Stereo for cars: Car stereo buying guide

Car stereo buying guide

by Crutchfield’s
Dave Delamere

May 22, 2023

The car stereo is the centerpiece of any car audio system. With so many to choose from, how do you pick the right one? This article will help you narrow down your choices to get the right stereo for you and your car or truck.


hy get a new car stereo? A new car stereo (also known as a car receiver or head unit) will give you better sound, more connectivity, and more playback options than the typical factory stereo. We’ll discuss these topics and more while asking a few basic questions about how you use your stereo. And if you have any questions, you can contact one of our advisors (like Ivy, pictured above) at any time. They’re patient, friendly, knowledgeable, and eager to help. 

Watch the video

Before we go into the details, let Crutchfield’s training manager give you the highlights.  

Why do you want to replace your current stereo?

This is one of the first questions our advisors will ask when you call us. Whether you simply want a replacement for a defective radio or want to upgrade features you don’t have currently, answering this question can help you focus on what exactly it is you’re missing and what you want to gain with a new stereo.

Brit loves the way her new stereo spruces up her older vehicle.

Better sound quality

Superior built-in power and better circuit design mean that an aftermarket car stereo isn’t just louder than the typical factory stereo, it also produces cleaner, richer, more-detailed sound. Enhanced tone controls mean that you can do a better job of fine-tuning the music the way you want it.

If sound quality is your thing, look for a stereo with precision sound controls like digital time correction and parametric equalization. You’ll usually find them on higher-end models, but even lower-priced aftermarket stereos will offer more audio control than the typical factory radio.

Touchscreens can make it easy to control the stereo, adjust settings, plot your route, and integrate your smartphone.

New sources for music and added functions

One of most common reasons to get a new stereo is to expand your listening options and other functionality, such as:

  • Digital media playback, including high-res music files
  • Android™ and iPhone® support, including Android Auto® and Apple CarPlay®
  • SiriusXM satellite radio
  • Bluetooth® connectivity
  • GPS navigation
  • Support for Pandora®, Spotify®, and other app-related sources (such audiobooks, podcasts, etc.)

We carry a variety of custom-fit stereos for Jeeps and a few other vehicles.

What fits your car?

It’s important to make sure you choose a new stereo that fits in your dash. Checking fit is easy using our vehicle selector tool. Enter your specific vehicle information, and we’ll filter out the options that won’t work in your vehicle and display the ones that will. Plus, we’ll let you know about the installation kits, special adapters, and instructions that you’ll need — which we offer at a discount when you buy your new stereo from us.

Need a stereo for your classic car?

Looking for a stereo for your classic car that won’t ruin the classic looks? We carry gear from Retrosound that will do just that. Check out the this ’63 Cadillac Eldorado. We installed a new audio system and kept the original factory look.

How do you listen to your music?

Answering this question is the next step in selecting the right car receiver. Knowing which options are “must-haves” will help you narrow your search and focus on the features that are important to you, so that you can listen in your preferred ways:

  • Android Auto™ and Apple CarPlay®: We carry a wide selection of receivers that offer this smartphone functionality. They provide access to a huge array of music apps (and more) right from the touchscreen or voice control. Check out our guides to car stereos with Apple CarPlay and car stereos with Android Auto for more details.
  • Music from your phone: Look for a stereo that will control your phone or that has Bluetooth® streaming capability.
  • Thumb drives or music players: Most in-dash receivers feature USB inputs, so you can have a ready-to-go library of music in your car all of the time, loaded onto a thumb drive or other type of mass storage device. An auxiliary input lets you connect non-USB devices or portable music players. Some receivers feature SD™ card slots, too.
  • CDs: If you still listen to those shiny discs (many of us here still do), make sure your new stereo can play them. A CD or DVD receiver is what you need. If you don’t need disc playback, then a digital media or multimedia receiver might be best for you. Read our digital media receiver buying guide for more info.
  • SiriusXM: If you want to add satellite radio to your new car stereo, make sure the stereo you choose is “satellite radio-ready. ” That means it can control an optional hideaway satellite radio tuner. If you already listen via the phone app or have a portable satellite radio, then your new stereo just needs an auxiliary input or Bluetooth.
  • FM radio: Radios with a low FM sensitivity do a better job of pulling in radio signals. An FM sensitivity of 8 to 12 dBf is considered very good. Be sure to look for this detail in the stereo’s description if a better-than-most AM/FM radio is high on your list.
  • HD Radio™ broadcasts: Radio stations broadcasting digital signals are becoming more and more prevalent. To gain the benefits of static-free reception and better sound quality, your stereo must have an HD Radio tuner.

The Alpine UTE-73BT stereo’s simple display gives your dash a classic aftermarket look

What are the non-music functions that you want?

Today’s car stereos can do much more than just play music. Consider other options like these.

  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto: As I mentioned above, touchscreen stereos do the best job of bringing your smartphone into the car. The CarPlay and Android Auto apps pull in your favorite car-centric phone services (navigation, calling, news, audible and voice-texting, and podcasts).
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth connectivity gives you the freedom of hands-free calling and audio streaming when used with a compatible phone. Frankly, even if you think you don’t need this, you should probably make sure you new stereo has it.
  • GPS Navigation: Stereos with built-in navigation help prevent you from getting lost (or help you find your way if you do). The navigation screen is much larger than your phone and most portable navigators. And you get the added luxury of touchscreen controls for your stereo.
  • Speaking of touchscreen controls: Large screens, loads of built-in features, and easy viewability are just some of the advantages to building your audio system around a large touchscreen receiver. Read our article about the advantages of a touchscreen receiver to learn more.

Modernize your dash with a floating screen.

What other things should you consider in a car stereo?

Cool cosmetics

Aftermarket car stereos, with their high-tech displays and cutting-edge layouts, can enhance the appearance of your car’s interior. Consider a multi-line display so that you can see song, album, and artist information without a lot of scrolling. They also make it easier to control and adjust the stereo.

Your options include full-color animated displays and customizable color schemes for a better match to your dash lighting. If you want to heighten the listening experience, look for a stereo with lighting that flashes to the beat!

The hot trend in car stereos today is a floating screen – a screen that doesn’t fit in the dash, but “floats” in front of it, typically measuring between 7 and 11 inches. These stereos bring even better “ease of use” functionality and definitely step up the stereo’s “wow factor.

Being able to use a backup camera with a touchscreen receiver’s display can save the day.

Driving assistance and backup cameras

More and more touchscreen stereos include at least one camera input, and some offer as many as four. Adding a backup camera, a dash cam, and/or side cameras can help keep the safety factor high. Some of our car stereo integration adapters can also help you integrate factory cameras, so you can keep their functionality even when you install a new car stereo. 

Audio expandability

Auxiliary inputs, USB connections, and audio/video outputs let you expand your system by connecting portable music players, rear seat video screens, external amplifiers, and powered subwoofers to your new stereo.

If you’re building upon your system with more audio components, preamp outputs let you connect external amplifiers to power your speakers or a subwoofer. The number of outputs can vary, but you should have at least one set. Output voltage typically ranges from 2 to 5 volts. The higher that voltage rating, the cleaner the signal sent to your amp. If you know you will be adding a subwoofer, look for a model with a dedicated subwoofer output — this will allow you to adjust the subwoofer volume independently, rather than using the bass control.

DIY Installation Help

We have the installation parts, accessories, and tools needed to install a new stereo.

  • We include step-by-step instructions specific to your car, if available, for free. For most vehicles, we also carry the installation parts and accessories you’ll need and you’ll get them at a deep discount when you buy any receiver from us.
  • A panel removal tool will make the installation easier in most cars and help prevent scratching your dash.
  • The Posi-Products Car Stereo Connector Kit makes it easy to connect your car’s wiring harness to your new car stereo.
  • Want to continue using your steering wheel audio controls with the new stereo? You’ll need a special adapter. Once you tell us about your vehicle and choose a stereo, we’ll tell you which adapter will work for you.
  • We also show you the standard household tools (like a screwdriver) that’ll be useful to have on hand when you install your receiver. And if you don’t have these tools, we sell ‘em.

What’s the next step?

Keeping the points we mention in this article in mind, write down a list of the features you most want. Then, use our vehicle selector to create a list of stereos that fit your car. Narrow down the list by using the filters on our site to highlight your favorite features. Or worry about that later and jump right into the in-dash receivers! 

For an easier time, check out our list of the Best Car Stereos for 2023. 

If you want deeper dive into a specific type of receiver more before you start shopping, our expert guides can help:

  • Advantages of a touchscreen stereo
  • Digital media receivers buying guide
  • In-dash navigation buying guide
  • Marine stereos buying guide

And don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions. Before you know it, our expert advisors (like Rodell, pictured above) will have you riding around with your perfect in-dash stereo.

Your Guide to Top Rated Aftermarket Radios

Get a top-rated aftermarket radio if your OEM car stereo has given up the ghost. Whether you drive miles on a daily commute or love road tripping, there’s nothing like jamming to your favorite playlist while on the go.

Today, most cars come with radios. But your original car radio may stop working after some time. When this happens, drivers often avoid getting new stereos for fear of purchasing a low-quality one. Since some drivers consider car radios a necessity, they end up driving their cars for the rest of the vehicles’ lifetime without a stereo.

We think it’s unfair that you have to deal with boredom for the rest of your vehicle’s lifetime. That’s why we’ve asked car experts and searched Amazon to help you find the top rated car stereos in the market.

How to Choose a Car Radio Replacement

Sony Sony XAVAX1000 6.2

Sony Sony XAVAX1000 6.2

$341 at Amazon

PIONEER Pioneer DMH-1500NEX Digital Media Receiver with 7

PIONEER Pioneer DMH-1500NEX Digital Media Receiver with 7

Now 19% Off

$390 at Amazon

BOSS Audio Systems BOSS Audio Systems BV9386NV Car GPS Navigation – Double Din, Bluetooth Audio and Hands-Free Calling, 6.2 Inch Touchscreen LCD, MP3, CD, DVD Player, USB, SD, AUX-A/V Inputs, AM/FM Radio Receiver

BOSS Audio Systems BOSS Audio Systems BV9386NV Car GPS Navigation – Double Din, Bluetooth Audio and Hands-Free Calling, 6.2 Inch Touchscreen LCD, MP3, CD, DVD Player, USB, SD, AUX-A/V Inputs, AM/FM Radio Receiver

$202 at Amazon

Jensen JENSEN MPR210 7 Character LCD Single DIN Car Stereo Receiver | Push to Talk Assistant | Bluetooth Hands Free Calling & Music Streaming | AM/FM Radio | USB Playback & Charging | Not a CD player

Jensen JENSEN MPR210 7 Character LCD Single DIN Car Stereo Receiver | Push to Talk Assistant | Bluetooth Hands Free Calling & Music Streaming | AM/FM Radio | USB Playback & Charging | Not a CD player

$38 at Amazon

PIONEER Pioneer MVh2400NEX 6.

2 Inches B07951J34N

PIONEER Pioneer MVh2400NEX 6.2 Inches B07951J34N

$465 at Amazon

Regetek Regetek Single Din Car Stereo 7 inch Bluetooth Car Audio Video Player RDS FM AM Car Radio Player USB/AUX/TF HD Telescopic Retractable Capacitive Touch Screen

Regetek Regetek Single Din Car Stereo 7 inch Bluetooth Car Audio Video Player RDS FM AM Car Radio Player USB/AUX/TF HD Telescopic Retractable Capacitive Touch Screen

$90 at Amazon

Touchscreen Car Stereo

The ultra-responsive screen on this stereo lets you select your desired music quickly so that you can return your focus to the road. What’s more, the radio’s rear-view camera will give you a high-quality picture of the view behind your car. This feature helps drivers maneuver their vehicles easily in cramped parking spaces.

The touchscreen car stereo is easy to control. You can access the radio’s main functions from its rotary dial. Turn the rotary dial to decrease or increase the radio’s volume. To activate voice commands on the stereo, just hold the button on the dial.

Android Auto Head-Unit Car Stereo

The Android Auto Head-Unit Car Stereo is suitable for drivers who use Android phones. This car radio is built for Android text and phone call applications. Users can send and receive texts that come into their phones from the radio screen.

One of the most attractive features of this Android Auto Head-Unit car stereo is that it is compatible with music streaming apps like Pandora, Sirius XM, Weblink, and even Spotify. This means that you can listen to songs that you haven’t downloaded on your phone.

Double Din Car Radio

Do you travel often? Then, this stereo will prove a valuable addition to your vehicle. This is because it offers GPS navigation that covers all US states. Since the GPS has a text-to-speech feature, you wouldn’t even need to take your hands off your steering wheel to operate it.

This high-tech stereo offers more than just a radio and music player. If you connect the stereo to your phone, it will display your incoming calls and even let you take them without using your phone. You can also watch videos on the DVD player on the stereo.

What if you want to listen to a song that isn’t on your phone’s playlist? This stereo will give you access to music streaming apps like Pandora and Spotify. If you prefer to place all your attention on driving, you can hand the stereo’s remote control to a passenger.

Single Din Stereo

The single din car stereos are typically the size of your original car radio, so they are usually easier to install than double din car radios, which may require some modifications to your console. This is part of the reason this product is perfect for small cars. More so, it is quite inexpensive when compared to its counterparts. In spite of its small size, this single din stereo does not compromise on any essential feature. It offers Bluetooth, voice control, and music tuning, which you’ll probably find on standard car stereos.

This stereo is an excellent choice for drivers who ride alone. It has a 7-character display where you can access your favorite features with the press of a button. If you need to operate your stereo several times on your trip, you can opt for the voice control option on the stereo. This radio also connects to standard assistant services like Siri and Google Voice Assistant.

Apple Car Play Stereo

Your iPhone’s advanced features will work perfectly on this stereo. This Apple Car Play Stereo can play unique audio formats like AAC, WAV, and RW, without conversion. The car stereo can display its functions in more than one language. Apart from the English language, the radio also supports the Spanish and French languages.

You don’t have to listen to your songs in their plain form if you don’t want to. This device lets you add effects and transitions to music on play. If you want to stream music on this car stereo, you can try connecting the Spotify app on your phone to the radio.

Flip Out Car Stereo

Are you searching for a way to use your stereo without taking up extra space? Then this flip-out car stereo is perfect for you. When you are not using the stereo, you can retract its screen to reduce the space it occupies. This stereo offers 12 language options, such as Russian, Hebrew, and Polish. So, you will find it easy to use even if you don’t speak English fluently.

Music files are not the only kind of media that you can access on the stereo. You can watch videos and view photos from the memory card on your connected phone. In addition, the system supports all video and audio formats, ranging from MP3 and MP4 to WAV and RM.

Although this stereo has a touch screen, you can also use a remote control to operate the device. This remote control comes in handy when you want to avoid any distractions while driving. Just give out the remote control unit to a passenger in your car. Do you find it difficult to secure a parking space for your vehicle in the dark? Activate the night vision in this stereo’s in-built rear-view camera whenever you need to park your car at night.

Hearst Autos Research, produced independently of the Car and Driver editorial staff, provides articles about cars and the automotive industry to help readers make informed purchasing choices.

Hearst Autos Research

Hearst Autos Research, produced independently of the Car and Driver Editorial staff, provides articles about cars and the automotive industry to help readers make informed purchasing choices.

Buy 5209E Auto Audio Central Car FM Stereo Single DIN Radio Audio MP3 Player Bluetooth compatible with AUX-in TF USB Auto Stereo / Cars, spare parts and accessories ~ Sitraterveys.


5209E Single 1 DIN radio Bluetooth compatible with AUX-in TF Card, U Disk, Auto Stereo Multimedia Audio MP3 Player Main Unit


1. Radio (FM)

2. Reinforcement for even card with memory, U-disk (audio)

3. AUX 9 function0003

4. Function compatible with Bluetooth

5. RCA audio output can be used with subwoofer


Model: 5209E

Voltage: 12

Operating system: Nyama

Configuration: Nyama

Software solution: AB3510

Screen: led digital tube

Display Resolution: Not

Dimension on front panel: 188*58 mm/7.40*2.28″

Background lightening on the panel: red light

Flowers size on cutiata: 205*125*83mm/8.07*4.92*3.27″

Length: 55 mm/2.17″

Product label: 358 g

Contact by phone: Not all support

GPS navigation: Not supported

Radio coverage: FM

Radiochip: Graden

Ezik: Nyama

Power: 25W

Operating temperature: -10 ~ + 60 °C

The image is in the back of the board: Nyama

Spiral function: Nyama

Control function for shuttlecock kolelo: Nyama

Bluetooth Compatible Model: Version 4. 0

Per chip per power amplifier: YD1028

Radio frequency: FM 87.5~108Mhz

Video Exit: Not

Screen glared: Not

Awarded offline card: Not

Wifi lifeless: Not

TF card slot with memory: Not

Card slot, GPS: Nyama

Remote control: remote control card

Remote control for the shuttlecock: Nyama

USB interface and version: USB2.0

Button for nullirane: Nyama

Butoni: physically butoni

RCA jack: 2 out RCA (red / white jack)

AUX audio input limit: Yes

Function on DVR: Nyama

DAB Function: Nyama

OBD Function: Nyama

Function on TV: Not

Model on movement on DVD: Not

4G / 3G: Nyama

Changed to the car logo: Not

Supported audio format: MP3/ WMA/ WAV/ FLAC

Supported video modes: Nyama

Supported picture format: No

Factory password: Nyama


When installing on the device, make sure that the cable is properly installed. If the installation does not include the storage machine, please connect the wire and the yellow wire to the positive pole to the source on the 12 v supply, the black conductor to the negative pole to the power source, power it up. Check if the machine can be turned on and off. If it’s normal, then it’s possible that it’s a problem, you’ll get it, you can call us for help, and use the product in a good way.


1. Possibility of small deviations in the size, measured side by side, different measuring methods and tools.

2. The image may not reflect the actual color on the product due to different lighting conditions on the shooting range and on the display on the monitor.

1 X Auto radio

1 X Storage Cable

1 X remote control

2 X Tools

1 x AUX cable

1 x User manual

2005-2009 carplay carplay carplay stereo full wireless touch screen radio support Wireless and Android

years 2005-2009 Screen size 12. 1-inch
System Android 11 Unique Keep the original conditioner
C.P.U. 7862 Car Fitment Range Rover
Screen resolution 1920*1080 Warranty 12 months
High light

Car Stereo 12.1inch Range Rover


Car Stereo Range Rover Dawn


12.1inch Car Radio Android 11

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Product Description

2005-2009 Range Rover L320 sports car full wireless touch screen radio support wireless and android

9000 3

6+12GB for Land Rover Range Rover 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 Carplay Din Head Units 12. 0 Navigation 2 GPS Stereo Android Car Radio Multimedia Player


Years: 2005-2009 Screen size: 12.1-inch
System: Android 12 Unique: Keep original conditioner
C.P.U.: 7862 Car Fitment: Range Rover
Screen resolution: 1920*1080 Warranty: 12 months

3 configurations available,
1. Android 12 system, 3GB RAM + 32GB ROM, built
in Carplay and Android car;

2. Android 12 system, 4GB RAM + 64GB ROM, built in Carplay and Android car;

3. Android 12 system, 6GB RAM + 128GB ROM, built in Carplay and Android car;

Main function

1. Android 11 system, C.P.U. 8 cores;

2. Support Carplay, android car;

3. Support original steering wheel control;

4. Built in high quality DSP, surround sound;

5. Support analog HD reversing;

6. Support audio and entertainment video playback;

7. Built in GPS/Wifi/Bluetooth/4G wireless network

Before installation

After installing


1, Support DVR function: Support the original DVR, record driving life, make travel more secure.

2, support rear view camera: Automatically work when reversing, can show reverse track.