If you have a compatible car or stereo unit, Apple CarPlay makes it easy to navigate, respond to messages, and play music while on the road. And to get the most out of this feature, you should have apps compatible with CarPlay installed on your iPhone.
Let’s take a look at some of the best Apple CarPlay apps worth using.
A Note on Available Carplay Apps
Unfortunately, only a small selection of iOS apps are compatible with CarPlay. The vast majority of them fall into one of three categories: audio, navigation, or messaging. As a result, you probably won’t end up installing too many of these apps, since they overlap a lot. There’s no need to install Spotify if you already use Apple Music, for instance.
Starting with iOS 16, CarPlay will also support fueling and driving apps, such as those designed to help you find lower gas prices or check toll rates. As of this writing, those aren’t supported yet, however.
We’ll cover the most useful built-in CarPlay apps so you know how to use them, then move on to some of the best third-party apps for CarPlay. If you use a different audio or navigation service than what we highlight here, chances are that it’s also available for CarPlay.
In case you’re wondering how to add apps to CarPlay, you don’t need to do anything special. Simply install the app on your iPhone as normal, then open it once to walk through any initial setup. If the app works with CarPlay, you’ll see it in the list of apps on your vehicle’s display once you connect your device to your car.
If you’re new to this feature, read our overview of Apple CarPlay first so you’re up to speed. Also, while it’s not a proper CarPlay app, be aware that you can tap Now Playing from the app list to jump right to whatever audio source is active.
The Best Built-In Apple CarPlay Apps
First, let’s look at the most useful apps included on your iPhone that work with CarPlay.
Note that in addition to these, Siri can also access features of the built-in Clock, Reminders, and other apps. You won’t see CarPlay icons for them, but you can use commands like “Add paper towels to my grocery list” or “Set an alarm for 7am tomorrow.”
1. Apple Maps
If you don’t prefer another navigation app (see below), Apple Maps works great with CarPlay.
Upon opening it, you’ll see an overview of your location. Hit the Destinations link and Maps will suggest places based on where you are or what you’ve discussed in messages and emails recently. You can use the Search function to quickly find gas stations, food, and more.
Use the microphone button on your steering wheel, or tap the Microphone icon on the screen, to navigate with Siri.
The Phone app’s CarPlay integration lets you make and receive calls in your car. Opening the app lets you browse your contacts, open a dialer, review recent calls, or check your voicemail.
However, since scanning through a list of contacts or using a dial pad while driving is unsafe, it’s better to just use Siri integration to say something like “Call Sarah Smith.”
The Messages app lets you converse safely in the car. Tap a conversation to hear its most recent messages read aloud. You can also dictate a new message using your voice here.
Try saying “Text Norah I’ll be home in 15 minutes” or “Read my latest text messages” to use the app without opening it.
4. Apple Music
The right music makes a drive more enjoyable. Use the Music app with CarPlay to enjoy the entire Apple Music catalog, if you’re a subscriber. Of course, you can also listen to anything you’ve purchased from iTunes.
Open the app to scroll through your library and playlists. It’s also easy to ask Siri to play your favorite artists, albums, genres, and more.
Prefer podcasts instead of music on your commute? Use the Podcasts app to access shows you’ve subscribed to on your iPhone.
Siri can also help with commands like “Play the Really Useful Podcast” or “Skip ahead one minute.”
The Best Third-Party Apple CarPlay Apps
While the above apps come pre-installed on every iPhone, several third-party apps work with CarPlay as well. There aren’t a lot of options to choose from, but they all support Siri for hands-free control.
On the CarPlay home screen, you’ll see icons for any CarPlay-compatible apps you have installed on your iPhone. In addition to the below apps, CarPlay is also equipped to work with supported car manufacturer apps for controlling your vehicle’s features. This can let you access your car’s climate control without leaving CarPlay, for example.
While in CarPlay, you’ll also see an app with the name of your car make. Tap this to return to the stock infotainment system.
Starting in iOS 12, Apple opened up third-party navigation apps for use with CarPlay. While Google Maps is also available, Waze is more distinct, which is why we include it here.
The main draw of Waze is its community-sourced information. The app alerts you to nearby speed traps, construction zones, and obstacles on the road. Give it a try if you find Apple Maps lackluster.
Download: Waze (Free)
7. TuneIn Radio
Prefer to listen to the radio in the car, but don’t have a favorite station nearby? TuneIn Radio, one of the best radio apps for iPhone, is available on CarPlay.
Using it, you can browse over 100,000 radio stations from across the world. For quick access, save your favorites on your phone before you start driving.
Download: TuneIn Radio (Free, subscription available)
If you enjoy audiobooks, Amazon’s Audible service is a great way to get your fix. A subscription allows you to download and keep a new book each month, and there are tons of genres to choose from. If you don’t want to subscribe, you can buy books individually, though this isn’t as cost-effective.
Inside the CarPlay app, you can play any downloaded audiobooks, so make sure you save them offline while on a Wi-Fi connection. Check out our top Audible tips to get more from the service.
Download: Audible (Free, subscription available)
WhatsApp is one of the few third-party messaging apps available in CarPlay (Telegram is another). When you open it, you can choose to hear unread messages read aloud or dictate a new message.
All the voice commands you’d expect are here, though, so you can have Siri read your incoming messages and respond via voice. With the app installed, you’ll also see WhatsApp notifications on the CarPlay home screen (unless you’re in Focus mode).
Download: WhatsApp (Free)
If you don’t use Apple Music, chances are that you use Spotify for music streaming. Like other music apps, Spotify’s CarPlay integration lets you browse your playlists and other saved music through its interface. Alternatively, just use Siri to start playing an album or genre.
Spotify also hosts podcasts, so you can manage a lot of audio entertainment in one app. Remember that you’ll need Spotify Premium to listen ad-free, save music offline, and disable shuffle mode.
Download: Spotify (Free, subscription available)
If you’re a baseball fan, the MLB app helps you keep up with what’s happening around the league. With CarPlay, you can listen to game audio while driving, but will need an MLB Audio subscription to do so. That subscription also unlocks other premium features, including condensed games.
Using the free version, you can still check out the game of the day, but can’t listen to it with CarPlay.
Download: MLB (Free, subscription available)
More Apple CarPlay Apps to Try
As mentioned earlier, many of the other best apps for CarPlay are quite similar to the above, so covering them all in detail isn’t necessary. Here are a few other highlights you may be interested in:
- Overcast: Popular podcast manager with plenty of features.
- Pandora: The best-known internet radio service that lets you create personalized stations for anything.
- Tidal: If you don’t use any other music apps, maybe this hi-fi music service that promises better sound than the competition will appeal to you. Requires a subscription after a free trial.
- NPR One: Catch up on the latest news and talk shows from your local public radio.
- iHeartRadio: Similar to TuneIn, this app lets you listen to radio stations from around the US.
- SpotHero: Lets you book parking in advance in major cities around the US.
- PlugShare: This is a must-have app for electric vehicle owners; it allows you to easily locate charging stations for your vehicle.
- Dunkin’: If you’re a big fan of the coffee chain, you can use the CarPlay app to easily place an order for your favorite items.
Get More From Your Car With Apple CarPlay Apps
As we’ve seen, only a small number of apps work with CarPlay, but there’s still a good enough selection that you can find what you need. There are plenty of options for listening to music or podcasts, sending messages via voice, and navigating around.
As CarPlay becomes more popular and available in more cars, we’ll hopefully see additional apps make their way to the platform. In the meantime, there are lots of non-CarPlay apps that make for a more efficient driving experience, too.