Car stereos are about two things; personality, and functionality… period! Choosing a best cheap car stereo when shopping for one is primarily driven by these two factors.
In a hurry? Check out cheap car stereos at Amazon: under $50!
How well do you love your music in the car (if at all…) and what you want your head unit (receiver) to do, or to be capable of delivering in terms of quality sound and performance?
Some people are fine with their simple stock receivers and are quite content with the squeaky music blaring through the low-quality factory installed car audio system. But that’s them… most of us don’t fit into that category.
Table of contents
- Cheap Car Stereo – under $50 – SINGLE DIN
- Cheap Car Stereo – under $100 – SINGLE DIN
- Cheap Car Stereo – under $150 – DOUBLE DIN
- Cheap Car Stereo – under $200 – SINGLE DIN
- Cheap Car Stereo – under $200 – DOUBLE DIN
To help you understand the difference between car stereos and probably find you your next car stereo, we are going to look at the best cheap car stereo head units in the market today.
Cheap Car Stereo – under $50 – SINGLE DIN
Our Pick: Pioneer DEH-150MP
When it’s time you threw your old rusty stereo out the window for something new and more functional, settling on a Pioneer product is just about the smartest choice you can make.
The Pioneer DEH-150MP is not only incredibly affordable, it comes with an impressive package of features that will knock your socks off any day.
This explains why this particular tiny gadget is our number one pick when it comes to car stereos. What’s more, the Pioneer manufacturers have a quite the reputation when it comes to efficient, high-quality gadgets.
With that, let’s take a look at what the Pioneer DEH -150MP has on its plate.
Compared to its predecessor, this model is definitely an upgrade in more ways than one. The manufacturer clearly takes into consideration the fact that any driver needs a stereo that’s easily workable when driving.
On top of the list is its multi – segregated LCD display with a LED backlight for better visibility and legibility.
This 9× 10X 4. 5 inches car radio comes with a detachable faceplate that enables you to reduce chances of it being stolen by a long shot. All you have to do is simply detach it from your dash and store it in a much safer location of your choice.
The fact that it can take 99 playable folders and 999 playable files go on to back its capabilities even more.
When it comes to sound and music quality, the Pioneer DEH -150MP stereo has you well covered. Well known to most people, compressing audio files reduces their quality mainly due to data loss.
This car stereo, however, is designed to give off a wave of clarified sounds no matter the quality of the music input. This is made possible by its Advanced Sound Retriever technology that boosts sound reproduction, especially when playing compressed files.
Fitted with a pretty efficient MOSFET amplifier, it has a CD receiver that can play anything ranging from CD-Rs to CD-RWs. It also effortlessly plays both MP3 and WMA music formats.
To sweeten the package even further, it also includes a Bass Boost feature that goes a step further to improving any audio’s sound quality.
Additional features include a 5 band graphic equalizer, front AUX input, hands-free remote control, 1 set of R A Precuts(2.0 V) and a 50 Watts 4 channel power output.
Notably, it’s overall design is dust resistant making it easy to keep it clean all through.
Runner-Up: BOSS Audio 508UAB
Second on our pick list is the Boss Audio 508UAB car stereo.
At a surprisingly affordable price, you can get yourself this incredible machine to keep you company during your travels.
This stereo is designed to produce quality sound with a few hiccups as possible. There is no doubt that the Boss Audio 508UAB promises you a good collection of features that could keep just any driver fully satisfied.
Let’s take a deeper look at exactly what this stereo has to offer. One of the best features about the Boss Audio 508UAB is that it is Bluetooth enabled.
Many drivers would collectively agree that this makes it extremely handy mostly becomes it allows for hands-free control. You can easily pair it with your smartphone and listen to your favorites even from music apps such as Pandora.
Thanks to the Bluetooth feature, you can also make your calls without even having to reach out for your phone.
Other impressive additions are the USB and SD ports that allow you to listen to your own music. Using the auxiliary input, it gives you the privilege of hooking up your music player or phone; what’s better than listening to your own music on a long, exhausting drive.
Aside from having a built-in equalizer, the Boss Audio 508UAB car stereo plays both MP3 and WMA music formats not to mention all sorts of CDs. It is clearly a very handy little gadget.
More features include its wireless remote control, 50 Watts × 4 Max power output, a switchable turner (US or European) and finally front and rear pre-amp outputs.
Really Cheap: XO Vision XD103
This cheap head unit is definitely not very much known compared to the big names above but… what’s in a name? The XO Vision XD103 is proof that great performance can come from less-known dedicated brands.
Now, get ready to fall madly in love with the XO Vision single DIN deck. Despite the lack of CD playing functionality, the XO Vision XD-103 delivers excellent results in everything else the manufacturer says it is supposed to do. The facial look is probably not that unique but the features inside are!
One thing you notice at a glance about the XO Vision HU is that carries so much in a relatively smaller package since the chassis only covers half the depth of the DIN.
However, don’t let the half-pint size fool you, this head unit still has loads of exceptional features to offer. It’s not about what the XO Vision can do, but how well it does it…
To kick us off, this deck gives more options to hook up external media storage devices such USB devices, Audio out from mobile devices, and a slot for SD cards.
However, the HU only plays MP3 and WMA files. Another downside to this deck is the fact that the 20W x 4 output only drives a maximum combination of 80W which is not that impressive compared to the BOSS 616UAB which maxes at 200W.
The pre-amped outs are a super 12V meaning exceptional tone and volume control which translates to unmatched sound quality and generally no static interference.
This cheap car radio also comes with a pre-amplified line-out. The FM/AM radio receiver also provides you with an option to store 18 presets for quick navigation through your favorite radio stations.
Really Cheap: Blaupunkt Washington100
Even when working on a tight budget, most people still hope to make a good car stereo purchase. In such a case, the Blaupunkt Washington100 MP3 & FM Stereo Receiver is the stereo is it for you.
Although it may not be the best in the market, it gives a pretty sweet deal for only a few bucks. The following specs clearly show why.
This stereo comes with front USB and SD card ports. The USB port makes it possible to connect a flash drive and listen to external audios.
It also has an 18 station memory allowing you a range is radio channels to pick from.
Further, it has a 40 Watt power output. With the aid of its electronic audio controls, using this stereo is significantly simplified.
No driver wants a headache that is a complicated control stereo system. Finally, this stereo is equipped with a preamplifier line out.
Also Great: BOSS AUDIO 616UAB
Our choice for third place in this category is definitely the BOSS Audio 616UAB car stereo.
Just like the Kenwood KMMBT315U, this deck doesn’t have a CD player but that’s only one minor drawback considering the other things this baby can deliver.
Looking at the face of this head unit says it all; stylish, simple…yet somewhat sophisticated! Everything is just where it ought to be.
With the BOSS Mech-Less BT car stereo, you have more options like a switchable AM/FM radio receiver with 30 channel presets (12 AM and 18 FM radio stations) that works superbly whether in Europe or in the US. Your favorite radio shows will never be the same again!
In addition to the standard USB function in decks vetted for this category, the BOSS 616UAB single-DIN car stereo also features an SD port expandable to a maximum capacity of 32GB, same as the USB thumb drive.
Playbacks allowed on this HU include WMA and MP3. There is also an AUX input option to receive Audio out from external MP3 players or smartphones coupled with a front pre-amped output.
You can also hook up your smartphone via USB cable and play your favorite playlist from there.
And the fun doesn’t stop there… the Bluetooth function gives you a wider variety of fun things to do when both your HU and smartphone are paired.
Similar to the Pioneer DEH-X6900BT above, the BOSS 616UAB allows you to make hands-free phone calls and while the BT-A2DP allows you to organize and stream music from your Android mobile device.
Additionally, the deck is enabled for direct radio streaming through Pandora and Spotify giving you endless choice for music.
The ID3 Tag feature enables you to see information about the music files currently playing such as title, track number, artist, or album.
On the downside, some online reviewers noted that the MP3 read order was kind of crappy. But then again, the problem could easily be with their crappy devices… who knows?
Interlude: You can also hook up a monitor (LCD screen) to view video files. The Vacuum Fluorescent Display (VFD) on the BOSS 616UAB’s deck ensures that everything is visible and crystal clear.
Also, The 3-year warranty (Platinum Dealer) will cost you, but it’ll be worth it.
When it comes to audio quality and sound delivery, the 50W x 4 internal amplifier ensures that the music is loud and clear enough with a combined output power of 2ooW.
This deck allows you to play around with the fader, balance, treble, and bass with a preset equalizer to help you navigate through the tonal ranges you enjoy for different genres of music with so much ease.
The BOSS 616UAB is where cheap and quality meet for coffee!
However, you can only connect one external amplifier which is usually enough for most car owners. Your attention MUST always be on the road… and BOSS knows this, that’s why the handheld remote control allows you to meddle with the deck’s key functions while cruising the highway.
Also Great: Kenwood KDC-118
The last but not least viable cheap car stereo option is the Kenwood KDC -118 car stereo. Notably, this stereo is one of the best in the market today.
Ranging from its controls to its sound output, it is only fair to acknowledge the efficiency of this particular stereo.
Like most stereos within its price range, the Kenwood KDC -118 stereo has a lot to offer its users. Its features are as follows.
Kenwood KDC -118 is fitted with CD changer controls with an MP3 ID3 tag display. It also comes with a detachable faceplate making it theft deterrent.
Its graphics equalizer comes with 8 presets you can switch to suit the type of music on. Notably, it is compatible with an iPhone and IOS 8 software; this makes it incredibly flexible.
For further playability, it is also fitted with a front auxiliary audio input. Additional features include a wireless remote control, a set 2.5 V preamp outputs, and an FM/AM tuner.
Lastly, it comes with Automatic Memory Entry, a subwoofer level adjustable and a built-in LPF.
Cheap Car Stereo – under $100 – SINGLE DIN
Our Pick: Pioneer DEH-X6900BT
As a matter of fact, the simplistic look and design of this deck are some of its major selling points according to online customer reviews.
Going deeper into the Pioneer DEH-X6900BT’s functionality and specs, you will be surprised at the amount of tech that has gone into producing this head unit.
For expandability, this superb deck is fitted with a single AUX input and USB port on the front and 6-channel outputs on the back (2V preamp for the front, rear, and subwoofer).
It also has direct USB control for devices such as iPods and iPhones plus it accepts wired remote input. On the Bluetooth front, the head unit uses AVRCP 1.5 for audio and video streaming from your smartphone media library and A2DP for advanced audio distribution.
The Bluetooth functionality also includes HFP 1.6 to facilitate hands-free calling and receiving phone calls (dual phone connection and wideband speech capability).
Additionally, the head unit is enabled for SSP (Secure Simple Profile), guest mode, and SPP (Serial Port Profile).
With the Pioneer DEH-X6900BT you get a single DIN car stereo HU that plays media from your CDs (CD/CD-R/RW – NOT DVD), and USB stick(s) in the following formats; WAV, FLAC (highly compressed digital media), MP3, WMA, and AAC Audio.
Please note the FLAC files can only play from your USB stick. But the rest can play on both CDs and USB. This deck uses ASR (Advanced Sound Retriever) to play compressed files (FLAC) without faltering on sound quality.
The radio tuner receives both AM and FM with 6 AM and 18 FM presets and BSM (Best Station Memory).
The Audio quality is awesome. I mean… what do you call a 50 watts x 4 internal MOSFET amplifier with 14W RMS, 3-way network option with 3 RCA pre-outs at 2V each that allow you to connect 3 different external amplifiers to drive three distinctly separated sound ranges (high, mid, and low with subwoofer level control) as well as HPF or LPF crossover options, a 13-band customizable equalizer with 7 tone preset settings, 3 volume modes, and the MIXTRAX feature to give you the craziest DJ experience? Simply Awesome!
The things you can do with the smartphone integration are even wilder. Imagine streaming endless music from Spotify or Pandora straight from your smartphone through your car stereo? Cool right? Well, the Pioneer DEH-X6900BT really plays well with your phone.
You can also create your own Pandora station to play only what you love all day long through your Android smartphone (MTP/AOA 2.0 music support technology) or iPhone.
That’s not even the cool part… you can use the Siri Eyes Free feature which provides natural-language voice command functionality to control your HU (through your smartphone) while staying focused on the road and driving.
And that’s not even the half of it… the Pioneer Advanced Remote Control (ARC) app allows you to control some simple features on the HU using your smartphone.
You can also access your phone’s media library and select music from your phone using the Pioneer DEH-X6900BT head unit.
Throw in the spectrum analyzer, a display that has 10 brightness levels and 210, 000 dual zone color customization capabilities plus multi-language display options… add a fully detachable face for security reasons and a hand-held remote control.
The Pioneer DEH-X6900BT is clearly ahead of its competition by far! Now you know why it takes the No. 1 spot on the best cheap car radio list.
Runner-Up: Kenwood KMMBT315U
The Kenwood KMM-BT315U is a close second with startling features of its own. Although it does not come with a CD player like the Pioneer DEH-X6900BT, this Kenwood deck can still match some of the Pioneer head unit’s features and actually deliver more on some aspects.
For instance, the Kenwood KMMBT315U has Bluetooth functionality that includes the same A2DP Android integration capability plus an added AptX for hands-free dual phone connection (with a wired rear BT microphone) and AOA (Android Open Access) for wireless media browsing and streaming from your phone’s media library as well as iHeart Radio and Pandora.
The Bluetooth function also allows for multi-profile (simultaneous BT connections) and Siri Eyes Free voice control function for select iPhones only.
The Kenwood KMM-MBT315U features an SXV (100, 200, and 300 readies) radio tuner with backup memory to store up to 24 AM/FM preset channels and it includes Automatic Memory Entry (AME) to search and memorize strong radio stations.
In addition to the radio tuner, the Kenwood KMM-BT315U deck plays music from USB disks in the following formats; WAV, MP3, AAC, FLAC (with ID-3 tag display), and WMA.
This amazing head unit is capable of directly cabled connections with your iPhone, iPod, SD card reader, and Android devices. There is also an AUX jack to connect more external sources.
On matters of audio quality, the Kenwood KMM-BT315U almost matches the Pioneer on several fronts such as the 13-band equalizer, subwoofer level control, and 3 pre-outs.
However, the pre-out channels have a 2.5V rating which is 0.5V higher than in the Pioneer DEH-X6900BT, meaning it technically performs better when it comes to sound quality and clarity – although the difference is negligible.
Another feature that stands out for this Kenwood deck is the Bass Boost and Loudness.
Please note that the Kenwood KMMBT315U also has inbuilt HPF and LPF just like our leading Pioneer head unit although unlike the Pioneer it comes with the signature KSR (Kenwood Sound Reconstruction) feature to enhance sound quality from compressed music files.
To top it all up, this deck has a MOSFET inbuilt amplifier with a rating of 50W peak x 4 channels that deliver 22W RMS (almost twice the Pioneer DEH-X6900BT).
The theft deterrent faceplate, a hand-held infrared remote, and the 1-year warranty are just a plus. It is so easy to see why the Kenwood KMMBT315U takes the No. 2 spot on our list of best cheap single-DIN car stereos.
FYI: Android USB super-fast charging is also an added outstanding feature of the Kenwood KMMBT315U.
Cheap Car Stereo – under $150 – DOUBLE DIN
Our Pick: Kenwood DPX530BT
You may find yourself wondering why the Kenwood DPX530BT is our top double-DIN car stereo pick. The answer? Having this stereo is nothing short of having our own personal jukebox right on your dash.
Kenwood hardly ever disappoints; and with the Kenwood DPX530BT, they have clearly gone out of their way to rev up your in-car audio experience. With the help of a well-thought list of technologies, this innovative gadget successfully creates an out of this world experience for its users without breaking much sweat. Here’s a breakdown of its incredible features.
The Kenwood DPX530BT is designed to suit a modern day driver in every way thanks to its smartphone-friendly features. On top of this list is its super fast, super efficient Bluetooth connectivity capabilities. This feature paves way for hands-free phone calls and easy access to your phone’s, or another Bluetooth enabled device, audio files.
Other than that, it also comes with dual Bluetooth connectivity ( great when there’s more than a person in the car) and an easy – peasy pairing ability with other Bluetooth devices.
Another more juicy and exciting smartphone friendly feature is the fact you can hook up your Android or Apple phone using its front panel USB ports. This allows you access to apps such Pandora not to mention internet radio; talk about broad versatility.
Further, it’s Kenwood Music Control for Android smartphones gives you stronger grip when it comes to shuffling your android files from the stereo.
When it comes down to its design, the Kenwood DPX530BT carries a 1.5″ display backed with 24 button backlight colors. The display also has a dimmer control feature that helps control the amount of glare it spills out.
Think that’s enough? It gets better. With the 13 band equalizer, this car stereo allows acclimatizing tunes to your liking. It’s SiriusXM tuner gives to satellite radio ( that’s right) besides the 24 preset FM/AM radio stations.
Additional features include 3 sets of preamp outputs, both high and low pass filters and 50W×4 Max power output. Did I mention it also features Kenwood’s sound reconstruction tech? That’s right; this stereo retrieves compressed files without so much as a scratch retaining all original data.
Runner-Up: JVC KW-R920BTS
Do you want options? JVC KW-R920BTS gives just that. This stereo is made with a fascinating handling of all audio-based files whatever their format. Its ingenious capabilities keep it way ahead of the game with a hoard of satisfied users.
Whatever your taste is, the JVC KW-R920BTS will knock your boots off with its vigorous output and functionality. The following spells out exactly how.
Most fascinating is its vertical alignment LCD 3 zone display; each of this zone is separate with variable colors. The display comes in 32 colors and a total of 50 different preset patterns to light up your dash. In case of too much beam, brightness controls help keep the display’s glare at bay.
The JVC KW-R920BTS features dual Bluetooth connectivity which means you can pair with phones to the receiver at a go. It also lets you enjoy wireless Bluetooth streaming and hands – off phone calls.
It also gives you the privilege of satellite radio access by adding a SiriusXM tuner. If in any case, you love to keep it old school, you can tune in to your favorite FM/AM radio station. Other than that, this receiver also plays CDs and can handle MP3, WMA, WAV and FLAC audio files.
Using its USB port, you can hook up your Android or iPhone to access your favorite music apps such as Pandora and Spotify, and maybe even one of those internet podcasts you never want to miss. It’s Android Open Accessory technology gives it an automatic playability when paired with Android smartphones.
To give your tunes that much-needed bolster, the JVC KW-R920BTS has a 13 band equalizer at your disposal. This way, you can boost the sound waves and let your ears capture every single stroke like never before.
More specs include 2 sets of preamp outputs (4 volts each), an MP3 ID3 tag display and it also comes with a JVC harness.
Also Great: Sony WX900BT
Even with a tight budget, you can still get yourself one hell of a double-DIN receiver. The Sony WX900BT sees to it that you do.
This unbelievably affordable stereo may have you a bit skeptical because, well, cheap often leaks of bad quality. Right? Wrong; and this receiver proves that you don’t need to bleed yourself out financially for the best. Below are it’s rather incredible features that keep it afloat in a market full of options.
Right from its chassis design, you can tell this receiver means serious business. It comes with a vertical alignment display with a harmonized pulse on-screen display. These illuminations are synchronized with the tune at play creating quite the spectra.
Like many other receivers out there, the Sony WX900BT too comes well armed with integrated Bluetooth technology. This feature not only comes with an auto-pairing bit, it also allows you to make calls without touching your phone.
Through the receiver front panel AUX and USB, you can connect your smartphone to a much wider audio pool.
Thanks to its Apple iPhone connection capabilities, Siri control comes as a bonus. Its SongPal app uses voice control to help locate a track. The Sony WX900BT can play CDs/RWs, FM/AM stations and various types of audio files ( MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC).
Also Great: Pioneer FH-X730BS
Another on this list comes the Pioneer FH-X730BS, a particularly mighty dash receiver. As simple as it is, it incorporates a range of capabilities that make it a wondrous addition to any cabin.
Once again, Pioneer brings us yet another ingenious creation designed to knock hats off with state of the art technologies and a composition of well-assembled features.
Built-in Bluetooth connectivity makes wireless streaming easy as pie, allows dual Bluetooth connection and enables hands-off phone calls. With the aid of Wide Band Speech Technology, calls made through this receiver are both clear and we’ll audible on both ends.
Whether your phone is Android or Apple, you can easily connect it up to the receiver with the aid of its USB port. The device also allows you control from a smartphone.
When it comes to optimizing your musical experience, the Pioneer FH-X730BS comes with 27 preset band EQ that lets you play around with frequencies until you get one just right. Besides that, MIXTRAXX technologies give the receiver DJ like effects enhancing the overall experience.
It’s Pioneer ARC app gives you a simplified control over basic functions such as volume presets among others.
Additional features include an all exciting pulsating display, additional guest mode Bluetooth feature ( allows for a third connection), external mic and subwoofer level control.
Also Great: Pyle PLDN74BT
The Pyle PLDN74BTI DVD/CD player head unit is a product of absolute beauty and pizzazz… it will accept all your digital media and it charges your USB-connected external devices as they stream multimedia data.
The 7-inch Hi-Resolution HD widescreen TFT touchscreen (LCD with 16:9 aspect ratio) can be adjusted (color, contrast, brightness,) for perfect picture display and the panel is motorized to tilt for a better viewing angle and experience.
The user-friendly menu allows you to operate the HU with ease (response time of 30-50 ms) and the display also includes a phone dial pad to help you make calls without touching your actual phone.
You can also import your contact list conveniently from your Bluetooth enabled smartphones and devices (tablets, iPhone, iPad, and Android).
The US-Europe switchable FM/AM receiver (PLL synthesizer tuner) has a memory for 30 radio station presets which allow you to quickly access your favorite stations at a press of a button (faster than auto scan).
Additionally, the Pyle PLDN74BTI double-DIN car stereo plays media from your SD card, USB flash drive (both expandable to 32GB), CDs (CD-RW, CD-R), VCDs and DVDs.
With the customizable equalizer and the capability to adjust the balance, treble, fader, and bass… you can easily select different tonal ranges for your music of choice.
The A/V input and output RCA connectors enable you to play videos PAL or NTSC videos (with auto recognition) from external sources or send videos to an external monitor (screen). Formats compatible include WAV, MP3, AVI, WMA, JPEG, and more…
The inbuilt amplifier has 80W x 4 output power with a maximum of 320W combined output drives your speakers through rear RCA Aux input/output jacks which include a subwoofer dedicated output (our review of cheap subwoofers for your stereo system).
The Bluetooth 2.0 (A2DP, EDR) function allows you to make hands-free calls (with inbuilt mic), and stream music wirelessly. Extra features include Anti-shock, rear camera and parking hook up, wireless remote control, and ST/MO and LO/DX selector.
On the downside, the deck doesn’t have illumination on some key operating buttons and knobs, like the volume, which makes it a bit tricky to operate in the dark for some people.
Cheap Car Stereo – under $200 – SINGLE DIN
Our Pick: Clarion CZ505
Single-DIN car stereos have never been made better than the Clarion CZ505!
This deck’s bold design and sophisticated styling are absolutely awesome, to say the least… none of the big names in this category even came close to matching the Clarion’s exceptional performance or closely positioned (well illuminated) intuitive controls and bright LCD display.
The sound quality cannot even be explained… it has to be experienced. It is much louder, much clearer and the power of this baby can tear speakers apart!
To begin with, the 4V pre-amped 6-channel outs drive (the front, rear, and subwoofer) at 22W RMS with a peak rating of 4 x 50W for the internal amplifier.
High-pass and low-pass filters coupled with the loudness control and bass boost plus the 3-band preset parametric equalizer give you more options (EXCITE, IMPACT or BASS BOOST) for your auditory experience.
The preset equalizer can also be customized to different levels of treble, midrange, and bass. The inputs include a front USB port and Aux jack which means you can play WMA and MP3 files from your USB thumb drive and stream music from MP3 music sources.
The cool part of this deck’s FM/AM HD radio receiver (with CD-quality clarity) is the compatibility with SiriusXM (satellite) radio tuner. You can also tag songs heard over the radio to buy them later on iTunes Store.
Bluetooth connectivity with aptX codec support allows you to listen to music from your smartphones with improved audio quality (full audio bandwidth reproduction) through bit rate reduction to facilitate smooth playback which doesn’t compromise latency or sound quality.
In addition to making or receiving hands-free calls, the Bluetooth function in the Clarion CZ505 deck allows you to enjoy interactive internet radio from Pandora and also provide thumbs up or thumbs down feedback while listening to songs.
You can also use the song title or artist name to bookmark your favorite music or replay songs. A wireless remote control enables you to adjust the deck’s functions without taking your eyes off the road.
If you think you can find a cheap single-DIN car stereo that can top the Clarion CZ505 head unit, then please, you are welcome to share that useful information with the world in the comment section.
FYI: Installation is super easy for DIY-ers. Also, it has built-in control for iPhones, iPads, and iPods.
Runner-Up: Pioneer DEH-X7800BHS
If there was ever a single DIN head unit from Pioneer that was ever built to almost perfection, then the Pioneer DEH-X7800BHS receiver with an inbuilt CD player is it!
And let’s not even get into the audio enhancement feature… this deck surely earns the second position on this cheap car stereos list.
Let’s start with the HD FM/AM radio tuner which supports the new Tune Mix feature and works startlingly well with SiriusXM (SXV300).
The Bluetooth function allows you to do more than just stream music from your smartphone or make clear hands-free calls (wideband speech Profile 1.6 with double bandwidth amplification).
Just like the Pioneer DEH-X6900BT, the DEH-X7800BHS plays well with your Bluetooth enabled smartphone through the ARC app and you can also play music from Spotify and Pandora with endless streaming and superior sound quality! The MIXTRAX Dj feature and the 13-band equalizer keep the party pumping all day long.
On matters of audio performance, the 3 (2V) RCA outputs (6-channel pre-outs) deliver 14W RMS driven by an inbuilt amplifier with a 4 x 50W rating.
With 3 level loudness, you’ll never have to worry about volume while playing music from your CDs (CD-RW, CD-R) and USB memory sticks. With high-pass – low-pass filters, subwoofer control, and 3-way networking, the Pioneer DEH-X7800BHS is all about sound quality.
It can also play FLAC files (44.1 Hz/16 bit) with CD-quality clarity.
You can connect Android devices through a USB cable and play music from there thanks to the MTP (Media Transfer Protocol), and you can also use the same USB connectivity to hook up your iOS devices such as iPhones or iPods to gain full control of the music stored on them.
More features include the 10-level brightness control and the customizable dual-zone illuminated display with over 210, 000 color combinations.
Owners of iPhone 4 (and newer) can also use voice control through the Siri Eyes Free voice recognition feature.
Cheap Car Stereo – under $200 – DOUBLE DIN
Our Pick: Planet Audio PNV9680
This is another not-so-well-known brand but with a promising future in the production of competitive cheap car radios.
The Planet Audio PNV9680 double DIN DVD player has a 6-inch full-color touchscreen that allows adjusting much of the controls and available features.
The deck comes with 2-way iPod control, iPhone (5 & 6) compatibility, and A2DP for android music streaming or hands-free calling capability.
The PBAP (Phone Book Access Profile) also allows you to see the name of your callers and access your full contact list from the head unit.
Options for expansion include a front USB port (with a connection to mini USB), rear A/V RCA input and video RCA output, SD card reader, and a dedicated input for the rear camera.
There are 3 (2V) pre-outs for the front, rear, and mono subwoofer and a power output of 80W x 4 channels at 20W x 4 channels RMS.
The 2-band parametric EQ and the 1-bit DAC features enhance your media playback to give you exceptional sound quality. ID3 tagging allows you to view text information about music from your CD and MP3 players.
The Planet Audio PNV9680 deck plays DVDs (including DVD-R/W), CDs (CD-RW, CD-R), and VCDs in the following formats; MP3, WMA, and more… The Europe-USA switchable FM/AM radio has 30 stations presets and PLL synthesizer.
Additionally, the Planet Audio PNV9680 head unit also comes with the GPS feature which can load maps through a micro SD chip.
The GPS function also has a text-to-speech capability, automatic re-routing, lane guidance, and the realistic representation of interchanges (works in Puerto Rico, the US, Mexico and Canada).
You will never lose your way with this GPS guiding system!
Why do you need car stereo – or who this is for?
The rest of us want more out of our car radios… more sound quality, more RMS wattage (combined or per channel), more output channels, more control, more functionality such as multiple audio or video input capabilities; CDs, DVDs, iPods, (and the ability to stream different multimedia formats), Bluetooth connectivity, HD or satellite radio, iOS or Android compatibility (with hands-free calling/receiving capabilities or smartphone media library streaming), and of course, good old GPS function… we simply want more. We want it all!
The more sophisticated, the better. Oh, and the cheaper it is to get all these functionalities in a single car stereo head unit the better too! Affordability is always an issue. We’re all looking for the best cheap car stereo.
We also want a car stereo that’s easy to install and doesn’t require us to pull out the user manual all the time to figure out how to operate.
Gone are the days when you could count all the top car stereo brands on one hand, literally! I mean it was Sony, Pioneer, Kenwood, JVC, and a bit of JBL or Alpine here and there… and that’s it. And we only had a choice of the single DIN car stereo. It gives me great pleasure to say that was then…
The market is now saturated with up and coming brands that have shown lots of promise as far as innovation and quality car stereo HUs are concerned.
Our big dogs up there still hold top positions in most car stereo categories but there are a few somewhat “little-known” brands like Sound Storm, Pyle, XO Vision, Planet Audio, Clarion, BOSS, and SoundStream that are quickly snatching up big chunks of the industry market from the household brands.
Although they don’t compare in global market command, these brands have proven to be worthy competitors.
As mentioned earlier, car radios are all about personality and functionality. Personality in the sense that when anyone decides to upgrade their car stereo (from the simple stock 2-band radio receiver), they usually choose to replace it with something that speaks to them (or about them…) in a deeper way.
It’s not just about the music or visual aesthetics… it includes personal style and class, and what appeals to your ego, in short… who you really are. Your car stereo says a lot about you in so many ways.
Plus it also earns you some respect as well as bragging rights! (*depending on where you live or your social circles… game recognizes game!)
The functionality part covers pretty much everything else on your car stereo and your entire car audio system. This is purely more about user experience, performance (output power), expandability (scalability), and all those other fancy features like illuminated or feather-touch buttons, touch screens, and hands-free calling or USB and micro SD integration.
Finding your preferred car stereo is not always an easy thing, but neither should it be hard… We have looked at some of the best cheap car stereos under $100 and $200 and the competition so far is stiff!
Most of the decks discussed in this review score exceptionally well on power output, functionality, and ease of operation.
In addition to the big names in the industry such as Pioneer, BOSS Audio, and Kenwood, (relatively) new entrants into the game such as Clarion, Pyle, Soundstream, Planet Audio, and Sound Storm have really shown lots of potential and all we can do for now is look to the future with anticipation.
Which other do affordable car stereo you think should be included in the list?