmitter. This $15 Bluetooth device allows us to stream music and podcasts from our phones, and I don't know how we went so long without it.

Old car? This won't fix that wheezy AC, but it will allow you to stream music, take hands-free calls and charge your phone.

$15 at Amazon

Now, full disclosure — I'm by no means a tech expert. To be honest, I almost didn't buy this gadget because I was worried it would be too complicated to use. But having had it in our car for over a year, I can confidently say it's extremely user-friendly. It pops right into our car's cigarette lighter, and to hook it up, all I had to do was set the car radio to a blank FM frequency, then set the transmitter to the same frequency. From there, I looked for the device's name on my iPhone's Bluetooth settings, connected and that's it!

I wasn't expecting decent sound quality, but to my surprise, the audio was clearer than I'd thought it would be upon streaming music from my phone. Is it amazing? Not quite, but it's highly listenable (and I'm sure the condition of the car speakers themselves play a role). Certainly beats being at the mercy of whatever radio station happens to be in range during long trips!

Aside from music, this Bluetooth transmitter allows for taking hands-free calls while driving, and I feel more at ease knowing my husband can stay focused on the road while being reachable. Plus, it has two USB ports for charging two phones at a time, and it displays the car battery's voltage.

The one issue I run into is forgetting that the transmitter automatically connects to my phone when I get in the car. There have been several instances of us missing a turn when using Google Maps because the transmitter was unknowingly connected to my phone, but not connected to the car, meaning the GPS' voice was silent. I'd rather connect my phone to the device manually, but that's a personal preference.

the Bluetooth transmitter on a teal background
Take it from me — you don't need to be a tech head to connect this user-friendly Bluetooth transmitter to your phone. (Amazon)

I'm far from the only person who's thankful for the Lencent FM Transmitter — take it from some of the 39,000-plus Amazon customers who gave it a perfect rating.

"I have an old car (2003), so no aux cord, and literally had all my old CDs taking up space," wrote one shopper. "This works so easily and well ... [Other] great perks are the next and back buttons so you’re able to just hit those instead of messing with your phone while you’re driving."

And it's not just for cars. "My wife and I recently had to rent a U-haul to drive ... from GA back to NY," shared another user. "I hate listening to standard radio, I have tons of music on my phone and the U-haul trucks have no way to play via Bluetooth. ... This FAR exceeded my expectations! The interface is super easy to use ... the sound quality was decent (granted the truck was loud on the highway and probably doesn't have great speakers to begin with) ... "

"I was expecting that the microphone for the hands-free call feature, [which] would not be great," admitted a third buyer. "To my delight, the microphone is great. The person on the other end can hear me the same as if I were talking on the phone itself. Recommended!"

Of course, no product is perfect. One reviewer's only qualm? "You can only use one phone at a time," they wrote, adding, "But you can switch between phones if you turn off Bluetooth on the phone you are not going to use. ... I would definitely recommend."

A final fan said, "The only thing I would change is to add the option to turn off the bright blue perimeter light. It can be distracting at night." That said, they appreciate the fact that "it connects fast, and the sound is very clean and audible."

Ready to ride into the future? Or, at least the present. 

$15 at Amazon

As for another on-the-road essential...

Keep your eyes and hands on the road while having your phone close by, thanks to this top-rated phone mount. It sticks right onto your dashboard or windshield (its strong suction was designed to withstand bumps and turns) and even has a telescopic arm that lets you adjust the viewing angle.

"This was very easy to put together and have installed immediately for a road trip," wrote a reviewer. "I needed to use the GPS and had never been to my destination before. This made getting there safely and easily a breeze!"

$11 at Amazon

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The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.