How to Upgrade Car Stereo To Apple CarPlay? A Complete Guide.

I usually drive and listen to my music from my iPhone, listening through my headphones; that is the extent to which I use my iPhone in my car. 

Needless to say, this is not the most fantastic scenario, so I upgraded my dashboard to a stereo system that can support Apple’s CarPlay and decided to write this article for any Apple enthusiast looking to do the same.

The options for upgrading your car stereo to support CarPlay are; retrofitting it (specific manufacturers upgrade it with a kit), purchasing standalone devices that can upgrade head units. Also, purchasing new aftermarket systems with head units that do support CarPlay.

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This article will cover precisely what Apple CarPlay is, along with an in-depth look at all its features and functionality.

We will then look at how easy it is to upgrade your stereo system to support CarPlay, not to mention we will look at the price of upgrading your car system and what the best options are in terms of purchasing aftermarket devices and systems. This article has it all, so let’s begin.

What is Apple CarPlay, and how does it work?

Apple CarPlay, released on 10 March 2014, is software designed by Apple that integrates Apple’s iOS with your car’s smart dashboard (instrument panel) and infotainment system. CarPlay allows you to use the functions of your iPhone and Apple’s iOS in conjunction with your car’s dashboard (along with some of Apple’s native apps and 3rd party apps). 

how to upgrade car stereo to carplay

CarPlay helps you make and receive calls, send and receive messages, navigate with GPS, listen to music, and much more. Did I mention it’s all wireless (for the most part)?

CarPlay, at its core, is designed to be hands-free and uses Siri’s capabilities to get this job done. When it was first introduced, there was limited functionality, and you needed to press a button now and again, taking your eyes off the road.

With Apple’s new iOS 14, you have a completely hands-free experience helping you focus where your attention is needed (on the road). Still, you can also use the dashboard’s touchscreen, knobs, dials, and buttons to navigate and perform all of CarPlay’s functions.

Even setting up CarPlay with your vehicle is now a wireless task. Since Apple’s iOS 9, it has supported wireless connectivity with in-car systems.

Before this period, almost all setups regarding CarPlay needed to be done via lightning cable. So, depending on your iOS and dashboard, you may still have to connect your iPhone with a lightning cable.

Car manufacturers have even licensed and partnered up with Apple to integrate CarPlay support into their vehicles since 2015, and there are now literally hundreds of manufacturers that have CarPlay support.

Watch the video below where William Borruat give an overview of Apple’s CarPlay

What aftermarket car systems are compatible with Apple CarPlay?

Looking to purchase an aftermarket system that is compatible with CarPlay? Then we have you covered as well.

These manufacturers offer aftermarket car systems that allow the support of CarPlay.

  • Sony
  • Alpine
  • Pioneer
  • Kenwood
  • JVC

All these manufacturers have various models of aftermarket systems that support CarPlay, and they vary in price and features depending on the model that you wish to purchase. What is remarkable is that all these manufacturers offer entry-level models through to models with the latest and greatest features.

How to add Apple Carplay to the factory stereo?

If your car stereo system supports CarPlay, then it could not be simpler. All you need to do is connect your iPhone via the lightning cable to your factory stereo or via wireless or Bluetooth . It’s that simple. CarPlay will automatically load and integrate with your dashboard’s interface.

Otherwise, if your factory stereo does not support CarPlay, then I would suggest looking at the Cartizan CP-11 that allows you to enable the support of CarPlay on any stereo system. The only catch here is that your factory stereo would need a built-in video input that supports the Cartizan CP-11. If it does, then this would be your best bet.

Also, this device is so easy to use and so easy to set up that it would take a miracle for you to mess it up. That means you would not have to take it to any automotive shop and shell out your hard-earned money for labor costs.

If your car stereo system does not have a video input, you will have to purchase an aftermarket system (just the head if you like) supporting CarPlay. You could also buy a head unit that does not but then you would need to purchase the Cartizan CP-11 so your head unit would then be able to support CarPlay.

How much does it cost to upgrade to Apple CarPlay?

There are a few options to look at when considering the cost of upgrading your vehicle to support CarPlay. Here are your options and the variations in price.


If you’re lucky enough to own a Mazda from 2014 or a newer model equipped with the MZD Connect system, you are looking at $500 to upgrade your car. Hyundai also supports retrofitting but only for specific models. 

Hyundai’s line of SUVs such as the Santa FE and Tuscon Highlander are not able to be retrofitted due to their onboard GPS interfering with the installation. However, the model that can be retrofitted is their i30’s from 2015. Prices would vary from dealer to dealer, but you are also looking at around the $500 mark.

Purchasing aftermarket head units only.

If you are looking to purchase only an aftermarket head that supports CarPlay, then the cost can vary depending on the dimensions (single or double din), make, model, and features it comes with. The price can range starting in the low hundreds to $1500 for just a head unit.

Best budget double din stereo

Sony XAV-AX100

This double din budget option offers voice control with Apple Car Play and Android Auto. You can control and view everything with the 6.4″ touch screen, and the tuner features a preset of FM18/AM12. You get powerful sound with the 4 x 55 W Dynamic Reality Amp, and the audio level adjustment is from -8 dB to +18 dB. 

Other features include creating virtual speakers on your dashboard with the Dynamic Stage Organizer and an Ergonomic rotary dial for distraction-free operation. 

Sony XAV-AX100 is an excellent double din head unit for a reasonable price that you can check on Amazon by clicking this link now.

Best budget single din stereo


The Jensen comes with a large 10.1inch LED multimedia high-resolution touch screen display that provides a comfortable viewing experience while keeping all your favorite content within your fingers’ reach.

You can mirror the screen of your smartphone onto the car stereo screen via a USB cable connection, and you can enjoy high-quality pictures and accurate mirroring thanks to the built-in digital-to-digital USB converter.

With the touch of a button, you have the power to summon Siri and verbally speak your commands such as play music, podcasts, navigation, etc. The USB port also charges your device and sports an MP3/WMA Player and an AM/FM tuner with 30 Station presets.

Lastly, this head unit comes equipped with a front RCA input (video only) and a backup RCA input with mic (video and sound). If you are on a budget and looking for a single din stereo to support CarPlay, check the Jensen’s latest price on Amazon now.

Best single din head unit for Apple CarPlay.

After scouring the net and reading tons of reviews, this is the best option I found if you are in the market to purchase a single din head unit that supports Apple CarPlay.

Pioneer AVH-3500NEX 1-Din 7-Inch Flip Out AV Receiver with Carplay

This fantastic unit from Pioneer has a whopping 7inch display that supports an 800X400 display. It offers a dual phone connection and Secure Simple Pairing. Furthermore, it provides a dimmer setting and is LED backlight. 

It features a hands-free Profile (HFP), an audio/video remote control profile (AVRCP), and an advanced audio distribution profile (A2DP).

The integrations include voice control, Pandora, WebLink, and Amazon Alexa. It can play audio and video files, which are MP3, AAC, FLAC, MPEG-1, MPEG-4, WMV, AVI, WAV, WMA, and MPEG-2.

It has 3 RCA pre-outs, a customizable graphic equalizer, and a 3-way audio network mode. The list of features goes on and on, with it having a built-in amplifier, D/A converter, subwoofer control, auto, and easy EQ.

The device’s expandability includes one USB port, a wired remote, and USB direct control for your iPhone. Inputs also include Aux minijacks and HDMI.

This is the best single din head unit that I could find purely because of its features, which never seem to end. Truly an ample product if you are looking in the single din range, so why don’t you check the latest price on Amazon now?

Best double din head unit for Apple CarPlay.

If money is no object to you, then this next review is for you. This head unit offers Apple CarPlay support and a ton of other features. Here they are.

Kenwood Excelon DNX997XR

This is the best head unit Kenwood has to offer and could coast their reputation on this unit alone. 

  • It turns your dashboard into an infotainment system powerhouse. It supports wireless Apple CarPlay compatibility and sports a 6.75inch touchscreen display, which is motorized with reverse tilt.
  • It has a 720p high-definition display, a built-in Garmin navigation system, and plays media files such as MP3, WMA, AAC, and then high-res WAV and FLAC files.
  • It has built-in Bluetooth for hands-free calling and music streaming, a built-in HD Radio tuner, and an AM/FM tuner.

Some more features include wired screen mirroring for your iPhone, pandora control for your iPhone, Siri Eyes Free control for selected iPhones, and is compatible with the Kenwood Remote S smartphone app.

The navigation features include three years of Garmin map updates, maps of the U.S, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the U.S Virgin Islands. Did I mention it has over 6 million points of interest?

More features include text-to-speech voice prompts that announce actual road names with added lane assistance and junction view.

If money is no object and you are looking for a double din head unit, then look no further, and click this link to check the latest price on Amazon now.


We have precisely looked at what Apple CarPlay is in terms of what it can offer you as an added feature that you can get from your iPhone. We broke down all its apps and functionalities and derived a must-have conclusion if you want a truly hands-free experience when driving.

No doubt that its pro’s out way any of its minor con’s and even if you do not have a car stereo system that supports it you are still in luck and can upgrade your car with aftermarket systems and devices which allow you to get all the benefits of Apple CarPlay.

Lastly, we covered all you need to know for aftermarket systems and how you would go about upgrading some or all of your stereo to support Apple CarPlay, even giving you an in-depth review of budget-friendly and the cream of the crop aftermarket head units.

If you are thinking about upgrading to Apple CarPlay, you definitely should, and I hope this article ironed out any questions, fears, and doubts you may have had.


Welcome to ImproveCarAudio! I am Martin, and I love to write about everything related to car sound systems. I strive to provide the most accurate and helpful information about car audio through extensive research, as well as my experience with car audio installations.

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