If you saved up some bucks and want to invest them in an aftermarket stereo receiver for your vehicle, you came to the right place. I’m a big fan of electronic devices for cars and know a thing or two about how to pick the right gadget for your budget. Today, our focus will be on the so-called “entry-level” segment. I’ll help you find the best car stereo under 100 and 200.
To make navigation easier, I divided the list into two different sections with three units in each. To learn more about them, check out the comparison table and my detailed reviews. At the very bottom, I included a Buyer’s Guide (a user-friendly manual) and a FAQ section (answers to the most popular questions online). Go ahead, and take a good look at my top picks!
Best Car Stereo Under $100 ()
Boss Audio Systems BV9364B Car Stereo DVD Player
P.L.Z MP-800 Double Din Car Stereo System
BOSS Audio Systems 616UAB Car Stereo Reciver
Best Car Stereo Under $100 Reviews
1. Boss Audio Systems BV9364B – Best Touch Screen Car Stereo Under 100
Boss is not new to market-leading electronics. It’s especially successful in creating infotainment solutions and car stereo systems for the average drivers. With this unit, you’ll get a universal design. On one hand, it’s got that old-school, retro vibe that most folks tend to like. At the same time, it’s incredibly sturdy and reliable. Another standout feature is the CD/DVD support. Yes, that means you can just pop one of your favorite discs in and enjoy it on the road.
Boss Audio Systems backs this stereo with a three-year warranty. However, it only applies when the device is bought through an online dealer. And what about the cons, you might ask? I didn’t notice any big downsides during my review: my only complaint has to do with the touchscreen. It’s pretty nice and doesn’t take forever to respond. Sadly, due to the low-quality surface, it gets overwhelmed by smudges and fingerprints very quickly.
BV9364B is arguably the best car stereo with CD playback. It’s got a pretty decent list of features, isn’t hard to control through Bluetooth, and boasts a sturdy, durable design. Count in a three-year warranty, and you’ll see why it’s so popular. Sadly, the touchscreen isn’t protected from fingerprints and smudge marks.
2. P.L.Z MP-800 – Best Double Din Car Stereo Under 100
This next car stereo is a good example that cheap doesn’t always mean bad. Compared to the other two devices, it’s a lot more affordable, but it actually holds great value, thanks to the long list of pros. MP-800 boasts a high-definition touchscreen. It’s very quick to react, bright, and offers easy intuitive navigation. Sadly, the display is crafted from not-so-sturdy materials, which makes it quite fragile.
Make sure not to drop the stereo, or you’ll break the screen! Back to the good news: the package includes a solid backup camera and wires to connect it to the dashboard. It’s protected from water, has an extended viewing angle (170 degrees), and also “shoots” during the night. So, yes, you will get a bang for your buck with the P.L.Z. car stereo receiver.
If you’re looking for a decent flip out head unit, MP-800 is one of the best offers on the market right now. Thanks to P.L.Z.’s user-oriented policy, it’s very affordable and includes a backup camera as a bonus. And don’t forget the premium-quality touchscreen: it turns this deal into a bargain.
3. BOSS Audio Systems 616UAB – Best Car Stereo Receiver Under 100
Here, we have another stereo system by the legendary Boss. And what does the company have in stores for us this time around? Well, it’s pretty compact and doesn’t take a lot of space. That makes it easy to mount this device in pretty much any car with a little bit of DIY action. On top of that, it includes one of the most detailed and friendly installation guides out there. But what I really like about 616UAB is the mighty equalizer.
If you’re a fan of playing around with different frequency bands until you find the perfect sound, this EQ will become your new best friend. Unfortunately, all these pros are a bit overshadowed by one significant con. During my hands-on test, I had some trouble with connectivity. Bluetooth doesn’t always work as it should, and while the UI is easy to use, it gets really slow at times for no reason. This doesn’t happen often; but still, keep it in mind.
As a feature-packed single Din car stereo, 616UAB is a good investment. It’s got an excellent EQ with advanced settings and many presets. On top of that, the installation process will be like a walk in the park. The system is not particularly reliable, though, especially when trying to pair it up with a phone.
Alright, with the 100-bucks stereo systems out of the way, let us switch our focus to a higher price range. The following three gadgets are prime candidates for the title of the best car stereo under 200. But which one will be the perfect investment for your money? The only way to figure that out is to check out their pros, cons, specs, and available features. So, let’s go ahead and do exactly that!
Best Car Stereo Under $200 ()
ATOTO A6 Android Car Navigation Stereo
Pioneer DEH-X8800BHS Receiver
Sound Storm DD988ACP Apple CarPlay Android Car Multimedia Player
Best Car Stereo Under $200 Reviews
1. ATOTO A6 – Best Touch Screen Car Stereo Under $200
This company specializes in high-end automobile electronics, and while A6 isn’t very expensive, it’s still one hell of a stereo system. I was impressed by the high-definition touchscreen. The user interface isn’t super-fast, but the design is friendly, and the controls are easy to use. Besides, the company is constantly releasing free firmware updates. They perfect the original “formula”, making the device more reliable.
Strangely enough, the list of compatible/supported applications isn’t very big. It’s decent, of course, and will satisfy most drivers (but not the demanding ones). On the bright side, the package includes a set of antennas: GPS and Wi-Fi. Don’t hesitate to use them to make this car stereo even more stable and cost-effective. They’ll give you advanced Wi-Fi coverage and easy GPS navigation via Google Maps.
Despite the modest line-up of supported programs, ATOTO’s 2 Din car stereo system is a worthy investment. It boasts a high-def. touchscreen with easy, straightforward controls, regular firmware updates through the Internet, and two antennas as a bonus. So, overall, it’s a very good device.
2. Pioneer – Best Car Stereo Receiver Under $200
As the brand name suggests, Pioneer has always been a forward-thinking company. Now, this stereo head unit isn’t the most advanced or feature-packed option on the market. It does carry excellent value, however. It fully supports SiriusXM and gives the driver access to numerous radio channels. podcasts, music, and more. In addition, DEH-X8800BHS can play high-definition audio and video formats like FLAC.
That’s very good news for the true audiophiles that only want the best quality. The Pioneer one-year warranty is even more reason to consider this unit over the competition. Too bad the UI (user interface) is a bit over-crowded and might be difficult to master at first. The good news is – for a single-din head unit, it’s packed with a generous list of connectivity features for the average driver.
SiriusXM support and compatibility with high-quality formats are this stereo system’s biggest selling points. Moreover, it’s protected by a one-year warranty, too – that will give you peace of mind. But, the UI could’ve been more responsive and more user-friendly.
3. Sound Storm – Best Bluetooth Car Stereo Under $200
Last, but not least, take a look at what Sound Storm has in stores. Let me say right from the start that it’s 100% compatible with Android’s Auto and Apple’s CarPlay. That means you can link your Smartphone up with the car stereo and use most of its advanced infotainment features. The price-tag is rather affordable, by the way, and won’t leave your wallet empty. Another big pro: the company offers six different configurations to pick from.
This review focuses on the double-din stereo with full mobile app integration. But, you might want to go with the CD or AM/FM receiver, the single-din radio that can play CDs, the configuration with a backup camera, and more. All these devices are available at different prices, of course, and they’ll be worth every single penny. On the downside, this isn’t the most long-lasting product series and tends to cut out, lose connection, and simply start working.
If not for the issues with reliability and durability, Sound Storm’s car stereo might’ve been my favorite pick. It does come with a long of features, though, like flexibility, versatility, affordability, and full support of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. So, it’s up to you to decide whether it’s a good purchase or not.
The stereo system is like your car’s brain. It pairs up with any modern phone, controls incoming calls, and lets you start a conversation with voice commands. On top of that, it can “feed” lots of devices, including amps, speakers, and subwoofers, to name a few. So, what should you look for in a car stereo when you need one? Join me, and let’s check out the most important aspects – the “make it or break it” factors, if you will.
Stereo Connections: Single-Din vs. Double-Din
Single-din units are a lot smaller and more flexible. They are compatible with a wide range of vehicle brands – both new and old. If you’re looking for a plug-it-and-forget-it type of a device, I recommend paying extra attention to this size. On the other hand, double-din stereo systems are bigger, more reliable, and, most importantly, include larger, high-resolution touchscreens.
The list of available features is usually wider as well, since this is a newer technology, with a focus on modern-day drivers. Add more controls, functions, and menus, and you’ll get a more superior addition to your four-wheeled friend. Single-din stereos are two inches tall, while their “elder brothers’ – double-dins – are twice as tall. They both have the same width, though (seven inches).
You want your brand-new stereo to be as loud as it gets, but deliver a crisp, clean, sharp sound, right? Well, I’ve with you on that one. Now, to figure out exactly how loud a head unit is, you’ll need to check out two parameters in the specs: Peak Power, and RMS (Root-Mean-Square). Honestly, Peak Power is just a marketing move: while the system does, indeed, get that loud, no driver will ever go that high.
The reason: the audio quality will be pretty bad, and you’ll run the risk of ruining an otherwise good system (and maybe the speakers along with it). So, use RMS as the more accurate representation of how much volume the device can provide. If you see 50W x4 in the specifications, don’t hesitate to invest in that unit, as it will be more than enough to enjoy your favorite tracks.
Compatibility and Connectivity
This refers to how many devices, services, and formats the system supports, and how easy it is to set everything up. Some units only provide basic Bluetooth/Wi-Fi pairing with Smartphones, while others are fully compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These apps add advanced navigation, voice controls, and music/video playback. Also, check whether the device works with backup cameras, amps, subwoofers, and an extra set of speakers or not.
And don’t forget about the display: while most modern-day stereo systems come with a touchscreen, they’re not all “bright and beautiful”. Make sure it has an HD screen that doesn’t make your eyes hurt during the day or when it’s dark outside. Also, check for the delay: it should be minimal and allow for quick, effortless navigation.
Is a 200 watt car stereo good?
Yes, that should be more than enough even if you like to listen to really loud music. Peak Power and RMS are not the same thing, and you can’t crank the volume to 11 and expect the speakers not to distort or even break down. Keep this in mind and don’t let something like “1000 watts” trick you, because that’s most likely going to be the Peak volume, not RMS. Read more about this in the Buyer’s Guide.
Good news: no matter which one of the six stereo systems from my list you choose, it won’t disappoint you with the loudness. However, for a big party somewhere in the woods/on a camping site, it will be a good idea to invest in an external amplifier. But, again, for listening to your favorite tunes in the car, 200 watts is a good place to start.
Are car stereos easy to install?
Even if you don’t have any mechanical/engineering skills, it won’t take you much time or effort to install an aftermarket car stereo system. Most modern-day brands have adopted the Plug-and-Play technology and make their device universal (not car-specific). Plus, they come with detailed, step-by-step instructions. The hardest part is removing the dashboard trim: be careful not to damage anything and put everything back in properly.
Next, disconnect the negative terminal on the battery to avoid shorting the wires. Speaking of the wires, on a cheap radio, they tend to be unreliable. Therefore, you might want to invest in a third-party wire harness. I want to also mention that they charge up to 100 bucks or more for professional installation. So, if you pull this off on your own, you’ll be able to save a lot of money.
Can you put a touch screen radio in an older car?
Absolutely: all you’ll need is a working battery to charge it and enough space on the dashboard. As I mentioned in the answer to the previous question, there are certain standards when it comes to aftermarket car stereos. Even if you’re driving a really old car, there should be no problem with fitment/compatibility. But that only applies to the single-DIN systems. Double-DIN stereos usually require more space and are harder to install.
And that’s pretty much everything I have to share with you today! The market of low-budget car stereo systems is only getting bigger as the demand rises. And thanks to severe competition, we, the regular drivers, can get decent-quality devices for cheap. After weeks of hands-on reviews, I picked six stereos for your car in the <100 and <200 bucks categories.
They are all worth paying for, but there are a lot of nuances that need to be considered. That’s why I highly encourage you to read each review once again and pay extra attention to the pros/cons. After that, take a minute to go through the Buyer’s Guide and the FAQ. That will make you even more confident and knowledgeable. And if you still have some unanswered questions, ask me in the comments!