Apple CarPlay

Apple CarPlay makes it easy to use iPhone apps like Google Maps or Spotify in your car’s center console, saving you from mounting your smartphone on your windshield or dashboard. But what if your car doesn’t support CarPlay?

Option 1: Get an OEM Retrofit

CarPlay first appeared in 2014, and many auto manufacturers started offering iPhone connectivity around that time. Like most new features, this was an optional add-on for new cars. Many manufacturers have since made CarPlay a standard feature.

If your car was manufactured after 2014 but lacks the add-on package for CarPlay, you may be able to retrofit it using an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) upgrade. To find out for sure, contact a service center that specializes in servicing your particular brand of car.

Some manufacturers that have offered retrofits include Hyundai, Mazda, and Ford but not for all models.

The upgrade may only require a software patch to unlock CarPlay, or you may be offered the option of changing the hardware to enable the functionality. The cost of the upgrade will vary depending on what needs to be done, but you should be able to get a free quote to find out before committing.

Option 2: Replace Your Car’s Head Unit

If your car is older than 2014, your OEM doesn’t offer an upgrade, or the cost of an OEM retrofit seems too much, you could also try replacing the head unit in your car. Many head units are now fully compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with additional features like compatibility with reversing cameras or object sensors often bundled in too.

The biggest hurdle you’ll have to overcome is to find a head unit that’s compatible with your particular make and model. Contacting a local car audio expert is the best way to find out what your options are, but it may also be the priciest.

Pioneer MVH-AV251BT

Your options include high-end name brands like the MVH-AC251BT from Pioneer (around $450) or cheaper models like the BVCP9700A from BOSS (around $250). If possible, head to a showroom and try a demo unit before you buy to ensure you’re happy with the end result.

Pioneer CarPlay head unit

Pioneer MVH-AV251BT Digital Multimedia Video Receiver with 7" Hires Touch Panel Display, Apple CarPlay, Android AUT, Built-in Bluetooth, and SiriusXM-Ready (Does not Play CDs)

This Pioneer head unit is both Apple CarPlay and Android Audio ready, with built-in Bluetooth, SiriusXM compatibility, and a 7-inch high-resolution touch screen.

If you’re willing to put in some research, you may find the second-hand market to be the most cost-effective option for adding CarPlay to an older vehicle. Use marketplaces like eBay and Facebook Marketplace, but remember to stay safe and avoid scams.

Bluetooth Is an Option

If your car already has Bluetooth connectivity, there’s a good chance you can already use most smartphone functions wirelessly. This includes making and taking phone calls, getting turn-by-turn directions, and listening to music or podcasts.

CarPlay is a step-up though, providing a visual aid on top of existing audio integration. Once you have it, find out how you can customize the display.

RELATED: How to Customize the Apple CarPlay Screen

Profile Photo for Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
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