Listening to music in your car is both relaxing and exhilarating. Listening to your favorite tunes while you cruise around town or take a road trip makes driving enjoyable, memorable, and entertaining.
However, not every car on the market is equipped with premium audio equipment. If driving a stereo on wheels is your goal, then you’ll need to upgrade the standard equipment that came with your car and pick out something more powerful, equipped with lots of options for connectivity, speakers, and other special features.
If you’ve never shopped for stereo equipment for your car before, or if it’s been a while since you have, you need to know that there’s a lot to consider before making such an important purchase. These eight tips can help guide your search for the perfect car stereo system — so follow them closely.
Consider Your Car Stereo Goals
Before you even look at car stereos for sale, you need to make a list of what you’re looking for in a stereo system. What is most important to you? What is unimportant? How do you expect to use your car stereo equipment? Do you have any limitations, such as size or price?
Making this detailed list will help you dig through your options and identify a few that will meet your needs. If you go into shopping without this list, you may find yourself overwhelmed with everything on the market, including stereos that don’t fulfill your goals.
Prioritizing items on your list can also help you drill down even further to identify the top three best options. For example, if price is most important to you, you can immediately eliminate those that cost more than you’re looking to spend. Or, if you need Bluetooth connectivity and three USBs then you should only look at stereo systems with those components and ignore all the others.
Identify what you’re willing to compromise about. Maybe color-changing LED lights on your stereo would be nice because you like the ambiance they create, but if not having those lights is not a deal breaker, don’t rule out stereos without them.
What Looks Good to You?
Aesthetics are important. If they weren’t, all cars, houses, clothes, and hairstyles would look exactly the same. The stereo you choose should suit your vehicle’s existing interior or how you want your car interior to look.
Stereos that don’t fit your esthetic — for example, they don’t match the interior of your car or they visually are not a style that you like — can be eliminated quickly and easily. To get ideas of what you might like, look through listings of stereos for sale, ignoring price tags and features. Only observe the look of the equipment.
Maybe you like chrome or carbon fiber faceplates. Maybe you prefer the controls on the head unit be a certain shape or layout. Once you’ve identified your aesthetic preferences, look through your new short list to find the right car stereo for you.
Future Stereo Expansions
In all likelihood, you’ll want to upgrade your speakers, or other components of your car stereo system in the future. If you don’t want to pay out of pocket for a brand-new head unit, you might consider buying one that will accommodate your future plans. For example, if you know you’ll want to hook up six different speakers throughout your car, but the head unit you’re considering will only accommodate four (which is pretty normal), you might want to pass on that particular stereo.
Think about whether the stereo you’re considering will last you for the remainder of the years you plan to own your car. If you anticipate needing more from your stereo, then go with a product that will accommodate your future plans as well.
What will Fit in Your Car?
Size is one of the most important details you cannot overlook when considering car stereo systems. If you drive a subcompact car with little dash room, you probably won’t be able to install a complex stereo system with a large head unit and amp without extensive modifications to your dashboard.
If you are unsure of what your car can accommodate, it’s best to ask an audio professional for guidance so you don’t make any mistakes in picking out your new equipment. Immediately eliminate any stereos from your short list that will not properly fit into your car.
What Do Others Say?
It can be unnerving to buy an expensive new item because you worry that you’re wasting money on something that isn’t a quality product. One of the easiest ways to make sure the stereo you’re considering will make you happy is to read what other stereo owners say about it.
Look to user reviews on lots of different websites to get a well-rounded look at peoples’ opinions of the stereo system. Are the cons they point out deal breakers for you? Do the pros tempt you into making a purchase right then? Use these reviews to make an informed decision, rather than picking out a stereo system because it’s visually appealing and will fit in your car.
What Comes with the Stereo?
When you upgrade your car stereo system, do you only need a new head unit and amp or will you also need to purchase additional speakers and equipment? Read product descriptions carefully to determine what will come with the stereo.
Do you know you need new speakers? You might be able to get a better deal on a stereo system if you buy it as a package with a new subwoofer, for example. What doesn’t come with the stereo system? What will you need to buy to install it or make it work how you want it to? Make sure you purchase these items so you aren’t frustrated later when it’s time to plug it in and play the music.
Consider other features you may take for granted. If you have an iPhone, do you want your new stereo to be compatible with Apple CarPlay? Will you want to hook up your Android through Android Auto? These are pretty standard features on original stereo components in most late-model cars and you might still want those features included with your new system.
What Makes Good Sound Quality?
Sound quality is subjective. What sounds good to you might not sound good to someone else, and vice versa. So to understand what makes for good sound quality you need to understand a few important points.
First, the sound quality that comes out of your speakers is a result of the materials used in manufacture, the design, and how these combine to create the audio. The best speakers recreate sound accurately; the sound you hear should sound the way it was intended by the original recording artist. The only way to know if you think a speaker has good sound quality is to listen to it yourself — because remember, sound quality is completely subjective and based on personal preferences!
One way you can make sure you get the sound quality you’re looking for is to customize your combination of speakers that you hook up to your car stereo. Most stereo head units come with a built-in amp, but you might need to choose your own woofer or subwoofer (the large speakers that reproduce low-frequency bass sounds); midrange drivers or specialized midrange drivers (named because they play the mid-range frequencies); and tweeters, the smallest of the specialized drivers that are in charge of playing back the highest-pitched sounds.
Most people combine two speakers of different sizes into one frame to create a single full-range speaker. More elaborate systems might match up a subwoofer with a midrange driver on the left and the right, plus a tweeter, usually installed in the middle of the dashboard.
To get an idea of the setup that you prefer, listen to your favorite songs on other peoples’ stereo systems, or talk to a stereo professional to build a custom unit for your car.
How Expensive or Difficult is it to Install?
If you’re willing to go all-out on a car stereo installation, then you should be prepared to need to make modifications to your dashboard and rear dash, at the very least, to accommodate your stereo. Installations like these are more expensive and may require professional installers to get the job done correctly. However, if you’re looking for a simple head unit that hooks up to your existing car speakers, you can likely figure out the installation yourself.
Before you choose your new equipment, determine what the installation requirements would be. Doing so ensures you’ve considered those costs into your overall budget. If you can’t afford professional installation, it might not be the best time to buy a big, overly complex stereo system. Ultimately, what you choose is completely up to you.
If you have any questions about car stereo systems, audio components, and the car stereo installation process, your best bet is to talk to a professional about your options and get an estimate for the cost of car stereo installation in San Diego, or wherever you live. If you feel confident, though, we wish you all the best in finding the perfect stereo solution for your vehicle. We’ll see you on the road!