Car Stereo Buying Guide: How to Choose an Aftermarket Head Unit?

When you’re in the market for aftermarket car stereo upgrades, it’s important to consider sound quality. You can’t really enjoy your favorite song if it sounds like a CD on shuffle and goes from one extreme to another with no distinction.

Luckily, there are many great options on the market that will help give you the high-tech music experience of your dreams!

The right aftermarket car stereo can make a world of difference when it comes to making your road trips enjoyable. It’s important to choose the one that best suits your needs, and not just go with the cheapest option.

Here are some things you should consider before purchasing a stereo for your car-

Choose Between Single DIN and Double DIN

The first thing you need to decide is whether you want a single DIN or double DIN stereo. Single DIN stereos are the most common and usually fit into vehicles that have a factory-installed stereo with a height of about two inches. If your car has a bigger dashboard, then you’ll need to go with a double DIN car stereo, which will have a height of four inches.

Check Your Vehicle’s Compatibility:

Not all aftermarket car stereos are compatible with every vehicle. It’s important to do your research and make sure the one you choose is compatible with your specific car. You don’t want to end up buying something that won’t work in your vehicle!

You can fit in a single-DIN model in a double-DIN setup, but not vice versa. However, it’s recommended to use the one that fits perfectly with your vehicle setup since you will find both 2-DIN and 1-DIN units in a diverse price range.

If you are looking for a bigger screen despite having space only for a 1-DIN unit in your car dashboard, flip-out units can be a great way to tackle the issue. However, that will require a bigger budget than the conventional setups.

Touchscreen vs Button Control

Aftermarket stereos come with a variety of control types, the most common being button controlled, followed by touchscreen models.

If you’re looking for the best experience, it’s generally recommended to go with a stereo that has touchscreen controls instead of buttons. This is because button-controlled stereos can be harder to operate and tend to be less user-friendly.

However, if you don’t mind sacrificing a little convenience for saving a hundred bucks, then a button-controlled stereo might be right for you.

car stereo
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Bluetooth, Wifi, and Phone Connectivity

Most high-tech car stereos come with Bluetooth, wifi, or phone connectivity. This is especially useful if you have a smartphone that you use to listen to music and make calls while driving.

If this sounds like something you would be interested in having, then it’s important to choose an aftermarket unit that has these features built right into the unit. You don’t want one without Bluetooth because your phone will not sync up!

Apple CarPlay Compatibility:

If you’re an iPhone user, then it’s important to consider Apple CarPlay compatibility. This will allow for easy music and navigation transfers from your phone onto the stereo.

Android Auto Compatibility:

If you have an Android phone, then it’s recommended to get a car stereo that is compatible with the Google-based platform called Android Auto.

Just like Apple CarPlay, this product lets users safely operate their smartphones from behind the wheel without taking their eyes off of the road. It also gives them access to voice control and hands-free calling!

CD, DVD, and Navigation Features

Many aftermarket car radios come with CD, DVD, and navigation features. If you’re someone who still likes to listen to CDs or watch DVDs in the car, then it’s important to find a stereo that has these capabilities.

Similarly, if you rely on your GPS for getting around town, then make sure the stereo you choose has navigation built-in!

AM, FM, Satellite Radio Functionality

If you listen to the radio while driving, then it’s recommended that your aftermarket car stereo comes with AM and FM functionality.

This way you’ll still be able to receive local news and traffic updates!

Plus, having satellite radio capabilities will give you access to a ton of different stations that you might not be able to hear otherwise. So, definitely an option to consider.

Ease of Installation

It’s important to find an aftermarket car head unit that is easy to install. This way, you won’t have to spend hours trying to figure out how it works – you can just pop it in and go.

Most stereos come with installation kits that include all the parts you need, such as wires, screws, and mounting brackets. It’s usually a simple process that only takes a few minutes!

Build Quality and Longevity

The build quality of the stereo is very important to consider. You don’t want one that will break down on you quickly!

For the best experience, choose a high-quality unit with good wiring and strong internal parts. This way, it can last for years without any issues or needing replacement!


You’ll also want to consider the aesthetics of the stereo. This includes things like the design, color, and overall look of the unit.

Some people prefer a more subtle design while others might want something that really stands out. It’s all up to personal preference!

However, it’s recommended not to overly obsess about the aesthetics as you want a functional device, not a showpiece for the car. Aesthetics is a plus, but not a significant factor for most people.

Warranty Period and Type

When looking for an aftermarket stereo unit, it’s important to consider the warranty period and type. Many stereos come with a standard one-year warranty, but there are some that offer longer periods like three to five years.

It’s also important to consider the type of warranty. Some are limited to parts and labor, while others cover both parts and labor as well as accidental damage.


Last but not least, price is always an important consideration when making any purchase.

Car stereos come in different price ranges depending on what features they have installed – some are cheap while others cost thousands of dollars!

You don’t want to break the bank on it, but you also don’t want something too cheap that will likely break down soon.

The best way to find a good balance between quality and affordability is to do your research and read reviews. Look for stereos that are well-made, durable, easy to use, and have a lot of features without being too expensive!

Final Words

Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to start shopping around for the perfect car stereo! Keep these tips in mind and you’re sure to find one that fits your needs and budget.​

  • Choose a stereo that is easy to install
  • Consider build quality and longevity when making your decision
  • Think about the aesthetics of the unit
  • Make sure the stereo has Bluetooth, wifi, or phone connectivity
  • Check for compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Find a model with CD, DVD, and navigation features if needed