The 8 Best Car Stereo Systems to Buy in 2018

Pump up the jams in your car with these car stereos

Looking to upgrade your car's stereo system with something that packs a little more oomph? We’ve put together a list of the seven best car stereo systems that you can get for your vehicle (either old or new) that’ll enhance your listening experience. Many of these car stereo systems are built with a user experience that has the same familiarity and functionalities as your smartphone. And companies like Apple and Google offer in-system apps that synchronize with your respective devices. So whether you’re aiming for assured connectivity, clear radio signaling, or want something with familiar accessibility, there’s a car stereo system for everybody. Read on to see which best suits your needs.

Best Overall: Pioneer AVH-X5800BHS Receiver

There are a ton of car stereo systems, but if you’re unsure of where to start, you should take a glance at the Pioneer AVH-X5800BHS. This is a powerful, high-performance stereo system that likely does a heck of a lot more than the one that came with your car, truck or SUV.

Since you probably use your smartphone as a personal life remote control, you’ll love that the Pioneer AVH-X5800BHS works with the latest iPhone and Android models and lets you play music or take calls via a USB cable or using Bluetooth. This receiver also lets you use Pioneer’s AppRadio One, a smartphone app that connects to the receiver and lets you control some of your phone’s apps on the receiver’s seven-inch touchscreen display. It’s also compatible with Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM and HD Radio, so there are plenty of choices for listening to music, news or sports.

Amazon reviewers have been extremely happy with this model, granting it an average 4.5 out of 5 stars. Many of the users said this model was outstanding, but complained that it did not have well-documented instructions for installation, so we’d recommend doing your research before attempting an install or having a professional install it.

Best Playback & Features: Pioneer AVH-4200NEX Receiver

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.

Best Budget: Pioneer DEH-X6900BT

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 Android OS: Pumpkin 6.2-Inch Stereo

Running Android 6.0 Marshmallow right out of the box, the Pumpkin 6.2-inch car stereo offers a slew of options and power. With 16GB of memory on-board (expandable to 64GB with a compatible SD card), there’s room to store thousands of songs on the unit without ever connecting a smartphone. The Pumpkin offers support for subwoofer audio output, as well as 1080p video on the display. The included Wi-Fi modem adds a 1.5m long antenna for increased signal reception. The cam-in RCA option offers support for a backup camera directly on the display (you’ll have to purchase the rear camera separately).

For navigating around town or across the country, GPS is included for both online and offline navigation apps (not included) with voice guidance through apps such as Waze, Google Maps and Sygic. The Pumpkin also connects directly into steering wheel controls for adjusting playback, volume or channels without taking your hands off the wheel.

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

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 users have wrote that the system has a tendency to glitch with Pandora if using a Samsung S3. Other 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: Kenwood DDX774BH

When it comes to car stereo systems, very few receivers will blow you away when it comes to design, as most of the high-end systems look similar. That said, we appreciate a clean and useful design approach on any car system. Enter the Kenwood DDX774BH, a simple and refined car stereo with lots of versatility that will work with many types of vehicles.

The Kenwood DDX774BH has a 6.95-inch touch LCD display with LED backlighting that is bright and easy to read. There’s also a USB port that enables you to connect and charge your Android or iOS smartphone. Oh, and up to five Bluetooth devices can be connected at one time, so all your friends and family members riding in the car can select what tunes they want to hear.

There are also a lot inputs and outputs on this model to ensure strong customization options. For inputs, this model has a rear USB input, rear A/V input, front- and rear-view camera inputs, and for outputs, it has rear video output and six-channel pre-amp outputs.

While this model does not have a ton of reviews because it is relatively new, previous Kenwood models including this receiver’s predecessor have all gotten high marks.

Best Touchscreen: Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX Receiver

Most high-end stereo systems offered today have resistive touchscreens. These are fine and often do the trick, but they aren’t as good as capacitive touchscreens, which are more responsive and featured on today’s best smartphones. If you’re looking for a car stereo that has the touch response of a smartphone (and plays well with them), you need to see the flagship Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX.

The AVIC-8200NEX is a true beast with outstanding compatibility with iOS and Android. It features both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto software, which means you can do things like bring up the native Maps or Music apps from your phone and control them via the stereo touchscreen. One thing that’s especially cool that the touchscreen enables is multi-touch gestures, so you can pinch to zoom when you have the Maps app open. (It sounds small, but try for a second to imagine your phone without pinch to zoom and you’ll see why it’s a good feature.)

This model also has great music and radio connectivity, with support for Pandora, SiriusXM, HD Radio and real-time traffic data from more than 90 North American cities from the Total Traffic & Weather Network. It also has built-in navigation with nearly eight million points of interest in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

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.


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