How To Play CDs In Newer Cars With No CD Player: 8 Ways

CD players

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New cars very rarely have CD players built into them these days, but lots of us still have a few CDs – or, if you’re like me, a lot of CDs – that we want to play while we’re driving.

But how can you listen to and enjoy your CDs in a car with no CD player? That’s exactly what I’m going to talk about in this article on 8 ways to play CDs in newer cars.

These solutions range from very simple and inexpensive to, well, a bit more complicated and costly, and we’ll talk about the way to do each of them and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Please note that while I am going to discuss all 8 solutions in some detail, I really recommend the first two – using a portable CD player with either a Wired  Connection or a Wireless Connection – which are the easiest and least expensive options and should work for pretty much anybody and any car. 

So I am going to get into those two best and most popular options in a lot more detail below, and you can skip right to them by clicking on either link:

cd in a car

How to Play a CD in a Car with No CD Player

We can bemoan the demise of CD players all day long, but the simple fact is that it’s very rare these days for any new car to come with a CD deck installed. In fact, CDs themselves are getting pretty rare too, and smartphones, with their fancy-schmancy digital music and Bluetooth and whatnot, seem to be the way forward.

So where does that leave us if we have CDs we want to play? Our CDs sound great, and we’ve spent a lot of time putting together a collection we love – in particular some pretty choice driving music – but they’re really nothing more than shiny silver discs without the right equipment.

But there’s hope – in fact, there are a lot of possibilities, and we’ll get into 8 great options, but the easiest and least expensive way will probably be to purchase an inexpensive portable CD player and play it through your car’s existing stereo system.

Depending on the CD player you choose (or the CD player you already have) you have two basic options:

…both of which are super-simple to make work, and both of which will allow you to hear your CDs through the probably pretty fantastic sounding stereo already installed in your car.

Which Should You Use – Wired or Wireless?

A Wired Connection is so easy to set up, and will work with any CD player out there, as long as your car has a wired input on the stereo panel or dashboard (most cars do).

A Wireless Connection is also pretty easy, and pretty cool, and most newer cars should have Bluetooth wireless standard, but you do need a special Bluetooth wireless CD player to make it work. 

First we have to check a couple of things on the stereo that’s installed in your new car, to see how we can best connect that CD player. Don’t worry – these are pretty easy to find, and if your car’s stereo has either one of these – it very well might have both – you have a very easy and inexpensive way to proceed.

Does your car stereo have an Auxiliary Input?

The Wired Connection goes through the auxiliary input, and literally any portable CD player can do this. It is a small round headphone jack (but for audio input instead of audio output) located on the car stereo’s faceplate or on the dash near the stereo, and will usually have the words “aux” or “auxiliary input” printed next to it.

If you see this auxiliary input and want to use it, click Here to see how to proceed.

Does your car stereo have Bluetooth?

The Wireless Connection goes through your car stereo’s Bluetooth receiver, and you need to also need a portable CD player with Bluetooth to make this work.

If your car stereo has wireless capabilities (and lots of them do these days) it will probably have the word “Bluetooth” somewhere on its front faceplate.

If your car stereo has Bluetooth and you want to use it, click Here to see how to proceed.

portable CD player

How To Play CDs Through Your Car Stereo Using a wired Auxiliary Input

An auxiliary input is simply a headphone jack, a small female jack which looks like you would plug your headphones in for listening. But actually it is an input jack, not an output jack, and is designed to take a musical signal from something like a portable CD player and play it through your car’s built in stereo system.

This is probably the simplest and easiest way to go, and if you have a portable CD player already – even an older one – it will work fine, since you simply run a cable from the CD player’s headphone output into this auxiliary input.

Locate the auxiliary input jack, which should be on the front panel of your car’s stereo, or on the dash very close to it, and should be labeled “aux” or “auxiliary input.”

Now it’s simply a matter of running the right cable from your portable CD player to this aux input. The AmazonBasics Cable is nicely made and sounds great, but whichever cable you get, it should have a male 3.5mm headphone plug on each end.

  • Plug one end of the cable into your CD player’s headphone output and the other into your car stereo’s aux input.
  • On your car stereo, select the auxiliary or aux input.
  • Make sure your CD player is turned up, but not too loud.
  • Play CDs!

It’s really that simple!

One final note, though – your portable CD player may have an auxiliary output in addition to the headphone output, with the exact same kind of jack, and if so you might prefer to use that instead. It will sound the same, but the CD player’s volume control will not affect the aux output, so you simply use the car stereo’s volume instead – one less thing to worry about!

If you don’t have a CD player, I recommend the very nicely made and great sounding Oakcastle CD100, which will work beautifully for this and also gives you other connection options, like Bluetooth wireless connection. If you want to spend less, you can also consider the excellent but cheap ByronStatics Portable CD Player – though if you use it a lot you might end up spending even more for batteries compared to the rechargeable Oakcastle!

How To Play CDs Through Your Car Stereo Using Bluetooth

Bluetooth is the standard for all wireless connections these days – stereo systems, computers and laptops, smartphones, tablets and pretty much everything else, and if you have a newer car it’s pretty likely your car stereo has Bluetooth built in.

This is a very slightly more complex procedure, and you will have to make sure you have a portable CD player that also has Bluetooth to make this work. There are several great choices, but I really like the affordable and excellent Oakcastle CD100, which has Bluetooth wireless and a nice rechargeable battery and sounds great.

Now all you need to do is “pair” your CD player with your car stereo and you’re off to the races – but please, no speeding!

  • Make sure your portable CD player is “discoverable” – which means it can be seen wirelessly by your car stereo.
    • This is very easy to do, but you might need to check the instruction manual for your particular player for more specific instructions.
  • On your car stereo’s display menu, go to the Bluetooth option, where you should now see your CD player listed, and simply select the CD player on that menu.
    • Please note that, like with the CD player, this procedure is a bit different with different cars and different brands and models of car stereos, so please check your user’s manual for more specific instructions.
  • Select Bluetooth on your car stereo’s play menu (as opposed to Radio or other choices).
  • Play CDs!

Again, this is a bit more complicated than the wired connection above, but not much, and wireless playback is really nice. Anyway, if you’ve ever paired your phone or PC to a Bluetooth speaker or other device in the past this should be about the same, and you’ll probably already know how to do it.

Again, though, keep in mind that I can’t explain each step as clearly – the discoverable mode on your CD player or the Bluetooth pairing menu on your car stereo will be different with each brand, make and model, but you should have instructions available which make it very easy.

Other Options for Playing a CD in a Newer Car with No CD Player

If, for whatever reason, you can’t or don’t want to use one of the two options above, there are a few other possibilities, which may be a bit more of a chore, or have some disadvantages, but should work just fine.

Click on any one of the above options and you’ll go right to a brief explanation.

How to Play a CD in a Car Through an FM Modulator

This is actually a pretty cool option for a kind of “old school” wireless connectivity.

You will need a CD player with FM transmission capability, like the very nice HOTT CD903TF Portable CD Player, which will play any CD and broadcast the music as a low-power radio signal on a specific FM frequency – really brilliant!

Just tune your car radio to that specific frequency and you can hear your CDs through the car stereo system!

Simple and effective, but if there is a drawback it is that the sound quality, while still excellent, won’t be as good as our two main options above – Bluetooth wireless or wired connections.

How to Play a CD in a Car Through a Cassette Adaptor

I love this option, if just because it is even more old-school than the CDs themselves!

It is not, however, the most viable option, since we are talking about how to play CDs in newer cars that don’t have CD players, and really, if they don’t have a CD player they probably won’t have a cassette deck either…

But if they do, you can simply get a cassette adaptor, like this nice Arsvita Car Audio Cassette Adapter, and then

  • Plug it into the headphone jack of your portable CD player.
  • Pop the “cassette” into your car stereo.
  • Select “cassette” on the car stereo.
  • Play a CD and crank it!

Again, this may not be the best option for a newer car, but if you want to play CDs in an older car without a CD player this is a brilliant idea, especially considering you don’t have to change anything in your car (so you can keep your classic Gremlin fully stock), and it also works with smartphones, tablets or other gadgets.

How to Play a CD in a Car With a Boombox

CD in a Car With a Boombox

I guess I don’t really have to explain how to play a boombox, but this is probably the most simple option of them all, and the best if you happen to be driving to a picnic.

The only problem is finding a boombox these days that actually has a CD player – but actually there are still a lot of fantastic options, and my favorites are the inexpensive but premium quality Sony CD/Cassette Boombox or the wonderful, and wonderfully cheap, Jensen CD-490.

How to Play Ripped CDs in Your Car

Ok, this may not be the same thing, or totally satisfying, since you’re not really “playing CDs” in your car, but you can simply rip those CDs at home and put them on your phone or a USB stick or SD memory card to play in your car.

The easiest way to do this is by using a desktop or laptop PC with a CD drive built in. If you have the right software, the process is very, very easy.

If you’re storing your CD’s digital music files on a USB flash drive or a memory card, you have to make sure your car stereo has a slot for an SD or micro SD card or an input port for USB.

And if you’re storing them on your phone, you can go right back to our first two options at the start of this article – that is, you can play your smartphone’s audio / music through your car stereo using either:

  • Wired connectivity through the phone’s headphone output jack
  • Bluetooth wireless connectivity

So you can just follow the instructions above, for Wired Connectivity or Wireless Connectivity, but using your smartphone or tablet instead of a portable CD player.

How to Play a CD in a Car Through a USB Port

This seems like a great option, since a lot of new cars have a USB port on their dash, but there are a couple of problems:

  1. The USB port in your car may not be (in fact, quite often isn’t) for audio input, or any kind of input, but may instead be just a charging port.
  1. Even if your car has a USB input for audio, for some reason it’s very difficult to find a CD player with a digital USB output. Your choices are either non-portable computer drives or CD decks that you have to install, like the Automotive Integrated Electronics Integrated CD Player, which is expensive and doesn’t even play MP3 files (most audio books, for example).

Install a Whole New Stereo!

Can a CD Player be installed into a new car? Boy, you must really love your CDs! Don’t worry – so do I.

The answer is yes, but as much as I love CDs, and as many as I still have, I don’t think I would consider replacing my new car’s built in stereo system with one that has a CD player. 

For one thing, new cars’ audio systems are often pretty integrated into and with the car’s other functionality, including voice commands, navigation, steering wheel controls and such, and you may lose some or all of that – I would strongly recommend talking to your auto dealer before proceeding.

But mainly it is just a huge job – either a weekend of profanity, sweat, tears and several mild to severe electrical shocks or a pretty substantial installation fee from your friendly local car stereo dealer.

Or, if you’re like me, quite possibly both – the second immediately after the failed first.

That said, there are a few pretty brilliant new car stereo systems with CD players, and my favorites, at the budget, affordable premium and more high end levels, are:

Blaupunkt Beverly Hills – a cheap car stereo head unit with radio, CD player and lots of advanced functionality – well made and sounds great

Kenwood KDC-BT378U CD Car Stereo Receiver – an affordable stereo with CD that has fantastic sound, advanced tech and compatibility with Alexa and SiriusXM

Pioneer DEH-S110UB CD Player with RDS Tuner – for the audiophiles in the room, one of the finest sounding head units available, and with great technology and excellent vehicle integration

But before you start clicking away, you should keep in mind that the car stereo needs to be compatible with your particular car – mostly in terms of shape and size but in other ways as well – and you might want to start with a compatibility check.

Conclusion: What Is the Best Way to Play CDs in a New Car Without a CD Player?

You’ll notice that while I have included 8 different options on how to add a CD player to a car, I have really gone into detail with two of those options, and think they are the best choices overall.

That’s because, while all of them will work, the first two – using a wired connection or using Bluetooth wireless – are so easy, work so well and will give you really great sound. 

All you need is a portable CD player – I like the Oakcastle CD100, which will work for either – and the right cable if you’re going for the wired connection, and you’re good to go.

Any of the 8 options I’ve outlined here will work, though, and one of the others may be best for your particular situation, but the first two will let you fully enjoy all of your CDs in fantastic sound as cheaply and quickly as possible.