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Up Your Car’s Tech with the Best Car Stereo

  1. Pioneer Multimedia DVD Receiver Car Stereos
  2. Alpine Advanced Bluetooth Mech-Less Digital Media Receiver Car Stereos
  3. Kenwood Single DIN Bluetooth CD/AM/FM USB Auxiliary Input Car Stereos
  4. Clarion EQS755 7-Band Car Audio Graphic Equalizer
  5. Buyer's Guide

There’s lots of reasons why you might be looking for a replacement stereo for your vehicle. Maybe your current car stereo doesn’t offer the technology you want or perhaps the stock stereo which came with the vehicle stopped working. Whatever the reason, there are hundreds of available options which can make the shopping process quite daunting to even begin. Fortunately, we've narrowed down the field to select the best car stereos in 2022 which offer some of the best options currently available. To learn more about choosing the right car stereo for your needs, check out our car stereo buyer’s guide down below.

Best Car Stereos of 2022 Reviewed in Detail

Pioneer Multimedia DVD Receiver Car Stereos - Best Car Stereo Overall

At first glance, it's definitely the giant 7-inch screen that stands out about the double-DIN-sized Pioneer SPH-DA210 AppRadio 3. This screen allows you to experience select apps such as Pandora Internet Radio in your car in a new way, displaying them on the capacitive touchscreen so you can use the receiver much like you would your smartphone. You can even pop a DVD in and watch and movie if you'll be sitting in the car without moving for a while. To make sure everything works seamlessly, you'll need to purchase a connection kit made specifically for your smartphone model (iPhone 5, iPhone 4/4S, and some Android phones are supported). The cables included in the kit connect to the rear-panel USB input, where you'll also find a rear-view camera input. The AppRadio 3 also has an external GPS antenna included for boosting signal while using GPS apps. Once connected, you can use the AppRadio 3 to do anything from setting reminders and changing songs using Siri through your stereo's built-in microphone (if you have an iPhone, of course), to using MirrorLink for in-dash control to access map services with some Android phones. Bluetooth pairing is easy, and allows you to talk handsfree, stream audio, and access your phone book from the touchscreen. Of course, you can't forget about the actual sound quality of the Pioneer SPH-DA210 AppRadio 3. A built-in amplifier puts out 14 watts RMS over 4 channels (50 watt peak), and although the 4-channel, 2-volt preamp outputs don't leave a huge amount of room for expansion, performance is excellent on its own.

Alpine Advanced Bluetooth Mech-Less Digital Media Receiver Car Stereos - Runner Up

Often, getting a car stereo at a very affordable price means having to give up features that many of us consider to be fairly basic, such as Bluetooth. With the UTE-42BT, Alpine took a different approach, taking into consideration how many people have been making the switch away from CDs when it comes to playing music. This stereo gets rid of the CD slot completely, relying solely on digital media. If you're still using CDs in your car, this is definitely not a good option. The UTE-42BT does, however, include built-in Bluetooth so you can have handsfree conversations or use wireless streaming in your car. Front-panel USB and auxiliary inputs mean you can connect devices to the stereo directly, and if you plug in an iPod or iPhone, you can use the stereo's buttons to access and control your music so you don't need to take out your phone while driving. The built-in amplifier puts out 18 watts RMS x 4 channels to ensure good sound quality, although expansion options are somewhat limited with the 4-channel, 2-volt preamp outputs.

Kenwood Single DIN Bluetooth CD/AM/FM USB Auxiliary Input Car Stereos - Honorable Mention

With how ubiquitous smartphones and MP3 players have become, car stereos have had to adjust in order to be able to work seamlessly with this more modern technology. On the front panel of Kenwood's KDC-255U you'll find both a USB and auxiliary input, giving options to connect devices easily. This allows for features such as controlling Pandora Internet Radio (with the app installed on your iPhone) through the receiver instead of needing to get out your smartphone while driving. Sound quality is good considering the price; the built-in 4-channel amplifier features 22 watts RMS of output. Overall sound output itself can be adjusted using the System Q Sound Control, with 8 EQ curves and a 3-band equalizer. Variable color illumination allows you to customize the appearance of the stereo to match your taste, as well. For a stereo that costs less than $100, Kenwood's KDC-255U offers plenty of performance.

Clarion EQS755 7-Band Car Audio Graphic Equalizer - Consider

Clarion's CZ302 might not cost much, but that doesn't mean that you'll need to forgo features such as Bluetooth just because you're on a budget. Clarion has a tendency to somehow manage to include lots of features on their receivers regardless of the price, so it's no surprise that they've done the same with this affordable entry-level model. The CZ302 is equipped with Parrot Bluetooth, which means crystal clear quality for handsfree talking and wireless music streaming. Front-panel auxiliary and USB inputs mean that you can also hook up your devices directly, and with an iPod/iPhone, the stereo buttons can then be used to search for songs, control your Pandora Internet Radio app (you can even rate songs from the dash), and achieve all the basic functions you'd expect. This stereo is also compatible with SiriusXM if you decide to add satellite radio to your car. Sound quality is clean, with a built-in amplifier that puts out 19 watts RMS over 4 channels. Those wanting to expand might be disappointed by the 4-channel, 2-volt preamp outputs, though this is not to say expansion is not a possibility. Overall, it's difficult to find many options in this price range that offer great performance along with sharing features from receivers that cost much more.

Buyer's Guide

Known as a receiver, head unit, or deck, a car stereo forms the core of your car’s audio system and the portion you’ll be directly interacting with most. Swapping out your car stereo is an easy way to add more technology and features to your car. If you’re changing out your stock car stereo for a more modern replacement, the main elements you need to consider are the audio sources, features, and ability to expand upon your system. Picking a new car stereo doesn’t need to be complicated and we’ve put together this buyer’s guide to help you narrow down the choices which will work best for you.

Car Stereo Buying Guide

Determine your goals

Beyond just needing to know the size of the components needed to fit in your car, there’s plenty to consider:

  •  Do you want the stereo have a low key appearance to discourage thieves
  • Are you looking for both performance and style?
  • Do you want to make calls and stream music using Bluetooth?
  • Are you considering satellite radio and/or HD Radio?
  • Is being able to hook up your smartphone a requirement?

Consider the kind of music do you listen to and whether you like to turn the volume up regularly.

Budget and Installation

Determining your budget well ahead of time ensures you’ll never end up pushed outside of your monetary comfort zone. As well as the cost of the unit itself, you also need to factor in the installation costs. While you can install a car stereo yourself, many people choose to have it done by a professional or ask friends if they recommend any particular technicians. When choosing a shop, look for good reviews, check to see if the retailer is an authorized dealer for the brands they carry, as well as seeing if any manufacturer’s warranties are in place to protect your investment.

Audio/Media Input Sources

The car stereo you want will depend on what devices you use to store the majority of your music. Do you need a CD player, or do you prefer using your smartphone to manage all of your digital media? You’ll definitely want to look for the option to plug in a phone or other device, even if you don’t plan on using it much right away. This can include a USB port for playback from flash storage devices, as well as a 3.5mm analog auxiliary input for universal connectivity. Many modern car stereos now include Bluetooth for wireless music streaming as well as for making hands-free calls.

Smartphone/App Integration

If you have a newer iPhone with the lightning connector, ensure the head unit you’re considering has a USB port. Some stereos will have specific badges to denote compatibility with Apple devices. For other non-Apple smartphones, look instead for a stereo with a 3.5mm analog auxiliary input, or one using Bluetooth audio streaming.

If you frequently use streaming apps such as Pandora or Spotify, look for a car stereo which allows you to control those types of apps directly from the unit. This can include the ability to create custom stations, pause/skip, and safely access other features while driving. Some car stereos even have app mirroring such as Pioneer’s AppRadio although this is a relatively new, uncommon technology.

Satellite and HD Radio

HD Radio-capable stereos allow you to access high quality audio and digital sub channels for some stations. This not only increases your choice of available audio channels, but also allows you to enjoy higher quality audio. Some stereos include the use of iTunes tagging so you can save and purchase songs you’ve enjoyed listening to.

While satellite radio might not offer the audio quality of HD Radio, many listeners enjoy their choice of stations and exclusive programming, including a variety of talk radio, sports, live traffic, and other specialty programming. This content is only available to paid subscribers, and you’ll also need to ensure your vehicle is equipped with an appropriate antenna if applicable.

GPS and Navigation

Many modern car stereos include turn-by-turn navigation and traffic reporting capabilities which negates the need for a separate navigation unit. Look for flash memory-based maps for easy upgrades, which are usually made via an SD or microSD card. If you choose a receiver including app mirroring, you can use your smartphones navigation feature with the instructions appearing on the car stereos display screen and spoken instructions via the vehicle’s speakers.

While the depth of each vehicle and car stereo unit varies, the primary choice comes down to single-DIN or double-DIN which refers to the size of the in-dash stereo unit.

Car Stereo Size


A single-DIN car stereo takes up much less space, making them easier to fit into more vehicles. Their low-key appearance makes them less visible to potential thieves, especially with models which feature detachable faceplates.


These models take up more space with many featuring large touchscreen displays. These car stereos are more likely to offer app mirroring, DVD playback, GPS navigation, and other higher-end features.


This refers to the car stereos built-in amplification which delivers power to your speakers; this feature can make a significant difference in the performance of your car’s speakers and the overall longevity of your system.

RMS Rating

The RMS/Watts rating indicates the system’s continuous power output, as opposed to its maximum capability. Look for a car stereo with a rating enough sufficient to power the speakers you’ve installed. If you decide to stick with your stock speakers, you’re less likely to run into any issues.

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