Best Car Stereos

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There’s lots of reasons why you might be looking for a replacement stereo for your vehicle. Maybe your current car stereo doesn’t offer the technology you want or perhaps the stock stereo which came with the vehicle stopped working. Whatever the reason, there are hundreds of available options which can make the shopping process quite daunting to even begin. Fortunately, we've narrowed down the field to select car stereos which offer some of the best options currently available. To learn more about choosing the right car stereo for your needs, check out our car stereo buyer’s guide down below.

Best Car Stereo Overall:

The following five car stereos offer excellent performance and convenient features without an exorbitant price tag. Whether you're simply replacing the factory stereo with a higher-quality one or planning future sound system upgrades, each one of these is a great place to start.

Alpine CDE-147BT Car CD/MP3 Player

Alpine's midrange CDE-147BT might not be the flashiest stereo out there, but the features and performance take center stage. The built-in amplifier puts out 18 watts RMS x 4 channels, which is plenty of power for a basic setup. The 6-channel, 4-volt preamp outputs make this stereo an excellent base unit to build a custom sound system. Read Full Review

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    Alpine CDE-147BT Car CD/MP3 Player

    Kenwood KDCX797 eXcelon Single DIN In-Dash Car Stereo Receiver

    Kenwood's Excelon sub-brand already commands an expectation of excellent performance, and the KDC-X797 lives up to that reputation. This stereo offers high quality sound output thanks in part to its strong built-in amplifier, which puts out 22 watts RMS x 4 channels. Combined with lots of connectivity options and features, as well as the option to expand your system thanks to the 6-channel, 4-volt preamp outputs, the KDC-X797 is a great stereo as a basic upgrade or for someone looking to expand even further. Read Full Review

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      Kenwood KDCX797 eXcelon Single DIN In-Dash Car Stereo Receiver

      Clarion CZ702 Vehicle CD Digital Music Player Receiver

      The Clarion CZ702 offers built-in iPod/iPhone controls as well as built-in Bluetooth. The 6-channel, 5-volt preamp outputs allow the CZ702 to be used as a base for building up a custom system, while the built-in amplifier has plenty of performance to satisfy more casual listeners. The reasonable price and excellent performance make this one of the best buys in the car stereo market today. Read Full Review

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        Clarion CZ702 Vehicle CD Digital Music Player Receiver

        JVC KD-R840BT In Dash CD/MP3 Player

        The JVC KD-R840BT covers all the bases from connectivity and features to performance and expandability. Bluetooth capability even includes the ability to pair 2 phones at once. Amplifier output is 20 watts RMS x 4 channels, and the 4.8-volt, 6-channel preamp outputs allow for building a custom sound system. Read Full Review

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          JVC KD-R840BT In Dash CD/MP3 Player

          Pioneer DEH-X8500BH Bluetooth Enabled Single-DIN In-Dash CD/MP3 Receiver

          Packing plenty of features and the kind of performance expected from Pioneer, it's no surprise that the DEH-X8500BH would earn itself a spot on this list. Though a slightly higher price tag keeps this stereo further down in the ranking, it provides plenty of performance on its own - while the 6-channel, 4-volt preamp outputs leave open the possibility of expanding. Read Full Review

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            Pioneer DEH-X8500BH Bluetooth Enabled Single-DIN In-Dash CD/MP3 Receiver

            Best Car Stereo for iPod / iPhone:

            It used to be enough for manufacturers to offer a front panel aux input for iPod connectivity, but that is no longer the case. Some of the better stereos these days offer USB inputs, so you can connect your iPod or iPhone directly to the unit with zero loss of sound quality. This also has the benefit of charging your device at the same time, as well as allowing the stereo to function as a controller to browse through your music library. To qualify for this list, the stereo must be equipped with some sort of USB connection and offer built-in iPod controls. This is in addition to other criteria such as sound quality, extra features, and overall value.

            Sony DSXS310BTX Digital Media Receiver with Pandora Stream

            The Sony DSX-S310BTX leaves out the CD receiver entirely, focusing solely on digital sources to play music. Where the CD slot would have been before, you can now can store an iPod or smartphone inside. The slot also features a USB input so everything is contained out of sight. The Sony DSX-S310BTX is a great option if you've moved on from CDs and need a stereo that is designed around playing music from sources such as your iPhone. Read Full Review

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              Sony DSXS310BTX Digital Media Receiver with Pandora Stream

              Kenwood KDCX797 eXcelon Single DIN In-Dash Car Stereo Receiver

              The Kenwood Excelon KDC-X797 is a worthwhile option if you're looking for a stereo that will work well with your iPod/iPhone. Built-in iPod/iPhone controls and a front-panel USB port make connecting your music simple; performance is impressive, and the 6-channel, 4-volt preamp outputs offer expandability options. Read Full Review

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                Kenwood KDCX797 eXcelon Single DIN In-Dash Car Stereo Receiver

                Clarion CZ702 Vehicle CD Digital Music Player Receiver

                When it comes to iPhone connectivity, the Clarion CZ702 has you covered. The built-in iPhone controls are activated when you have your smartphone connected via the USB port. Sound quality is excellent on its own, but those wanting to upgrade their entire sound system will appreciate the 6-channel, 5-volt preamp outlets. Read Full Review

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                  Clarion CZ702 Vehicle CD Digital Music Player Receiver

                  Pioneer AppRadio 3 SPH-DA210 In-Dash iPhone and Android Compatible Car Receiver

                  Pioneer's SPH-DA210 AppRadio 3 combines plenty of performance with an entirely different user experience thanks to its massive 7-inch capacitive touchscreen. Lots of connectivity with different smartphones means that this screen can be used almost as an extension of your phone, doing away with awkward stabbing at buttons while you're trying to watch the road. Read Full Review

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                    Pioneer AppRadio 3 SPH-DA210 In-Dash iPhone and Android Compatible Car Receiver

                    JVC KDX200 Digital Media Receiver

                    JVC's digital-only KD-X200 offers lots in the way of basic performance and smartphone connectivity. While Bluetooth only comes by way of an optional adapter, a front USB input allows you to hook up your iPhone/iPod and use the built-in controls to play music, as well as music sourced from Pandora. Its affordability is just an added bonus. Read Full Review

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                       JVC KDX200 Digital Media Receiver

                      Best High-End Car Stereo:

                      A high-end stereo is for the most discerning audiophiles who want nothing but the best audio quality, and never mind if the head unit doesn't offer Bluetooth connectivity or adapters for this and that. A good high-end stereo system should make the inside of your car sound like a live concert hall, and there's no better place to start building one than with a high-end head unit. That alone can make the difference between murky, muddled sound and a crisp, clean live-quality experience. Be warned though: a high-end sound system will not produce quality sound from a compressed file. In fact, it will sound downright horrible, since the accuracy of a high-end system means that every pop, fuzz, crackle, and other low-quality audio quirks will be played back with perfect clarity. For best performance, use lossless audio.

                      Pioneer Stage 4 DEX-P99RS CD Player

                      The Pioneer DEX-P99RS is extremely expensive, and is a viable option only if you plan to connect the highest-quality components to support its incredible sound output. There is no internal amplifier, and the copper-plated chassis shows just how serious Pioneer is about preserving audio fidelity. If you're planning on building an audiophile-grade sound system for your car, this is one of the only options available today. Read Full Review

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                        Pioneer Stage 4 DEX-P99RS CD Player

                        Pioneer DEH-80PRS Mobile CD Receiver

                        Though the Pioneer DEX-80PRS isn't cheap, its combination of top quality internals, numerous features, and endless options for expansion justify the price tag. If you aren't interested in a "deadhead" receiver like the Pioneer DEX-P99RS, the DEX-80PRS is the best choice around. Read Full Review

                        Pioneer DEH-80PRS Mobile CD Receiver

                        Kenwood KDCX997 eXcelon Sing DIN In-Dash Car Stereo with Built In Bluetooth

                        Kenwood's Excelon KDC-X997 provides high-end performance and features at a surprisingly affordable price. Compatibility with different smartphones and a variety of audio formats, as well as a built-in amplifier that puts out 22 watts RMS x 4 make this versatile stereo an incredible value. If you plan to build a custom sound system, the 6-channel, 4-volt preamp outputs make it possible. Read Full Review

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                          Kenwood KDCX997 eXcelon Sing DIN In-Dash Car Stereo with Built In Bluetooth

                          Best Car Stereo with Bluetooth:

                          Bluetooth in car stereos is no longer used for simple hands-free calling. Newer smartphones and MP3 players feature wireless audio streaming via Bluetooth, and several Bluetooth-equipped receivers support this function. The following are solid choices if you're a big user of this wireless standard.

                          Alpine CDE-147BT Car CD/MP3 Player

                          Alpine's midrange CDE-147BT is nearly the textbook example of a perfect car stereo. Good features, excellent performance, and a reasonable price make the CDE-147BT a perfect all-around choice. The inclusion of Bluetooth is just one of its many features. Read Full Review

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                            Alpine CDE-147BT Car CD/MP3 Player

                            Pioneer AppRadio 3 SPH-DA210 In-Dash iPhone and Android Compatible Car Receiver

                            Though its Bluetooth capability is a given since it's earned a spot on this list, part of what makes the Pioneer SPH-DA210 AppRadio 3 stand out is its huge 7-inch touchscreen that does away with the need for a front panel cluttered with buttons. This touchscreen makes the AppRadio 3 able to function more like an extension of your smartphone, and even supports DVD playback. Read Full Review

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                              Pioneer AppRadio 3 SPH-DA210 In-Dash iPhone and Android Compatible Car Receiver

                              Pioneer DEH-X8500BH Bluetooth Enabled Single-DIN In-Dash CD/MP3 Receiver

                              The Pioneer DEH-X8500BH offers excellent sound quality and useful features, which made it one of our best overall picks. With that as a strong base, the DEH-X8500BH also makes its way onto this list for its built-in Bluetooth, which enables handsfree talking, music streaming, and even voice control for your iPhone. Read Full Review

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                                Pioneer DEH-X8500BH Bluetooth Enabled Single-DIN In-Dash CD/MP3 Receiver

                                Kenwood DPX500BT Double DIN In-Dash Car Stereo Receiver

                                Easy automatic Bluetooth pairing with smartphones takes regular built-in Bluetooth up a notch, making the Kenwood DPX500BT stand out. This isn't a one-trick-pony stereo, however, as it also offers a full range of features and connectivity options while delivering solid all-around performance at a fair price. Read Full Review

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                                  Kenwood DPX500BT Double DIN In-Dash Car Stereo Receiver

                                  Alpine UTE-42BT Car Flash Audio Player

                                  It's not always easy to find an ultra-affordable car stereo with all the features you need, such as Bluetooth. The Alpine UTE-42BT comes with built-in Bluetooth and a low price tag, although it gives up the CD slot in favor of only digital media sources. If you have most of your music stored on a smartphone or MP3 player, this budget-friendly and Bluetooth-compatible stereo is a good choice. Read Full Review

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                                    Alpine UTE-42BT Car Flash Audio Player

                                    Best Double-DIN Car Stereo:

                                    If you've got a car with a double-DIN size dash opening for the factory stereo, a single-DIN unit will fit easily but will leave a gaping hole in the dash. If you'd rather not deal with an unsightly gap in the unused portion of your dash opening, a double-DIN size stereo is well worth looking into. All of our picks displayed outstanding sound quality, and caught our attention by offering a variety of features and extras that provide extra versatility.

                                    Pioneer AVHX8500BHS Double-DIN Multimedia DVD Receiver With Bluetooth And HD Radio

                                    With an extensive amount of connectivity options and the sound quality you'd expect from Pioneer, the AVH-X8500BHS offers everything you'd expect from an excellent double-DIN car stereo. The ability to play video from multiple sources - and even split output so you can have a movie on in the back and music on in the front - make this stereo an excellent choice for a wide range of uses. Read Full Review

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                                      Pioneer AVHX8500BHS Double-DIN Multimedia DVD Receiver With Bluetooth And HD Radio

                                      Kenwood DPX500BT Double DIN In-Dash Car Stereo Receiver

                                      If you're looking for an all-around double-DIN replacement stereo, the Kenwood DPX500BT is a great choice. The DPX500BT is packed with features including lots of options for streaming internet radio, controlling your iPhone through the stereo interface, as well as built-in Bluetooth. The design is modern, and the stereo performs well enough on its own to not require adding on expensive components. Read Full Review

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                                        Kenwood DPX500BT Double DIN In-Dash Car Stereo Receiver

                                        Pioneer FH-X700BT In-Dash Double DIN CD/MP3/USB Car Stereo Receiver

                                        The Pioneer FH-X700BT takes full advantage of the larger in-dash opening to provide accessible controls and top-notch performance. This stereo also offers built-in Bluetooth and iPod compatibility, as well as Pandora control for iPhone and Android devices connected via the front USB port. A solid base to a great audio system, this stereo is one of the best choices for a double-DIN in-dash stereo. Read Full Review

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                                          Pioneer FH-X700BT In-Dash Double DIN CD/MP3/USB Car Stereo Receiver

                                          Kenwood DDX790 eXcelon Double DIN 6.95" In-Dash DVD Receiver

                                          A good looking design and solid feature list make the Kenwood Excelon DDX790 a great choice for those needing a car stereo that will fit a double-DIN opening. Plenty of connectivity and good performance make this car stereo a solid all-around choice. Read Full Review

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                                            Kenwood DDX790 eXcelon Double DIN 6.95" In-Dash DVD Receiver

                                            Pioneer AppRadio 3 SPH-DA210 In-Dash iPhone and Android Compatible Car Receiver

                                            With its huge touchscreen, the Pioneer SPH-DA210 AppRadio 3 takes full advantage of the space available with a double-DIN opening. If you're looking for a car stereo that will work seamlessly along with your smartphone, the AppRadio 3 combines extensive smartphone integration along with the features and performance you'd expect. Read Full Review

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                                              Pioneer AppRadio 3 SPH-DA210 In-Dash iPhone and Android Compatible Car Receiver

                                              Best Cheap Car Stereo:

                                              The 'budget' stereo market is extremely competitive, with manufacturers constantly trying to outdo each other. The consumer is the winner here, with plenty of affordable stereo options that offer desirable features and satisfying performance.

                                              Alpine CDE-141 CD/MP3 Car Stereo Receiver with Front Aux Input and USB

                                              Though the low price tag means skipping out on a long feature list, Alpine's CDE-141 does deliver a level of sound quality that isn't usually available in this price range. The front-panel USB port is useful for plugging your iPhone or iPod, which can then be controlled through the front panel so you don't need to fiddle with your smartphone while driving. If you're looking to upgrade your car's stereo on a budget, this should be a top choice. Read Full Review

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                                                Alpine CDE-141 CD/MP3 Car Stereo Receiver with Front Aux Input and USB

                                                Clarion CZ302 Bluetooth CD/USB/MP3/WMA Receiver

                                                In what seems to be a Clarion speciality, the CZ302 offers an impressive feature list for the price. Costing less than $150 doesn't keep this stereo from offering SiriusXM compatibility, built-in Parrot Bluetooth for handsfree calls and wireless streaming, and Pandora Internet Radio control using your iPhone. Read Full Review

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                                                   Clarion CZ302 Bluetooth CD/USB/MP3/WMA Receiver

                                                  Alpine UTE-42BT Car Flash Audio Player

                                                  With the UTE-42BT, Alpine sound quality can be had for a very affordable price. This particular stereo takes that even further, with its sub-$100 price tag. Despite the low price, this stereo still includes built-in Bluetooth - although it forgoes the CD receiver completely and accepts only digital media sources. However, if you primarily use a device such as an iPhone for your music storage, the Alpine UTE-42BT might be the right receiver for you. Read Full Review

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                                                    Alpine UTE-42BT Car Flash Audio Player

                                                    Kenwood KDC-255U In-Dash USB/CD Receiver

                                                    With a focus on smartphone compatibility, the Kenwood KDC-255U offers a nice upgrade from your stock stereo at a very affordable, sub-$100 price. Front-panel USB and auxiliary inputs allow you to connect your devices directly to the stereo; with an iPhone connected, you can control your music library as well as Pandora through the built-in buttons. Read Full Review

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                                                      Kenwood KDC-255U In-Dash USB/CD Receiver

                                                      JVC KD-R330 In Dash CD/MP3 Player

                                                      Even with a price tag well under $100, the JVC KD-R330 provides plenty of options in terms of features and performance. This stereo can be expanded with an optional Bluetooth adapter, and accommodates smartphones or other devices through the auxiliary inputs. The built-in amplifier is surprisingly powerful, allowing the KD-R330 to boast ample sound quality. If you're limited by budget restrictions, the KD-R300 is a great way to improve your car's sound without breaking the bank. Read Full Review

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                                                        JVC KD-R330 In Dash CD/MP3 Player
                                                         

                                                        Car Stereo Buying Guide

                                                        Known as a receiver, head unit, or deck, a car stereo forms the core of your car’s audio system and the portion you’ll be directly interacting with most. Swapping out your car stereo is an easy way to add more technology and features to your car. If you’re changing out your stock car stereo for a more modern replacement, the main elements you need to consider are the audio sources, features, and ability to expand upon your system. Picking a new car stereo doesn’t need to be complicated and we’ve put together this buyer’s guide to help you narrow down the choices which will work best for you.

                                                        Determine your goals

                                                        Beyond just needing to know the size of the components needed to fit in your car, there’s plenty to consider:

                                                         - Do you want the stereo have a low key appearance to discourage thieves?

                                                         - Are you looking for both performance and style?

                                                         - Do you want to make calls and stream music using Bluetooth?

                                                         - Are you considering satellite radio and/or HD Radio?

                                                         - Is being able to hook up your smartphone a requirement?

                                                        Consider the kind of music do you listen to and whether you like to turn the volume up regularly.

                                                        Budget and Installation
                                                        Determining your budget well ahead of time ensures you’ll never end up pushed outside of your monetary comfort zone. As well as the cost of the unit itself, you also need to factor in the installation costs. While you can install a car stereo yourself, many people choose to have it done by a professional or ask friends if they recommend any particular technicians. When choosing a shop, look for good reviews, check to see if the retailer is an authorized dealer for the brands they carry, as well as seeing if any manufacturer’s warranties are in place to protect your investment.

                                                        Audio/Media Input Sources
                                                        The car stereo you want will depend on what devices you use to store the majority of your music. Do you need a CD player, or do you prefer using your smartphone to manage all of your digital media? You’ll definitely want to look for the option to plug in a phone or other device, even if you don’t plan on using it much right away. This can include a USB port for playback from flash storage devices, as well as a 3.5mm analog auxiliary input for universal connectivity. Many modern car stereos now include Bluetooth for wireless music streaming as well as for making hands-free calls.

                                                        Smartphone/App Integration
                                                        If you have a newer iPhone with the lightning connector, ensure the head unit you’re considering has a USB port. Some stereos will have specific badges to denote compatibility with Apple devices. For other non-Apple smartphones, look instead for a stereo with a 3.5mm analog auxiliary input, or one using Bluetooth audio streaming.

                                                        If you frequently use streaming apps such as Pandora or Spotify, look for a car stereo which allows you to control those types of apps directly from the unit. This can include the ability to create custom stations, pause/skip, and safely access other features while driving. Some car stereos even have app mirroring such as Pioneer’s AppRadio although this is a relatively new, uncommon technology.

                                                        Satellite and HD Radio
                                                        HD Radio-capable stereos allow you to access high quality audio and digital sub channels for some stations. This not only increases your choice of available audio channels, but also allows you to enjoy higher quality audio. Some stereos include the use of iTunes tagging so you can save and purchase songs you’ve enjoyed listening to.

                                                        While satellite radio might not offer the audio quality of HD Radio, many listeners enjoy their choice of stations and exclusive programming, including a variety of talk radio, sports, live traffic, and other specialty programming. This content is only available to paid subscribers, and you’ll also need to ensure your vehicle is equipped with an appropriate antenna if applicable.

                                                        GPS and Navigation
                                                        Many modern car stereos include turn-by-turn navigation and traffic reporting capabilities which negates the need for a separate navigation unit. Look for flash memory-based maps for easy upgrades, which are usually made via an SD or microSD card. If you choose a receiver including app mirroring, you can use your smartphones navigation feature with the instructions appearing on the car stereos display screen and spoken instructions via the vehicle’s speakers.

                                                        Car Stereo Size

                                                        While the depth of each vehicle and car stereo unit varies, the primary choice comes down to single-DIN or double-DIN which refers to the size of the in-dash stereo unit.

                                                        Single-DIN
                                                        A single-DIN car stereo takes up much less space, making them easier to fit into more vehicles. Their low-key appearance makes them less visible to potential thieves, especially with models which feature detachable faceplates.

                                                        Double-DIN
                                                        These models take up more space with many featuring large touchscreen displays. These car stereos are more likely to offer app mirroring, DVD playback, GPS navigation, and other higher-end features.

                                                        Power

                                                        This refers to the car stereos built-in amplification which delivers power to your speakers; this feature can make a significant difference in the performance of your car’s speakers and the overall longevity of your system.

                                                        RMS Rating

                                                        The RMS/Watts rating indicates the system’s continuous power output, as opposed to its maximum capability. Look for a car stereo with a rating enough sufficient to power the speakers you’ve installed. If you decide to stick with your stock speakers, you’re less likely to run into any issues.

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