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Is Android Auto Free?

Google Android Auto on the new luxury car dashboard digital screen display showing the icons and large text Android Auto during menu selection.

Want to upgrade your car’s entertainment system? You may want to look into Android Auto. Naturally, the moment someone mentions an upgrade, you’ll start thinking about costs. Well, at least that’s what crossed my mind when I kept hearing about android auto.

I imagined having to buy a software product or some sort of hardware that would allow me to use android functionality in my car. While I wasn’t necessarily wrong, I wasn’t right either. This is where things can get a bit confusing. So, do you have to pay anything for Android Auto?

What is Android Auto?

Close up of Android Auto on the screen of a modern car.

To better understand the costs that might or might not be associated with Android Auto, you first need to understand what it is and how it works. If you own a car, the first thing you must know is that Android Auto is not a piece of hardware; it’s an app.

You should also know that it’s not a standalone product. Android Auto is powered by your smartphone, and it communicates with your car’s infotainment system via USB or BlueTooth. This means you cannot use Android Auto without your phone. 

The whole idea behind Android Auto is to make it easier to access your phone while you are driving. In fact, it sort of mirrors your cellphone’s display on your infotainment system for easier access. For instance, instead of taking out your phone and scrolling through a couple of apps when you receive a notification, you can use voice commands to control your phone with Android Auto. 

If your phone is connected via Android Auto, you can reply to text messages and answer calls using Google Assistant and speech-to-text technology. This is obviously much safer than letting go of the steering and taking your eyes off the road to use your phone in traffic. It’s important to avoid getting distracted while driving.

Related: Apple CarPlay vs Android Auto

How Much Does Android Auto cost?

Now that we know the basics of how Android Auto functions, let’s look into how much it costs to have Android Auto in your car. For the basic connection, you will not have to part with a single dime. Android Auto is a free download from Google’s Play store. All you need is a phone that can support the app and a head unit that can pair with your phone. The majority of the new cars come equipped with Android Auto. This means you just have to pop your phone out, and you’ll be throwing around voice commands in no time at all. 

So You Don’t Pay Anything, At All?

A photo of hand holding a adroid phone , downloading a android auto application.

Well, not as such. So far, we have mentioned three things that can end up costing you money if you want to use Android Auto. We have talked about needing a phone that can support Android Auto. This means that if your phone doesn’t support this functionality and you need to use it, you may find yourself needing to replace it with a new model, and this will obviously cost some money. In that regard, Android Auto won’t be free to get.

What if Your Car’s Stereo Doesn’t Support Android Auto?

To use Android Auto, you need a head unit that can pair with your phone and display your phone’s icons on it. Unfortunately, not all car models come equipped with stereo systems that offer this functionality. The majority of car models starting from 2017 come ready to pair with Android Auto.

However, some car manufacturers are still working to make it widely available. If you own an older car or one that doesn’t support Android Auto, the only way to get it would be to get an aftermarket stereo system that supports the functionality. Fortunately, there are lots of aftermarket stereos to choose from.

If you have a car that doesn’t support this feature and you are interested in getting in, you may need to make it a top priority on your wishlist. All you need to do is browse through the list of available options so you can see how to fit it into your budget. You may also want to take a look at some reviews for the unit that you would have decided on.

Data – Another Hidden Cost

While Android Auto is free to download, one thing you must know about it is that it is a data-heavy service. Almost everything that you will do with it requires a data connection. This means it can be affected by poor signal, and it will also eat into your phone contract’s data allowance.

If you pay for your data connection, your mobile phone service provider might end up charging you more because of the higher data charges, especially if you travel abroad.

One of the things that consume a lot of data is the Maps application. Fortunately, there are ways to work around this. Instead of pulling up Maps from the internet each time, you can simply download maps for the area you are visiting before you set off on the trip.

The same also goes for podcasts and music. Apart from the data costs, while there are lots of free apps that you can use with Android Auto, you may find that services like music streaming are generally better when you pay a subscription. These are some of the hidden costs that you may encounter when using Android Auto.

New Head Unit Installation

On board computer in a modern car displaying available phone connection services like Android Auto.

New Android Auto head units are generally based on color touch screen technology. These either remain in place, or you can get one that folds away and retracts into the dash. This will give you better security and a cleaner look. Once you get such a unit, all that remains is to either plug in a USB or connect your phone wirelessly then you will be good to go. 

While Android Head unit installation is not really difficult if you are not too tech-savvy, it can be an issue for you. In that instance, it would be best to less a professional installer do the work. It’s quite easy to make errors if you are not familiar with the process. For instance, you can leave off a crucial earthing strap or fail to make the correct wiring configuration for the unit to function properly.

You should also know the exact unit that’s compatible with your car. Some units will not work on all models. You can end up losing the ability to control your infotainment system from your steering wheel controls. So, while it may cost more, hiring a reputable installer might be a good investment to make. 

Get Wireless Android Auto Functionality In Your Car

Close up to male driving and using navigation appliction Google Android Auto.

If you have an older vehicle, it may not support Android Auto’s wireless functionality. Given you have a phone with an operating system that allows you to connect to Android Auto wirelessly, there are several things that you can do to introduce wireless functionality in your car. The simplest method would be to purchase a wireless dongle. These plug into your vehicle’s head unit and allow you to receive signal on your phone via WiFi. Make sure whatever dongle you get supports Android Auto. 

You can also get an adapter that bridges the wireless and wired connections. These USB adapters are plugged into your vehicle’s USB drive, and they enable you to connect your mobile phone wirelessly. Once you have such an adapter, you are good to go. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Android Auto

Can You Install Android Auto in Any Car?

You can generally get Android Auto to work on any car. Newer models come with the functionality inbuilt, and with older models, you will have to get a new head unit that supports Android Auto.

Why is Android Auto Not Connecting to My Car?

There are several reasons why Android Auto might not be connecting to your car. It might be that your car’s stereo doesn’t support it, or you may be using a cable that doesn’t support data transfer between the phone and the stereo. Also, you may not get Android Auto to work if your phone and the head unit have different versions of Bluetooth.

Is Android Auto Compatible with my Car?

To find out if Android Auto is compatible with your car, you can try connecting it. You can also check on your vehicle’s manufacturer’s website to see if it supports Android Auto. If there is no information on the car manufacturer’s website, you can just search on Google. Other people with the same model as you may have tried using Android Auto on their cars too.

Related: Can You Add Android Auto to a Car?