How to Add Apple Carplay to an Older Car

Do you have an iPhone and would like to be able to use it in that old car that you’ve been driving around forever? Sure, you could stick to using the archaic Bluetooth system that your car has, but that’s only really good for making calls or hearing the annoying navigation voice through your speakers. However, if you want real iPhone integration, then your best bet is to get Apple Carplay.

What is Apple Carplay?

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), you will have everything displayed on a touchscreen where your radio is.

Apple Carplay mirrors some of the applications that you use on your iPhone and allows you to control via the touchscreen. You can use Siri and Apple Maps, select the tunes you want, make phone calls, and it will even read your text messages to you.

Ford SYNC 3 with Apple CarPlay
Ford SYNC 3 with Apple CarPlay | Ford

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 cars are easy to work on if you’re the do-it-yourself type, then 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, then we suggest getting it done by a professional. Luckily, most stereo installers nowadays can handle a custom installation (if needed) into just about any car on the market today.

Carplay retrofit

While most cars will require all of the stereo hardware to be changed out, some cars might only require a software update. For example, if you happen to own a Mazda (2014 or newer) that is equipped with the MZD Connect system, then Mazda is offering a $500 upgrade kit to install Apple Carplay on your stock audio system.

Some Hyundai models are eligible for retrofit as well. We suggest checking first to see if your car’s system is able to be upgraded.

Single or double din?

If you decided that you want Apple Carplay and need to go the aftermarket route, then you need to decide which 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.

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

Double DIN systems

We won’t list a bunch of different systems here as there are hundreds to choose from. However, if your car uses a double DIN space, then we recommend a unit like the Pioneer AVH-W440NEX. 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 Carplay.

This system, as well as many others, can also be wired for a back-up camera, which is very convenient.

Pioneer AVH-W440NEX | Amazon

Single DIN systems

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

Pioneer AVH-3500 NEX | Crutchfield

Step into the future

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 car and your budget. Not all systems are created equal, so make sure to do your research ahead of time. Otherwise, welcome to the future!