Getting the best car stereo for your vehicle is more complicated than it used to be. As with all technologies, there are many more features available for us while we’re out driving our car nowadays.
Since car stereos became a thing in the 1930s, driving without one feels like something in life is missing. Back then you could only connect with AM radio, but today there’s whole host if options.
As with everything in the audio industry, it depends on your personal needs and taste as to what is the best car stereo. Choosing the right car radio receiver is no longer about just taking control of the mid-range, treble and bass.
Today’s car stereos are compatible with mobile devices and as well as playing music, you can do a whole host of different things, such as control rear video screens, phone home, dictate text messages and stream movies.
Getting The Best Car Stereo For You
There are two main sizes: single DIN and double DIN (Deutsches Institut für Normung). Single DIN head units are the classic size – which the back is generally 2 inches high, whereas the double DIN receivers are 4 inches high, although the front screens can be much bigger.
The classic car stereo size is single DIN, and the music players are generally this size, but many single DIN car stereos have larger faceplates, which can be retractable and sit hinged in front of the dashboard.
Double DIN head units are mostly multimedia devices that allow you to do pretty much anything a smartphone can do. For whatever your needs, I have chosen a selection of the best car stereos that offer many different features.
There are better ones than some on the list that I haven’t chosen, but I wanted to offer some car stereos on a budget, because not everybody wants to break the bank.
Anyway, read on for the best head unit… Hope you find what you need.
The Best Single DIN Car Stereos
Alpine UTE-73BT Advanced Bluetooth Mechless Digital Media Receiver – The Best Single DIN Mechless Car Stereo For Sound Quality
If you want a Single DIN car stereo for music only then this Alpine UTE-73BT mechless head unit is great value for money, and thanks to 24-Bit DAC the sound quality is exquisite.
Being a mechless car stereo, this doesn’t offer an option for playing CDs. Who buys CDs anyway? This receiver might not give you a CD option, but it plays a variety of files via Bluetooth, USB or auxiliary ports.
Connecting your smartphone to this head unit, you can play your library, whether it’s stored on your phone or in the cloud. It also gives you the option of streaming music via Pandora app if you have an account there.
As well as music, the advanced Bluetooth wireless technology, allows you to send and receive phone calls on loudspeaker, allowing you to take that all-important phone call without putting anyone at risk.
The LCD display boasts RGB illumination in a choice of colors, and the clarity of the digital display is 5x that of conventional screens, making it always clear and easy to read.
What I really like about this car radio, however, is the music components that allows you to sculpt the sound quality any audiophile desires.
The receiver boasts 24-Bit DAC sound quality. DAC is a dedicated conversion hardware for converting digital signals into the analogue signal. It improves the sound quality of any audio output, and if paired with a high-performance amplifier and other components, your car stereo system will be unrivalled in sound quality.
There’s also a 3-band parametric EQ and high pass/low pass crossover that gives you more control of the fine tuning of your sound system.
And for extreme clarity the car stereo receiver is compatible with FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) files, which possess significantly higher sound quality than MP3, AAC, WMA. It is compatible with the aforementioned files, but for the best listening experience, FLAC files will give you better sound quality.
Pyle PLT85BTCM Single DIN CD/DVD Player with Retractable Touch Screen Car Stereo – The Best Car Stereo For The Money
This Pyle PLT85BTCM CD/DVD Single DIN touchscreen car stereo combines the best of multimedia and music sound quality.
The universal single DIN sized receiver boasts a retractable high resolution 7 inch TFT/LCD monitor, giving you a multitude of options that is mostly associated with a 2 DIN car stereo.
You can play music or watch your movies with the front-loading CD/DVD Player, USB Flash, and the Micro SD Memory Cards.
This car stereo fits with pretty much any car, but bear in mind the high-resolution display telescopes out and up, so as long as above your head unit isn’t protruding out, you will be fine.
The sensitive touch screen display allows you to easily control your music streaming apps, when connected to your smartphone via Bluetooth or the auxiliary port.
The microphone allows you to make and receive calls through loudspeaker without having to move your hands, making life on the road safer for everyone.
The display also supports Reverse Backup Camera Connection, via the USB port. Connect the rearview backup camera, and the display automatically turns your display into a rear parking device, when you’re driving in reverse mode.
The rearview camera features built-in digital scale lines, tilt-adjustable lens angle & night vision, making it easy to reverse park at no matter the time or place.
For audiophiles, this car stereo boasts RCA input/output connector jacks, subwoofer output. Of course, it’s always recommended to get an aftermarket amplifier, but if you choose not to the power rating of the inbuilt amplifier boasts 80W x 4, 4-Ohm impedance and a frequency response of 20Hz – 20k Hz is impressive.
Dayo Car Stereo with 4.1″ Touchscreen – Best Single DIN Multimedia Car Stereo On A Budget
If you don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend, but want all the benefits of a multimedia player with a single DIN receiver then this touchscreen car stereo from Dayo could be for you.
The 4.1 Inch TFT HD Screen display, supports 1080P HD video, and the picture quality is surprisingly clear for such a budget car stereo.
You can watch movies on the display via Bluetooth, USB or SD cards, and for crystal clear images and crisp sound quality, the budget head unit supports FLAC files.
The inbuilt Bluetooth allows for hands-free calling and wireless music sharing via your smartphone, while also allowing you to send and receive calls with just the push of a button, making your daily commute safer.
The head unit also supports rear view camera signal, which will automatically switch your display into a rear parking aid when in reverse mode.
For anyone wanting a car radio that boasts the best music controls, then for under $50, you have to accept that there are other car stereos that are better in that department.
That said, this budget head unit does come with an inbuilt EQ that gives you some control over your sound system, but the Bass and Treble etcetera are set, and can’t be sculpted. It also boasts the typical FM car radio signal, and the receiver allows you to preset storage 18 channels.
All in all, you’re not going to get everything you’ll get in a more expensive piece of equipment, but for a cheap car stereo under $50, with a high-resolution display, you can’t go wrong.
Jensen J1CA9 9-inch Touch Screen Multi Media Receiver – The Very Best Single DIN Head Unit On The Market
If you want the very best single DIN head unit, it’s going to cost you a fair bit, but this Jensen J1CA9 9-inch touch screen media receiver is as good as you’ll get.
The 1024×600 LCD adjustable display boasts second-to-none picture clarity and high touch screen sensitivity, giving you the best viewing experience that you will get in a car stereo receiver.
The multimedia mechless car stereo also boasts multiple screen adjustment options, allowing you to adjust the screen for the best possible viewing experience.
The car stereo boasts Front & Rear USB input with fast charging on both, so you or your passenger’s smartphone will never run out of battery.
The USB also facilitates movie and music streaming, while so does the rear RCA A/V input and Rear-View Camera input (RCA), which can be paired with a back-up camera for rear view parking (bought separately).
Of course, the head unit boasts advanced Bluetooth. This gives you multiple options, such as watching movies, streaming music via your smartphone apps iHeart Radio, Spotify and Pandora, and Voice Control.
The head unit also boasts Steering Wheel Controls that will allow you to control certain functions of your car stereo without having to stretch over.
What really makes this single DIN car stereo stand out, however, is the Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity. Both platforms are built into the Jensen J1CA9 multimedia player, giving you the option of controlling everything with Apple’s Siri or the Android Voice Assistant.
Using these features give you the option of making and receiving calls, dictate text messages, access your music and much more. The head unit display will also mirror your smartphone in displaying the song title and image of artist album cover for easier control over your music.
The high-resolution LCD display also shows your route via the Satellite Navigation Apple or Google Maps. It’s all voice control, so simply tell Siri where you want to go and it will direct you to your destination clearly on the large screen.
It comes with all wires needed, including a GPS antenna, so the signal is strong. Music-wise this car stereo performs as well as any single DIN receiver on the market.
The power handling is 60W x 4 and it boasts MOSFET power cables, ensuring the inbuilt amplifiers receive the best care and attention.
The car radio boasts an 8 Band graphic EQ, giving you more options to sculpt your desired sound. And with it being multiple file format compatible, including the all important FLAC files, you can really enjoy the best sounds with prisitne clarity.
This single DIN car radio certainly isn’t cheap, but for features it is the very best you can get if you want a multimedia player that connects to pretty much everything you’ll need while out driving your car.
JVC KD-R492 Single DIN Car Stereo CD Receiver – The Best Car Radio For Music Aficionados
This JVC car stereo is perfect for anyone who wants their head unit for music only. The classic car stereo sized detachable faceplate boasts a 12-digit LCD display with red button illumination, that can be adjusted with the auto dimmer remote control.
22W RMS and 50W Peak Power x 4 is impressive for a head unit, and the inbuilt amplifier produces some decent volume. And thanks to the MOFSET components, the car radio will not wear easily, even if it’s regularly pushed to its limits.
Of course, any car stereo is limited by the volume it can produce, so if you desire car shaking volume an external amplifier is necessary. That said, the JVC receiver can easily be connected with an amplifier and subwoofer, making it a perfect composer for your music.
Music can be played with CDs, CD-Rs, CD-RW, as well as through front loading auxiliary and USB ports, and it’s compatible with MP3, WMA, WAV, and FLAC music files.
The control of your music can be perfected by the head unit’s 3-Band EQ, which boasts 15 presets, and it produces some dynamic sounds for any music genre. And for an added bonus, it comes with a free pair of Alphasonik earbuds.
The Best Double DIN Car Stereos
ViaBecs 10.2” Rotating TouchScreen MultiMedia Player– The Best Double DIN Head Unit For Picture and Sound Quality
To start my Best Double DIN Head Unit list, I have to begin with what I think is the best car stereo on the market. It fits any 2 DIN car stereo slot, and is a big upgrade no matter which device you’re replacing.
The 10.2 inch, 1024 x 600 high pixel Touch Screen rotatable display allows you to freely adjust the viewing angle, which helps with different sunlight conditions.
The IPS display boasts high-definition picture quality, and the 178/178 viewing angles means the clarity of the display is visible from pretty much any angle. This allows any passenger in the car can enjoy the same picture quality no matter where they’re sat.
And if the picture quality isn’t enough the sound quality is inspiring. The mechless car stereo boasts DSP technology, which produces cinematic sounds, especially if you have a full system set up with an aftermarket speakers and subwoofer.
The 2 DIN receiver also boasts DS radio so the sound quality of your radio is pristine, compared with many other head units on the market.
It also benefits from the latest Bluetooth 5.0, which makes connection to any Bluetooth ready device faster and superior. This helps with the inbuilt Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which gives you multiple options at the tip of your fingers.
These include music streaming, turn-by-turn SatNav, with either Apple or Google maps, all controlled with the inbuilt GPS antenna. And thanks to the external microphone, it can all be done by voice control, as can handling phone calls and dictating text messages.
For any audiophiles this Double DIN multimedia player doesn’t ignore the all-important car audio components. As already mentioned, the stereo boasts DSP technology, which ensures excellent sound quality. And with 6 audio outputs, a subwoofer output, a 15-band EQ, and 4 x 50W RMS for the inbuilt amplifier, this head unit impresses.
This Double DIN Head Unit isn’t cheap, but if you can afford it, you will not regret buying it.
SJoyBring Touch Screen Multimedia Player – Best Value for Money Double DIN Head Unit
The next Double DIN Car Radio on my list comes from SJoyBring, which has produced this very affordable, high quality multimedia player.
The 7-inch LCD touchscreen display allows you to watch movies on high resolution 1024 x 600 HD, with support for 1080P video playback.
Movies can be streamed from your smartphone via PhoneLink app, USB, SD card, or Auxiliary ports, and the receiver is compatible with most file types.
If you have monitors in the back seats of your car, you can connect up to three different displays with the car stereo’s video output interface.
The 2 DIN head unit is front and rear camera compatible, although the front camera isn’t included. The rear camera automatically turns your display into a reverse parking aid whenever you switch into reverse gear.
The SJoyBring head unit is compatible with Apple CarPlay via the latest Bluetooth 5.0 giving you the option of Voice Control of your calls, dictating text messages, emails and it also allows you to stream music.
The touch screen display also turns into a GPS Sat Nav via your smartphone connection. You can control this with the touchscreen display or using Voice Control.
Music-wise the car radio boasts a 16-band Equalizer (EQ), giving you control of the sound you wish. The amplifier has a limited 60W x 4 Max Power, but as with anyone wanting the best soundscape, a good quality car stereo should be paired with other car audio equipment.
This head unit is perfect as part of a car stereo system thanks to the 2V Pre-Amp, and the subwoofer output give you the option of enhancing the fidelity of your sound system with some high-performance car audio equipment.
BOSS Audio Systems BVB9364RC Double Din Car Stereo – Loud And Clear Handsfree Multimedia DVD Player
BOSS Audio Systems is one of the leading names in the car audio industry and they’re well-known for producing high quality equipment at very affordable prices.
This BVB9364RC Double Din Car Stereo is one of the best-selling head units on the market thanks to the price and quality of the array of features.
The 6.2 inch LCD touch screen boasts a high resolution picture that allows you to watch your DVDs in pristine quality. The device’s ESP (Electronic Skip Protection) stores 5 seconds of your movie, just in case there’s a buffering interruption, which will allow your movie to keep playing seamlessly.
As well as DVDs you can also play movies, music, photos or whatever via the USB and SD memory card ports, supporting up to 32GB devices.
The touchscreen feature is highly sensitive and allows you to easily control applications, which are displayed clearly across the display.
If you don’t wish to reach for the display, the car stereo is compatible with a steering wheel interface, although this has to be bought separately.
The car stereo with Bluetooth allows you to connect hands-free to your smartphone and stream music apps such as Spotify and Pandora, and you can also make and receive hands free phone calls on loudspeaker.
The head unit has an inbuilt rear camera input, which connects to the rearview camera. This automatically turns your display into a rear parking device, when you’re in reverse mode.
Music-wise, this car stereo boasts an inbuilt Equalizer (EQ), which gives you much more control over the sound of the music. The car stereo boasts an impressive 80W x 4 Peak Power, but to get the best sound you should really install an external amplifier.
The head unit comes with extra outputs that allow you to add extra amplifiers and/or subwoofers. The video outputs also allow you to connect an external screen, so you can keep your family entertained while on a long journey in the back.
Youyuekeji Android Car Stereo MultiMedia Player – Best Double DIN Head Unit On A Budget
Double DIN multimedia players aren’t cheap, but you can get a decent piece of equipment for under $100 still. If you’re looking for a budget double DIN car stereo multimedia player with plenty of features, this receiver from Youyuekeji might fit your needs.
The 7-inch touch screen screen boasts a 1024 x 600 px, 1080 display, which isn’t the best on my list, but for under $100 you’re not going to get all the trimmings. That said, the picture is good quality, and 7 inches is big enough for most people.
The display is an in-dash monitor, so make sure it can fit your car before purchasing. The dimensions are 7” x 3.93” and will fit in most of double DIN ports, but it’s always good to make sure before buying.
The display can be used for watching movies, which can be screened via the USB/SWC/DVR/Mirror Link (iOS and Android) from whichever device you store them.
It’s also wifi ready, so if you have a wifi hotspot for your car, you can easily connect MirrorLink, which offers certain features of your smartphone while you’re driving via the car’s infotainment system. With this you can enjoy video streaming platforms such as YouTube and other streaming sites.
The car stereo comes with a GPS antenna, and your display turns into a SatNav whenever you need directing anywhere. You can connect this via Bluetooth or Wifi, and the GPS navigation can also be used offline thanks to the inbuilt offline maps on HERE WeGo SatNav app.
The package doesn’t include steering wheel control, but it does support it, so you can purchase it afterwards and connect both the remote steering wheel control and car stereo with Bluetooth.
There’s no back-up camera either, but the head unit is compatible, and for a small purchase you can connect a rear-view camera to your head unit and turn your display into a rear parking aid.
For anyone keen on the best sound system, there are better car stereos with more options, but the power handling is 45W x 4, RCA input and outputs, and it is compatible with several video and audio files including FLAC.
All in all, this isn’t the best car stereo on the market, but for under $100 you will get a good and cheap double DIN car syereo with all the important features needed.
JVC KW-R940BTS Car Radio Receiver – The Best Double DIN Car Stereo For Music (Not Multimedia)
If you’re a traditionalist or an audiophile and only want your double DIN opening for music, then this JVC KW-R940BTS is probably the best double DIN car stereo for controlling your music.
This car radio boasts everything you’d imagine from a high-performance car stereo, and the LCD display has a variety of colors that make your display look like an in-dash jukebox.
Music can be played through CD, USB, or the auxiliary port. It’s also Bluetooth compatible for those who want away with any wires.
Bluetooth allows for hands-free calling and audio streaming with dual phone connection. This allows for a DJ streaming application that allows up to 5 Bluetooth devices to connect, so each person can take it in turns to be the DJ, so to speak.
What I really like about this head unit, however, is the music features you don’t get with any other multimedia player on my list, including the High-Res Audio, and JVC’s K2 technology.
High-Res Audio uses a higher sampling rate than other audio formats. For example, High-Res files have a sampling frequency of 96kHz/24 bit compared with 44.1 KHz/16 bit sampling frequency of CDs.
And JVC’s K2 technology is an information processing technology that enhances sound quality of digital sound sources.
The car stereo is also compatible with many file types, including FLAC. Therefore, if you desire music with pristine clarity more than anything on your daily commute, then this 2 DIN car stereo should be considered above multimedia players, especially those in a similar price range.
The Best Head Unit – Buyer’s Guide
Not everyone thinks of upgrading their head unit when they upgrade the rest of their car stereo system. But it’s the centerpiece of your system, and the best car stereo makes a big difference to your overall sound quality.
And of course, we now have more than just a car radio. Today’s head unit receivers offer almost as much as our smartphones, meaning we can take our home and office into the car with us now.
But as with everything, not all head units are created equal, and what’s best for one person, might not be for the next.
So, you have to decide exactly what it is you want from your car stereo, and get the best piece of equipment in your budget. But for some general advice, read on for a buyer’s guide to getting the best car stereo for your car.
What To Consider Before Buying
This is the first thing you should consider. Gone are the days when all car stereos were the same size. The classic size is what’s known as single DIN, but we now have double DIN, which is twice the size.
A single DIN receiver is about 2 inches height, whereas a double DIN is about 4 inches tall, so before you replace your factory car radio, make sure you know the size you want.
Single DIN units can replace OEM single and double DIN car stereos, but double DIN units are usually only replaced where a double DIN stereo was already installed.
And to confuse things a little further, some car manufacturers have made car stereo sizes in between such as a 1.5 DIN. This is because the car manufacturers want you to use their equipment only.
Of course sound quality is important. If it wasn’t, you probably would be happy with your factory head unit. But many people think buying an aftermarket amplifier and some high-performance speakers will do the trick.
And while this is largely true, a good quality head unit will enhance your car stereo system to even clearer and higher highs when you turn the volume up.
And if you get a good quality car stereo, and you’re not one for needing your car shaking then the built in amplifiers in your new car stereo will perform admirably on their own without upgrading other audio components.
The best aftermarket car stereos will have built in EQ, pre-amp and subwoofer outputs, and will be compatible with many audio files including FLAC, while also boasting other sound enhancing features.
Many people want multimedia car stereos today, and getting something with high resolution picture is important.
It’s not really about the size of the screen, because if you can only fit a 4 inch display in your car, don’t be put off. As long as the picture quality is good, then any size display is sufficient.
Of course, you and your passengers will be more entertained with a high-resolution 11-inch display, but that won’t fit into all cars. So, whatever size display you can fit, as long as the picture quality is good enough, the display will be.
You want to be able to control you r car radio with ease. The controls should be large enough and clear enough to press without much effort.
Some cheaper touch screen displays aren’t very responsive, so be careful if you’re really budgeting. There’s nothing worse than something not responding, especially if you’re driving.
The budget car stereos above, have a good reputation for touch screen, but if you decide to go for something else, make sure you read the reviews.
Also, anything with a wireless remote, steering wheel controls, and of course Voice Control is a bonus, and should be considered if its within your budget.
These features make life much easier, and allows you to concentrate on the road, making your daily commute safer for you and everyone else.
Upgrading Your Car Stereo
When you choose to upgrade your head unit, it’s never an easy decision. Everyone wants the best car stereo, but what’s the best for me might be different for you.
Single DIN car stereos are the classic 2 inch size, but the displays aren’t necessarily that big. Some of them are bigger, while some are 2 inches and have telescopic displays. It all depends what you’re looking for.
Double DIN head units are 4 inches height, but the displays are anything from 4 inches upwards, so make sure the car stereo fits in your vehicle, especially if you get an in-dash receiver.
And whether you want it just for music, or the display for play high-definition movies, or even as an extension of your smartphone, getting a car stereo is massively different today from yesteryear.
Whatever the reason you want a new head unit, choosing the best car stereo from my list above in your price range, I’m sure you’ll be very satisfied. That said, there are others that I haven’t mentioned so you can always dig a bit deeper if you’re not satisfied with my picks.
Do you have any experience with any of the above head units? If so, feel free to leave a comment and share your experience, good or bad, and help anyone that might be interested.