How to Add Apple CarPlay to an Older Car

Do you have an iPhone and would like to use it in your old and used car that you’ve been driving around forever? Sure, you could stick to using your vehicle’s archaic Bluetooth system, but that’s only good for making calls or hearing the annoying navigation voice through your speakers. However, if you want real iPhone integration, your best bet is to get Apple Carplay. So, let’s look at how to install Apple CarPlay in an older car.

What is Apple Carplay, and how does it work?

Apple CarPlay installed inside a Subaru BRZ with an Apple iPhone 5
Apple CarPlay inside a Subaru BRZ | Will Ireland/MacFormat Magazine/Future via Getty Images

Apple CarPlay is the brand’s in-car infotainment system that has been on the market since 2014. According to Apple, CarPlay is a smarter, safer way to use your iPhone while you drive. Instead of having to look at your phone (which you should never do while driving), drivers will have everything displayed on a vehicle’s infotainment touchscreen.

According to Which Car, Apple CarPlay mirrors some of the applications used on iPhones and allows drivers to control apps via the touchscreen. Users can use Siri and Apple Maps, play music, make phone calls, and the application will even read text messages.

How do you add Apple CarPlay to a car?

The easiest way to add Apple CarPlay to any car would be through an aftermarket radio. Some vehicles are easy to work on if you’re the do-it-yourself type. That way, you can probably figure out how to uninstall the factory radio and install an aftermarket head unit with no issues. However, if you’re not that handy, we suggest hiring a professional. Luckily, most stereo installers nowadays can handle a custom installation (if needed) into just about any car on the market today.

Apple CarPlay can be added with a retrofit

While most cars will require all of the stereo hardware to be changed, some vehicles might only need a software update. For example, for Mazda owners (2014 model year or newer) equipped with the MZD Connect system, the automaker offered a $500 upgrade kit to install Apple CarPlay on its vehicle’s stock audio systems back in 2018, according to Which Car. Some Hyundai models have been eligible for retrofits as well. Before spending any of your money, we suggest checking if a retrofit is covered for your car.

Do you want a single or double DIN system?

If you decide that you want Apple CarPlay and need to go the aftermarket route, you must determine what aftermarket system would work best for you. Much older cars (10 years or older) will likely have what’s called a “single DIN” opening for a radio, while newer ones will have a double DIN.

According to Gear Brain, the word DIN stands for “Deutsches Institut für Normung,” a German term that refers to the standard stereo size that the country’s automaker installed in cars in the 1980s.

What are the best double DIN systems?

We won’t list many different systems here as there are hundreds to choose from. However, if your car uses a double DIN space, we recommend a unit like the Pioneer AVH-W440NEX featured on Amazon. There are many other systems like it, but the important part is that it comes with everything you need to fully integrate your car’s audio system to use Apple CarPlay. This system and many others can also be wired for a backup camera, which is very convenient.

What are the best single DIN systems?

What if your car has a single DIN opening and can’t accommodate a large touchscreen? Don’t worry, as there are plenty of systems with “flip out” screens, such as this Pioneer model featured on Crutchfield. The screens wire up like the double DIN variety, but they’re much more compact and will fit just about any car with a smaller radio enclosure.

Now that you know what it takes to get the ultimate iPhone integration in your car, we recommend shopping around to see what works best for your vehicle and budget. Not all systems are created equal, so make sure to do your research ahead of time.

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