The 8 Best Car Stereo Systems to Buy in 2018

Pump up the jams in your car with these car stereos

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The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Pioneer AVH-4200NEX Receiver

Pioneer AVH-4200NEX Receiver
Courtesy of Amazon.com
3.8

Let’s say you’re crazy about music. You’re the sort of person that won’t go to a concert because the sound quality of a venue isn’t good enough or someone that won’t listen to an album unless it’s in the high-quality FLAC format. This means you’re also the kind of person who needs a car stereo that can do and play anything. Let us introduce you to the Pioneer AVH-4200NEX.

The Pioneer AVH-4200NEX features a seven-inch screen and an astounding level of compatibility with music files and smartphones. It can play FLAC, MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV audio files and MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, AVI, DivX and WMV video files. For smartphones, it works with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so no matter what type of phone you have, this thing can run with it. When it comes to music services, the AVH-4200NEX is compatible with Spotify, Pandora, and SiriusXM and you can use its Bluetooth connectivity for both music and calling.

Amazon reviewers have been over the moon for this model, and they especially love the interactivity of between the receiver and iOS and Android phones. They also highly recommend updating the firmware the first time you turn it on to make sure you have access to all the latest features and to get rid of any old software bugs.

Runner-Up, Best Overall: JVC 6.8” Android Auto/Apple CarPlay Digital Media Receiver

Boost the sound of your stock speakers and connect painlessly to all your Apple and Android devices with this sharp, minimalist car stereo from JVC. Measuring 6.8 inches, the touch interface is colorful and intuitive, with a smart design that easily allows you to transition from navigation to music to phone and more.

A double-din receiver lets you set and store a wide range of acoustic preferences, including subwoofer and EQW. With high-resolution playback up to 192/kHz for 24bit audio, playback quality is 6.5-times that of a CD. The stereo possesses K2 Enhanced Digital Sound Quality and Bass Boost 3way crossover which, together, ensure high-frequency reproductions of original recordings. The device is also compatible with MPEG-1, MPEG-2, BMP, JPEG, WAV, WMA, AAC and other playback formats so you can access an array of files. 

Save up to 20 preset radio stations or access your tunes with ease using dual USB ports, Bluetooth connection, Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. The device features full smartphone integration, so you can see everything from Yelp to TripAdvisor without having to look down at your phone. With easy installation, full customization, and a one-year manufacturer's warranty — just in case, this JVC car stereo is a hit.

Best Budget: Pioneer DEH-X6900BT

Pioneer DEH-X6900BT
 Newegg

If you can skip some of the bells and whistles, the Pioneer DEH-X6900BT in-dash car stereo system is a fantastic choice for budget-conscious buyers. With a multi-segmented LCD display complete with LED backlight, the dual-zone color customization offers you total personalization of the on-screen colors, as well as color choices for each of the buttons. With 10 brightness levels to select from, there’s something for day and night driving.

Whether it’s already enabled in your vehicle or not, the Pioneer adds Bluetooth connectivity, so you can wirelessly stream music and answer (and end) phone calls hands-free through the car’s speaker system. There’s also a front-panel USB and AUX input for hooking up various gadgets, including an iPhone or handheld music players. There’s also room for tweaking the sound, thanks to an onboard EQ five-band equalizer, which will come in handy for maximizing audio performance via the direct link to Spotify through the Pioneer unit and compatible smartphone.

Check out our other reviews of the best car stereos under $200 available on the market today.

Best for HD Radio Signals: Alpine Single-Din Bluetooth Car Stereo

Alpine Single-Din Bluetooth Car Stereo
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Serious music lovers should look no further when finding a car stereo system with clear radio reception. The Alpine Single-Din Bluetooth Car Stereo comes with high quality HD radio signals for clean and clear reception.

The Alpine Single-Din Bluetooth Car Stereo system is a 9.06 x 3.94 x 10.63-inch and 4.41-pound car stereo system with a single DIN and faceplate security. Its peak power gives it an output of 50 watts through four channels while its RMS power offers 18 watts with four channels. It has preamp RCA outputs for front, rear as well as a dedicated subwoofer. The device comes with a nine-band built-in equalizer with LCD text display with four selectable colors, and includes a 105 dB with an AM/FM tuner and CD signal-to-noise. It’s compatible with your iPhone and Android smartphones, too.

What makes the Alpine stand out from the rest of the car stereo system is that it’s built for HD radio. It has a built-in HD radio tuner designed to capture the best reception and deliver the clearest sound. You’ll have no problem streaming Pandora Internet Radio from your phone and capture Sirius XM satellite radio signals. 

Some Amazon.com users have wrote that the system has a tendency to glitch with Pandora if using a Samsung S3. Other Amazon.com users have nothing to complain about, with one claiming that it has “every input known to man”. It comes with a one-year warranty.

Best Design: JVC KW-V130BT

Stylish and modern, the JVC KW-V130BT delivers more than just an edgy, unique appearance. Its 6.2-inch touch screen is double DIN, resulting in strong responsiveness, and can be detached to allow for more customization, which is one of the device’s priorities. It has a 17-language display and its front, rear, and subwoofer terminals mean you can adjust the sound quality to match your preferences. With Bluetooth Auto Pairing you can conduct hands-free calls, and iOS users will be able to take advantage of Siri Eyes Free Mode. Audio options are vast: the stereo can be paired with Apple and Android devices for playback through services like Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, and SiriusXM. The unit comes with a memory card slot, AUX jack, and a USB input, it's also steering wheel remote ready and has the option to add a wireless remote control. The accompanying adjustable-angle, rearview backup camera is both waterproof and fog resistant and comes with a universal license plate mount. 

Best Touchscreen: BOSS Audio BV9358B

Offering plenty of digital music options, the BOSS Audio BV9358B boasts a responsive 6.2-inch digital LED touchscreen. Ensure you always have access to your favorite media: watch videos through the DVD player, or listen to music from CDs, AM/FM radio, or smartphones, which can be simultaneously charged through the USB ports. For optimum sound, the unit has 80 watts x 4 max power and has fader, bass, and treble presets with a built-in equalizer, all of which can be controlled with a wireless remote control that can be used inside or outside your vehicle.

The standard model comes with Bluetooth, letting you make and take calls without taking your hands off the wheel. Upgrade to higher-end models with various combinations of Bluetooth, built-in navigation, and a rear camera. An additional interface for purchase lets you control the stereo by using the buttons on your steering wheel. The device comes with a three-year warranty. 

Best for Android OS: Sony 6.4” Android Auto In-Dash Receiver

Sony is known for high-quality home entertainment products, and its well-earned reputation carries over to the automobile, as well. Their 6.4-inch Bluetooth-integrated stereo unit aims to make using your Android smartphone on the road as simple —and safe — as possible.

The in-dash receiver sports a large, clear touchscreen with an ergonomic rotary dial that is easy to operate and distraction-free. It responds to voice commands and features integrated buttons which launch sound control, offering multiple options for navigating your Android apps and music.

The stereo's sound is exceptional thanks to intricate sound controls which can be adjusted via the Dynamic Stage Organizer on your dashboard. The powerful built-in 4 x 55W power amp gives you all the volume you can handle and offers EXTRABASS to support music that plays at a lower frequency. High-end Bluetooth, as well as rear-view camera compatibility, make this speaker an all-around great choice.  

Best for Multi-Functionality: Pioneer AVH4200NEX

With a whopping seven-inch display, the Pioneer AVH4200NEX in-dash receiver is an outstanding option for car owners who want a gorgeous display that’s full of functionality. With built-in DVD compatibility, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, there’s no shortage of device support. Built-in Bluetooth allows for hands-free calling and supports two devices at one time for both the driver and a passenger. The Pioneer extends its support for Apple with Siri compatibility, as well as built-in iPod, iPhone and iPad control through an optional adapter that allows for the viewing of video content.

If neither Android nor Apple are your preference while you’re on the road, there's extra support for SiriusXM, so you can access music, traffic, weather and sports. Connecting any compatible iPhone or Android smartphone via Pioneer's AppRadio Mode adds on-screen access to your contacts, calendar, maps and more. Additionally, AppRadioLive adds all the news and media info you’d want into a single interface designed for quick and easy discovery.

Tested by

How We Tested

Our reviewers spent 15 hours testing a top-rated car stereo system. To get the full experience, they installed it in their own vehicles and did everything from talking on the phone to listening to music. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using this car stereo system, from connectivity to ease of use. We've outlined the key points here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in a Car Stereo System

Connectivity - One of the best things about upgrading your car stereo is that you get to choose how you’ll listen to music, podcasts, and other audio. Look for a unit with an auxiliary input if you have an MP3 player or a phone with a headphone jack. If you don’t have a headphone jack, look for a car stereo with a USB port or Bluetooth connectivity.

Single- or double-din - Don’t buy a stereo that won’t fit in your car. Single-din stereos are about two inches tall, while double-din options measure about four inches. If you aren’t absolutely certain whether a certain unit will fit, check your owner’s manual or contact your local dealer before you buy.

Entertainment and navigation - Basic car stereos can play CDs and digital music through a variety of different connections (like USB and Bluetooth). If you have the room to spare in your budget, take a look at more advanced car stereos that include DVD and Blu-ray playback, GPS navigation, integration with your Android or iPhone, and more.

Test Results: Pioneer AVH-4200NEX Receiver (Best Overall)

3.8

What We Like

  • Easy to use

  • Great sound quality

  • Customization features

What We Don't Like

  • Built-in apps could be better

  • Crashed a few times

Pioneer AVH-4200NEX Receiver
Pioneer Receiver
Pioneer AVH-4200NEX Receiver car stereo system
Pioneer AVH-4200NEX Receiver system
Pioneer AVH-4200NEX car stereo system

“This speaker system sounds as good or better than the original car radio,” reported one of our testers. Another highlight was its ease of use and many customization options. One reviewer broke it down for us: “The background can be changed, the splash screen can be customized, and the color of the LED can be switched to your favorite color,” he explained. In terms of downsides, one tester noted that the system crashed a few times during the testing period: “Two times since I’ve been using it, the car play interface would crash continuously,” he said. “This was solved by restarting the unit.”