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Video systems help the miles pass faster

Drive-time movies can entertain even the most antsy passenger

Published: January 2011

In-car video has become increasingly popular in recent years, as more families discover DVDs and games to keep passengers entertained while traveling. As anyone with kids can attest, these entertainment devices can be a godsend on long trips or even during everyday use.

While earlier systems were VHS videotape players, virtually all modern systems use DVD players. A typical installed system—whether aftermarket or a new-car option—lets rear-seat passengers watch movies on one or more LCD screens, play video games, plug in a portable music player, or listen to a separate audio source through the car's audio system.

For buyers on a budget, you can also get a portable DVD player that can be used in any vehicle. You can buy a system that's specifically designed for in-car use. Or you can get a tabletop unit designed to be used anywhere, and buy an aftermarket mount for in-car use. In addition, in-car satellite TV is beginning to make inroads. And some aftermarket car-stereo systems are now including video screens that allow a user to watch videos from an iPod or other personal music player.

 

How to choose

 

Built-in or portable?

If you expect to be using an in-car entertainment system a lot in one vehicle, then a built-in system is the way to go. It's easier to use, usually provides more features and flexibility, and you won't have the hassle of installing and removing the unit frequently. On the other hand, if it's something you will only use occasionally or would like to use outside the car, a portable DVD player is much less expensive. Just make sure it's properly secured when driving.

If you're buying a new SUV or minivan, consider getting the automaker's system. It keeps things simple, gives you the major features and functionality, and can be competitively priced compared with professionally installed aftermarket systems. A factory system is covered by your warranty, and the kids can start watching movies on the way home from the dealership. Even if you're buying used, you can often find a vehicle with one installed. On the other hand, if you want a custom installation or more features, you should leave the option box unchecked and have an aftermarket system installed.

Satellite TV or not?

This service is still new, and the choices are limited. Backseat TV service from Sirius can keep your kids occupied with three networks for children. But if you want a wider variety of programming, you'll have to buy a much more expensive system and carry an antenna on your roof.

   

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