The conventional wisdom says that driving and talking on your handheld mobile phone at the same time is a bad idea. You might be surprised to learn, however, that despite the controversy surrounding the dangers of distracted driving, there are presently just six states with outright bans on handheld phone use.
Even if your state doesn't have restrictions, it's probably a good idea to buy yourself a Bluetooth headset anyway. The priciest Best Reviewed model in our August 2009 update, the Plantronics Voyager Pro, retails for around $100, but as our full report details, you can spend as little as $30 and still get a good headset. The ability to keep both hands on the wheel while talking (if you must talk at all) is well worth the investment, and if you drive a car with a manual gearbox, it's an even better idea. Plus, once you have your headset, you can use it in multiple cars. Just remember to keep it charged, and don't leave it in your pants when you throw them in the laundry. (That last warning comes from personal experience.)
If you're in the market for a new car, however, another option is available to you: in-vehicle Bluetooth integration. These setups are usually slick, with wheel-mounted controls and clear audio using the car stereo speakers. Be forewarned, however: it can get costly. We looked at some of the current Best Reviewed and Runner Up vehicles to see just how much their Bluetooth features would set you back. The answers are a little astounding.
You'd think that Bluetooth integration in the BMW 3 Series would be part of a costly option package, and you'd be right. We checked all variants (coupe, sedan, wagon, and convertible) of the BMW 328i, and Bluetooth is part of the Premium Package, which ranges from $2,750 to $3,350. Fortunately, BMW offers Bluetooth-and-iPod connectivity as a separate $750 standalone option as well.
Porsche is known for expensive options ($905 painted A/C vents, anyone?), but when it comes to Bluetooth integration, the Boxster undercuts the Bimmer at $695. On a muscular note, Bluetooth is included in the Chevy Camaro 1LT's $760 Convenience and Connectivity package. (Bluetooth is standard on the Camaro 2LT and Camaro 2SS coupes.)
As family cars go, Honda offers Bluetooth as a $507 option on all Accord sedan models up to the EX-V6. Above that, it's standard equipment. If you're thinking of a Nissan Altima 2.5 S, however, hang onto your wallet. Bluetooth is part of the $1,240 Connection Package, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. If you select the Connection Package, you must also buy splash guards ($135), the Convenience Package ($1,050), and the Convenience Plus Package ($1,100). That's a grand total of $3,525.
Suddenly, dropping a hundred bucks on a regular Bluetooth headset doesn't seem like such a bad idea.