A USB car charger can be a great gadget for keeping your devices charged on the road. But as we all know, being able to play music from USB devices is also super important, if not, as important as keeping them juiced up.
Purchasing a brand new car off the lot, you can expect it to have features like bluetooth and auxiliary audio that make playing music wirelessly possible. But there are still many vehicles on the road that lack these, and require a little creativity to getting an iPhone or Android’s tunes jamming through the speakers.
So can a USB car charge play music?
A USB car charger cannot play music. Since many do not have any connection to the car stereo, USB chargers will only charge USB devices through the cigarette lighter. However, A USB car charger that also has a built-in FM transmitter can play music through the car stereo.
If you are in the market for an accessory that can play music through the car’s speakers and charge USB devices, you need to make sure that a USB car charger has the necessary components to accomplish both.
Read on as I share my research into how a USB car charger works, and how finding an additional feature can make or break being able to play music from this accessory.
Can I Play Music Through USB In My Car?
Having a USB port that was included in brand new cars started rising in popularity by the mid 2000s. As battery-powered USB devices started becoming common household items, there was also a growing need for them to stay charged, especially on the road.
USB ports that are built in to cars, even today, are designed to charge devices via a USB connection using the car’s battery as the main power source.
As USB ports in vehicles continued to rise in popularity, so did their need for also playing music from these same devices. This lead to car manufacturers connecting USB ports, not just to the battery as a power source, but also to stereo head units.
Now drivers can easily play and charge music from their own USB devices, like tablets, smartphones, and even laptops, on the go.
Depending on your vehicles year, make, and model, the USB port that’s supplied may or may not have the capability to play music from your devices while they are charging.
Here’s some ways on how you can check whether or not you can play music through USB in your car:
- Find the Music Source button or menu item and select it.
- Toggle through each source until you find an option that reads “USB” or “USB Audio”.
- If you find this source, there is indeed a USB port that can supply audio to the stereo.
- Leave the USB Audio Source selected and test each USB port until you find the one that plays music.
- If there is no USB Audio Source button or menu item found: Test if USB device will play music by plugging it in to each USB port and toggling the Source button.
- Tip: Sometimes music will automatically play from an active connection, such as a USB device, so toggling through the Source menu may not be required.
If you plug a USB audio device into a port and find that there is no music playing from the car’s speakers, then that USB port is most likely made only for charging and not for audio purposes.
Keep on reading if you find yourself in the no music party, as there is still a way to play music, even after plugging your desired audio device into the USB port of your car.
How Do I Play Music From My iPhone In My Car Charger?
Here is the fact: the car charger that is built in to your vehicle, also known as a “cigarette lighter”, can only charge or power accessories, like iPhones, that are plugged in to it.
That means your car charger has no way of connecting and playing music through the cigarette lighter.
This is because the cigarette lighter is, solely, a 12V power source that is connected to the battery of the car. Unlike a USB port, cigarette lighters are not connected to the stereo head unit, and therefore, cannot play music directly from the outlet.
Even though you cannot play music through your car’s cigarette lighter, there is still a way you can charge your device from the outlet and still wirelessly transmit music to the radio so that music will play.
Many many cars on the road today have radios that can capture FM frequency signals.
The cool thing about FM is that not only can your radio listen in on the signal of a major local or national radio station, but can capture any FM signal as long as it is strong enough and within the frequency band.
So although you cannot play music from your iPhone from just a car charger that’s connected to the cigarette lighter, you can jam to your iPhone music by connecting it to a USB car charger that also has an FM transmitter.
To look at a good example of what I am referring to, check out my favorite VicTsing Bluetooth FM Transmitting USB Car Charger on Amazon.
I highly recommend this quality USB car charger because it delivers your charging and music-playing needs all in one package. For an extremely reasonable price, it can supply 12V power to any USB device, has AUX cord input so that you can play music from anything with a headphone jack, and can even read music from a USB drive or SD card.
Once you have connected your iPhone to the USB car charger, simply tune your radio in to an FM signal that’s currently not taken.
In other words, if you hear nothing but static, that is an available open FM signal.
When you’ve found the signal, tune the FM transmitter by turning the knob until it matches the same FM signal number as the car radio. As soon as the signals match, push play on your iPhone, and you should now start hearing crystal-clear music through your car speakers.
Can You Put An AUX Cord In A Cigarette Lighter?
You might be thinking that the cigarette lighter in your car can do more than supply 12V power to your accessories, but to this day that is all they are built for.
Therefore, a cigarette lighter cannot handle a connection from an auxiliary, or AUX, cord and play music through the speakers of your vehicle.
But, you can use an AUX cord to play music through your cigarette lighter if it is connected to a car charger that also has some kind of radio transmitter.
The reason your car charger needs to also have a radio transmitter, such as an FM signal, is because a cigarette lighter has no direct connection to your car’s stereo, like some USB ports have.
So how can you make your cigarette lighter AUX-capable? Follow these steps and you’ll have music playing from your AUX device in no time:
- Plug in a car charger that also has an FM transmitter into the cigarette lighter. I highly recommend this one from VicTsing on Amazon since it works with both USB and AUX in your car.
- Connect your AUX audio device and begin playing any music from it.
- Tune your car radio to an FM signal that is not yet used. If you hear nothing but static, you’ve found an unused signal.
- When you’ve found the right frequency, tune your FM transmitter on the car charger to the same FM signal number.
- Once the frequencies match, you should now be hearing crystal-clear audio from your AUX device through the car speakers.
How Do I Play Spotify Or Apple Music Through My Car USB?
Depending on the make, model, and year of your car, you may or may not be able to play music through the USB port that’s built in to your vehicle.
If you are not sure whether or not you can play music through the USB port, refer to the troubleshoot above that outlines how you can test if your USB port can play music or not.
For USB ports that can play music: Simply plug your iOS or android device into the built-in car USB port and open the Spotify or Apple Music app to start playing music.
If your vehicle is newer, it may also have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay integration built right in. If yours comes with this, plug in your device into the USB and select the menu icon on the screen to open Android Auto or Apple CarPlay depending on your device.
Once open, you can now select Spotify or Apple Music. The app on the screen will now mirror all the music that’s currently stored in your device on the same app.
For USB ports that don’t play music: Plug in a USB car charger that also has an FM transmitter into your 12V cigarette lighter. I highly recommend this one by VicTsing on Amazon. It has multiple USB ports so that you can charge and play music from different devices at any time.
With the car charger plugged in and the FM transmitter turned on, tune in to an unused FM signal from your car radio. If you hear full static, that means you’ve found an unused FM signal.
Match the signal from your car radio to the charger FM transmitter by turning its knob and going to the same number.
Once the FM frequencies are matched, open the Spotify or Apple Music app from your connected iOS or Android device and start playing music. You should now hear crystal-clear audio through your car speakers.
How Can I Listen To Spotify Or Apple Music In My Car Without Using Data?
When you are using an application such as Apple and Google maps, podcasts, Audible, Spotify, or Apple Music, your iOS or Android device is using cellular data as long as it is connected to that signal.
But there is indeed a way that you can listen to Spotify or Apple Music in your car without using any data.
Before heading out the door, you can download the music or podcasts that you want to listen to from the apps so that they are stored on your device. This will use zero data while you are playing tunes and audio on the go.
Here’s how you can eliminate data usage and download music from each of the apps straight to your device:
How to download for offline use in Spotify:
- Open the Spotify app and locate the songs, albums, or playlists that your want to listen to.
- Select the Triple Dot (…) menu option either next to the song or in the upper right hand corner of your screen
- Select Download
- Once the song, album, or playlist is downloaded, you should see a green arrow down icon with a circle around it confirming that the selected music is stored on your device.
- You can now start listening to your downloaded music on Spotify without using any data
- Note: In order to download music, you need to have a Spotify Premium subscription. The free version of Spotify only allows you to play music using data, but cannot be downloaded directly on your device.
How to download for offline use in Apple Music:
- Open the Apple Music app and select the Library tab along the bottom of your iOS device screen
- Select the playlist, album, or songs that are in your library that you want to download.
- If you can’t find the music you want to download from your library, select Search along the bottom of the screen and type in the name of the artist, album, song, or playlist that you are looking for.
- Once you’ve found the music you want to listen to in your library, select the Download icon (cloud with a down arrow) next to each album, playlist, or song that you want for offline use.
- You can now start listening to your download music on Apple Music without using any data.
Recommended Products That Helped Me Research This Article
- VicTsing Bluetooth FM Transmitter USB Car Charger (check out here on Amazon) – Sleek, sturdy, and functional. The USB car charger by VicTsing easily plugs into any 12V cigarette lighter to juice up all your USB devices and play music from USB, AUX, and SD card inputs. Wireless bluetooth connectivity with noise cancelling microphone allows for effortless hands-free calling with crystal-clear car speaker audio.
- Anker Premium Double-Braided MFi Lightning USB Cable (check out here on Amazon) – Thanks to its tough braided design, the USB cable by Anker won’t kink, turtle neck, or bend and is durable enough for everyday driving, along with its extreme temperatures. Long-lasting cable quality from Anker that we all expect delivers a pure, premium audio experience from your iOS device.