How to Get Amazon Alexa In Your Car

You're not limited to using only the Amazon Echo Auto

A phone mounted in a car displays Alexa.

sonmez / istock / Getty

Alexa is Amazon's virtual assistant that can provide news and weather reports, retrieve sports scores, map routes, and perform many other functions. It's primarily used in the home, but there are a number of ways that you can get Amazon Alexa in your car as well.

With Alexa in your car, you can ask for directions, stream music, get local points of interest, make and receive phone calls, and a whole lot more, and you can do it all with voice commands.

Alexa requires an internet connection. In your car, that means it has to use your phone's cellular data connection. Asking simple questions doesn't use a lot of data, but using Alexa to stream music can eat through your bandwidth quickly if you don't have an unlimited plan.

Six Ways to Get Alexa In Your Car

There are six main ways to get Alexa in a car, and each one has its own benefits and drawbacks. While Amazon Echo Auto is an option, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Here are the six ways you can get Alexa in your car:

  • Amazon Echo Auto: This is the most straightforward way to get Alexa in your car, especially if you're already familiar with other Echo devices. The Amazon Echo Auto is essentially an Echo or Dot that's designed specifically for use in automotive applications. It uses your phone's internet connection, and it also requires you to install the Alexa app on your phone.
  • Original equipment infotainment centers: This is the easiest way to use Alexa in a car, because it comes built right into the infotainment center. Some vehicles even have built-in cellular data connections for Alexa to tap into. The problem is that to take advantage of this implementation, you need to buy a vehicle that includes Alexa.
  • Alexa-enabled navigation devices: Some navigation devices, like the Garmin Speak, have Alexa capabilities. They typically function like a Bluetooth speaker with a screen to display navigation directions. These devices rely on your phone's cellular data connection and require you to install a proprietary app.
  • Alexa-enabled smart speakers: These are Bluetooth speakers with built-in Alexa functionality. They typically connect to your phone for access to cellular data, and to your vehicle's sound system if it supports Bluetooth. Some are battery operated, and others plug into a 12V outlet.
  • Use an Echo Dot: If you have an Echo Dot already, why not use it as a trial run to see if you even want Alexa in your car? Connect it to your phone's Wi-Fi hotspot, and plug it into a 12V USB adapter, and you're ready to go.
  • Use your smartphone: This is the simplest solution, but it's far from the most elegant. While you can use Alexa in your car through the Alexa app, there is no hands-free option. You can ask your Google Assistant to open the Alexa app, but you have to physically tap the ring icon in the Alexa app to communicate with Alexa.

Amazon Echo Auto

Amazon Echo Auto is essentially just an extension of the Echo product line that's designed specifically for use in cars. It connects to your phone for access to the internet, because Echo devices aren't capable of processing speech and coming up with answers without an internet connection.

Since Echo Auto is designed for use in cars, it comes with a 12V USB adapter, and it can connect to your car audio system through Bluetooth or a wired auxiliary connection. For more information about how this works, check out our full guide to the Amazon Echo Auto.

Using Alexa in Factory Infotainment Systems

If you're in the market for a new vehicle, and you're a fan of Alexa, then there are a number of vehicles that have Alexa built right in. Instead of tacking on additional hardware, Alexa is accessed through the same interface that you use for the radio, navigation, hands-free calling, and everything else.

Alexa integrated into a Ford vehicle.
Ford

The benefit to this type of Alexa integration is that it's extremely easy to use. There is nothing extra to buy or set up, all you have to do is ask Alexa questions just like you would at home.

The drawback to this implementation is that it's not available in most vehicles, and it's probably not a feature that will sway many people to purchase a vehicle they wouldn't otherwise be interested in.

How to Get Alexa In Your Car With Alexa-Enabled Devices

Once you step away from the Echo Auto, there are a whole lot of Alexa-enabled devices that allow you to get Alexa in your car. These devices fall into two broad categories, which are Alexa-enabled navigation devices, and Alexa-enabled Bluetooth speakers, but you use them in more or less the same way.

An Echo Dot in use in a vehicle.
Jeremy Laukkonen 

You can also use an Echo Dot with this same method, but you'll have to find a 12V USB adapter to power it.

  1. Install the Alexa app on your phone.

  2. If your Alexa-enabled device has a proprietary app, install and set it up.

    Some devices only use the Alexa app, and others require an additional app. For example, the Alexa-enabled Garmin Speak navigation device requires the Garmin Drive app (iOS, Android)

  3. Install your Alexa-enabled device in your vehicle. This may involve mounting it to the dash or windshield, setting it in a cup holder, or placing it in any other safe and secure location.

  4. If necessary, plug your Alexa-enabled device into your vehicle's electrical system via the cigarette lighter or 12V accessory socket.

    Some Alexa-enabled devices are battery powered. Others, like the Echo Dot, require you to purchase a separate 12V USB adapter.

  5. Power the device on, and connect it to your Alexa app. If necessary, turn on your phone's Wi-Fi hotspot, or activate your hotspot device to provide an internet connection.

  6. Connect your Alexa-enabled device to your vehicle's audio system through either Bluetooth or a wired auxiliary connection, if either is available.

    If your head unit doesn't have Bluetooth or an auxiliary input, you'll need to choose an Alexa-enabled speaker, like the Dot, that can work on its own. If you go this route, you'll have to mute your car audio system manually when listening to music or making calls through your Alexa device.

  7. You are now ready to access Alexa in your vehicle using voice commands.

Using Alexa in Your Car With Just a Phone

The last way to use Alexa in a car is to just use the Alexa app without any additional devices. This provides you access to the exact same information, but it's less convenient and also less safe.

A driver activates Alexa on their phone in a car.
 Blackzheep / iStock / Getty

The issue is that while Alexa-enabled devices leverage your phone, and require you to have the Alexa app installed, they allow you to do it all hands-free. There is no way to use the Alexa app hands-free without an external device like Garmin Speak or an Alexa-enabled speaker like Rova Viva.

If you want to use Alexa in your car with just your phone, you need to launch the app and tap the ring icon instead of simply saying your wake word. Touching the ring icon does allow you to issue voice commands, or ask questions, and Alexa will answer. However, tapping this small icon while driving isn't especially easy or safe.