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Best Budget Car Stereo: Top 10 Picks For The Audiophile Nerd

Last Updated on: June 14, 2022

During the better part of the early and mid-twentieth century, the car radio was just a simple afterthought for most car owners. 

But now…

With the ever-changing technology, modern car stereos come equipped with a wide range of technology.

We all expect the car radio to do more than just entertain us while driving without breaking the bank. These days, they come with navigation systems while looking great; luckily, several budget car stereos are on the market.

From our research, we have concluded that the Jensen MPR210 is the best overall. After all, it does have more features than a huge percentage of the other options in its price range.  

The 10 Best Budget Car Stereos Reviewed

1. Jensen MPR210 Car Stereo Receiver – Best Overall

Jensen MPR210 Car Stereo Receiver

As aforementioned, car stereos have evolved over the last few decades, and Jensen MPR210 Car Stereo Receiver is no exception. But don’t let its price fool you; Jensen MPR210 features lots of audio technology than most of the other options in its price range. Plus, it guarantees you a high-quality sound that will enhance your music experience.

One of its key features that helps it stand out is its high-performance LCD that guarantees you an exceptional viewing experience while giving you access to some of its apps and/or presets.

Its unique LCD display is user-friendly and quite responsive; therefore, anyone can easily operate it. In fact, my son always calls shotgun when we are traveling together; he does enjoy all its exceptional features.

Plus, the fact that Jensen MPR210 has Bluetooth is a bonus. The Bluetooth system can connect to all smartphones, so I always use it when making phone calls while driving.

Another exceptional feature is its J-link smart remote app that can be found on the Apple store and the play store that can be easily paired with a receiver through Bluetooth.

Another key feature that makes driving and listening to your favorite music easier and more fun is its one-touch button. This button allows you to link with either Google or Siri and offer some commands like navigation, podcasts, and playing music.

As one of the best cheap car stereos has an AM/FM tuner with about 30preset stations, plus a USB port and auxiliary input

Plus, you can easily customize this stereo to fit your music taste and sound quality with 4-preset EQ and two-band tone control.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • One year warranty
  • Bluetooth system
  • Easy to install
  • Compact
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Comes with a low standard harness

Takeaway

Thanks to its superior performance, Jensen MPR210 Car Stereo Receiver can easily please any driver looking to upgrade their system’s sound quality. Plus, its compact design means that this cheap car stereo is easy to install in a wide range of cars.

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2. Jensen MPR420 7 Car Stereo Receiver – Best Under $50

JENSEN MPR420 7 Character LCD Double DIN Car Stereo Receiver | Push to Talk Assistant | Bluetooth Hands Free Calling & Music Streaming | AM/FM Radio | USB Playback & Charging | Not a CD player

Another incredible cheap car stereo receiver below $50 that guarantees you an exceptional listening experience is the Jensen MPR420 7 Character LCD Double DIN Car Stereo Receiver. This budget double-DIN stereo has similar features as the first head unit in our list, but it’s ideal for double-DIN vehicles.

This head unit is perfect for folks working with a tight budget but still don’t want to sacrifice the quality of their listening experience.

Like the other Jensen stereo on our list, this head unit has a wide range of features, including Bluetooth technology plus a J-link App and HD radio tuner. One of its unique features to improve your listening experience is the J-link App.

With the J-link App, you can stream your favorite Audible books, NPR news, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and Pandora from your Android or Apple smartphone.

Like most Jensen stereos, you can easily make hands-free calls while driving, thanks to Bluetooth connectivity. Plus, with the push-to-talk button, you can give orders to your phone’s assistant, including Alexa, Siri, or Google.

Another feature that stands out is its extremely responsive, high-resolution 7-character LCD. This LCD guarantees you a comfortable viewing experience.

And to improve your car’s entertainment system, it features Auxiliary input, USB input, EQ curves, and FM/AM antenna input with 4-presets; therefore, you can connect it to your media players like MP3 or iPod Nano.

Pros

  • One year warranty
  • Affordable
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Easy to install
  • Sleek
  • Hands-free calling
  • Supports audio and video files

Cons

  • FM/AM sound usually cuts in and out

Takeaway

Despite being a budget option, the Jensen MPR420 7 Character LCD Double DIN Car Stereo Receiver is an incredible double-DIN receiver that will never disappoint. It guarantees you a high-quality listening experience while making it possible to stream your favorite music.

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3. Boss Audio Systems BV9364B DVD Player – Best Touch Screen

BOSS Audio Systems BV9364B Car Stereo DVD Player - Double Din, Bluetooth Audio/Hands-Free Calling, 6.2 Inch Touchscreen LCD Monitor, MP3 Player, CD, DVD, USB Port, SD, AUX Input, AM/FM Radio Receiver

If you want a touch screen radio on a budget that can create an exceptional infotainment solution for your vehicle, then you should try the Boss Audio Systems BV9364B DVD Player. After all, Boss is not a new brand in the industry; they have built some of the best and most affordable electronics in the market for years. 

From software to hardware, everything about this DVD player is top-notch. First and foremost, we do appreciate its superb sound quality as it has the same quality as some of the high-end options in the market. Plus, the fact that it has Bluetooth connectivity means that you can make hands-free calls with no distractions while driving.

Its external microphone can pick your voice while the speaker can let you listen to the caller.

As the best budget touchscreen stereo, its media playback is exceptional. You can watch all your favorite video using the DVD player and enjoy your music via Bluetooth, the USB port, or pop in your favorite CD.

You can try the local AM/FM stations for up-to-date sports, news, and music. Plus, its auxiliary is compatible with your smartphone’s output, so you can enjoy all the songs on your phone.

Other key features that make this car stereo stand out include rear camera capability, which is sold separately, and USB charging. Plus, its exceptional steering wheel interface allows you to use its existing steer wheel features to control the stereo.

Pros

  • Great sound quality
  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • Compatible with Pandora and Spotify
  • Bluetooth services
  • USB port

Cons

  • Hard to install

Takeaway

If your plan was to get a touchscreen stereo to watch high-quality videos, you should go for Boss Audio Systems BV9364B DVD Player. These car stereos can do more than just enjoy your favorite music; they can let you receive hands-free calls while streaming some of your favorite videos.

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4. Boss 508UAB Wireless Single Din Car Stereo – Best Equalization

Boss 508UAB Wireless Single Din Car Stereo

When it comes to software and hardware, Boss has never disappointed; therefore, it’s no surprise why we featured a second Boss stereo in our list. But despite being affordable, the Boss 508UAB Wireless Single Din Car Stereo has given most high-end brands a run for their money.

After all, Boss has made sure that they spoiled you for choice regarding entertainment options.

Thanks to its Bluetooth connectivity, you can control and play music from your MP3 player or smartphone. You can also connect it wirelessly to apps like Pandora and Spotify; therefore, you will have more than enough options when it comes to entertainment.

Additionally, to help you make phone calls while driving, it has a high-end microphone that can pick your voice while the speaker can let you listen to the caller.

One of the most disappointing things about car stereos is that most of my radios have been damaged at the car wash. But with the Boss 508UAB Wireless Single Din Car Stereo, this is not an issue. And that is because the speakers and receiver have some of the latest weatherproofing techniques.

Plus, its illuminated controls make it easy for you to navigate when driving at night. Despite not being a touchscreen option like the other Boss in our lineup, it does have most of the control as the touchscreen options.

But since entertainment is the main reason car owners go for the best options in the market, Boss ensured that they increase your playlist by adding an auxiliary input and a USB port. The Auxiliary port is compatible with a wide range of audio output devices like MP3 players and smartphones. All you have to do is plug it in and press play.

Pros

  • Rich sound quality
  • Powerful stereo
  • Allows music streaming
  • Rich EQ
  • Compatible with lots of formats

Cons

  • Hard to install

Takeaway

If you love Boss electronics but are working with a tight budget, you should go for the Boss 508UAB Car Stereo. This stereo has everything most high-end stereos have but no touchscreen. Plus, it’s compatible with a wide range of music formats and lets you stream music is a bonus.

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5. AboutBit 7″ Digital Media Car Stereo – Best Video Support

AboutBit 7" Digital Media Car Stereo

If your old stereo didn’t support all the music file formats, you should try this champion for different file formats. The AboutBit 7″ Digital Media Car Stereo supports various file formats, including WAV, video formats, WMA, and MP3. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a DVD or CD player, but what it lacks in this department, it makes up for it in other features.

Fortunately, it does come with Bluetooth technology and a USB port, so all you have to do is hook up your smartphone and turn the radio to have some fun while driving. With Bluetooth technology, you can stream your music through an MP3 player or smartphone and also make hands-free calls.

To let you take control of the entertainment while outside the car, it comes with remote control.

Another key feature that makes this stereo stand out is the front/rearview camera. And the good thing about this feature is that it’s easy to install; after all, it does power automatically when you shift the gear. This feature has always come in handy for my dad, especially when he is parking the car at night or when it’s dark.

Plus, its high-definition 7-inch colorful touchscreen does guarantee you a clear image when reversing.

Pros

  • Bluetooth service
  • USB port
  • Easy to install
  • Easy to use
  • Remote
  • High-quality sound

Cons

  • Firmware updates cause issues

Takeaway

If you’re like me and rarely use a DVD or CD, then there is no need to spend more on your stereo with these features; instead, you should go for AboutBit 7″ Digital Media Car Stereo. If you always stream your music or have saved some on your smartphone, then this option is for you. Remember, you can still make hands-free calls and still benefit from its front and rear cameras.

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6. Alpine UTE-73BT Advanced Bluetooth Mech-less – Best Single Din

Alpine UTE-73BT Advanced Bluetooth Mech-less

Alpine receivers have proved their prowess in the car stereo industry for a number of years. And the Alpine UTE-73BT Advanced Bluetooth Mech-Less Stereo Receiver is a simple and non-sense stereo that’s reliable and easy to use. The only issue I have with this stereo is that it lacks some unique features that most options have, like Bluetooth connectivity and a DVD/CD player.

Even though it does lack in some departments, Alpine made sure they invested in the phone support department. Therefore, whether you have an iPhone or an android phone, this stereo will do the needed job and works perfectly. So if simplicity and efficiency are what you need, then this Alpine Stereo is a great option for you.

Another key feature that makes it stand out is the fact that you can stream some cool music thanks to Pandora. But it doesn’t have a screen, so if your main goal is getting a simple radio, then this is for you. 

Pros

  • Supports FM/AM radio
  • High audio quality
  • Supports both Android and iOS phones
  • Supports streaming
  • Easy to install

Cons

  • No touchscreen
  • No DVD/CD player

Takeaway

If you’re looking for a high-quality and effective radio with no touchscreen, then you should go for the Alpine UTE-73BT Advanced Bluetooth Mech-Less Stereo Receiver. This receiver doesn’t have a DVD/CD player and Bluetooth connectivity, but it does have everything you need. Plus, the IOS and android connectivity can be a bonus to you.

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7. Pioneer DEH-X8800BHS With MIXTRAX – Best Under $200

Pioneer DEH-X8800BHS With MIXTRAX

As this stereo’s name suggests, this is a forward-thinking firm, so you should expect great features from them in the future. Unfortunately, this isn’t the most feature-packed or advanced stereo in our list or the market. 

But it does have an excellent value, especially for its price, so you will get more than what you paid for.

Unlike most stereos, the Pioneer DEH-X8800BHS CD Receiver With MIXTRAX supports SiriusXM and provides the driver with lots of radio channels, music, podcasts, and streaming.

One key factor that stands out is the fact that it can support some high-definition video and audio formats like FLAC. Therefore, this is the best option for audiophiles who love listening to only the best quality music.

Another reason you should go for this high-quality stereo over its competitors is that it comes with a one-year warranty. Unfortunately, its user interface (IU) is a tad crowded and may be quite challenging for some folks to master.

In fact, for a single din receiver, this head unit is packed with lots of connectivity features for a normal driver.

Pros

  • Supports high-definition formats
  • High-quality sound
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Internet connectivity
  • Dual USB port

Cons

  • IU is a bit crowded

Takeaway

The best budget car stereo for audiophiles is the Pioneer DEH-X8800BHS CD Receiver With MIXTRAX. It is compatible with several high-quality audio and video formats and supports SiriusXM. Plus, the one-year warranty will give you peace of mind.

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8. PLZ Double Din Car Stereo With Mirror Link- 7 Inch HD Capacitive Touchscreen Receiver – Best for Intuitive UI

PLZ Double Din Car Stereo with Mirror Link- 7 Inch HD Capacitive Touchscreen Car Radio Receiver Supports Bluetooth, Subwoofer, Steering Wheel Control, MP3, Backup Camera, FM/AM/USB/AUX

PLZ may not be as popular as some industry leaders, but folks who have used their stereos love them. After all, the PLZ Double Din Car Stereo With Mirror Link- 7-Inch HD Capacitive Touchscreen Receiver has everything that can improve your driving and entertainment experiences. Its 7-inch HD capacitive touchscreen comes with an easy-to-use user interface.

Thanks to its clear MIC and Bluetooth 5.2, you can stream your music and make hands-free calls thanks to the noise-canceling MIC. This radio was designed with comfort and safety in mind; plus, it supports a front and rear camera with an automatic display of images when reversing. Therefore, you can park your car easily and safely.

Another feature that stands out is the HD rear camera with a wide viewing angle and night vision. Plus, the UI is impressive, intuitive, and easy to use. And thanks to its remote control, you can easily control the stereo from the back seat.

Pros

  • Remote control
  • Rearview camera
  • High and large resolution
  • Good sound quality

Cons

  • Might not fit every car

Takeaway

If you need an easy-to-use HD screen that can be easily controlled even from the back seat, then you should go for the PLZ Double Din Car Stereo With Mirror Link- 7-Inch HD Capacitive Touchscreen Receiver. Other than working with both rear and front cameras, it is compatible with Android and IOS, so you can stream your music while driving.

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9. Boss 616UAB Car Stereo – Top Rated Single Din

Boss 616UAB Car Stereo

As aforementioned, Boss has produced some of the best electronics in the market, and the Boss 616UAB Car Stereo is no exception. Thanks to its 200 watts of power, the quality of your music won’t be an issue, so you can listen to high-quality music while driving.

Speaking of songs, you can listen to a wide range of music formats and even stream your music from the internet with this stereo.

In terms of connectivity, this Boss stereo is well-equipped; it comes with USB, AUX, ports, and Bluetooth connectivity. Therefore, you can use any of these options to entertain yourself while driving. Plus, the Bluetooth service can make it possible for you to make hands-free phone calls.

One of the key features that stand out is its dimmable illuminations for the LCD display and buttons. So you can dim the lights at night. Plus, the dancing LED lights are quite exceptional.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Great sound quality
  • Highly versatile
  • Supports music streaming
  • Affordable

Cons

  • The dancing lights are not ideal for everyone

Takeaway

Despite being affordable, the Boss 616UAB Car Stereo is top-rated for a reason. It has everything you need in a stereo and more. You can stream your music or access it from your smartphone via Bluetooth or USB port.

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10. Sound Storm Lab DD988ACP – Best Bluetooth Stereo

Sound Storm Lab DD988ACP

Last but not least, let’s examine what Sound Storm Laboratories have to offer. After all, they have produced some of the best electronics in the market, and the Sound Storm Laboratories DD988ACP Car Audio Stereo System is no exception.

One of the key things that stand out with this radio is that it’s 100% compatible with Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto.

Therefore, you can link your phone with the stereo and be able to access a huge percentage of its advanced infotainment features. Luckily, this unit is a bit affordable, so you won’t have to break the bank to enjoy high-quality music.

It does support the high-resolution Free-Lossless-Audio-Codec (FLAC) format.

Plus, with Apple CarPlay, you can access all the icons on your iPhone by using the capacitive touchscreen or Siri voice-activated controls. Some of the features on the screen include Audiobooks, Podcasts, Radio, Text messages, maps, music, and phone. In fact, you can ask Siri to read the text messages and even reply to them, leaving you focused on the road.

Another exceptional feature that this stereo offers is the maps to help you navigate around town. In fact, you can ask CarPlay or Siri to direct you and even inform you when you exceed the speed limit.

Unfortunately, it’s not a long-lasting radio, but it does come with a 3-year warranty on the plus side.

Pros

  • 3-year warranty
  • Supports FLAC format
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Android auto
  • Hands-free calling

Cons

  • Hard to install

Takeaway

If it’s not for durability and reliability, the Sound Storm Laboratories DD988ACP Car Audio Stereo System may have been my overall best car stereo. It has everything you will ever expect to find in a high-end radio. Plus, with Siri, you can easily control the stereo, your smartphone, and navigator and focus on driving.

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Factors to Consider When Picking the Best Budget Car Stereo

The stereo system is the brain of your car; it can easily pair with your smartphone, help you control incoming messages and calls, and even let you control it via voice command. Plus, it can feed several devices like subwoofers, speakers, and amps.

You can find a digital media receiver that allows you to control it using the steering wheel control panel. You don’t have to spend a lot of cash for music streaming or the best sound quality. Therefore, picking the right option can be quite challenging, so here are a few factors to consider when picking the best budget car stereo:

Stereo Connections: Double-Din vs. Single-Din

A single-din unit is way more flexible and smaller than a double-din. The single din is compatible with hundreds of car brands, including old and new models. If your vehicle uses the plug-it and forget-it kind of device, you should consider getting this radio.

Double dins are more reliable and bigger, thanks to their huge touchscreens. Since dual din systems are newer, they come with more modern technologies that can help make life easier for modern drivers. The double din stereos are about 4 inches tall, while the single-din options are 2 inches tall.

Connectivity and Compatibility

This refers to the number of formats, services, and devices a system can comfortably support. Plus, setting it up or how easy or hard it is also matters. For example, some radios have Wi-Fi/ Bluetooth pairing while others have Android Auto, USB input, and Apple CarPlay.

The advanced options offer voice control, navigation, and even music playback; therefore, you should consider whether they have a reversing/forward camera.

While modern stereos come with an LCD, they’re not always high-resolution options. So make sure you get a stereo with an HD screen that can help protect your eyes, especially when it’s dark.

Output Wattage and Sound Quality

Most of us want our new stereos to be as loud as possible while delivering sharp, clean, and crisp sound. So to determine how loud a stereo is, you have to consider two parameters: Root-Mean-Square (RMS) and peak power. Generally, peak power is usually a marketing strategy; after all, while the head unit can get high, very few drivers can drive with the radio that high.

But what can help you determine the audio and sound quality is the RMS. So you can go for a unit with an RMS of 50W by 4 inches as it can provide more than enough juice. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Best Cheap Car Stereo Worth It?

Yes, despite being affordable, these budget head units can improve your car’s entertainment system. They have all the necessary features minus the benefits of the high-end features. You can even enjoy high-quality videos, but you may have to sacrifice durability.

Are Double Din Stereos Worth It?

In terms of sound quality, there is a very small difference between the double and single DIN head units. The key difference between the two is the size of their LCD display and the extra features that come with the huge screen. One of the main ones is the presence of a forward/reverse camera.

Is the Car Head Unit Easy to Install?

Yes, even with little to no engineering or mechanical skills, installing your new stereo will take a little effort and time. And that is because most manufacturers have adopted plug-and-play technology; plus, they do include a detailed manual with their products.

The challenging part is usually removing the dashboard trim, so you have to be careful when doing it to avoid breaking anything.


Conclusion

The car’s stereo system can make or break your driving experience, especially when going on long trips. Luckily, most modern radios come with exceptional features that help with connectivity both wirelessly or wired using the USB input.

But did you know that you don’t have to break the bank for a car stereo? There are many budget options with everything you will ever need in a stereo, including the Jensen MPR210 Car Stereo Receiver.

The Jensen MPR210 is an affordable option featuring several features that can only be found in high-end options. Plus, the fact that it has a 1-year warranty is a bonus.

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