In today’s world, a car stereo is never just a car stereo, it’s a DVD player, a navigation system, or a hands-free calling hub. Nowadays we’re expecting a lot more from our car dashboard.
If you’re still pulling over to ask for directions – it’s time for an upgrade. And throw those CDs away like they’re frisbees because we’re about to enter a world of XM radio and instant streaming services.
Let’s face it, we can’t go trading in our vehicle for the latest model every year – unless you’ve got Elon Musk’s budget you’ll be sticking with the one you have for a little while longer. But you can upgrade your car stereo on a tight budget.
Nowadays, there are affordable aftermarket car stereos that are robust and packed full of incredible features – the gap is closing between budget and premium models faster than a tailgating truck!
That’s why we’ve rounded up the best budget car stereos on the market. With multiple inputs Wi-Fi capabilities and responsive touchscreens, these head units might be affordable but they aren’t lacking in features. So let’s hit the road!
The Best Budget Car Stereos in 2023
Check out these car stereos that offer the perfect balance between functionality and affordability.
- Top quality sound output
- Features a DVD player
- Modern features
- Simple controls using steering
- Flashiest system with an impressive 16 million color combos
- Smooth streaming with compatible smartphone devices
- Supports Spotify and Pandora for endless music options
- Built-in Wi-Fi module for easy connectivity to your phone’s hotspot
- 10.1-inch IPS display provides impressive view from all angles
- Supports 1080 videos
- 1GB RAM allows fast device operations
- Offers hand-free calling
- Offers multi-device bluetooth connectivity
- Offers hand-free calling with better sound quality and noise reduction
- JVC’s patented K2 Technology provides improved sonic experience
- Streams audio via AUX, USB, and Bluetooth
- Works smoothly with Pandora on Android/iPhone devices
- Additional customization option to fine-tune to your audio experience
- Double DIN stereo with excellent voice assistance and navigation functionalities
- Built-in bluetooth easily connects with compatible devices
- AM/FM tuner improves your driving experience
- Offers easy navigation and calling with simple touch
- Boasts a full HD 7-inch display offering true-color pictures from any angle
- Additional support for rear-view camera
- Boasts high-performance 7-character LCD for an exceptional viewing experience
- Compatible both with Android and Apple devices
- Built-in bluetooth allows wireless streaming of audiobooks, podcasts, and music from your smartphone
Our detailed reviews cover car radios with affordable price tags:
1. BOSS Audio BV9364B – Best Budget Overall
This BOSS Audio BV9364B stereo is an excellent choice that comes at an affordable price and still offers several premium functions, such as DVD, CD compatibility, audio streaming, and Bluetooth.
|Diemensions||7 x 6.67 x 3.93 inches|
|DIN Type||Double DIN|
|Special Feature||Touchscreen, Bluetooth|
|Inputs||AUX, USB and SD|
The BOSS Audio BV9364B head unit offers an impressive performance that matches the more expensive rivals on the market. You get a maximum power output of 80 watts to four channels, enough for most people.
This BOSS Audio BV9364B unit comes with a CD/DVD player that provides an exemplary video experience. The stereo can also play different file formats, including AVI, WMA, and mp3, via the USB port.
The BOSS Audio BV9364B head unit boasts pre-amp outputs for controlling your front and rear speakers and subwoofer. An AUX connection option provides additional integration with smartphone-streamed media.
Controlling your music is a breeze with this BOSS model. A fantastic steering wheel interface makes it easy to connect to your vehicle’s steering wheel functions, so you never take your hands off the wheel.
2. BOSS Audio Systems 850BRGB — Best Affordable RGB Stereo
BOSS Audio 850BRGB is a double DIN stereo options for anyone looking for a quality in-car sound system without breaking the bank. It’s an attractive unit and the first thing that catches the eye is the stunning display.
|Diemensions||7 x 7.1 x 4.1 inches|
|DIN Type||Double DIN|
|Special Feature||Bluetooth, Multi Color Illumination|
|Inputs||AUX & USB|
This BOSS Audio 850BRGB is one of the over-the-top and flashiest BOSS systems. Super cool RGB lights on the unit can create an impressive 16 million color combos. The BOSS 850BRGB is an excellent option if you’re all about the life of the party.
BOSS Audio 850BRGB boasts of Audio Streaming (A2DP), a Bluetooth technology protocol that allows wireless audio streaming from compatible smartphones. Aux input lets you connect the stereo to other devices, such as a smartphone and an MP3 player.
Electronic Skip Protection (ESP) function in the 850BRGB buffers a CD during play in case of interruption. And the re-amp outputs on the unit allow expanding the system to support up to 3 amps and signal process for multiple speaker systems – that’s perfect for the party animals drawn in by the RGB lights.
A selectable tuner lets you adjust the unit’s tuner to receive European or American radio broadcasts. The USB port on this BOSS Audio 850BRGB supports 32 GB flash drives for music playback or viewing photos and videos after connecting the unit to a monitor.
3. P.L.Z AN-500 – Best Budget Stereo With Wi-Fi Capable Option
If you’re looking for a full multimedia experience, this P.L.Z stereo offers you that without breaking the budget. The unit comes with a dashcam offering a 170-degree ultra-wide viewing angle.
|Number of Channels||4|
|Special Feature||Rear Camera, Wireless Remote|
The dashcam boasts a built-in Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS), giving you warnings when you’re close to the car in front, leaving the lane, and possible forward collision. You can watch the dashcam live on the P.L.Z AN-500 using a USB cable connection.
This P.L.Z AN-500 model has a built-in Wi-Fi module for easy connectivity to your phone’s hotspot. Internet connectivity allows surfing and downloading Google Maps via the stereo’s Google Play Store. A GPS receiver in the P.L.Z AN-500 makes navigating the streets in new towns easier.
The 10.1-inch IPS display provides impressive color from all angles. A tempered glass display ensures everything on-screen appears alive and natural, and a responsive touch-button screen design makes menu navigation effortless.
The power output of the P.L.Z AN-500 is 240 watts and provides crystal-clear sound. The display supports 1080p videos, and you can also read work documents through it, while 1 GB of RAM allows fast switching between apps and functions – so you can be at work on the commute!
P.L.Z AN-500’s full Bluetooth connectivity enables hands-free calling as well as wireless streaming from your mobile devices. Plus, we love P.L.Z AN-500 boasts a built-in microphone with noise reduction technology.
It’s an intuitive design and it’s incredibly easy to use. As well as the front panel, a standalone remote, and your phone, you can also control the functions of the stereo from steering buttons.
4. JVC KD-X270BT – Best Cheap Stereo With Bluetooth Sound Quality
JVC is a Japanese company with a reputation for stellar audio equipment, including this JVC KD-X270BT. The unit is one of the best cheap car radios on the market because it features plenty of audio technology and good sound quality.
|Number of Channels||2|
|Inputs||USB , Front AUX|
|Output Wattage||50 watts|
The JVC KD-270BT offers you multi-device Bluetooth connectivity. This functionality means you can connect two phones full-time to the stereo. You can receive calls on either phone by pushing a key on the JVC KD-X270BT.
You can also connect five Bluetooth devices to the JVC KD-X270BT head, so everyone in your car takes turns blasting their favorite music. Bluetooth supports Hands-Free Profile (HFP) 1.7 Wideband Speech for better voice quality and improved noise reduction during calls.
An excellent feature in this single DIN JVC KD-X270BT is patented K2 Technology. The technology helps reproduce the original master sound using frequency range expansion. For example, a 66 kHz song expands to 144 kHz for an improved sonic experience.
We also like JVC KD-X270BT for its space enhancement feature that allows adjusting the output of two connected speakers in line with the size of your vehicle or cabin space. Time alignment lets you set the delay between speaker outputs at different locations in the vehicle.
And the sound response feature in the JVC KD-270BT amplifies low frequencies that vanish in mp3 and AAC audio formats because of compression. The upshot of all these high-tech features is incredible sound quality. The stereo is also compatible with the JVC Remote Android app for full control.
5. Alpine UTE-73BT – Best Affordable Stereo With AOA Option
This Alpine UTE-73BT is a slimmed-down single din car stereo with few frills. But what it does do, it does exceptionally well.
|Number of Channels||4|
|Output Wattage||72 watts|
The in-car stereo with Bluetooth is suitable for those who think CDs are no longer practical. Alpine UTE-73BT has ditched the CD drive to produce an ultra-affordable model for the digital age. You can play music, podcasts, and a host of audio files using Bluetooth pairing and the USB slot.
Alpine UTE-73BT has built-in Android Open Accessory (AOA) protocol that allows playing amazing sound quality if you have a compatible Android device. You can also connect two devices or phones to the stereo via USB or Bluetooth. The switch between devices is seamless, so you listen to your favorite tunes whenever.
The Alpine UTE-73BT’s LCD offers a single line for illumination that complements the audio output. This high-contrast display also boasts a built-in clock.
3-band parametric equalizer and 24-Bit DAC upgrade your audio and additional controls allow fine-tuning the audio output to your liking. This mechless Alpine UTE-73BT also includes an AM/FM tuner for long road trips.
6. Jensen CMR270 – Best Budget Stereo With Connectivity Options
The CMR270 is an easy-to-use double DIN stereo that offers voice assistance, navigation functionality, and much more. This unit is an attractive package that provides consistent yet splendid features.
|Number of Channels||4|
|Output Wattage||200 watts|
This double DIN unit from Jensen boasts a large 7-inch LED touchscreen for an enjoyable viewing experience. You have access to your favorite content and features at your fingertips.
The voice assistant button on the Jensen CMR270 makes your entertainment experience that much better. This button allows activating Google Voice Assistant or Siri on your smartphone, so you’re connected without even lifting a finger.
Voice command of Jensen CMR270 lets you play podcasts, music, or even navigate. This Jensen’s unit also comes with front and back camera RCA inputs as a safety standard.
The built-in Bluetooth technology of Jensen CMR270 pairs with most compatible devices easily, so you can receive and make calls wirelessly. Play your favorite tunes from various sources, including a USB port, Bluetooth, and WMA/MP3 player. An AM/FM tuner provides you with an impressive 30 preset stations to improve your driving experience.
Jensen CMR270 boasts a slim 2.3-mount depth for installation ease, and it fits a wide variety of dashboard cabinet designs and vehicle models. Use the front panel USB port to charge your phone during long trips. Other inputs on the front panel include a MicroSD slot and 3.5 mm AUX to expand your options.
7. Atoto F7 – Best Budget Stereo With Responsive Touchscreen
The Atoto F7 is an excellent stereo for the under $200 price point, and it fits a large variety of vehicles. The built-in apps work great on the device, while you get an outstanding picture quality on the large, easy-to-read display.
|Number of Channels||4|
|Display Screen||7 inch|
|Inputs||USB & AUX|
|Output Wattage||45 watts|
Use the Apple CarPlay feature in the Atoto F7 to navigate, make calls, and much more using a simple touch or voice command. CarPlay takes your phone’s functions and places them on the head unit’s display so you can focus on driving. Atoto F7 is also Android Auto capable so you have all your phone’s functionality on the dash.
The Atoto F7 boasts a full HD 7-inch display offering true-color pictures from any angle. This large screen ensures everything is clear. It is responsive, so you get full fingertip operation while using the stereo.
Bluetooth function of Atoto F7 allows music streaming and hands-free calling. Connect the Atoto F7 to your smartphone using the unit’s USB cable running to the back.
This Atoto F7 double DIN stereo supports steering wheel control so you’re in control of the infotainment system. Use the steering wheel controls to adjust volume, change radio stations, and switch songs. Additional support for a rear-view camera offers convenient parking.
Atoto F7 is a universal stereo and is easy to install in any dash, even for newcomers to car DIY – although you may need a wiring harness to fit it.
8. Dual XRM59BT – Best Cheapest ($$) Stereo
This Dual XRM59BT stereo receiver is one of the cheapest units, clocking in at under $50. You get lots of technology other stereos in the price range don’t offer.
|Number of Channels||4|
|Dimensions||2.5 x 7 x 2 inches|
Dual XRM59BT boasts a high-performance 7-character LCD for an exceptional viewing experience. Use the screen to navigate to your favorite apps and presets. The responsive and user-friendly screen is in line with the demands of the contemporary user and touchscreen icons make it easy to answer your calls.
The Dual XRM59BT is compatible with both Android and Apple devices (although it isn’t compatible with CarPlay or Android Auto) and you can play music through your smartphone or a flash drive with the USB input. And there are many more input options for tunes. For example, you can play songs from DVDs, CDs, and flash disks, or watch and control DVD playback using the receiver. USB inputs of Dual XRM59BT offer a 1-A charge if you hook up your phone.
Bluetooth connectivity option in Dual XRM59BT allows wireless streaming of audiobooks, podcasts, and music from your smartphone. Plus, you can play Bluetooth tracks forward or backward using the Dual XRM59BT – can I get a rewind?
An easy-access voice activation button on Dual XRM59BT stereo allows immediate connectivity to Google Assistant or Siri. Interactions with a smartphone are as simple as the push of a single button.
The slim mount design of the Dual XRM59BT allows it to fit in different dash openings for effortless installation. Download the iPlug Smart Remote App to your Android or Apple smartphone after installation for easy stereo control over Bluetooth. The app makes changing the station, settings, volume, song, and others easy through a smartphone.
Before You Buy: The Buyer’s Guide to Choosing Right Budget Car Stereos
Many are aware that a car stereo is a critical component of any vehicle. However, few people understand how to strike the balance between price and their budget when purchasing a stereo. Are there things you can compromise? What features should even the cheapest options have?
In this section, we take you through these and guide you in-depth to make an informed decision.
Single DIN or Double DIN
DIN refers to the German Deutsches Institut für Normung standard that’s a measurement standard for the height and width of budget car stereos. (1)
The standard creates convenience for car lovers, and car manufacturers use it for their head units. That’s why most head units are interchangeable.
Single DIN stereos are 2 inches tall and 7 inches wide, while double DIN units are 4-inch high and 7-inch wide.
Both DIN sizes have the same width but different heights, which is the major difference. Other differences include touchscreen capabilities on double DIN head units. When you have space, opt for the double DIN unit. But a good quality single DIN will do fine, otherwise.
Affordable car stereo power output is different between each brand and model.
It’s up to you to decide which unit feels more suitable for your audiophile demands.
For example, an 80-watt double DIN stereo that offers multiple channels is the right choice for some car owners.
Further, you may have to decide if you need an amplifier for your sound system. Stereo manufacturers recommend using an amplifier if you want to increase speaker power.
The two power output ratings that come with budget friendly car radios are:
- Max power output: The maximum power rating the car stereo can emit within a short period (without an external amplifier.)
- RMS power output: The amount of power the stereo can send out at a continuous or constant rate.
While many manufacturers put the emphasis on Maximum Power, RMS Power is the better indicator of how your stereo will sound. More power and you can crank it up.
The level of control over the output sound shape is also critical.
The control is a built-in equalizer (EQ) that allows tailoring the sound’s shape, lowering or raising the level of specific frequencies for the best-optimized output sound.
A bigger number of bands on the car stereo equalizer means you have more options for customizing the shape and frequencies of your sound and music. 3 to 5 bands are common on budget models, but audiophiles should look out for a 13-band equalizer that gives you complete control.
Also Read: How to Set An EQ and Tune Your Car Stereo
Many cheap car head units come with Bluetooth connectivity for the ultimate comfort and convenience while driving. Bluetooth is a critical function because:
- It allows answering calls without taking your hands off the wheel, reducing the risk of accidents while staying in touch with coworkers, friends, and family.
- Allows controlling the stereo remotely through a push-to-talk feature, an Android or iOS app, or other phone functions.
- It connects to over one device, so people in your car can participate in choosing the music during long drives
While technology has gone so far, many still enjoy listening to a good radio show. The radio is also a way to discover new music.
Look out for units that come with an AM or FM radio, if it is important for you. Radio Broadcast Data System (RBDS) is an excellent bonus.
Display and Controls
When using the car stereo, you’ll change tracks, play and stop music, change the volume, go through music sources, and do more.
Having a proper display and controls in the affordable car stereo is critical when you consider these options.
Almost all budget-friendly car stereos have physical buttons for all the options and basic settings.
Other car stereos have remote controllers for ease of use.
Budget car radios may have a small text display for a few indicators and track names.
Double DIN stereos come with larger touchscreens, which are great for Android car stereos with a host of smart features and apps.
The top reviewed head units on this list provide full integration with a smartphone.
Many options come with Pandora and Spotify, and allow answering phone calls hands-free.
Legislation that prevents the use of phones when driving means it’s critical for the best budget car stereos to integrate with your phone.
Some units have microphones with noise-cancellation technology to improve voice quality and eliminate road noise.
With all the modern features that support streaming music, it’s easy to overlook the old-style portable DVD players.
The player is a critical consideration, especially for double DIN car stereos for playing music and videos. While the driver needs to keep their eyes on the road, an in-car DVD player is great for entertaining the passengers.
The best budget car stereos offer multiple inputs to give you flexibility in your music selection.
You can connect several devices to the affordable car stereo interfaces for a complete soundscape.
While there are many inputs to consider, the most important are:
- SD memory card support
These are just a few inputs, and many high-end stereos might have more.
But these are inputs you can expect in a cheaper car stereo.
Ease of Installation
Installation ease will save you some headache and time when installing the unit. Choose a budget car stereo that’s easy to install and has a detailed manual.
Finally, there is the brand.
Choosing the best brand from this list is not a problem. All the units come from top-notch brands with the best reputations on the market. You can never go wrong with names like BOSS, P.L.Z, JVC, Jensen, and more.
How to Set Up Your Budget-Friendly Car Stereo
Setting up the car stereo is simple. Following these instructions will help you get set up quickly.
- Disassemble the panel. Always use the right tools for the job.
- Prepare for the installation by connecting the car stereo wiring harness and installing the new dash kit.
- Connect the adapter to the harness for the antenna and mount the new kit on your dashboard.
- Reassemble the dashboard, and you’re done!
With these cheap car stereos, you no longer have to worry about dull trips. With on-demand music streaming and even DVD readers, your road trips just got an upgrade.
A new car stereo is the best way to upgrade your vehicle without an expensive trip to the dealership. If your budget is really tight you’ll love the Dual XRM59BT, one of the most affordable models that still packs in premium features..
And installing a new car stereo doesn’t have to be complicated. Thanks to standardized wiring and bespoke accessories like a wiring harness, it’s an entry-level piece of dashboard DIY.
So when is a car stereo not a car stereo? When it’s a-ffordable!