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Best Cheap Car Stereo and Head Unit Reviews
Technology advances super fast these days, which can make your car stereo feel dated in a flash. Thankfully, replacing and upgrading your car stereo is more affordable than you might think.
The abundance of technology has made the pricing of car stereos quite reasonable. And some of the best cheap car stereos on the market provide the same advanced features you will find in the newest car and truck models.
Whether you want to install a stereo for hands-free calling, use wireless bluetooth for music, or even have a rearview camera, a new car stereo can can bring a much needed update to your vehicle.
Finding the right stereo for your car will mean sorting through a few important details before making a purchase. Along with how the stereo physically fits into your dash, there are some features that you may or may not want in your car stereo. We’ll cover those important considerations and then jump into the top car stereos in our review.
Alright, so lets jump right in!
Top Cheap Car Stereo Features To Consider
- Single DIN vs Double DIN – This seems to be a point of confusion for a lot of folks that are looking to replace or upgrade their existing car stereo, and it is important that you get this right before making a purchase. Firstly and importantly, double DIN head units measure twice the height of single DIN head units. When comparing the two, a single DIN face plate measures 7×2 inches and a double DIN face plate measures 4×7 inches. Taking some measurements of your available dash space will give you insight into what will work and what won’t. Because they are larger, double DIN car stereos tend to offer more features. Touch screens, DVD capability, and reverse camera video are common in double DIN units. Single DIN stereos are very practical and affordable, while often providing Bluetooth connectivity and CD playback, among other features
- Smartphone Integration – For safety’s sake, many states are passing hands-free driving laws and smartphone integration is becoming essential for communication on the road. Thankfully it is not difficult to find cheap car stereos that offer this feature. Older model cars can often be retrofit with helpful new technology that provides you with all the hands-free smartphone integration of the latest vehicles.
- Bluetooth – The ability to connect wireless devices via Bluetooth is helpful with a lot more than smartphones today. Everything from tablets to subwoofers can connect with Bluetooth. A car stereo with Bluetooth connection can allow you to use your devices in more places than your vehicle as well. In other words, the same subwoofer that works in your car can also bump your favorite playlist beside the pool. Eliminating the need to hardwire every connection can really save some cash in the long run.
- DVD and CD – Modern technology might be slowly phasing out older technology, but that doesn’t mean our CD and DVD collections have lost their value entirely. Double DIN units with touch screens will frequently offer the ability to play DVD’s as well as CD’s, so you can enjoy the music you’ve spent decades collecting, while also being able to play video for passengers.
- Charge Your Devices – One of the other benefits of modern head units and car stereos is that many offer USB ports that allow for charging your devices. You can completely avoid searching for a charger in your house or another vehicle and instead have a great charging option in your car or truck at all times.
- Rearview Camera – Rearview backup cameras are all but standard in today’s latest model vehicles. Backup cameras have saved people a lot of money by preventing accidents and damage. Rather than buying a new car, while you are upgrading your car stereo you can retrofit your current vehicle with a helpful rearview camera.
Top Cheap Car Stereos Comparison Chart
Best Cheap Car Stereos
BOSS Audio is one of the most trusted brands in the car stereo world. You instantly know what you’re getting with this product – a convenient stereo that offers some cool features and great sound quality.
What makes this an excellent choice is the fact that you get a lot of things rolled into one package. As well as operating as a stereo, the BV9364B also has a built-in DVD player. So, your fellow passengers can watch their favorite films during the long drive. Alongside this, it also has Bluetooth and auxiliary connectivity options. This lets you hook up other devices and stream your music and podcasts through the impressive sound system. Of course, it takes CDs and can play both AM and FM radio stations. Effectively, you’ve got a mini entertainment system fixed into your car!
Speaking of which, there’s a good 80W system for you to play with here. That gives you more than enough power to hear through all the speakers in your car. To complement this, you also have an equalizer that lets you play around with different sound profiles and bring more depth to the music.
Already, we have the makings of an impressive car stereo at an attractive price. But this is also a touchscreen car stereo. In today’s age, touchscreen stereos make life a lot easier. It’s very simple to navigate through the menus and choose different options on a touchscreen. At least, it’s far better than using the classic car stereo set up.
Overall, there’s a lot to love about the BOSS Audio Systems BV9364B. It has plenty of features, but it will come in at one of the more expensive products in the ‘budget-friendly’ car stereo range. Plus, it’s pretty bulky, so bear that in mind before you decide to buy it.
- Bluetooth - Answer/make calls and be hands-free with no distractions. The external included microphone picks up your voice and the speakers let you hear the caller. You can also play and control your music and apps like Spotify/Pandora wirelessly
- Media Playback - Watch your choice of videos through the DVD player, play music through your Bluetooth device, pop in a CD or use the USB and SD ports for more audio alternatives. Tune into the AM / FM radio stations for up to date music/news/sports
- Auxiliary - Compatible with the audio output from smartphones as well as MP3 players
- Inputs - USB charging, USB/SD, AUX, rearview camera (camera sold separately). The steering wheel interface allows you to use the existing functions on your steering wheel (interface module sold separately. We recommend the Metra ASWC-1)
- Outputs - Use the front, rear & subwoofer pre-amp outputs to hook up your speakers (Front Left/Front Right and Rear Left/Rear Right) and subwoofer. The video output allows you to connect an extra screen for more viewing capability
Next up, we have a single DIN stereo from audio experts Pioneer. This is a classic car stereo that fits in so many cars. It’s ideal if you have an older vehicle that can’t take a double DIN stereo as you can seriously upgrade the ancient stereo system.
Compared to the previous stereo, there are noticeably fewer features. However, this comes with a bonus – the Pioneer stereo is under $100. Plus, don’t be fooled into thinking there are no features of note at all! On the contrary, you get some pretty neat things packed into this small package. The best feature has to be the Bluetooth connectivity. It seems like such a simple thing, but many old car stereos don’t come with this. Now, you can connect your mobile device directly to the car stereo. As a result, this lets you stream your music through various apps, and you can even play podcasts or audiobooks too. It totally transforms your daily commute to work!
Bluetooth also enables hands-free calling through your car stereo. You can hear people through your car speakers and talk to them via the built-in microphone.
As you would expect, this car stereo is compatible with CDs and has your typical radio functions. The only other feature of note is that you can change the brightness on the screen and alter the color of the lights.
It may not be as flashy as some other options, but this Pioneer CD Digital Music Player still has a lot going for it. If you’re after a single DIN stereo to replace your outdated one, then this could be the product for you.
- Car CD digital music Player receivers
- Built-in Bluetooth for hands free calling and audio streaming Pioneer Arc app compatible with enhanced audio settings
- Adjustable illumination and brightness USB quick charge
This very stylish item is another of the cheap car stereos that come in at under $100. So, if you’re on a strict budget, then this may appeal to you. Instantly, there’s something unique about the Alpine Digital Media Receiver; it doesn’t play CDs!
That’s right, but it may not be an issue for you. If you stream all of your music through Spotify and other apps, then why pay for a feature that you’ll never use? In fact, you can stream directly from Spotify through the stereo, which is a big bonus.
Of course, as you would expect from a product that doesn’t play CDs, you’re given loads of other connectivity options. Bluetooth is the main one, but there’s also a front USB port to hook your phone up to (or your USB drive). You have an AUX connection as well, so the options are very diverse here. It’s been made to work with all iPhone and Android models too, so you shouldn’t have any issues trying to link your phone to the device.
Visually, this single DIN stereo has a striking design. It looks very futuristic and comes with plenty of buttons to help you through all the functions. The blue lights on the black background are also very stylish, so that’s a nice touch.
All in all, this is a great car stereo for anyone that wants a digital media player. If you have a load of CDs that you keep in your car, then it’s not for you. The sound quality is also not as excellent as other options, but it’s still more than bearable!
- Mach-less AM/FM tuner with RBDS information
- Flak/MP3/WMA audio file compatibility via USB
- Made for iPod and iPhone
- Android AOA 2.0 compatible
- Works with Pandora music for iPhone and Android phones
Kenwood is yet another big brand that you can trust to deliver quality products. With this car stereo, you have multiple options. The specific product we’re reviewing is a media receiver with Bluetooth. This means that you don’t get the CD capabilities, though there are two other options with CD players included in them.
Speaking of Bluetooth, the connectivity here is really well done. It’s so easy to set up, and you can instantly stream your favorite audio files or take calls through the stereo. You even get a USB port too, which opens up the chances to use various audio devices to play music in your car.
The sound quality is very clear and loud, which is always nice to hear. To add to this, it comes with an equalizer. Basically, this gives you the freedom to alter the sound profiles and bring out more bass, voice, treble, and so on. If you love music, then this is a cool feature for you to take advantage of.
When it comes to car stereo installation, everything is made as simple as possible. It’s a single din stereo, so it’ll slot into your available spot without any issues. While we’re on the topic of the design, this media receiver looks so sleek. There’s an almost glossy look to it, and everything seems so streamlined and modern. You’ll find all the control buttons on the stereo, and they’re clearly labeled and easy for you to get to grips with. Unlike a few other car stereos, this one doesn’t clog up the face with too many buttons. You have enough to play around with, but it’s not overwhelming.
Kenwood has certainly put a lot of effort into this car stereo with Bluetooth, and it ticks a lot of boxes. If you’re looking for something sleek and easy-to-use, then maybe this stereo is the one to take home.
- Built-in Bluetooth technology for hands-free talking and audio streaming
- MP3/wma/AAC/WAV/FLAC playback via USB
- 13-Band Graphic equalizer with selectable tone curves
- 3.5mm Front Audio auxiliary input | front USB Input
- 3 sets of 2.5V preamp outputs (front, rear and subwoofer)
Last, but by no means least, we have the super budget-friendly JVC KD-X260BT. You can pick this up for just over $50, which is an absolute steal. This may give you the impression that you’re buying a cheap and featureless product – but you’re wrong.
JVC has really pulled out all the stops with this car stereo. The key features are related to connectivity. Here, you have Bluetooth connections, a USB port, and an AUX port. However, it also comes with a remote control app that lets you command the stereo from your mobile device. You can also seamlessly stream things from your iPhone or Android device, and it plays Pandora and Spotify straight from the receiver. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, it can link up with Siri for a total hand and eyes-free experience while you drive!
That’s not all, there are still more things to brag about. For one, the sound quality is crazily impressive for a product with only 22W of power. It plays all the main audio file formats, but the outstanding feature is the Volume Link EQ. Basically, this gives the stereo an extra boost to up the volume and drown out the noise from outside.
If you own an Android device, then you can hook it up via USB and charge your phone directly from the receiver. It’s a nifty little feature, and yet another string to add to the bow of this car stereo. They’ve even made this product so you can remove the faceplate when you leave the car. It doesn’t have to be done, but it can stop people from stealing your car stereo – which is a plus!
With all things considered, the JVC stereo is a bit of a pocket rocket. It provides you with everything you could possibly want, and at a very affordable price. The only slight worries are that the buttons are a bit small, and you don’t get a CD player with it. But, if you can see past these two things, then it may end up in your car very soon.
- JVC KD-X260BT in-dash car digital media Bluetooth receiver for iPhone/Android/USB
- JVC KD-X260BT in-dash receiver. Power output: . peak: 50 watts x 4 channels. Rms: 22 watts x 4 channels. Va LCD display. Spanish text display. MP3 ID3 Tag Display via USB (title/artist/album). am/FM tuner with 18FM/6am presets. JVC rm-rk52 optional remote control sold separately. JVC music play app available. Music sync effect. Authorized internet Dealer. 1-Year Manufacturer's
- Playback and audio features: MP3/WMA/WAV/FLAC playback via USB. Pandora/Spotify/iHeartRadio control via Bluetooth for Android devices. 13-Band Graphic equalizer (10 Preset x 1 User). 3. 5mm Front Audio auxiliary input. Front USB Input. 1 set of 2. 5V preamp outputs (rear/subwoofer selectable). Bluetooth features: built-in Bluetooth technology for hands-free talking and audio streaming
- Bluetooth version 3. 0+Edr Certified. Bluetooth profiles supported: . HFP: hands free profile allows a hands-free car kit to connect to a compatible mobile phone. Hsp: headset Profile enables a Bluetooth headset to connect to a compatible mobile phone. Pbap: phone book Access profile allows the car stereo to display the name of the incoming caller, as well as access the Contact list of the mobile phone directly from the car stereo
- A2DP: Advanced Audio Distribution Profile allows high quality audio to be streamed from an audio device to the car stereo. AVRCP: Audio/Video Remote Control Profile supports basic remote control functions (play, pause, etc) via Bluetooth. Works with most Bluetooth-enabled cell phones. Includes an external wired microphone for clear, convenient, distortion-free talking. Maximum communication rage: 32. 8 feet (approx., line of sight)