Apple CarPlay changes car rental for travelers seeking navigation and their own music

CarPlay is built into the dashboard of equipped models, with an interface that is instantly familiar to any iPhone user.

Planes, trains, buses, and ferries can't get you everywhere. That "last mile" often demands a rental car. Not the most glamorous form of transportation, but rental cars are great because they give you flexibility to get anywhere you need at any time, and the chance to try out different cars over time. Sometimes the rental car is the only option for getting to more remote spots untouched by the magic of ride sharing. We've shopped around the various rental companies in the past, but have grown partial to National thanks to its Emerald Aisle that allows members (membership at base tier is free) to just stroll through the lineup of cars and hop into the one they like. Key's in the ignition. We also love earning free rental days!

Recently we've noticed that some car brands (we're looking at you, Buick) on the lot have been coming with Apple CarPlay built in. This is a game changer for those of us who love the ability to easily navigate music on our iPhone while driving, seize long drives to make phone calls, or who are relying on in-car GPS navigation to get where we're going.

For the uninitiated, CarPlay allows you to plug your iPhone into the car, and then allows you to access the Phone, Music, Maps, Messages, Podcast, Audiobook, and some third party apps ( At Bat, anyone?) through the car's touchscreen. It's really a true representation of using your iPhone through your car. We think this will change the rental car experience for two reasons:

  1. For the first time, it let's us bring our personalized electronic stuff with us in the rental car, rather than adapting to whatever stock entertainment system is in the car we happen to be renting. Simply unplug your phone, take it to another car, and your stuff is right there.
  2. This is big, it gives us GPS navigation in the car, something not usually available in rental cars unless you pay the extra fee to get the GPS device.

Sure, yes, we've long always had the ability to just pick up our phones and use them for navigating in the car. But CarPlay gives us a legal, far more safe, and far more convenient in-dashboard way of doing it. We think it's a huge improvement that actually goes far beyond rental cars and into the realm of car ownership. Imagine if those who want to own a car with navigation can skip paying the thousands of dollars extra to get navigation... no problem, this one comes with CarPlay.

To take advantage of this next time you rent, remember to bring your iPhone's USB cable (is this really something you don't already have in your travel bag?), and acquaint yourself with the list of models in which CarPlay is available. As I said earlier, we've found Buicks to be a good bet lately (they also are some of the nicest cars you'll commonly find available for rental), but we think there are good odds on other common rental brands Chevrolet, Ford, and Hyundai coming up CarPlay in the future. Look for these as you walk through the rental aisle, and don't be afraid to hop in, turn the key, and double check before you commit. Move onto the next option if you don't find what you're looking for.

Happy driving!