Many drivers rely on their phones for music and navigation. But if your phone is buried in a cupholder or resting on the passenger seat, it can be a dangerous distraction.
A dedicated mount can solve that problem by keeping a phone steady, visible, and within arm’s reach. Some clamp to the vents, others use magnets, and a few include adjustable arms.
Each design has its upsides and downsides, but how well do they work in reality? We examined hundreds of phone mounts and did in-depth testing with ten—and our favorite is the iOttie Easy One Touch(available at Amazon for $25.95), which mounts to your dashboard with a suction-cup.
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The large suction cup attached to the dashboard surface with gusto. The material quality is high and the design is both sturdy and highly adjustable. A pair of jaws snaps shut around your phone to keep it in place.
It’s not hard to get the phone just where you want it, and with the strong suction cup, it’s less likely to go flying in the event of an accident or abrupt stop.
A sticky gel pad in the suction cup explains the strong grip on surfaces. It works well and can be refreshed by rinsing with warm water. The widest device you can fit into the One Touch is 2.9” - think iPhone 8 Plus, which is 3.07” wide without a case.
Suction-cup mounts are our favorite, and they aren’t just for windshield mounting. As it turns out, they also work great when attached to the top of the dashboard. Flipping the mounting around this way also keeps the phone out of your line of sight. Not all dashboards have the right shape or design to make this possible, however.
Magnetic mounts push into the slats of an interior air vent. They are low-profile, but even a light phone kept falling off during normal driving. All also require the user to stick a metal plate to their phone or phone case. That can make a mess of the phone, block wireless charging, and possibly affect near-field communication.
Air-vent mounts are best avoided. Some user reviews report fast-wearing plastic leading to exposed metal prongs and interior damage. There are magnetic mounts that stick on the dash with adhesive, too. Users have reported the adhesive melting in summer heat, which makes a mess and leaves you with a useless mount. They’re inexpensive, but also less useful than you’d imagine.
Dashboard pads are weighted, and sit on your dashboard. They were the least secure of any style we tested, and also require your phone to be in landscape mode. For that reason, we also don’t recommend them.
You may not even need a mount! Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are often offered on new cars, and mirror your phone’s apps on your vehicle’s touchscreen.
Phone size keeps growing, and mounts need to get bigger, too. The mounts with jaws to grip the phones hold the most securely, but you’re not going to be able to cram a phablet in there. The magnetic mounts work with devices of any size, though you may need to use more than one to keep a large/heavy item in place.
No matter which design you choose, know that clever design ideas are often better in theory than in practice. You can use our review as a starting point, but as cars and phones are quite different from one another, it’s also important to read user reviews for a broader perspective.
Other Phone Car Mounts and Holders We Tested
Making use of the CD player slot to hold a smartphone is an ingenious idea. Even though many newer cars have eliminated the CD slot (and older cars never had it in the first place), this mount works well for plenty of users.
There’s one big caveat: You are at the mercy of the control layout designed in to your car. Some models have the audio system up high, others tuck it way down low. You may have problems with this mount interfering with the shifter (as was the case in an older Volvo we tested) or blocking other controls, too.
It’s also more of a look away from the road than with other mounts that put the phone up higher, and it’s not quite as stable. There’s not a lot of surface area due to the slim profile of the mount. It does use a jackscrew for tightening the two-piece design, but this Rube Goldberg approach is not going to work for everyone. There is also a slight risk of damage to your phone or the mount if you’re careless with the tightening screw.
The cradle has nice, cushioned jaws that are easy to adjust. It holds phones firmly—more tightly than the iOttie, in fact—and will fit phones from 1.9” to a big 3.7” wide. Unfortunately, its mounting arrangement lets it down.
This mount clamps to the slats of an interior air vent, There are two different tightness settings for the clamp so it will work with thicker and thinner slats and a ball-and-socket connection to the cradle.
You can block a lot of airflow and subject your phone to direct hot and cold if you can’t close the vent. Cars with protruding trim features may interfere with the mount. And some cars—like newer Audis—have no slats at all.
Even if it does fit, the mount it weighs down an assembly that was never designed for the task. On our test Ford, it flopped around, flexing—and blocking—a front-facing vent.
There are a lot of these small, disc-style magnet mounts selling under different brands and names, and we tested one of Amazon’s best-selling models.
The idea is attractive, but the reality can get ugly. A magnet must be strong enough to hold the phone, but weak enough to allow a phone to be easily removed. That leads to lots of dropping. This version sticks to the dashboard with foam tape, and some reviews complain about the adhesive melting in a hot interior, leaving behind a mess and a useless mount.
To use the magnetic mount, you must also stick a piece of metal to your phone or its case, or insert a metal plate into your phone’s case—which interferes with wireless charging. If your phone-case combo is light enough, however, it’s hard to argue with this mount’s ease of use.
The fingers of these mounts may not grip the air vent slats very tightly, requiring lots of re-adjustment. User reviews complain about metal tines poking through the plastic covering and scratching interior plastics.
This cradle is the least secure of all the models we tested. It sits atop the dashboard and holds the phone horizontally. It requires assembly out of the box, and while the materials and quality are good, it’s a fiddly device. It blocks some visibility sitting on the dashboard, and it will go flying if you take a corner quickly.
With the limited display height in widescreen format, it’s also harder to use a smartphone when it’s horizontally-oriented—and some apps only work in vertical mode. That means you’ll be taking the phone out of the holder a lot or fiddling with it longer than is safe.
After narrowing down a dizzying array of mounts based on user reviews, Fakespot warnings,and sales rankings, we ordered 10 popular mounts for testing.
Once they arrived, we examined them for out-of-the-box build quality and ease of use, and narrowed down our list to the six best models.
Then, we scored units for build quality, ease of installation, phone fit, mount security, whether or not a modification to the case or phone are required, and the tendency to block outward visibility. User reviews were also taken into account.
Finally, we tried them in several different vehicles, including a 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee, a 1999 Ford Crown Victoria, and a 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander, driving at least 100 miles with each mount selected for testing. A selection of phones were also used, including an iPhone 8, an iPhone 6, and a Motorola XT1030 (Droid Mini).
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.