How to Listen to Internet Radio in Your Car

It's easier than you think!

What to Know

  • The easiest way to listen to internet radio in your car, such as from Spotify, Pandora, and iHeart, is on your smartphone.
  • Some car head units have built-in radio apps or allow you to install radio apps. They require an internet connection via a phone or mobile hotspot.
  • Some cars include built-in mobile hotspots, but there is usually a fee for the service.

This article explains the ways you can listen to internet radio in your car. It includes information on listening via a smartphone, an internet-compatible head unit, or a mobile hotspot.

Required Equipment for Listening to Internet Radio in Your Car

Listening to traditional AM/FM radio or HD radio is as simple as it gets. Almost any head unit has a radio tuner, and there's a decent chance it will be capable of receiving HD radio. Internet radio, however, requires a handful of different components to work, most of which do not come included with your OEM or aftermarket stereo.

There are two things you need if you want to listen to internet radio in your car: a mobile internet connection and a device that's capable of accessing internet radio content. Smartphones provide a great way to listen to internet radio on the road since they combine both of those functionalities into a single, portable package that you're probably already carrying around with you.

Aside from a smartphone, you can also access internet radio via your car's head unit (if it's compatible) or through a separate mobile hotspot. Some cars come with OEM head units that can access internet radio and built-in Wi-Fi hotspots, allowing you to share a connection with other devices.

Listening to Internet Radio in Your Car With a Smartphone

If you have a smartphone with a decent data plan, it's the easiest and least expensive way to bring internet radio to your car. If you have some way of connecting your phone to your head unit, all you have to do is connect the phone as you would normally and download the appropriate internet radio app.

If you don't have a method of connecting your head unit to your phone, you have a few options, depending on the capabilities of your head unit:

Locating Internet Radio Apps

The best and easiest way to listen to internet radio on your phone, and in your car, is via the appropriate app. Some internet radio services that offer apps include:

Some apps, like TuneIn, act as aggregators that provide access to simulcast streams of physical AM and FM stations, while others allow you to create your own, customized stations based on your preferences. Others, like Pandora, use complex algorithms to generate custom stations based on how you rate individual songs that pop up.

Using a Head Unit to Listen to Internet Radio

In addition to smartphone apps, some head units come with built-in radio apps or allow you to install radio apps that provide access to many of those same services. If your head unit came with that functionality, all you need to do is add an internet connection, in the form of tethering your phone or obtaining a mobile hotspot. Other cars come with built-in mobile hotspots, which you may have to pay to activate.

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