Time alignment optimizes music for where you sit in the vehicle. Mix tracks like a DJ. Customizable display, colors, and brightness control. Backup camera ready. SiriusXM compatible. Dual Bluetooth connection. Includes remote control.
Some users have issues with flashing screens.
Built-in Bluetooth lets you make calls hands-free. Wirelessly control music apps like Spotify and Pandora. Can output video to additional video screens. Supports inputs such as USB, SD, auxiliary, AV, and rear camera. Offers controls for bass, treble, balance, and fader.
Requires vehicle-specific dash kit and wire harness.
Easily upgrades any double DIN car stereo with an elegant multi-functional CD receiver. Built-in amplifier. Easy to read and use physical controls. Bluetooth connectivity, five-band graphic equalizer, and anti-dust design.
A little short on functionality compared to newer multi-touch head units.
Versatile and affordable option for iPhone users. Offers various inputs and outputs. Bluetooth compatibility. Control everything with your existing steering wheel controls. Great for hands-free voice control and navigation.
Has no CD or DVD playback functionality.
An incredible value for iPhone owners. Outstanding audio quality, a built-in DVD player, full support for Apple CarPlay, and a low price make this an excellent choice.
Lack of support for Android Auto makes this a tough sell for Android phone owners. The software update process is lengthy and complicated.
While most consumer products have adapted to the dizzyingly rapid pace of technology, there’s one that’s still playing catch-up: the car stereo. Because car ownership cycles are longer than most products, by the time a car is five years old, its stereo is already woefully outdated.
Thankfully, that’s changing, and double DIN car stereos are here to bring smartphone-level convenience to our cars. The term “double DIN” refers to size; a double DIN car stereo takes up twice the amount of space as a traditional car stereo.
Grabbing a double DIN car stereo is the perfect way to modernize your commute, whether you’re looking to bring podcasts to life or you want to find the easiest way to get somewhere. At BestReviews, we’re on a mission to help you find the double DIN car stereo that best suits your needs. Read on for our shopping guide, and when you’re ready to start browsing, check out our recommended models.
Most double DIN car stereos come with a long list of features. This can make it difficult to compare models side by side. Some features, like connectivity options, are well worth it. Others, like DVD playback, don’t do a lot to improve your driving experience. Here are the features we consider essential on double DIN car stereos.
Bluetooth: Whether you want to stream music from your smartphone to your car or take hands-free calls while you’re driving, Bluetooth support is fast becoming an essential feature. Be sure to read the fine print carefully when shopping; some older or budget car stereo models support Bluetooth for phone calls but don’t allow Bluetooth music streaming.
CarPlay or Android Auto: CarPlay and Android Auto are special menus that allow you to interact with your iPhone (if you use CarPlay) or Android phone (if you use Android Auto) through your car stereo’s interface. They’re designed to get you the things you need from your phone – music, directions, urgent alerts – while minimizing distractions so you can keep your hands on the wheel.
GPS navigation: Car GPS is typically a lot easier (and safer) to use than smartphone GPS. Car stereos with GPS navigation usually cost a few hundred dollars more than those without it, but for many, the peace of mind of knowing you’ll never get lost is worth it.
One of the big questions you’ll need to consider when shopping for a double DIN car stereo is if you want to install it yourself. The decision you make could save you money – or it could leave you in over your head.
Here are some pros and cons to consider:
Installing your car stereo yourself is the most affordable option, as most pro installers charge an hourly fee that can add up quickly. However, car stereo installation isn’t “plug and play.” A custom dash kit, as well as additional adapters and wire harnesses, may be required. If you’re comfortable modifying your car and have experience with wiring car audio equipment, the DIY approach makes sense.
Not every car stereo “bargain” is truly a good deal. As you’re shopping, keep these price ranges in mind.
Between $100 and $249, you’ll find budget models that offer the basics (like Bluetooth support) and skimp on some key luxuries (like a capacitive touchscreen). If you can live with sub-par interfaces and the occasional lag – or if you don’t expect your car to last more than a few years – it’s easy to find a good bargain.
Between $250 and $799, there is a mix of incredible values and almost-but-not-quite models. Stereos on the low end will leave out key features like USB input. Stereos on the high end often include built-in GPS navigation. If you’re looking for a model that works beautifully with your smartphone, you’ll need to spend at least $250 – and spending significantly more would likely be worth it.
If you buy a car stereo with a MicroSD or USB input, buy a MicroSD card or USB flash drive, and put your personal music files on it for use in the car. Most double DIN car stereos support at least one USB input, and using a flash drive is a great way to make sure your favorite tunes are always in the car. What’s more, you’ll never have to fuss with your smartphone connection.
If your car has a front dash cam and backup camera, make sure the stereo you buy has inputs for both. Some double DIN car stereos have only one video input, which is traditionally for rear backup cameras. However, many newer models have multiple video inputs, so you can use the screen to help you park and record any important events happening in front of your car with a dashcam.
Q. Many car stereos list “iPod compatibility” as a feature. Will these models work natively with my Android phone?
A. No. When a car stereo lists iPod compatibility, it means that it includes software that can play music from your iTunes library, and iTunes is only available on iPhones and iPods. If you plug an Android phone into a car stereo that has iPod compatibility, it may charge your phone, but you won’t be able to access music on your Android phone from the car stereo touchscreen. That said, car stereos with Android Auto or custom apps can play music from an Android phone.
Q. What are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?
A. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are specially designed interfaces for using smartphones in the car. Apple CarPlay supports iPhones, and Android Auto supports Android phones. With a car stereo that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you can connect your phone and easily access and control your apps from your car stereo screen.
If you can’t imagine a drive without music from your phone or assistance from your favorite GPS app, get a car stereo that supports your smartphone with either CarPlay or Android Auto.
Q. If my car stereo has GPS, will I be able to keep the maps updated?
A. Yes. Most double DIN car stereos that have GPS navigation include a USB port. When the manufacturer provides map updates, you can download the files to a USB drive, attach it to your car stereo, and follow the upgrade procedure. To learn more, consult your car stereo manual.
BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.