Sirius Radio or SiriusXM is the top satellite radio provider in the United States. With a wide range of new vehicles featuring car radios that support SiriusXM, this service is rapidly growing in popularity.
However, you don’t need a brand new car to enjoy everything SiriusXM has to offer.
Read on to learn more about the satellite radio provider and how you can get Sirius radio in your car.
- What is Satellite Radio?
- Get SiriusXM in Your Car
- Is Your Car Radio Compatible?
- Getting Started with SiriusXM
- How to Find Your Radio ID or Car VIN
- How to Refresh Your Vehicle Radio
- Choosing a SiriusXM Plan
- How to Activate a SiriusXM Subscription with a Used Vehicle
- How to Get Sirius Radio if Your Car Radio Can’t Get a Satellite Signal
- Method #1: FM Modulators
- Method #2: SiriusXM Satellite Radios
- Method# 3: Upgrade Your Car Radio
- Method #4: Listening to SiriusXM with Your Phone
- Wrapping Up…
What is Satellite Radio?
SiriusXM broadcasts radio signals from its main location in Washington D.C. A total of four satellites bounce this signal and transmit it to receivers located in cars and home stereos.
SiriusXM uses four Boeing satellites which have been given the nicknames Rock, Roll, Rhythm, and Blues in a nod to the diverse music programming available.
While traditional radio waves typically travel over a distance of 30 to 40 miles, there are no limits to where satellite transmissions can reach. Moreover, satellite radio delivers higher quality audio that isn’t dependent on your environment.
Another advantage is that there is no static, and obstacles like hills or tall buildings can’t block the radio waves.
With over 34 million subscribers, SiriusXM is a successful company. This is partly driven by the fact that most new cars come with a radio that can receive this satellite. Still, drivers also appreciate having access to a broad range of radio stations.
Traditional radio stations can feel limited in their programming. There are over 15,000 radio stations in the US, but drivers in rural areas might have access to a small selection that doesn’t cater to niche tastes.
With more than 150 channels, SiriusXM caters to a wider range of musical tastes and moods, as well as channels dedicated to news, stand-up comedy, or live sports. And the best part is that all these channels are free of commercials.
How to Get SiriusXM in Your Car
Getting SiriusXM in your car is easy. In most cases, you’ll qualify for a SiriusXM free trial so you can test the service out and decide if the subscription is worth it.
Is Your Car Radio Compatible?
Automobile manufacturers started offering car radios compatible with SiriusXM in 2004. While only a few models came with this feature, nearly all new cars produced today come with a radio that supports satellite channels. (1)
SiriusXM has a convenient online tool you can use to enter the make and model of your vehicle to see if your radio is compatible.
Besides that online tool, you can often tell if your car radio is compatible because it will feature a SiriusXM logo. You might see this logo underneath the radio or have a SiriusXM button that you need to press to switch to satellite radio.
Some car radios don’t feature the SiriusXM logo, but do have a SAT button. You can press this button to activate the satellite mode and start receiving SiriusXM channels.
If you’re in doubt, take a look at the owner’s manual for your vehicle. There should be an entire section dedicated to the infotainment system with details regarding satellite radio.
Should your car radio not receive satellite signals, there are other ways to listen to SiriusXM in your car that we’ll discuss later.
Getting Started with SiriusXM
Once you’ve established that your car radio can receive a satellite signal, your next step should be to create an account with SiriusXM.
- Visit the SiriusXM website. You should see a blue button on the homepage that you can click to start creating a new account.
- After clicking this button, SiriusXM will take you to a new page with the details of the free trial offer. Click Continue.
- On the next screen, SiriusXM will ask you to enter your car information. You can enter your radio ID, car VIN, or license plate. We’ll discuss how to find your Radio ID or car VIN below.
- You can also opt to create an account without connecting it to a car. You can choose this option to stream satellite radio online or to connect your account to a vehicle later.
- During the next step, you’ll have to enter your billing information. Note that SiriusXM uses a subscription model and will bill the payment method you entered once a month.
- You’ll get to review your order and complete the purchase. SiriusXM will send you a confirmation email.
Note that SiriusXM sometimes has special offers available to new car owners. If you just got a new car, you might get a special offer in the mail or receive a flier at the dealership. Either of these will have a unique URL you can visit to create your account. What’s more, you might qualify for a lower rate or an extended free trial by using the URL.
How to Find Your Radio ID or Car VIN
You’ll need to locate your Radio ID or car VIN when activating your SiriusXM subscription. The satellite radio provider needs this information to authenticate your vehicle and confirm that there is an active subscription associated with it.
Finding your Radio ID
The easiest way to find your Radio ID is to use the channel dial and set it to 0. Once you do, the radio display should show your Radio ID. You can then write it down and go online to add it to your SiriusXM account.
If this method doesn’t work, there are a few alternatives you can try:
- Press the Menu button on your car radio and look for an option called Sirius or SiriusXM. Navigate to Settings or Advanced settings and you should see your Radio ID.
- Press the Sirius button or SAT button on your radio and look for the Options menu. If you have a section called Manage subscription, you should be able to find your Radio ID by selecting this option.
- Open the Settings menu on your car radio and look for the SAT section. Navigate to SAT info and you should see your Radio ID.
- In some vehicles, you can open the Audio menu, select SatRadio, and look for an option called Service to locate your Radio ID.
- Some older cars will display your Radio ID if you press the Sirius, SAT, or ESN button for three seconds.
Finding Your VIN
If you can’t find your Radio ID, your best avenue is to use your VIN instead. Your VIN or Vehicle Identification Number is a unique code with 17 numbers tied to your vehicle.
You can use the VIN to find a car history report if you’re buying a used vehicle. You’ll also need this number to register your vehicle or purchase insurance.
- You can find your VIN by standing outside of the vehicle and looking at the dashboard on the driver’s side. There should be a small sticker where the dashboard meets the windshield with your VIN that you can read from outside of the vehicle.
- You can also find the VIN by opening the driver’s side door. There should be a small sticker on the door jamb.
- Your VIN should be on the title for your car.
- Check your insurance card or insurance policy since your VIN should be on these documents.
How to Refresh Vehicle Your Radio
You should start receiving a satellite signal as soon as you activate your SiriusXM free trial or purchase a subscription. However, if you don’t start receiving the signal right away, you may need to refresh your radio. Refreshing your radio can also clear different issues with reception.
When you refresh your radio, one of the SiriusXM satellites will ping the receiver in your car and send a refresh signal. The refresh signal will ensure that your radio has access to the latest information for your subscription and is receiving the current channel lineup.
You’ll need to visit the SiriusXM website and navigate to the Refresh Radio page. There are two ways of refreshing your radio:
- You can enter your Radio ID, the VIN for your car, or the phone number you used when you created your account and click on Send Refresh Signal. Make sure that you have set your radio to SAT or SiriusXM.
- This first method will only work if you are near your vehicle. If you don’t have access to your car, you can text ‘Refresh’ to 77917. You’ll receive a text message with a link. Once you’re in your vehicle, set your radio to SAT or SiriusXM and open this link to start the process.
Refreshing your radio should be the last step you have to complete as part of the registration process. If you’re still not getting a signal after sending the refresh signal, try sending the signal a second time.
If you’re still unable to get a signal, your best option is to reach out to the SiriusXM help and support team.
Choosing a SiriusXM Plan
SiriusXM often offers free trials to new vehicle owners. As well, you can sometimes get promotional offers with special pricing for your first three months.
These are usually available for the Platinum subscription tier. If you use one of the offers to start listening, SiriusXM will bill you automatically for a Platinum subscription at the end of the free trial.
However, you can log into your SiriusXM account before the free trial or promotional offer ends and select a different plan. Note that you can change your plan at any time if you want a different subscription.
SiriusXM offers a total of six different plans. Three of these give you access to satellite radio in your vehicle and to online streaming. Other plans cost less, but they are limited to streaming.
- The most popular plan is the Platinum subscription tier. It gives you access to more than 425 channels and is the most comprehensive plan.
- The Music & Entertainment plan is a little more affordable. However, you get fewer channels (around 400) and won’t be able to listen to NFL, MLB, or NBA games or access personalized Pandora stations.
- The Music Showcase plan is the more affordable subscription tier. You’ll get over 100 channels, but this plan is less diverse since you won’t get news, comedy, or sports channels.
How to Activate a SiriusXM Subscription with a Used Vehicle
You can follow the steps outlined above to get Sirius radio in a used vehicle. You won’t qualify for the promotional offers that some new car owners get, but you should be eligible for a free trial if you’re a first-time subscriber.
However, things can be complicated if the previous owner still has an active subscription. It’s something you should discuss during the sale of the vehicle since the previous owner will want to cancel their subscription or transfer it to their new vehicle.
If the previous owner canceled their subscription, the service should end within a month depending on when their last billing date was. After it ends, you’ll be able to create an account with SiriusXM and start your subscription.
The previous owner can also choose to keep their subscription and transfer it to a different vehicle. They’ll have to contact the SiriusXM customer service team and pay a $15 transfer fee. Once they have completed this step, you should stop receiving service in your used vehicle and can sign up for a new account.
If you can’t get in touch with the previous owner of the vehicle, you should reach out to the SiriusXM customer service team and explain your situation. You’ll have to prove that you’re the new owner of the vehicle.
How to Get Sirius Radio if Your Car Radio Can’t Get a Satellite Signal
Not all car radios can receive satellite signals. While it’s a common feature in new vehicles, satellite radio was only available on luxury models in the early 2000s.
Sirius launched in 2002 and was originally available on select GM, Honda, and Toyota models. If you have a used car from before 2002, your car radio won’t be able to get a satellite signal. (2)
However, there are still ways of getting SiriusXM in your car.
Method #1: FM Modulators
FM modulators are devices that send a radio signal to your car radio. You can find wireless models that you can plug into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter, but you can also opt for a wired model that a professional will hardwire to your car stereo.
Wired models cost more, but you’ll get much better sound quality since there is a direct connection with the radio while wireless FM modulators may pick up noise when transmitting.
An FM modulator alone won’t allow you to listen to satellite radio, but it’s a component you might need to listen to SiriusXM via your phone or a satellite receiver.
Method #2: SiriusXM Satellite Radios
SiriusXM offers satellite radios that you can use to upgrade a car radio or listen to satellite radio channels at home or on the go.
There are currently three different models available:
- Onyx EZR is the most affordable option.
- Onyx Plus comes with a larger interface with navigation that feels more modern. Costs a little more, but the improved navigation is useful for not taking your eyes off the road.
- SiriusXM Tour most expensive, but it comes with a different digital interface. It’s a more versatile radio since it also supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity for streaming.
These three radios come with a vehicle kit you can use to mount them. Although they act as a satellite receiver, you’ll listen to audio via your car’s radio or stereo system via the AUX input.
If you have an older vehicle that doesn’t have an AUX input option, you can use the FM PowerConnect feature to have your SiriusXM radio double up as an FM modulator that will transmit a signal to one of your car’s FM channels.
You can also hardwire your SiriusXM directly to your FM antenna to get higher audio quality. You’ll need a separate accessory, the SiriusXM wired FM direct adapter kit. It might be best to get help from a professional installer since you’ll have to open your dashboard to access the FM antenna.
Method #3: Upgrade Your Car Radio
If you have an older vehicle, you should consider upgrading your car radio with a new model. You can shop around for car radios to find a model with a built-in satellite receptor.
Installing a new car stereo is something you can do yourself if you have the right tools. You’ll typically have to remove the fasteners securing the trim around your car radio so you can pull the old stereo out and install the new one.
Method #4: Listening to SiriusXM with Your Phone
You can get Sirius radio on your phone thanks to the SiriusXM app. With this approach, you can listen to your favorite satellite channels on the go with a cheaper subscription since you only need a streaming plan to listen on your phone.
You can use your phone to listen to satellite radio in your car by connecting your phone to your car stereo via an AUX cord. If you have an older vehicle that doesn’t have an AUX input, you can install an FM modulator to listen to audio from your phone.
The downside of using your phone to listen to SiriusXM is that you can quickly go through your monthly data plan if you don’t have unlimited data. Reception and audio quality can also vary depending on where you live.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Sirius Radio
Here are a few additional things to know about SiriusXM.
Can you get Sirius radio in more than one vehicle?
You can’t listen to SiriusXM in more than one vehicle if you’re using a free trial. However, you can add radios to your account once you get a paid subscription.
Bear in mind that you will have to contact the SiriusXM customer service team to do so. Depending on how many radios you add, you might be able to get a discount.
Can you listen to SiriusXM online?
All SiriusXM subscription tiers give you access to online streaming. You can listen to satellite channels at home or on the go by visiting the SiriusXM website or downloading the app. Smart TVs and smart speakers also support SiriusXM.
Can you transfer your subscription to a new vehicle?
You can transfer your subscription to a new vehicle by contacting the SiriusXM customer service team and paying a $15 transfer fee. However, you should think about canceling your old subscription and creating a new account since you might be able to get a free trial with your new vehicle.
Getting SiriusXM in your car is easy. Once you’ve created an account and purchased a subscription or redeemed a special offer, you’ll have to enter your Radio ID or car’s VIN to activate your account.
You should start receiving a satellite signal in your vehicle after completing these steps, but you might have to refresh your radio.