Best Ways to Play CDs in New Cars with No Built-in CD Player

Most, if not all, cars that came out of assembly lines in the last 4 to 5 years no longer have CD players. Instead, newer automobiles’ A/V systems are now equipped with Bluetooth, USB ports, and other more advanced music and video players. We’ll talk more about this later.

Yet, there are still many people who prefer listening to their huge collection of music and audiobook CDs. Perhaps, you are one of them? 

Whatever your reason is for holding on to those compact discs, we have no right to judge or persuade you to change your mind. But we are here to help.

play CDs in new cars with no CD player built in - featured image

Don’t let the lack of a CD player in your car cause you to give up listening to your favorite music or podcast on the go. Potential solutions include installing an aftermarket CD player, Bluetooth connection, a 3.5mm jack, FM Transmitter, or downloading music onto your phone or portable USB.

Let’s explore those possibilities, shall we?

Why New Cars Don’t Offer Built-in CD Players

Look around the music section of any bookstore, and it’s obvious that the way we listen to music has changed over time. We have gone from radio to vinyl records to 8-track or cassette tapes and Compact Discs or CDs. Sometimes technology is rendered obsolete long before we can adjust and say farewell. It’s no different from how we listen to music in the car.

Most new cars today do not come with built-in CD players anymore. As technology progresses, automobile accessories adjust to what the manufacturer offers in new vehicles. With options like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, digital music formats, Bluetooth connections, portable USB drives, or touch-screen media centers take the place of where the CD player used to sit on the dash. 

With all of these options, car manufacturers found it more practical to stop adding CD players to cars.

What Replaces the CD Player in Newer Cars?

Don’t worry. You don’t have to suffer in silence on every new drive from here on out. There are many ways to listen to your beloved shiny music records without a CD player. Let’s discuss ways to play CDs in new cars with no built-in CD player.

The most feasible options include the following: 

  • Portable CD player with Bluetooth connection
  • Portable CD player with USB
  • Portable CD player with 3.5mm Jack (if the car has AUX audio input)
  • Portable CD player with FM transmitter
  • Convert CDs to MP3
  • A new aftermarket car stereo with a CD player

Determining which method works best for you will depend on several factors. Mainly, the features that are most important to you. For instance:

  • Is cost the bottom line factor?
  • Or is it more about convenience for you?
  • Additionally, your options will rest on what audio jacks, SD Cards, or USB ports are available in your vehicle.

7 Best Options for Playing Your CDs in Your Car Without a Built-in CD Player

The following solutions are the best options we could offer to those who still want to hold on to their CD collection and enjoy them inside their motor vehicles. Even though this form of media is already replaced with newer technologies, there are still people that like listening to music albums that became their constant companions in their daily drive over the years.

So, here are our humble suggestions:

1. Portable CD Player

play CDs in new cars with no CD player built-in -  portable CD player

As the name implies, a portable CD player is a device not built in and can be carried around from spot to spot. When your vehicle does not have a built-in CD player, a portable CD player is a fast and easy method for playing CDs on board. However, finding one could be challenging since technology gets phased out as it progresses.

As convenient as they are, portable CD players do have a few drawbacks. Don’t expect crisp, high-quality sound from a portable CD player. Portable CD player makers like GPX, MonoBook, Insignia, ByronStatics, Monodeal, or Hott provide decent players. Still, no mobile unit will compare with the sound you’d get with a built-in Sony, Blaupunkt, Klipsch, or Bose system.

Also, a portable CD player will be an additional expense on your part, unless you own one already. Plus, a portable CD player will take up space inside the car and requires some form of external power source, such as batteries.

Before using a portable CD player, consider how you will connect the Player to your car’s speakers. Also, mount or secure the portable CD player inside the vehicle, so it doesn’t move around or become a projectile object during a sudden stop or accident.

Portable CD players come in various styles that offer connections to the automobile stereo system. Choose from portable CD players with multiple connection types:

  • Bluetooth Connection
  • USB Connection
  • 3.5mm Jack
  • FM Transmitter

2. Portable CD Player with Bluetooth Connection

Bluetooth connection symbol

Most newer vehicles come equipped with Bluetooth capability. Bluetooth offers an easy-to-use wireless connection. No need to fumble around looking for the correct cable or jack. If your car has Bluetooth options, get a Bluetooth-enabled portable CD player.

Connecting to Bluetooth may vary depending on the specific makes and models of both the CD player and the vehicle. So, always double-check the pairing procedure in the car and the product manual.

While the pairing process may differ slightly in terms of how to find the menu on the CD player and the car stereo system, generally speaking, to pair Bluetooth:

  1. Turn on the CD player.
  2. Insert a CD
  3. Activate/Enable Bluetooth on your CD player
  4. Activate/Enable Bluetooth on your car’s stereo
  5. Select PAIRING. Once the device is in pairing mode, it will make Bluetooth devices discoverable to detect on your portable CD player menu and your car audio system.
  6. Look in the list of AVAILABLE DEVICES on the CD player Bluetooth menu. The Car Audio System should show up listed in the AVAILABLE DEVICES section on the CD player’s Bluetooth menu.
  7. If setting up through the car’s stereo, find your Player’s name and then hit Pair.
  8. You will see a verification message when the connection is successful and complete. When Bluetooth is connected, the Bluetooth symbol often changes slightly.
  9. Press PLAY on your CD player

Depending on the model, you may need to look in the AVAILABLE DEVICES section on the Car Audio System to find your Player.

You may also need to enter a passkey or verify if the passkey displayed matches both devices.

When pairing is complete, the Car Audio System and phone or other Bluetooth playback devices will remember each other’s Bluetooth information. This makes future setups easier since they can now automatically connect with each other.

Tips for Bluetooth Connections:

  • If you have one active Bluetooth connection, it will replace the previous connection when you connect another device.
  • Before the Car Audio system can detect a new device, you must disconnect the Bluetooth device from the Car Audio System.
  • Multiple Bluetooth device pairing information will store up to a certain number in your Bluetooth list, then the oldest one on the list gets deleted.
  • A time window for pairing usually allows only a few minutes. If you miss the window, enable pairing mode again.
  • If you cannot find the Car Audio System in the Bluetooth device list on your CD player menu, disable it quickly and enable your Player’s Bluetooth to refresh the list. Or, completely deactivate and reactivate Bluetooth on the Player.
  • If your playback device supports a profile called A2DP Advanced Audio Distribution Profile, listen to music through the Car Audio. However, you must select BLUETOOTH in the music source list or choose AM/FM radio or CD.
  • If the Bluetooth continues not to pair correctly, try deleting the pairing information on the Car Audio unit or phone and restart the pairing process.

3. Portable CD Player with USB

portable CD player with USB port - play CDs in new car with no CD player built in

USB, short for Universal Serial Bus, connects short-distance digital data communications. USB ports allow USB devices to connect to transfer digital data over a cable. If your vehicle offers a USB port option, choose a CD player with a USB port, and plug in the USB connection to the port.

Before choosing a USB CD player, ensure it is compatible with your vehicle’s stereo system. Also, make sure you use a compatible USB type and speed.

USB types include:

  • USB-A
  • USB-B
  • USB-B Mini
  • USB-B Micro
  • USB-C
  • Lightning

 USB connections also come in various speeds:

  • USB 1.1
  • USB 2.0
  • USB 3.2 Gen 1
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2×2
  • USB 4 Gen 2×2
  • USB 4 Gen 3×2

4. Portable CD Player with 3.5mm Jack

portable CD player with 3.5mm AUX jack

A 3.5mm jack is a small metal plug that was once common for electronic devices like the old iPhones before Apple discontinued the open port. The 3.5mm size is still the standard jack on most earbuds or headphones, except wireless types of course, that connect through Bluetooth. 

Some cars offer a 3.5mm jack to connect external devices. A portable CD player with a 3.5mm jack only works if the car has AUX audio inputs. Although, an audio jack auxiliary input has already been phased out in some car media players too.

But, if your vehicle has such a jack, you can easily plug in the CD player to start listening to music. Follow these step-by-step instructions for hooking a portable CD player to your car’s stereo system.

  1. Turn on the CD player
  2. Insert your favorite CD
  3. Plug one end of the 3.5mm jack cable into the portable CD player and the other into your car’s aux port
  4. Choose the AUX input on your car’s stereo
  5. Press PLAY on the CD player

5. Portable CD Player with FM Transmitter

Several portable CD players have an FM transmitter capability that connects to the car stereo. The CD player broadcasts an FM signal that the car stereo picks up.

Using an FM transmitter method provides a cordless and relatively easy setup. The only downside is that if you travel outside of the signal range, you may need to search for a new frequency. This happens when you drive far away from the local stations.

Use a portable CD player with an FM transmitter by following these steps:

  1. Turn on the car radio.
  2. Search for an FM station that transmits only static
  3. Tune your portable CD player to the static-transmitting station
  4. Your car’s stereo will display the FM radio station using the portable CD player as the music source.

6. Convert CDs to MP3

One method that doesn’t require any adapters or cables, buying expensive equipment, or permanently altering the car’s aesthetics is to convert the CDs to a digital file format. While this option won’t technically allow you to insert and play actual CDs, it will let you continue enjoying your favorite music on the go, albeit in a different form.

CD ripping, also called DAE (Digital Audio Extraction), extracts raw digital audio from Compact Discs and converts them to a standard computer file. Find an application that allows you to rip or transfer a CD’s content to MP3, WAV, or whatever other digital formats you prefer.

Use a computer with a disc drive to download CD-ripping software and copy your favorite CDs into digital files that can be stored on your phone, SD card, or USB flash drive. Once the songs are in digital format, it’s easy to connect to play through the car’s stereo using an aux input, USB, flash drive, or Bluetooth.

Note: Ensure you don’t violate copyright laws when copying the music from CD to digital format. Usually, no legal implications apply to ripping a CD you own so long as you hang onto the original and you don’t produce copies for commercial distribution.

While MP3 is a trendy format and the one we highly recommend, you still have other options.

7. Install a New Car Stereo with a CD Player

install a new car stereo with CD player

If all else fails, but you cannot live without a CD player built into your car, consider installing a new car stereo with a CD player.

Installing an aftermarket CD player is among the more costly solutions. Not only will you pay for the player, but installing it can be a hassle. You may even need to hire a professional car electrician to do it. 

It will also require modifications to the vehicle, risking compatibility issues and the possibility of the unit not fitting into the built-in stereo system’s slot, which may even devalue your car. However, if your new car came with a less-than-top-of-the-line stereo system, you could get better audio by upgrading to a new stereo system with a CD player.

Be sure to look for a compatible stereo system that works well with your car and looks nice on the dashboard. The next step is making sure it will be installed properly.

In the end, installing an aftermarket CD player will provide you with a solution that doesn’t require cables, adapters, or other connections to listen to your favorite CDs.


1. Do portable CD players still exist?

Yes, portable CD players still exist. However, like other technology that gets outdated with the arrival of new ones, they may be more challenging to find than they used to be. If you have trouble finding a portable CD player but still have an old laptop hanging around with a CD drive, it can be adapted for car use.

2. Why are there no CD players in new cars?

As technology progresses, automobile accessories adjust to what the manufacturer offers in new vehicles. Since there are several digital media options for listening to music, most carmakers choose to eliminate the unnecessary bulk of adding a CD player. Besides, most consumers today prefer to just download music or listen to them online, rather than buying CDs.

3. Can you add a CD player to a new car?

Yes, you can add an aftermarket CD player to most new vehicles. In many cases, you can have it retrofitted to your new car or install it yourself.

Playing CDs in New Cars With No CD Player Built-in is Still Possible!

We provided several solutions for the best ways to play CDs in new cars with no built-in CD player. This information will give you many hours of uninterrupted listening pleasure while driving. So, you can still hold on to your CD collection for much longer!

If our technical troubleshooting advice helps you in any way, we would love to hear from you. Please share your comments below.

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