Carista is an app for managing, customizing and diagnosing modern automobiles from specific manufacturers. It allows you to do things like change the behavior of door locks or certain chimes and alerts that you car might make. It’ll also tell you about service that’s required and diagnose any service codes that may be showing on your vehicle. It requires specialized hardware and a not-so-cheap subscription to work properly bu, for the right customer it can be quite valuable.
First, Carista requires an ODB2 adapter to work. ODB2 (on-board diagnostics v2) is an interface that all cars and light trucks built and sold in the US since 1996. Carista will happily sell you their ODB2 adapter that works with iPhone (via Bluetooth) and Android (via Bluetooth and WiFi) devices but will also work with almost any generic ODB2 adapter. The simplest way forward is the Carista adapter which sells for $20 on carista.com.
The second thing to note is that Carista customization only works with certain makes and only certain models/model years from those manufacturers. Compatible vehicles include those from Toyota, Lexus, Audi, BMW, and a few others. You can check the entire list of supported vehicles here. For the purposes of this review I tested with a 2017 Toyota Highlander XLE.
Third, anything beyond basic diagnostic information requires a subscription. A year subscription runs $40 or you can purchase a week at a time for $10. You can get a free trial – 30 days if you buy the Carista adapter or 7 days if you use another manufacturers device.
Finally, setup is simple. It is basically plug and play if you use the Carista adapter and an Android device like I did for this review. Connect the Carista adapter to your car’s ODB2 port. You’ll find the ODB2 port under the dash on the driver’s side of the cockpit. Fire up the app and it will connect automatically.
The actual Carista app is simple to use as it presents you with three options – diagnose, customize, and service. Diagnose isn’t that interesting to me but if you have a service engine or other light on your dashboard it will help you understand what the problem is so you can resolve it. Some service centers charge $20-$40 just to read the codes your car throws up so having the Carista around can be helpful and maybe save you a few dollars.
The service option will allow you to do things like reset your oil change light if your service center forgets to. You can also register TPMS sensors, pull the version info off your CPU, and more depending on your vehicle model.
The real interesting bits are under the customization section. Here you’ll find all sorts of options to change things with your door locks, instrument panel, lights, and more. As an example, one of the things I changed on my Toyota Highlander was the seat belt chime. Toyota really wants my backseat passengers to buckle up even though the law in Florida (where I live) doesn’t require it for adults. So I disabled the rear seat belt alarm.
I also lowered the volume of the click that my turn indicator makes. There are plenty of options like this that, while not critical, can improve your driving experience. It’s important to note that once these changes are made they can be reversed using Carista. But they will remain in place even if you let your Carista subscription lapse or remove the OBD2 unit entirely.
I love the customization options that Carista brings. I also really like that, if you use their $20 adapter, it’s a simple plug and play setup experience. I find the $40/year subscription to be a little much and I can’t see myself paying that much for it. I would, though, pay $10 for a week’s use if new customizations came online after my 30 day trial expires. I can recommend dropping $20 on the adapter + trial if you have a supported vehicle. Pick one up over at caristaapp.com.