Google Maps is a great navigation app, with no frills really needed. It is, in fact, easily one of the best navigation apps around, without even beginning to consider the extras. But that doesn’t mean that there are no frills to be found. Aside from the ability to go into Dark Mode and a few other options, you can even go so far as to customize your car icon in Google Maps, in fact.
Specifically, this changes the icon representing your location. By default, that’s an arrow icon that’s reminiscent of the classic arcade title “Asteroids.” Unless you’re in motion, that may also show up as a simple round, circle icon. In either case, Google has colored the icon blue by default and it’s easy to spot.
Now, as a result, this doesn’t do much for the user experience. And there aren’t any functionality changes to note, either. In fact, the customization itself is rather limited. That’s ignoring the odd partnership and associated changes Google makes from time to time — typically, as an easter egg — to make things even better. But we’ll discuss that momentarily.
In the interim, if you’ve been looking to make your experience more personal, Google Maps has options. And this guide sets out to show you how to customize your car icon. So if that sounds appealing to you, read on.
Here’s how to change your car icon in Google Maps
Before getting started, it’s worth noting a few caveats and quirks about this feature. First, while this works on mobile and tablets, it isn’t going to work outside of the mobile app. So, for instance, you won’t be able to change the icon this way using the website for Google Maps.
Equally as important, this change only works for navigation by car. It doesn’t apply to travel by train, bus, or other public transport. So, if you use Google Maps to travel by those means, this customization won’t apply to you.
As noted above, there are also always potentially additional options for changing the icon, such as the Nintendo partnership noted above. That partnership opened up, temporarily, an option to show the company’s mascot driving his iconic Go-Kart around instead of the standard icons. That isn’t available as of this writing, but new options are sometimes if rarely or temporarily, added. So it’s worth keeping an eye out for those but not necessarily to expect them.
- Open up the Google Maps application on your mobile device or Android tablet
- In the search bar at the top of the page, enter a location to travel to. We’ve selected the American Museum of Natural History in New York, for our sample images. But this step is crucial. Since the icon only appears during navigation, you’ll need to be navigating first to change the icon. Although once set, it will stay set as your selection until you change it again
- Select “Directions” — and then “Start,” if Google Maps doesn’t automatically begin navigation. You may also need to enter a starting point and potentially you’ll need to switch over to the ‘car’ travel mode if that’s not your usual mode of transportation
- Once navigation has started, you’ll notice that your travel icon — your car icon — has changed to a triangular arrow shape
- Tap on the car icon to select it
- Google Maps will display a range of options, four in total, to customize your car icon. These include the standard blue-colored arrow icon, a red-colored sedan icon, a yellow-colored SUV, and a green pickup. The icons are arguably somewhat cartoonish, and as noted above, these are the sole customization options, as of this writing. So customizations are rather limited. Users can’t even, for instance, change the color of the vehicles
- Tapping on any of the presented icons, as shown in the images below, displayed along the lower half of the app UI, will change your car icon in Google Maps, to customize your experience. Or at the very least, to better match the vehicle you actually drive. As indicated already, the icon will continue to show as the selected icon across app sessions, until you actively change the icon again
- You can change your icon again at any time by following these steps again