If you own or have recently purchased a car of a certain age, you may be looking at upgrading the in-car entertainment in the form of a new car stereo. One that you will be capable of plugging your Android or iPhone into to use as a sat-nav, music streaming service and for hands-free calls, as well as operating a standard radio.
There are some very good aftermarket products out there that will help you do this, and there is a price and functionality to suit most budgets. As ever, the buying advice on these would be: go for a product you can afford, one which suits your vehicle and gives you what you want from it, functionally.
Before buying a new stereo…
You’ll see the abbreviation DIN in your search for a new stereo. This refers to the stereo’s chassis, as car stereos come in two standard sizes:
• Single DIN refers to stereos that are two inches tall and seven inches wide.
• Double DIN refers to stereos that are four inches tall and seven inches wide.
Your car may be able to accept both sizes, but you can’t tell just by looking at the front of the vehicle. Double DIN units are double the size, so generally speaking, they have more room for controls and are easier to use.
The best care stereos at a glance:
The best car stereos
If you don't have streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, but you do have plenty of CDs, then the DPC-5200BT might be for you as it offers CD playback. Connecting your phone via Bluetooth is also a possibility, offering hands-free capabilities as well as a USB Port to hardwire your phone or device.
- Actual buttons to press
- Modern technology included
- CD port may be redundant
The sleek-looking design would fit into most classic cars, while the hard key buttons offer easy access to sat-nav, voice recognition, messages and calls.
The Pioneer SPH-20DAB offers DAB+, Bluetooth connectivity, USB and Spotify and connects to iPhone and Android devices.
- Should fit most cars
- Includes an integrated phone mount
- Not the most understated-looking device
The DMH-A240BT will mirror your smartphone's screen when you hardwire it using USB, Alexa compatible and with a 13-band Graphical EQ, meaning you can adjust your audio output, browse Spotify and play your favourite songs with ease.
The Chassis is Double DIN but short, making it easier to fit into most cars.
- Slick touchscreen
- Adjustable music quality
- Won't look right in older cars
The screen is an anti-glare 6.2” Wide Video Graphics Array (WVGA) Touchscreen with a 24-bit real colour display, which has a multi-touch interface for safe and smooth operation while driving. If you’re considering updating the stereo system in your motorhome or vehicle, which would be towing your caravan, this could be it. While it’s very pricey, it has detailed integrated European HERE navigation maps.
- Built-in Wi-Fi
- Doubles as a sat nav
- Won't look right in older cars
- Will look great in older cars
- Intuitive operation
Some things to consider:
If you are thinking about replacing or upgrading your car stereo, there are a few things you should consider before you make your purchase.
Compatibility: Make sure the new car stereo is compatible with your vehicle’s make and model to ensure it will fit and work seamlessly with your vehicle’s existing wiring and dash.
Size: Car stereos come in various sizes. Measure the available space in your car’s dashboard to ensure the new stereo will fit without any modifications. As we mentioned in the introduction, the two most common sizes are Single DIN and Double DIN, with Double DIN units typically offering more features and a larger display.
Features and Functionality: Common features include Bluetooth connectivity, USB ports, auxiliary inputs, CD/DVD playback, smartphone integration (Apple CarPlay or Android Auto), navigation, touchscreen displays, and more.
Operation: The ease of use and user interface can affect how you use your new system. Choose a car stereo with a user-friendly interface and intuitive controls, especially if you plan to use it while driving.
Smartphone Integration: If you rely on your smartphone for navigation, music streaming, and other functions, consider a car stereo that supports Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for seamless integration.
Installation: It’s worth considering whether you can install the car stereo yourself or if you need professional installation. Some units are designed for DIY installation, while others may require expert help.
Aesthetics: Consider the design and appearance of the car stereo to ensure it matches your vehicle’s interior and your personal style.
It’s worth taking a few moments to consider these options to make sure you get the best replacement car stereo that meets your needs and will give you the best performance. Rock on!
Myles Warwood is an Autos Products Writer for both Parkers and CAR, specialising in child seats and e-bikes. In his spare time, he’s a freelance cycling journalist and dog owner.
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