5 Things to Look for When Choosing a Car Stereo

Posted by: Lydia on 4/07/2017

Category: General

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Look at an explanation of how a car runs - from engine to traction to steering - and you probably won’t find a stereo listed as an essential component. Try telling that to the history of rock and roll music. Yes, for car enthusiasts, a good stereo is as essential to a car as the oil and petrol that make it run.


What’s more, with online car parts sales projected to reach revenue of $8.9 billion in 2017, it’s clear that many motorists are investing a lot of money in their vehicles and tech. This means it’s sure to be a buyer’s market when it comes to finding a great stereo - but it also means that all the options on offer can be overwhelming. To help you navigate, here are 5 essential things you need to look for when buying a car stereo.

1. Wireless connectivity

Once upon a time all your stereo required was a volume button and a cassette tape. Times have changed. While you can use a modern stereo as a standalone player or radio, many motorists find their stereo is at its best when linked up with their smartphone.


That’s why connectivity is crucial. Your smartphone can store your collection of music, and it can also serve as a remote when the right app is installed. Most stereos feature smartphone connectivity, but not all do. Be sure you buy one that does in order to get the most out of your music.

2. Input plugs

We may be fast moving to a wireless age, but there’s still a need for inputs for a variety of reasons, whether it’s to feed a playlist via your smartphone, to connect a pair of headphones for your kids in the back, or to charge your phone if there’s no other port available.


The exact plugs you want can vary depending on what car you have, what stereo you have, and what mobile devices you have. It can also differ depending on whether your car has an advanced dashboard and other connectivity already, such as Bluetooth and an auxiliary port. Ultimately, it’s a matter of deciding what you need for your stereo and searching accordingly. Just be sure you don’t buy a stereo that has no inputs; they will come in handy even if you don’t use them now.

3. Local and satellite radio

Fans of talkback radio and classic rock music will find themselves turning the radio on often during their daily drive. That’s why it’s important to ensure your new stereo is versatile. This includes having the capability to receive local and satellite radio. This is important not just for your chance to enjoy a wide range of stations during your drives, but it’s also prudent in event of an emergency, and for getting breaking news. The more stations the better.

4. Size

Stereo sizes can differ for each car, and this can be especially true if you have an older vehicle. While you can buy kits that are customisable, it can be a lot of extra fuss and bother. This can be especially irritating if there’s a model out there that would have fit your car on the first purchase.

All it takes to ensure the new stereo will fit your car is a quick Google search on your smartphone while in the store. If you have any lingering doubts, ask the sales staff for advice, or send an enquiry email if buying online. This can take more time initially, but getting the right fit the first time around will save you the hassle of having to return the stereo and start back at square one.

5. Actual sound

Ultimately, the most important aspect of a stereo will always be the sound. Like tuning a guitar, be prepared to take your time finding a stereo that suits you. It’s also important to be aware of your car’s acoustics.


While most cars have similar interiors and exteriors, a deep bass will sound different in a sports car versus a 4WD. Just because your friend or family member thinks a particular stereo is a perfect fit for their particular car doesn't mean it will be for yours.


Optional: Easy installation and removal


Buying your stereo is the first step; installing it is another. Usually, a car stereo is pretty easy to install, but depending on your car, it could be more complex. Keep this in mind when looking to buy, and budget for a mechanic or specialty store to install your model if you don’t feel confident enough to do it yourself.


Most stereos are also easy to remove, and it’s often wise when you’re in public to put your stereo away. Keeping valuables like a stereo out of sight might not stop a determined thief, but if they’re hidden, it can mean an opportunist will move on to the next vehicle. Another possible way to deter thieves is to install a car alarm. Regardless, easy installation and removability is useful, especially if you share different cars among your household.


Different stereos have different features, so maximise your options when you’re looking to buy.

This means taking the time to do your research, and being willing to pay a little more now to get a stereo that’ll serve you well long term.


Keep in mind too, that not every model will feature everything you want. This is unlikely to be a big issue when there are a number of accessories like smartphone packs that can fill in gaps if there’s a feature you want that your new stereo doesn't have. Once you’ve got this sorted, all that remains is to queue your playlist, crank the volume, and enjoy your new rig.


What other things do you look for when buying a car stereo? Let us know in the comments below:


Image: Pixabay