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Can You Add Apple CarPlay to a Car?

Woman inside luxury car with Apple CarPlay system and apps on digital dashboard.

Almost every vehicle manufacturer in the world either supports Apple CarPlay or plans to introduce it in the future. In fact, at the moment, more than 600 car models come with the functionality as part of their infotainment systems. CarPlay is one of the safest ways to use your iPhone while driving.

This will allow you to send messages, make calls, and pull up directions. The good thing about CarPlay is you can add it to any car. Let’s deep dive into the various methods you can add CarPlay on your vehicle.

Installing CarPlay in Older Car Models

Car Play on the multimedia system with Google Maps on the screen.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort and time to install CarPlay if you have an iPhone and a car that supports it. All you need to do is start the car, turn on Siri and connect your phone to the vehicle. Once that’s done, Siri will do the rest.

Some vehicles even come with a voice command button on the steering wheel. Such instinctive controls make it so that you don’t get distracted while you drive. Most newer models of vehicles support Apple Carplay wirelessly.

However, if you are using an older model, you may need a USB cable. If you use a USB cable and you still don’t have CarPlay, then it may be possible that your car doesn’t have it. The next step will be to figure out a way to add it.

Here are some ways to achieve that.

Replace Your Vehicle’s Head Unit

Woman driving a Skoda Octavia Czech car with CarPlay from Apple.

One of the easiest ways to get CarPlay on your vehicle is to replace the head unit. Older head units, especially those that support disks and cassettes, will not have CarPlay. Fortunately, there are several aftermarket head units that accommodate advanced functionality.

Replacing the head unit will not only make your vehicle compatible with CarPlay, but it will also enable you to maximize other modern features like integrated multimedia systems and reverse cameras. It’s important to note that not all head units will work with any car. So why you might be familiar with older head units:

It might be best to take your car to a professional if you want to add the right modern head unit. They will do all the work and ensure all connections are made properly.

Check Out OEM Retrofit Kits

Apple CarPlay app on iPhone X, smart mobile application connected to Honda car.

Apple CarPlay came to cars in 2014. Most major vehicle manufacturers have highlighted how it has transformed your driving experience. For this reason, more vehicle manufacturers are coming up with OEM retrofit kits which can enable you to maximize CarPlay even if you have an older model.

While this has become a common option, not all vehicle manufacturers offer retrofit kits. Nevertheless, you can still ask local car experts if your vehicle has one. The good thing about OEM retrofit kits is that you may not even have to replace the entire stereo to accommodate CarPlay.

You may just need to do a simple software upgrade in some instances. Once that’s done, you will be able to activate the app. As you may have imagined, this will cost less than getting a new head unit.

Maximize Bluetooth Connectivity

Phone connection in new automobile for gadget installation

Although a professional installer will readily provide various options that enable you to use CarPlay in your vehicle, if the car is too old, you may not be able to replace the head unit or get an OEM retrofit kit. However, as long as the car accommodates Bluetooth connectivity, you won’t miss much. While CarPlay lets you answer calls and read messages without touching your phone, you may also be able to use basic features like playing music through the speakers and connecting maps without it. 

Even if the car doesn’t have Bluetooth, you can still play music through a wired connection. All you need is a cable that allows you to connect your phone’s headphone jack to the stereo’s aux port. This will enable you to use the car’s speakers.

This just goes to show how you don’t really need to invest all your money in the newest model car for you to enjoy the benefits that come with CarPlay. With a few tweaks, your older model car can also benefit from the future of smart car apps. 

Setting up Apple CarPlay via USB

Car entertainment display inside all new Kia Picanto, compact city car.

To set up CarPlay using USB, all you need to do is plug your phone into the car’s USB-A, This connection needs a Lightning cable. Before you do this, make sure the ignition is on. You must also make sure that the display is switched on.

As soon as you open CarPlay, your mobile device and vehicle should communicate automatically. If not, check if your car has a dedicated CarPlay or iPhone button or control. If your phone is locked, it will ask if you want to enable it to use CarPlay.

All you need to do is tap allow, and it will ask you if you also want to enable WireLess CarPlay. If your car supports wireless CarPlay, you can unplug the phone and see if the connection doesn’t drop. If the connection drops, check to see if Bluetooth is switched on for your car and phone.

Once the wireless CarPlay connection is working, your iPhone should connect automatically each time the engine starts running. Wireless CarPlay works on iPhones that are newer than the iPhone 5. As long as your device is running iOS 9 or newer, it should be able to handle wireless CarPlay.

This means the odds of you having an iPhone that won’t support CarPlay are quite slim. 

Why Add CarPlay To Your Car?

CarPlay is a application allows you to view content from your iPhone on your car's infotainment screen.

Not convinced that you need CarPlay in your car? Well, there are many reasons why you might want to add this feature to your car. CarPlay is essentially a co-pilot who can navigate your iPhone while you are on the road.

Here are some of the features that may win you over: 

Digital Car Keys

Ever imagined using your iPhone as a car key? This functionality is available on newer models through CarPlay. You can even keep using it up to five hours after your phone’s battery runs out. 

Accurate Maps

Apple Maps is designed for simplicity, accuracy, and power. Through CarPlay, you can gain access to all the detailed maps and audio directions so you can reach your destination without getting lost.

Effortless Communication

Checking your iPhone on the road can endanger your safety and that of other drivers. Instead of letting go of the wheel to make calls and reply to messages, you can use CarPlay, alongside Siri, to send audio messages and make calls. Once you have it, you won’t need to take your eyes off the road.

Easier Access to Music and Podcasts

With CarPlay, you can navigate your way through your favorite audio apps, including Apple Music. That’s a great way to make every drive feel great. You will also be able to play your favorite podcasts and music through Siri.

Quick Calendar View

If you want to turn your car into your personal assistant, CarPlay is the way to go. It will easily recite your daily schedule on the road. The calendar app will give you reminders and directions to all your appointments.

The Ever-Reliable Siri

Looking for a way to make your driving safer and smarter? Well, CarPlay activates Siri voice control in your car. It also integrates your vehicle’s controls and physical knobs for maximum functionality and dependability.

Siri will work on your most used mobile apps. You will also be able to rearrange apps using your iPhone’s settings. It’s that easy.

Does My Car Support CarPlay?

Woman is driving, hands on Steering wheel, dashboard, navigation system carplay.

More than 600 cars support Apple CarPlay. The list can be found on Apple’s website. However, the tech giant hasn’t released a comprehensive list of cars that support the wireless protocol.

As a general rule, however, the majority of cars manufactured in 2019 support wireless CarPlay as standard. However, this is not guaranteed as it depends on the model that you buy. To make sure the car you are interested in supports CarPlay, you should check with your manufacturer.

Since it’s possible to add CarPlay to your car after the fact, not having it should not be a deal breaker. You can still use wireless adapters, and you can swap out the original head unit and add an aftermarket option that supports CarPlay. All you need to do is research the best stereos to buy and go through reviews to see which option is best for your needs.