Why is DAB radio important for car buyers?

  • Find out more on the benefits of DAB radio and why you should consider it
  • Your car will be worth more if it has digital radio built in
  • Plans for digital switchover will be announced at the end of the year

After completing a successful Digital TV switchover last year, the government will be announcing plans for radio’s move to digital at the end of the year.

Radio is, for many of us, our main form of entertainment while out on the road, so it is important to be up to speed with the switchover plans and what it could mean if it goes ahead.

Why Digital?

Digital radio is regarded by many as the radio platform of the future and many channels have already migrated over.

It will be more efficient than analogue because it will open up more space on the airwaves and offer better choice for listeners.

Below are some of the main benefits;

  • Hiss and crackle-free sound
  • Easy to tune
  • On-screen information, so you can find out what’s playing and who the DJ is
  • Pause and rewind functions so you don’t have to miss a thing
  • Some digital radios let you record your favourite programmes
  • An Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) on some digital radios lets you plan your listening up to seven days in advance

For the Government to announce actual dates for the switchover, digital needs to hold at least a 50% share of all radio listening hours and have at least 90% of local coverage. At the beginning of the year this was charting at 32% overall listening hours. In-car DAB will be key to help provide the extra 18% needed and is widely expected to be reached by 2015.

After this threshold is met, there will be at least two years notice given before the switch date, giving plenty of time to prepare.

In-car DAB Radio

When it comes to buying a new car, adding DAB to your ‘must have’ list is worth considering as more and more stations are migrating across to the digital platform and you could leave yourself limited to what you can listen to.

Equally important, it could harm your car's resale value if it is not included, especially when the switchover goes ahead as a car is going to be worth more if it has DAB digital radio built in.

At the end of March, 35.4% of new cars offer digital radio as standard, an increase from 22.5% in 2012. If the car you are looking to buy doesn’t include DAB as standard, prices can vary greatly, sometimes proving quite expensive, to add as an option.

Below is a look at some of the biggest UK car manufacturers and the cars they offer with DAB technology as standard.

Vauxhall - Adam, Astra, Astra GTC, Insignia, Cascada, Mokka, Ampera and Zafira Tourer

Ford - All B-MAX models, Fiesta (from Titanium up), Focus (from Zetec up) all C-Max/Grand C-Max, Kuga (from Titanium up), S-MAX (from Titanium up) and Galaxy (from Titanium up)

BMW - All models 

Audi - All models

Volkswagen - All models except Up

Peugeot - 208, 2008

Nissan - None

Mercedes-Benz - C-Class Coupe, CLS Coupe, CLS Shooting Brake, E-Class Saloon, E-Class Estate/Coupe/Cabriolet, GL-Class and SLK-Class

Hyundai - None

Toyota - Prius, Prius plug-in, Rav4 (from Icon grade upwards), Auris (from Icon grade upwards), Verso (from Icon grade upwards), Landcruiser V8 and Avensis on T4 and T Spirit grades

Volvo - All models

Buying used?

Despite new cars offering DAB as standard, there are around 25 million cars on the road that will need converting before the switchover takes place.  At the moment there are three options to convert to DAB:

  • Buy a 'Plug and play' DAB adaptor, which fixes to your windscreen like a sat nav. These are usually cheaper to buy and shouldn’t cost more than £100
  • The second option is a more integrated adapter that can be completely hidden from view and controlled through the steering wheel, prices vary around the £100-£150 mark.
  • The third option is to replace the whole car stereo making it fully integrated into your car whilst adding other functions like iPod / iPhone, Smartphone, USB, Bluetooth, Hands Free and other connectivity.  The price of the new stereo varies greatly dependant on the make you are after and whether you go to a workshop or dealer.