What New Cars Have Wi-Fi?

Beverly Braga | Sep 11, 2020

Ever since the first Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone arrived in 2001, our vehicles have been connected to our lives beyond our commutes. However, capability and availability are two different things. In fact, hands-free calling was a Chrysler-exclusive feature until about 2004. But, nowadays, Bluetooth is standard equipment on essentially every vehicle except for the most basic, low priced models. Which leads us to the internet.

Chevrolet Tahoe Wi-Fi Hotspot

Like Bluetooth, the World Wide Web was relatively new technology in the early Aughts but has now advanced to “Can’t Live Without” status. Whether at home, work, or play, we need to be connected. And, so, our vehicles have progressed beyond basic hands-free calling to become traveling Wi-Fi hotspots. Unlike Bluetooth, however, restrictions apply.

The Limits of Unlimited Data Plans

Audi was the first manufacturer to offer built-in Wi-Fi back in 2011. Since then, and with the exception of supercars, you’d be hard-pressed to find an automaker that doesn’t offer in-car Wi-Fi of some kind. And almost all have a dedicated app to go with that connectivity. But, like your smartphone, there are data plans involved with prices based not only on usage but also network.

For example, nearly two dozen automotive brands utilize the AT&T network in the U.S. while six are mentioned on Verizon’s connected-car partner page. Nevertheless, Wi-Fi hotspots can be had as one of two plans: a limited mobile share or unlimited data. The former means using your existing wireless carrier plan, usually for up to 2GB. Unlimited plans are just that but have data caps where internet speeds will slow during peak times. With AT&T, the usage amount limit is 22GB. Verizon includes 15GB of high-speed data access before downgrading to 600 Kbps for the rest of the billing period.

Regarding pricing, existing customers of AT&T and Verizon will get a discount on monthly rates. However, there is no need to switch carriers if you’re not already a customer. Prepaid unlimited data plans of one or two years offer competitive rates when they’re broken down monthly. But you are stuck for the duration of the plan as opposed to a month-to-month subscription, which, although more expensive, offers the option of anytime cancelation. 

Our research showed AT&T data share plans average $10 a month or $25 for unlimited access for existing customers, but prepaid long-term plans for non-AT&T users start at $200 for 12 months. Verizon offers prepaid unlimited plans starting a $20 a month for non-Verizon customers.

Complimentary Trial Periods are Standard

If your new-car purchase lists Wi-Fi “capability” as a feature, this generally means a complimentary trial period is included to introduce you to your vehicle’s full list of connectivity features. Afterwards, you’ll need to pay for your Wi-Fi fix. 

As expected, luxury automakers offer longer trial periods and/or more data. A 6-month trial of Audi Connect (AT&T) is available but once the free-use period concludes, a paid subscription to Connect Plus, the highest of the connectivity tiers, is required to continue service. Up to eight devices can be connected per vehicle. On Lexus vehicles with the Enform 2.0 infotainment system, complimentary internet (Verizon) is also included for up to one year or 4GB of data.

Honda currently offers integrated Wi-Fi (AT&T) on Touring and Elite trims of its Odyssey, Passport, and Pilot models. The free trial runs for three months or 3GB, whichever comes first, and each vehicle can accommodate up to 10 devices. Both Toyota and Mazda are on the Verizon network and both come with a 6-month or 2GB free wireless trial. Currently, only the 2020 Mazda CX-30 is equipped with Wi-Fi capability while all Toyota models featuring Entune 3.0 receive the complimentary trial. Note that Verizon partners have a limit of five connected devices per vehicle. 

For the most part, Wi-Fi trial periods won’t begin until the account is activated on the vehicle, and while the subscriptions are not automatically renewed notifications are sent before the free trial expires.

So, What New Cars Have Wi-Fi?

Circling back around to the original question, the answer is that most new cars have Wi-Fi, though it is frequently limited to more expensive trim levels and requires a subscription to a pricey connected services package. Whether having 24/7 access to the internet is worth the added cost is a decision only you can make.

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