To pick the best car stereo you need to determine what’s most important for you. Some people focus on power, while others focus on design and connectivity. To pick our nominations, we looked at the following: connectivity, size, stereo interfaces, steering wheel control integration, display, and value-added features. Once you figure out whether your car supports a single-DIN or double-DIN car stereo, you’ll want to think about connectivity — how you access media or connect your smart devices to your car. You’ll also need to consider safety features like steering wheel controls, as well as whether you can customize the display or natively manage apps within the car stereo receiver.
After considering all of the above, we selected the Pioneer AVH-1300NEX Multimedia DVD Receiver with 6.2” WVGA Display as our Top Pick. While it’s only compatible with double-DIN stereo cars, this is ideal for Apple iPhone users since it natively supports Apple CarPlay. The large display, easy to use interface, and included support for steering wheel controls and vehicle backup cameras makes it a smart and safe choice for casual drivers and road warriors. Keep reading to learn more about the rest of our top picks.
Top 7 Best Car Stereos
#1 Pioneer AVH-1300NEX Multimedia Car Stereo
Award: Top Pick
WHY WE LIKE IT: We believe this is the best double-DIN car stereo for Apple iPhone users because it features a large 6.2-inch display that comes with Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth support to seamlessly turn your car’s dash into an extension of your smartphone.
Read Full Review: Pioneer AVH-1300NEX
- Best for iPhone
- Includes DVD player
- Vehicle backup camera integration
If you’re firmly entrenched in the Apple ecosystem, you know how frustrating it can be to use digital media controls from other brands. Pioneer takes the pain out of that with our Top Pick. The AVH-1300NEX Multimedia DVD Receiver is a smart choice for someone ready to upgrade their car stereo receiver to something that resembles swiping through their phone. We believe this is the best double-DIN car stereo for iPhone owners because it supports Apple’s CarPlay and offers so much functionality.
You’ll enjoy that you can customize the five display colors and that it is backlit with LEDs. the screen is 6.2 inches wide while also supporting touchscreen response. We also like that it’s Bluetooth supported and can pair simultaneously with two devices. You also get a DVD player for those long car rides, and natively supported SiriusXM, Pandora, and Spotify. Station memory lets you quickly move to your favorite stations and it also supports steering wheel controls and vehicle backup cameras for safer driving. This will sound great with the best car subwoofer.
#2 BOSS Audio Systems BV9358B Car Stereo
Award: Honorable Mention
WHY WE LIKE IT: This is the best car radio with aux and Bluetooth for those long road trips when you get tired of talking thanks to the multiple media source and output options while also prioritizing safety by supporting steering wheel controls.
Read Full Review: BOSS Audio BV9358B Review
- Best budget double-DIN
- Includes USB charging port
- Includes remote
- Display colors aren’t customizable
Long car rides call for plenty of entertainment to keep everyone comfortable, regardless of how old everyone is. We selected the BOSS Audio Systems BV9358B Car DVD Player as our Honorable Mention because we feel it is the best car radio with aux and Bluetooth option for people who take frequent road trips. This double-DIN car stereo receiver features a 6.2-inch screen along with a wide range of multimedia support, Bluetooth connectivity, and features to improve driving safety.
We like that you can choose so many media source options on this double din car stereo. These include physical options like CDs, DVDs and SD memory cards up to 32GB. Meanwhile, you can choose to import media using USB, auxiliary input, or wirelessly with Bluetooth support. And the USB port charges devices too. You’ll also get pre-amp outputs to further customize your sound system. There’s also a remote control, giving people in the backseat more control as well. And for safety, steering wheel controls are supported and backup vehicle cameras can be integrated into the receiver as well. Car stereos are the funnest and best car accessories.
#3 ATOTO A6 Double-DIN Android Car Navigation Stereo with Dual Bluetooth
Award: Best Quality
WHY WE LIKE IT: We think this is one of the best car stereo receivers that’s made with Android users specifically in mind because it’s designed with that OS in mind, and includes the widest array of pre-installed multimedia and navigation apps that we found in our research.
Read Full Review: ATOTO A6 Review
- Best for Android
- Largest screen — 7”
- Pre-installed multimedia & navigation apps
- Steering wheel controller sold separately
iPhone owners shouldn’t be the only ones to find a car stereo receiver that’s made especially for them. While iPhone users can use the ATOTO A6 Double-DIN Android Car Navigation Stereo with Dual Bluetooth, it’s designed to natively support Android devices. We think it’s one of the best car stereo receivers for Android users because it was developed using the Android Marshmallow OS and comes with a wide range of media and navigation apps pre-installed such as Pandora, Google Play, Spotify and Google Maps. There’s also the EasyConnect app that makes pairing your devices easier. We also nominated it for Best Quality because of these key features/highlights. Note that this car stereo receiver can work with iPhones as well, but it’s more intuitive for Android users. And you can choose between nine system languages for your display.
Android users can use USB, Bluetooth or WiFi to connect their devices to this car stereo receiver. The dual Bluetooth design also allows multiple devices to pair simultaneously. We like that this receiver supports Micro USB and SD drive storage with 256GB for micro SD and one terabyte for USB. This receiver also offers the largest touchscreen in our guide at seven inches wide. For safety features, we like that you have rear and front-facing camera integration. And while you will need to purchase a separate device to activate it, this car stereo receiver also supports integrated steering wheel controls. You may also prefer satellite radio for your car over a typical stereo.
#4 Sony MEX-N4200BT Single-DIN in-Dash Car Stereo
Award: Best Budget
WHY WE LIKE IT: One of the best single-DIN car stereos that is affordable with an anti-theft design and a CD player, making it ideal for compact dashes. It supports USB and Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free operation, and core streaming radio apps like Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Spotify are pre-installed to make your commute easier.
Read Full Review: Sony MEX-N4200BT
- Best single-DIN
- Anti-theft detachable faceplate
- Bluetooth & USB connections supported
- Not touchscreen
So far, the car stereo receivers we’ve highlighted are double-DIN models. But if you have a single-DIN stereo receiver, none of those options will be relevant. While the Sony MEX-N4200BT might not offer a touchscreen as the double-DIN models can do, we do like that this affordable single din option is still packed with features, making it one of the best single-DIN car stereo options you can choose.
We like that this model supports Bluetooth, USB, and auxiliary connectivity and also features a CD player — giving you a wealth of media source options. Dual Bluetooth connectivity allows multiple devices to pair simultaneously and the built-in microphone lets you enjoy hands-free calls for safer driving. You’ll like that this comes with support for Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Spotify. If theft is a concern, you’ll like that this single-DIN receiver features a removable faceplate (a common feature among single-DIN models). And the included remote also gives other passengers the freedom to make adjustments to stations, volume and equalizer controls while you drive. Car stereos are fun, but to help keep you safe, check out the best radar detector.
#5 JVC KWR930BT Car Stereo
Award: Best Color Controls
WHY WE LIKE IT: This doulbe-DIN is one of the few to offer anti-theft protection thanks to the detachable faceplate. Plus it has the most customizable color modes to make using your stereo easier regardless of light conditions.
Read Full Review: JVC KWR930BT Review
- Best anti-theft double-DIN
- Steering wheel controls supported
- Detachable faceplate
- No touchscreen functionality
There’s nothing worse than walking to your car in the morning and finding that it’s been broken into by thieves. If you have a double-DIN stereo, you might be frustrated that most double-DIN stereo receivers aren’t designed with removable faceplates. But the JVC KWR930BT is one of the few that does. Because of this, we think that JVC’s model is one of the best double-DIN car stereos that offers anti-theft protection.
Aside from theft protection, we like that this is also the only double-DIN car stereo that gives you customization controls. Although it’s not a touchscreen model, you can control two separate color zones and 50 preset patterns to fit your mood or to match your car’s lighting system and current dash button colors. This model comes with a CD player but also supports SiriusXM, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Spotify. Bluetooth allows for hands-free phone calls as well for safer driving. And you have the option to use the proprietary JVC Remote App to control your receiver. Good loud music feels great and so does keeping your car safe, which is what the best car alarm is all about.
#6 Kenwood Bluetooth Car Stereo Stereo
Award: Best Single-DIN RMS Rating
WHY WE LIKE IT: We think this is the top single-DIN car stereo for serious audiophiles who want to be sure that their preferred receiver is powerful enough to support the amplifiers in their sound system.
Read Full Review: Kenwood Car Stereo Review
- Most powerful single-DIN
- USB charging port
- Comes with Alphasonik earbuds
- Lacks CD player
If the sound quality is everything for you, then you might look at audio specs before you review anything else. We think that the Kenwood Bluetooth Car Stereo Receiver is one of the top single-DIN car stereo for people focused on power. With an RMS rating of 22, it’s the most powerful within the single-DIN category. But it offers so much more, including anti-theft protection with a removable faceplate.
We like that this single-DIN model features dual Bluetooth connectivity for simultaneous pairing with two devices. But you’ll also like that this receiver integrates seamlessly with Amazon Alexa, and supports Spotify and Pandora. There’s also a front USB and auxiliary port if you prefer a wired connection. And as a bonus, this car stereo receiver comes with a pair of Alphasonik earbuds. The best car charger is another must have accessory to keep your car on the road.
#7 Alpine CDE-172BT Car Stereo
Award: Best Simple Design
WHY WE LIKE IT: A dual platform streamlined supportive single-DIN car stereo that comes with a built-in CD player and supports Bluetooth for streaming your favorite audio apps.
Read Full Review: Alpine CDE-172BT Car Stereo Review
- Android & Apple compatible
- CD player
- Bluetooth supported
- Most expensive single-DIN
Although the Alpine CDE-172BT car stereo receiver isn’t as feature-heavy as some of the other single-DIN car stereo receivers in our guide, it’s a great option for the person who doesn’t need all of that functionality. While it’s pricier than the other single-DIN options, we like that it’s compatible with both Android and Apple devices, comes with a CD player and supports Bluetooth connectivity.
You’ll enjoy hands-free calling that includes phone book access to your contact. And the fact that Siri is supported as well with this receiver means you have no excuse to touch your phone. The front USB port and auxiliary inputs give you multiple options for media sources. The best cars have killer stereos after all.
How We Decided
The customer who shops for a car stereo receiver is quite varied. Some people focus on output stats while others want connectivity features. To create our guide, we looked at the following features — connectivity, size, stereo interfaces, steering wheel control integration, display, and value-added features.
For size, you have a choice between single-DIN and double-DIN. Our Top Pick, Honorable Mention, Best Quality, and #5 are all double-DIN models while our Best Budget, #6, and #7 are all single-DIN options. You’ll need to confirm that your car’s stereo dash is compatible with either of these models before you begin your search.
For connectivity, we’ve featured a range of options. All of the models in our guide support wired (USB and auxiliary) connections and Bluetooth. But except for our #5 choice, the double-DIN models also offer Wi-Fi connections that give you the freedom to connect via proprietary Apple and Android apps. Stereo interfaces are also important. If the touchscreen is a priority, you’ll want to focus on our Top Pick, Honorable Mention, and Best Quality recommendations. All feature large touch screens (with our Best Quality being the biggest) with additional physical buttons.
Likewise, if you don’t want to give up safety features, the double-DIN car stereo receivers tend to be the best bet. While all of our recommendations support hands-free calls, The Top Pick, Honorable Mention, and Best Quality all support steering wheel controls as well as rear and front-facing cameras.
If you prefer a larger display, then double-DIN receivers are the way to go. However, for more control over the color display, we recommend the #5 pick since it gives you a wide range of color variations that you can customize to match with your car’s interior lighting system.
And hands down the double-DIN car stereo receivers offer the most value-added benefits. From preloaded media apps like Pandora, Spotify, and iHeartRadio to supportive connectivity features like EasyConnect (on our Best Quality), and even additional media source options such as SD or microSD, you won’t struggle to find ways to connect media. However, all of the models on our list support USB and auxiliary media connections.
Best Car Stereos Buying Guide
The Most Important Factors to Consider
These days, people like to integrate their smartphones into their cars. Whether that means you’re playing music or relying on your phone’s mapping apps for navigation support, all of this is infinitely easier when you can easily sync your phone with your car’s stereo system. While for some, syncing with a USB cord is more than enough, others may prefer Bluetooth or wireless connectivity. Keep in mind though, that if you are looking for a car stereo receiver that specifically supports CarPlay for Apple iPhones or Android Auto, you’ll need to make sure that the stereo includes a built-in WiFi network as neither of those proprietary syncing systems works with Bluetooth.
- Compatibility (single-DIN vs doulbe-DIN)
As with most things, you should always check to ensure that the car stereo you’re thinking of buying is compatible in terms of size and wiring support for the car that you have. Most car stereo receivers are designed to fit in either a single-DIN or double-DIN dash opening. A double-DIN opening is seven by four inches while a single-DIN is seven by two inches. While all aftermarket stereo systems list their size as either single- or double-DIN, you might not be able to tell automatically which size is compatible with your car. So, always do your homework.
For the average car stereo shopper, the standard amplifier and channels that came with their car’s factory system are more than sufficient since this type of shopper is simply looking to upgrade their stereo receiver. But if you’re a serious audiophile, you might be looking to completely overhaul your car’s sound system. If this sounds familiar, you’ll need to consider how much power your speakers are designed to handle. And that requires confirming the RMS — a figure that outlines how much continuous power speakers can support. The RMS for your intended car stereo receiver needs to match the RMS rating on your car’s current speaker system, or the car audio system you plan on installing.
- Stereo Interface
Considering that you’ll most likely be driving while your car’s stereo is on, you’ll want an interface that’s easy to use. While you should always be careful while driving, options like big on-screen buttons and larger fonts can help to reduce distractions. This is ideal on touchscreen car stereos, but you should also be mindful of the physical buttons or knobs. All of them should be easy to use, with a good hand feel and responsive movement.
- Steering Wheel Controls Support
For most newer cars from the last decade or so, you can control your car’s factory audio system, track selection, and source straight from the steering wheel. This is ideal because it helps to reduce the risk of distractions. If you’re looking to buy a new car stereo, you should look for models that can support this important feature. But keep in mind that this feature can force you to look towards more expensive models, or require that you also invest in a wiring harness to integrate those features into your new car stereo.
- Screen Size & Display
Screen size tends to go hand in hand with your budget. If you prefer a mostly touchscreen display, these tend to offer larger screen sizes — but can be pricier. For budget shoppers, there’s usually a compromise between touchscreen and physical buttons or knobs. However, while these models are cheaper, the screens tend to be smaller and with more limited single-touch functionality. Likewise, some people are very into customization. So a car stereo that allows you to adjust the display color themes may be very important to you. This can include changing the button colors on the display or even creating daytime and nighttime modes to make using your car stereo easier in varying light conditions.
- Value-added Features
Especially if you spend a lot of time in your car, you might want a car stereo that does more than offer auxiliary or digital radio support. Other value-added features that can be very important include built-in navigation, remote controls, additional power output for improved sound, streaming radio app support (i.e. Pandora, Spotify, etc.), HD radio for enhanced broadcast radio signals, or even CD/DVD players, and video inputs and outputs. The last two features may come in handy if you’re going on a long road trip and need to keep children entertained.
Best Car Stereos FAQs
What should I look for when buying a car stereo?
The best car stereo brand is going to depend on your needs. If you’re looking for a more modern interface with enhanced connectivity, you should prioritize a larger screen, a range of connectivity options (such as auxiliary, USB, Bluetooth and possibly a built-in WiFi network). Likewise, if you spend a lot of time in your car, features like built-in navigation, smartphone syncing through apps like CarPlay or Android Audio, or even value-added features like a DVD player can be ideal to make driving your car more enjoyable.
How do I know if a stereo will fit my car?
First, you’ll need to confirm that your car’s factory stereo receiver is either a single-DIN or double-DIN. This may not be easy to do as some car stereo receivers are so seamlessly integrated into the dash that it’s hard to accurately measure the size. You may need to contact a local auto shop to confirm your car’s current stereo receiver size. Or, you can also research online as you’re probably not the only person with your exact make, model, and car year who’s thinking about upgrading their car stereo.
Can you put any stereo in your car?
Again, the answer is no. You should always check for compatibility before purchasing a car stereo. Usually, you can easily confirm this by checking directly with the brand you’re considering buying. Or you can also take advantage of Amazon’s Garage feature which allows you to enter the make, model, and year of your car and instantly determines which car parts (including car stereos) will be compatible.
What is a “head unit”?
The term head unit in a car audio system is used to refer to the “tape deck”, or the CD player. These days, however, with modern technological advancements, the head unit can be an MP3 player, smartphone or even tablet computer.
Learn More About Car Stereos
The best car stereo gives you more than just access to radio stations, CDs and MP3s while you’re driving and is still a vital car accessory in our mind. With the emergence of popular streaming services like Spotify, Pandora and Amazon Music, along with smartphone-compatible services like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you’ll want a car stereo that can keep up with your high-tech lifestyle. To help you find the best car stereo for your ride, we purchased and installed the top 10 options and got to jamming out during our daily car commute.
You may also want to read about the best car subwoofer as well. It will really punch up the best satellite radio for cars. Upgrading your car's audio is just as cool as installing the best radar detector.
Once we received the car stereos, our first stage of testing began with how easy each unit was to install. After we were up and running, we measured each unit based on two main features: smartphone integration and audio/video features. Stereos with touchscreens ranked higher on our list, as well as those that could seamlessly pair with iPhones and Android devices. We also looked at navigation features and customizability.
Car stereos are one of the most popular car accessories, much like the best car alarm. Or the best car charger. If you want to outfit your car with even more cool stuff, we recommend the best police radar detector to help avoid the fuzz.