SEMA Data Shows Spending on Auto Tech Is Skyrocketing

tech gadgets auto car electronics


Sticker prices. Meager inventory. Fuel costs. Whatever the reason, more and more Americans are driving increasingly older vehicles. The age of the average car on the road grew to just over 12 years old in 2022, according to data from the Specialty Equipment Aftermarket Association (SEMA). However, owning an older car doesn’t mean having to sacrifice the improved safety, convenience, and drivability options present on today’s vehicles.

The data from SEMA is clear: We’re spending more on aftermarket automotive tech and electronics than ever. Americans are doing whatever it takes to keep our cars on the road, and that means upgrading tech and electronics to keep up in today’s world. From hands-free modules to stay connected to Bluetooth adapters to stream entertainment to dashcams and backup cameras, it’s easier—and more affordable—than ever to bring older cars up-to-date.

So what are we buying? According to SEMA Market Research, the top five mobile electronics and the percent increase among manufacturers over the past 12 months are:

  • Sound-system and audio accessories: up 22 percent
  • Mobile TV and video cameras: up 18 percent
  • Navigation systems: up 18 percent
  • Alarms and security products: up 17 percent
  • Wireless and smartphone integration products: up 11 percent

    Well, folks still love their sound systems—that much is clear. Aside from that obvious nugget of info, the numbers show that given the rapid pace of technological advancement, cars manufactured just five or 10 years ago don’t have enough of the gadgets and gizmos modern Americans want.

    Here are some of the hottest-selling mobile tech and automotive electronics on the market today.

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Top Seller for Hands-Free Connectivity

  • Can hear your voice commands over music, A/C, and road noise
  • Compatible with most cars and trucks
  • Multiple cords can make setup difficult and aesthetics unsightly

Echo Auto connects to the Alexa app on your phone and plays through your car speakers via auxiliary input or your phone’s Bluetooth connection. Now any older car can stream music, podcasts, traffic information, and even audiobooks. It’s fantastic for vintage automobiles and off-roading.


Top Stereo-System Upgrade

  • Includes rearview backup camera
  • Front, rear, and subwoofer preamp for speakers
  • Might require professional installation

BOSS Audio Systems‘ double-din head unit can turn an older stereo system into an Apple CarPlay– or Android Auto–connected touchscreen gem. Access all your phone apps, including music, maps, and messaging, with just a tap or even voice control if applicable. It includes USB ports for charging, and an available adapter allows it to be controlled from the steering wheel.

  • Google Maps, speed, and G-sensor readings
  • Magnetic Click&Go Pro mount
  • Does not include Micro SD card (required for recording)

The NextBase 522GW front and rear dashcam kit features 1440-pixel Quad HD technology with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. It also rocks built-in Alexa connectivity, night-vision capability, parking mode, and 280-/360-degree six-lane-wide recording. There are a ton of dashcams on the market, and you could spend far less on one. But NextBase is one of the more established and reliable brands in the game. We’ve used this unit and can recommend it wholeheartedly.


Top Car-Alarm Security System

  • Backlit LCD display
  • Revenger six-tone siren
  • You’ll likely have to pay for pro installation

The Viper 5305V 2-Way LCD Vehicle Car-Alarm Keyless-Entry Remote-Start System lets you start your engine from up to a quarter-mile away. It comes with a four-button LCD remote and features such as keyless entry and SmartStart compatibility.


Top Charging Phone Mount

  • Good-looking unit; slim and sleek
  • Aluminum housing allows for maximum heat dissipation
  • Might not charge through some phone cases

These days most of us use our phone as GPS while driving, so a mount we can see at a glance is key. The iOttie Velox Magnetic Charging Air-Vent Phone Mount works great (unless you use a thick, rugged phone cover, that is; if so, all bets are off) and mounts easily to an air vent. Its charging component is compatible with MagSafe phones only, so you’ll need an iPhone 12 or newer. But a noncharging option is available for about half the price.


Top Wireless CarPlay Adapter

  • Plug-and-play application
  • 1-year warranty, free online upgrades
  • Works only with models as old as 2016

If your car is a few years old and has Apple CarPlay, it may support only a wired connection. The Carlinkit 3.0 adapter changes that. Hook it up once using Bluetooth, and it automatically connects to your phone every time thereafter, making CarPlay a wireless connection. That’s welcome news for those of us who can’t stand clutter in the cockpit.


Top Audio Sound-Quality Upgrade

  • Big sound from an affordable, low-profile unit
  • Easy connection to most any source
  • Amp quality might not live up to that of the speakers

If you’re looking for more bump from your factory audio system (or your new double-din head unit, above), check out the MTX Audio RT8PT Universal Powered Subwoofer. This eight-inch sub features a 120-watt amp, high-level as well as RCA inputs to suit most any stereo system, and external bass control for dialed-in acoustics. This complete installation kit includes everything you need, including wiring and mounts, in a sleek package.

  • Available in a variety of colors
  • Lightweight and compact: 8 oz., 3.2″ x 2.5″ x 1.5″
  • Continues to draw power even if no device is connected

Any older car with a 12-volt cigarette-lighter jack can power or charge almost any electronic device with the BESTEK 150W Power Inverter DC 12V to 110V AC Converter. This 4.2A dual USB car adapter provides 150 watts of continuous DC to AC power and 250 watts of instantaneous power via an AC outlet and two USB ports. It comes with low- and high-pressure isolation and a built-in 40A fuse to protect against overheating, under- and overvoltage charging, short-circuiting, and overloads.


Top Bluetooth FM Transmitter

  • Five-direction analog joystick control makes operation easy
  • Bass boost button
  • Blue accent light pulses with the bass—and you can’t turn it off

The UNBREAKcable FM Transmitter has a built-in Bluetooth 5.0 chip that provides a more stable connection for hands-free streaming, phone calls, and fast pairing via any FM radio station. The built-in microphone supports smart voice navigation via Siri or the Google Assistant (sorry, Alexa). It also features two USB-A ports and a USB-C port for charging devices.

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By Tara