The Best Cheap Apple CarPlay Head Units of 2019

Apple CarPlay is a hands-free way to use an iPhone in a vehicle.

Many new cars have CarPlay built into their dashboard "infotainment" system. Some of these vehicles can pair wirelessly with an iPhone, but most vehicles require a wired connection using a lightning-to-USB cable (the USB end plugs into the car). 

Once an iPhone is paired with CarPlay, you can make calls, send and receive messages, stream music, talk with Siri, get directions from GPS apps like Apple Maps or Waze, etc.

If your car doesn't have CarPlay pre-installed, you’ll need a CarPlay head unit (i.e. an aftermarket car stereo). Many CarPlay-enabled stereos cost $500 or more, but there are less expensive models available.

Here are the best-reviewed Apple CarPlay head units that have sold for $300 or less in the last 12 months. Use Amazon's "Select your vehicle" tool before you buy to make sure that the stereo fits your dashboard.


Good Price: $295 | Great Deal: $280

Pioneer's head unit is easy to install, powers up quickly and the easy-to-read display feels as responsive as a smartphone, according to several Amazon customers. Some reviewers are disappointed that this stereo doesn't have a traditional volume knob.


Good Price: $259 | Great Deal: $219

This CarPlay-compatible head unit has a nice screen with a snappy interface, according to several Amazon customers. Some reviewers complain that their iPhone sometimes unpairs without warning.


Good Price: $279 | Great Deal: $233

This inexpensive CarPlay stereo is easy to use and has a convenient volume knob, according to several Amazon customers. Some reviewers were disappointed by the touchscreen; others wish that the unit supported wireless CarPlay (or had an extra USB port in the rear).


Good Price: $240 | Great Deal: $230

Soundstream's head unit is easy to install and sounds great, according to most Amazon reviewers. However, some of these same customers said that the AM/FM radio reception was poor and that the optional back-up camera didn't work as expected. 


Good Price: $218 | Great Deal: $209

This head unit is easy to install, sounds good and has a bright, responsive screen, according to several Amazon customers. Many reviewers agree that this unit is slow to boot and has disappointing customizations features. Some customers who use this stereo in conjunction with a backup camera wish that it didn't auto-mute when the car is in reverse.


Good Price: $279 | Great Deal: $250

JVC's budget CarPlay head unit is easy to install and use, according to several Crutchfield customers. A few reviewers felt overwhelmed by the unit's interface; others say the screen is hard to see in the daylight.


Good Price: $328 | Great Deal: $300

This CarPlay-compatible head unit has a responsive touchscreen and a convenient CD/DVD drive, according to several Crutchfield customers. Some reviewers say the instructions are too brief to be useful; others wish the unit had larger buttons and a more intuitive layout.


Good Price: $330 | Great Deal: $280

This JVC head unit sounds fantastic and has a capable touchscreen, according to several Crutchfield customers. Some reviewers had trouble maintaining a connection until they purchased an official lightning/USB cable from Apple. A few customers say that JVC's native interface is harder to navigate than the SiriusXM and CarPlay interfaces.



 

 
John DeFeo