How Much Does It Cost to Install Car Audio?

Listening to music makes car rides more enjoyable and entertaining. This is why many people are willing to pay big money to install a good car radio system.

If you’re planning to get a new car audio system, you have probably asked, “How much does it cost to install car audio?” It’s not as expensive as you may think. But it depends on the type of system and installation you choose.

Man using car audio stereo system

Customizing your car can cost thousands of dollars, depending on your available budget.

For car audio installation, the total cost depends on two factors:

  • Cost of the audio system
  • Cost of actual installation

The cost of the audio system varies by brand, model, quality, and accompanying equipment.

Also, the actual installation cost depends on whether you opt for a DIY or choose a professional installation. If you prefer a DIY installation, expect to spend at least $25. But if you have a professional install it for you, you will need to shell out at least $200.

At a Glance: Average Cost of Audio Equipments

In a hurry? Here’s a handy table to quickly figure out the average price for car audio items.

ItemAverage Cost
Single / Double Din Radio$25 – $200
Receiver$200 – $1000
Speaker$200 – $500
Amplifier$60 – $300
Subwoofer$100 – $350
Wire Harness$10 – $50
Dash Installation Kits$5 – $450
DIY Installation$10 – $30
Professional Installation$200

Note: Remember, customization, like almost everything in life, isn’t straightforward. There are still several factors that can impact the installation cost.

But first, let’s find out the signs your car needs audio replacement.

Signs Your Car Stereo Needs Replacement

No matter how much care you give to your car audio, it eventually wears out. But, how will you know if your car audio needs an upgrade? Here are some of the common signs to watch out for:

  • Abnormal noises
  • Audio distortion
  • Sound discrepancies
  • Lack of speaker vibration
  • Poor music range
  • Strange electrical response

How Do I Know if My Car Stereo is Single Or Double DIN?

First things, first. As mentioned, the cost of the radio itself is a big part of your total installation cost. But your total also depends on whether the stereo is single or double DIN.

DIN refers to the size of the stereo’s supporting frame or the head unit. Usually, stereos are available in two DIN sizes: single DIN and double DIN. The difference is pretty basic: one is bigger than the other.

Single-DIN stereo has a dimension of 2” x 7”, while double-DIN stereo has 4” x 7”. This means choosing a double-DIN stereo can give you twice the height of the single-DIN model. The double-DIN stereo has an LCD touchscreen prevalent in SUVs and larger vehicles.

But, how much does it cost to buy the car stereo itself?

Cost of the Radio itself

The head unit can cost from $25-$100, depending on the brand and DIN size you get. Single-DIN stereos is cheaper than double-DIN stereos but offer lesser features.

So, the more functionalities your stereo offers, the higher the cost of the unit. Some stereos have backup cameras and steering controls, going as high as $200.

Usually, it’s cheaper to buy car stereos from lesser-known brands. The quality of the materials and the manufacturer also affect the cost of the car stereo itself.

Cost of the Accompanying Equipment

On top of the head unit, the various pieces of accompanying equipment also add extra cost to the total value of the installation.

Receiver

The receiver is one of the vital parts of an audio system. When choosing a receiver, you want one that is easy to use and has several features. Here are some of the tips when selecting a receiver:

  • Select a receiver that fits your car. If you buy from a retailer, use their search filters to only show results that work with your vehicle.
  • Most receivers nowadays use high technology with access to smartphones and apps, like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
  • If you prefer the old-school style, you can select a receiver allowing CDs.
  • Ensure that the receiver can establish a good connection and tune into radio channels.
  • You can also select a receiver that plays music on thumb drives.

Usually, you can’t find these features from cheap receivers. Some good brands you can consider are Boss, Pioneer, and JVC. The price ranges from $200 to over $1,000, depending on the brand, model, and features.

Speaker

Say you have functional factory speakers. However, you want new speakers that are engineered better with richer and higher quality sound. So you need to replace your current speakers and install a new set.

Standard factory speakers usually have 8-10 watts RMS, which isn’t enough for some people who want a crystal clear sound. That’s why they choose to replace them with aftermarket, high-performance car audio speakers for an upgrade.

If you’re looking for the best brands of car speakers, look for Kicker, Focal, JBL, Pioneer, Alpine, and Boss. The price ranges from $200-$500 or more, depending on the model.

Select a reputable brand that you can afford. However, don’t forget to read reviews before placing an order.

Amplifier

If you want a car audio system with an amplifier, you need to pay extra. The amplifier should be potent enough for the speakers.

Even though quality speakers can give decent sound, it’s still not as good as the one with an amplifier. It improves the performance of your system by giving more power and a cleaner sound.

The price of a small amplifier with one channel and sub-200-watt from a reputable brand typically runs at least $80.

But if you want to power an extensive car audio system, you will require higher wattage. And it can run you as high as $1,900 for an amplifier with one channel and 2,500 watts.

Subwoofer

A subwoofer is a vital part of the car audio system because it helps lighten the load of the speakers and removes distortion. Without a subwoofer, the audio system is likened to an engine without spark plugs. It won’t go anywhere.

You can place your subwoofer in the trunk or under the seat where it can be hidden. However, you know that it’s there once the bass starts to drop.

Some good brands for a subwoofer are Alpine, MTX, Pioneer, JBL, and QSC. An average-sized and high-quality subwoofer can range from $150-$300. If you’re willing to pay more, you will usually get better quality.

Wire Harness

Additionally, you also need to consider your wire system. You can leave the old one, which isn’t recommended, or install a new wire system with your new stereo.

Of course, the second is always the better option. The price usually ranges from $10-$50. However, wiring harnesses are available today that allow you to connect your new stereo without removing the old wire system.

Installing wire harnesses is a bit tedious and time-consuming. The required wiring also depends on the accompanying equipment, and the installation is affected by the complexity and size of the car.

Dash Installation Kits

If you get lucky, you can find a stereo that slides right in the factory car slot without the need for a dash installation kit. However, in most cases, you might need it. Typically, the installer can provide it for you or you may need to buy it yourself.

You can find simple dash installation kits that cost about $5, while the complex ones can go as high as $500. Fortunately, the installation cost for dash kits is free unless customized. If it’s customized, the installation cost is typically charged per hour.

Cost of DIY Installation

After discussing the cost of the various pieces of accompanying equipment, let’s talk about the installation cost. You’ve probably asked, “How much does it cost to install car audio by yourself?” Good news. It’s pretty cheap.

Since you’re not paying for any service, you only need to spend money purchasing the required hardware, such as wiring and screws. Typically, DIY installation costs range from $10-$30.

Doing the installation yourself is an excellent way to save money. But the downside of a DIY installation is that you may be spending more in the long run, especially if you aren’t experienced.

The equipment should fit into the right place. If not done correctly, you might ruin the head unit and other electronics, causing even more costly damage.

So, if you don’t have the experience, it’s much better to hire a professional car stereo installer.

Cost of Professional Installation

Professional installation is preferred if you want the best for your car’s audio system. Instead of DIY installation, having them installed by a professional is the next vital thing to selecting the best stereo parts.

If you choose a professional installation for your components, it’s guaranteed that every aspect of the installation is done right. They help you get the optimum acoustics for your audio system to produce exceptional, high-quality sound.

So, let’s get to the main topic: the cost of professional installation. It varies significantly depending on the complexity of installation. Usually, the service is charged per ½-1 hour.

If you only want the head unit installed, expect to shell out at least $200. But if installing accompanying equipment such as speakers, amplifiers, and subwoofers, the service charge is usually by ½ hour.

Complete installation usually takes up to two hours, depending on your car and equipment.

Tips for Installing Car Audio System

Now, you have a rough cost estimate of the parts and installation of your car audio system. But there are some other factors to consider before installation.

Type of Vehicle

The model of your car is a significant factor to consider if you want to opt for a DIY installation. If your car is too complex, it’s best to be on the safe side and hire professionals to take care of it.

Availability of Necessary Tools

The risk of missing vital tools for installing the audio system is high unless you have an auto shop. That’s why you might save money if you let a professional install your car’s sound system.

Insurance

As mentioned, choosing a DIY approach might cost you more. There are risks involved in working on your own vehicle, such as accidental damage to your car.

As a result, you might void some provisions and run into car insurance problems. So, it’s better to hire a professional to install your car’s audio system.

How to Save Money in Car Audio Installation

Good news. There are easy ways to cut costs of installing your car audio system.

When buying the head unit and accompanying equipment, buy from a reputable retailer that offers installation services. Usually, these companies offer special promotions or discounted rates for installing select units.

Hire a professional car audio installer. These professionals offer lower overhead charges with guaranteed quality for lesser complicated installations.

Some car audio installation can seem simple enough that you think you can do it yourself. But if you don’t have the skills and confidence, it’s better to always opt for professional services. Better safe than sorry, after all.

Tips in Hiring Professional Car Audio Installer

When hiring a professional car audio installer, there are a few things you need to ask, such as insurance and bonding.

It’s recommended to ensure that the service comes with insurance so that they won’t have recourse if your car is damaged. Other things to ask before installation include the following:

  • Skill, certifications, and training. Hiring a professional for your project needs special skills and expertise. The professional should have enough experience in doing the job.
  • Fixed cost or varying cost. Typically, a single-DIN stereo installation has a fixed fee. However, the price varies depending on the range of labor and complexity of installation.
  • Labor warranty. Usually, you must get at least a year of warranty on labor and workmanship.

Wrapping Up…

Now, you learned the cost to install car audio. If you’re not satisfied with your car’s current audio system, consider buying a new one and hiring a professional to install it for you.

Having an excellent audio system not only produces high-quality sound but also increases the value of your car. This benefit is especially valuable if you want to sell your vehicle in the future.

With your new car audio system, crank up the music and feel every nuance of the beats down into your soul.


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Robert Muñoz

I’m Robert, a US-based auto electrician, auto mechanic, trained engineer and fanatic about all things motor vehicle. After studying engineering in college I returned to my original passion - car mechanics - and I ran a garage for a number of years serving my local community. Through my garage, I got involved in numerous road safety campaigns in my local area until eventually, I decided to share what I've learned with the world. Know more about me... You can follow me on LinkedIn.

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