It’s no secret cars need upgrades and maintenance to keep running year after year. While some of those are absolutely necessary (think oil filters and windshield wipers), other upgrades are meant to make your driving experience more enjoyable. Getting an Android Auto head unit is precisely that: you can live without one, but it sure makes driving long distances and in the day-to-day better.
Newer car and truck models come with a built-in Android head unit. They usually only have a satellite radio, a CD player, and an analog clock. But who wouldn’t love having a GPS navigation system, the ability to play music straight from their phone, and be able to take hands-free calls?
Luckily, you don’t need to run out and buy a new vehicle. Android Auto head units can be installed even in older models. It will feel like having a brand new car or truck without having to shell out the big bucks.
In this article, we’ll walk you through all you need to know about this car add-on. We have compiled a list of the top nine best Android Auto head units and reviewed them. Then, we have written a full buyer’s guide and answered the most asked questions about the product. This is all you need to upgrade your car’s head unit.
Android Head Unit Must-Know Guide
Now that you’ve seen our favorite android auto head units, it’s time to understand the system better. When it comes to how it works, how to install it, and what the benefits are to using it, we’ve got you covered.
What Is an Android Auto Head Unit?
Every vehicle comes with a car stereo system. This is usually a very simple and straightforward entertainment center. However, you can upgrade it, which is where an Android Auto head unit comes in.
This device fits into your car’s head unit system, where the stereo used to be. Basically, it does everything a car stereo does, and then some. You can use it to take calls, navigate the road using a GPS system, and even watch YouTube videos.
In a nutshell, it is a continuation of your Android phone. It can do pretty much anything a cell can, except it is attached to the car.
The “Android Auto” in the name refers to the operating system. Android developed an app to sync their phones to cars, just like Apple did with their CarPlay. However, most Android Auto units still work perfectly well with iOS devices.
Who Is It For?
Android units are obviously not a necessity. Rather, they’re a great way of upgrading an older car to make it feel brand new. We recommend getting this product if you:
- Enjoy listening to music in the car
- Need help navigating different roads from a GPS
- Drive long distances and want to fight boredom
- Need to take calls while driving
- Want to spice up your driving experience
Advantages of Getting an Android Auto Head Unit
There’s a ton of advantages to getting an Android head unit. Let’s list them all.
For starters, they have a large screen display that makes reading stuff on a map easier. When you’re driving, it’s essential to keep your eyes and attention on the road. Well, reading things off a screen isn’t practical—or safe.
Then, they allow you to take calls on the road safely. We all know how dangerous it is to be focused on a conversation while driving, but the temptation to take a call isn’t going anywhere. With a head unit, you can answer calls hands-free. Some will even say it is like using a car phone mount, only better.
Of course, no one can deny how handy having a GPS system at hand is. Being able to say goodbye to fold-out maps and less-than-helpful copilots is always a plus.
Moreover, you’ll have a wealth of entertainment at your fingertips. Using an aux cord or pairing your phone through Bluetooth means more freedom to listen to whatever you want. And with apps such as Spotify and Apple Music, you can pretty much listen to all songs ever made—without having to deal with boring radio ads.
How to Install an Android Auto Head Unit?
As you can probably imagine, installing an auto head unit isn’t easy. But that doesn’t mean you’ll have to take your car to a mechanic. Fortunately, there’s plenty of do-it-yourself guides on how to install this kind of device.
In most cases, the auto head unit you bought will come with specific instructions. You’ll likely need a few extra tools to hook up all the wires and fix the unit in place. Be careful when removing or adding any parts to your car. Accidentally cutting some wires could be a very expensive mistake.
Types of Android Head Units
There’s more than one kind of head unit. Luckily, they are divided into two major categories: single DIN and double DIN. They each refer to your car’s stereo measurements.
Most vehicles will either have a single DIN or a double DIN stereo. Once you know what kind of stereo your car has, you’ll be able to replace it with one of the products we’ve highlighted. It’s the beauty of standardized car parts!
Single DIN Head Units
A single DIN head unit measures around two inches in height. Keep in mind that this measurement is taken from the place where the radio is installed. The CD slots don’t count toward it.
Double DIN Head Units
Double DIN heads are four inches tall. Because they have more internal space, they probably have built-in amplifiers and other add-ons.
Android Auto Head Unit Buying Guide
Now that you’ve seen the best auto head units of 2020 and have learned a bit more about these devices, it’s time to make a purchase.
Because there are so many available products out there, it can be hard to settle on one. That’s why we have brought you this buying guide.
Each of these headings highlights something important you should be looking for in a head unit. Remember them so your search for your next car accessory is easier.
There are two kinds of compatibilities to be looking out for.
The first is car compatibility. Make sure the head unit you’re getting will fit in your car. If your car stereo is single DIN, you need a single DIN head unit. If it’s double DIN, you’ll need a double DIN unit. Simple, right?
Secondly, you’ll want to think about phone compatibility. All the items on our list are compatible with Android phones, as long as you have a working version of the Android Auto app. Yet, not all of these units will sync with iOS devices. If you’re an iPhone user, look for a unit that enables CarPlay. They’re not hard to find.
That said, you still want a screen that is big enough for you to see things clearly. This will make keeping your eyes on the road easier, as you’ll only need to glance at the screen to know what route to take or what buttons to press to change music tracks.
Of course, you want a device that is useful and easy to use. Who wants to have a clunky device they hate using?
Choose a head unit with a user-friendly interface. If it lets you customize it to fit your needs, all the better. Ideally, you want a unit so handy you’ll barely need to touch it in order for it to do what you want. Just a few taps at the screen should get you to your most-used apps.
Ask yourself what you would like to do with your new head unit. Are you wanting the GPS functionalities out of it? Or will you use it mostly to listen to your phone’s music library? If the former, we recommend getting a unit that has a larger screen and high-quality display. If the latter, then a device with customizable audio settings will probably be best.
Let your intentions guide you when choosing a product. Sure, some units will offer 1,001 features for a high price, but do you need them all? Make sure to stick to what you know you’ll use and invest in a good piece of equipment for that purpose.
If you’re willing to spend a little more, getting a unit that supports addons may be a good idea. Some can connect with a rear-view camera to help you park. Others will make it easier for you to use the navigation system. Depending on what you want the unit to do for you, they may be worth it.
None of this invalidates the fact that budgets are important. As with most things in life, sticking to your budget is the wise decision. You’ll see all kinds of units, some costing up to $700.
However, you don’t need to get in the hole just to buy a good head unit. There are some great budget-friendly picks that get the job done.
Lastly, keep an eye out for what products have warranties. If you’re skeptical about spending money on a head unit, knowing you can get your money back is a plus. Some products have an 18-month money-back guarantee if you end up not getting along with the unit. It’s handy and will make you feel more secure.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Apple’s CarPlay work with Android units?
Don’t be fooled by the name. Although most head units have “Android” somewhere in their name, most support CarPlay. Look into the product’s specs and see if it is compatible with iOS devices.
What devices work with Android Auto units?
As long as your device is running on Android 5.0 Lollipop or above, it will be supported by the auto unit. Simply install the Android Auto app and follow all the instructions to get it paired up with your car.
As far as iPhones and iPods go, you’ll have to check with the manufacturer. Oftentimes you’ll see this information on the box of the product.
How do I pair my device with the Android unit?
First, you will need the Android Auto app installed on your phone. Give the app permission to access your contacts, music library, and whatever else it asks you. Then, hook your phone to the head unit with a USB cable. The app will ask you permission to do a bunch of other things, so keep pressing “accept” until it’s all ready to go. Once that’s done, make sure your phone’s Bluetooth is connected and that you have paired it with your car. If the head unit you bought doesn’t enable Bluetooth, you’re all set to go, just make sure to keep your phone connected with an aux cord. If it does and your phone has recognized the unit, everything is set!
Can I replace my old head unit with an Android one?
If you’re wondering how to upgrade your Android head unit, the answer is yes. You can place a new head unit in the place where your car stereo was. As long as the dimensions match up and you have all the right tools, you can even do it yourself.