Best Aftermarket CarPlay: Safely Use Your iPhone in the Car

These top aftermarket CarPlay receivers easily integrate with your iOS devices

byLinsay Thomas, Nikola Petrovski, Noelle Talmon| UPDATED Sep 4, 2020 11:44 AM
Best Aftermarket CarPlay: Safely Use Your iPhone in the Car

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Best Overall

Pioneer AVH-1440NEX 6.2" Multimedia DVD Receiver

Summary

In addition to being Apple CarPlay compatible, this receiver works with Spotify and Pandora and is SiriusXM-ready. It also features a built-in HD radio tuner.

Pros

If you want a unit with a CarPlay option but don't want to spend too much, this is a great option. It's easy to install and produces great audio.

Cons

Connectivity may be spotty at times, and Siri can be glitchy. Also, the album art does not always load in the background.

Best Value

Pioneer AVH-1300NEX Multimedia DVD Receiver with 6.2" WVGA Display

Summary

This receiver features built-in Bluetooth and produces a peak power output of 50 watts per channel. It works with Apple CarPlay and AppRadio as well as Spotify, Pandora, and SiriusXM.

Pros

Installing this receiver is an inexpensive way to add CarPlay to your vehicle. The upgrade makes your speakers sound better. The screen is very responsive, and the display is bright.

Cons

CarPlay may have a lag between speech and actual delivery, and it may be hard to sync. Also, the USB port may stop working over time.

Honorable Mention

Pioneer 7" Flip Out DVD Receiver with CarPlay

Summary

This receiver is both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible. It features Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming and has a peak power of 50 watts per channel.

Pros

It boots up quickly, and the sound quality is excellent.  You can see everything on the display with sunglasses on, but it's dim enough at night you barely notice it’s there.

Cons

CarPlay connectivity can be unreliable. There have been complaints about the unit damaging USB cables.

Benefits of Aftermarket CarPlay

  • Safety. Having CarPlay connectivity means you can keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the steering wheel. This will make driving safer as you make and answer calls, respond to texts, or use apps. 
  • Convenience. Connecting to CarPlay can make using your phone so much easier by having it be readily available. With CarPlay, you can use voice commands to easily initiate an app. 
  • Increased functionality. When you replace the stereo in your car with one that is compatible with CarPlay, you get increased functionality. Your new stereo will be able to do so much more. 

Types of Aftermarket CarPlay

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Single DIN

These are the most common type of factory-installed car stereo systems. They typically don’t have a touchscreen, although sometimes this type of car stereo will have a touchscreen that is hidden away and extends out when in use. Single DIN stereos are seven by two inches and may include a CD input. 

Double DIN

These car stereos are the ones with a touchscreen. They are called double DIN because they’re typically double the height of a single DIN stereo. They start at seven by four inches, but they can be bigger. You’ll need to consider the size of your stereo if you plan to switch out your stock size head unit for a double-DIN. 

OEM Replacement

Some vehicles don’t have a dashboard that can accommodate an aftermarket single or double DIN. If this applies to your vehicle, then an OEM head unit is the way to go. These stereos are designed to be compatible with your particular make, model, and year of car. Once installed, they’ll look like they were originally installed at the factory. 

Top Brands

Pioneer

Founded in Japan in 1938, the Pioneer Corporation specializes in producing digital entertainment equipment. The company strives to continually develop its product line and provide high-quality audio equipment for personal and professional use. The Pioneer MVH1400NEX 6.2 inches is a quality upgrade to your car’s stereo system. 

Sony

Sony is a Japanese company that was founded in 1946. This international corporation sells entertainment equipment for both personal and professional use. Its product lines range from audio equipment and gaming to financial services. The Sony Media Receiver with Bluetooth is sure to impress. 

Kenwood

Since its founding in Japan in 1946, Kenwood has built a reputation for producing high-quality car audio components. It has remained in high demand through its continuous research and development. The Kenwood Excelon Multimedia Receiver is a perfect example of the company’s quality equipment. 

Alpine

Founded in Japan in 1967, Alpine Electronics specializes in creating high-quality car audio and navigation technology products. The company’s products are so popular that you can easily find them online. The Alpine Digital Media Receiver will enhance the performance of your car’s audio system. 

JVC

JVC was founded in 1927 in Japan and is a worldwide consumer electronics company. The company prides itself on creating consumer electronics that enhance the audio quality of its customer’s vehicles. Try the JVC Digital Media Receiver in your vehicle. 

Aftermarket CarPlay Pricing

  • Under $400: These are discounted CarPlay units. They will lack many features, have less responsive touchscreens, and feature harder-to-see displays. They also may not fit your vehicle perfectly since they’re made for a more generic, mass compatibility. 
  • $400 to $600: These are decent-quality stereos with plenty of features. Look for one that has CarPlay and audio abilities so that you have the best of both worlds. The higher in this range you go, the better the quality of the touchscreen and display.  
  • $600 to $1,000: These top-of-the-line stereos are worth the money if you’re looking for an OEM quality aftermarket stereo. They have high-resolution displays for crisp images, responsive touchscreens, and all of the features you could want. 

Key Features

OS Compatibility 

Not all car stereo units are compatible with smartphones. Check to make sure the unit you’re buying has Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. This will ensure that you can sync your phone to the head unit. You’ll likely see phrasing such as “wireless CarPlay.” It will probably come with voice controls as well. 

Display

A higher-quality aftermarket head unit will have a crisp and clear display. Look at the resolution specs to determine how sharp the display will be. The higher the resolution numbers, the better the display will be. Another thing to pay attention to is whether or not the screen is backlit. An LED backlight will help you easily see the screen on bright, sunny days. 

Usability 

The infotainment system should be easy to learn and use. This means that you can get what you want with very little commands or screen selections. Look for a unit that has a smooth interface with readily accessible apps and features. You should also look at how you can adjust the sound quality of your car. These features should include fade, treble, and bass. 

Other Considerations

  • Vehicle Compatibility. Check to make sure the unit you buy will work with your car. This means measuring the space in your dash and comparing it to the screen size to verify that it will physically fit. Then look at the wiring to confirm that you can continue to use your vehicle’s stock controls, such as steering wheel controls and your backup camera. 
  • Amplifier. Your car stereo isn’t about just connecting to your phone. It also needs to be able to produce high-quality sound. Look for a unit that comes with an amplifier. A quality amplifier will give your unit power and should have at least four channels, although it’s best to have six channels. 
  • Third-Party Integration. Apple tends to be quite limited in the use of third party hardware and software integrations. You can, however, look for units that allow you to use as many apps as possible through your car stereo. Android units are less secure but are more open to you using third-party apps. 

Best Aftermarket CarPlay Reviews & Recommendations 2020

This 6.2-inch VGA touchscreen display has built-in Bluetooth and is Apple CarPlay and AppRadio compatible. It’s ready for use with music streaming apps, including Pandora, Spotify, and Sirius XM. It has an amplifier with four channels. You can connect your iPhone 5 or later smartphone and access your calendar, contacts, Apple maps, and more through the system. 


This affordable receiver is perfect for both connecting to your Apple smartphone and improving the sound of your speakers. The touchscreen is responsive and bright, which makes using this unit easy. 


Unfortunately, you may notice some lag between the performance of the command and the delivery of your speech command. It can also be a challenge to sync everything. In addition, the USB port can spontaneously stop working.

Tips

  • Most CarPlay units require you to use a lightning cable to plug it into the USB port. A few allow you to connect via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Find what works best for your purposes.
  • One of the best things about CarPlay units is the ability to use Siri hands-free. However, saying, "Hey, Siri," may not always work if the music or engine is loud. Plus, it only works on newer iOS devices.
  • When using CarPlay, you can play anything from Apple Music. However, streaming music can potentially take up a lot of data, so consider making playlists you can listen to offline.

FAQs

Q: Will a CarPlay receiver fit in all types of vehicles? 

A: First, check to see if you have a single or double DIN unit. You may need a dash kit to fit certain units into certain vehicles, so make sure you check the specs before making a purchase. 

Q: Do CarPlay receivers work with Android devices too?

A: It depends on the receiver. Some brands are designed to work with only iOS devices, while others are compatible with both Apple and Android devices. 

Q: Are all CarPlay receivers wireless? 

A: No. Check the specs before you make a purchase because some require a USB connection with your iPhone. 

Final Thoughts

Our pick for the best aftermarket CarPlay systems is the Pioneer AVH-1440NEX 6.2" Multimedia DVD Receiver. It sounds great, is easy to install, and is a great value. 

If you want to spend a little less money, consider the Pioneer AVH-1300NEX Multimedia DVD Receiver with 6.2" WVGA Display.

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