LAST UPDATED: May 8, 2019
Best Car DVD Players: Bring Some Fun Entertainment Along for the Ride
Check out the top car DVD players to entertain passengers for hours on end
The Review Team
How We Decided
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
PUBLISHED ON May 8, 2019
Portable or built-in entertainment in a vehicle can be a sanity saver for parents with small children. DVD players can bring make long road trips enjoyable for everyone involved. While many car manufacturers offer built-in DVD players as standard or extra features, any vehicle can have a basic player with the right purchase. To help you find the best car DVD player for your needs, here are the top DVD players to check out.
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Why Buy a Car DVD Player
- Entertain passengers. It should go without saying that DVD players are all about entertaining people inside the vehicle. Little kids tend to benefit the most from a DVD player or two placed in the backseat. With simple or remote controls and long battery life, DVD players give passengers some control over their in-vehicle entertainment. For long drives, this entertainment can also bring some peace and quiet back into the confined space for the driver or other passengers.
- Get more functionality. Depending on the type of DVD player you have in the car, you may discover some extra features and functions that have nothing to do with playing movies and TV shows. Built-in dashboard players, for example, tend to come packaged with a whole infotainment system that may include a navigation system, enhanced audio controls, climate settings, and more. Shopping for a DVD player will give you different options to check out, so you can pick whichever model gives you the most functionality possible.
- Save space inside. Few DVD players take up a lot of space inside the vehicle. Compared to other media devices like computers and tablets that can play music and video, DVD players stay out of the way until needed. Whether they are mounted into the dashboard, on the roof, or behind a headrest, a small DVD player preserves a lot of crucial interior space so everyone can feel comfortable as they ride.
Types of Car DVD Players
These are the most permanent DVD players available. If you want to keep a player around all the time, in-dash players are the most convenient since most simply replace the factory infotainment panel in the dashboard. Unfortunately, this might not be an option for all vehicles, especially models with custom-made panels that have uncommon screen sizes and panel shapes. Instead, most in-dash players tend to fit into standard single- and double-DIN slots commonly occupied by car stereos. These tend to combine other features like a backup camera, HDMI input slot, a built-in car charger, or a complete entertainment system.
Another common permanent installation, flip-out DVD players typically mount to the roof near the center of the vehicle. This type of player sits in a retracted position, almost flush with the roof, when not in use. To view the screen, the panel unfolds down where it can be viewed by anyone in the rear rows. Since permanent installation is required, this type is better installed by a professional.
To avoid the hassle of permanently installing a DVD player, a headrest player is a good option to consider. Mounted into the back of a headrest, most options available on the market come as a headrest replacement. This means installation is a simple matter of popping the old headrest out and replacing it with the new unit. These are also a good option to consider for maximum viewability. Since the screen sits right in front of the passenger, they are convenient, allowing each passenger an individual screen.
For the ultimate level of convenience, the best car DVD player option is a portable player. Strapping onto the back of a headrest or other vertical surface, installation tends to rely on clamps or Velcro. This player type is the best for hiding away when not in use. Unfortunately, most rely on individual battery power unless they have a plug for the vehicle's 12-volt outlet, so recharging the device will be periodically necessary.
Top Brands of Car DVD Players
Officially known as Koninklijke Philips N.V., this multinational technology company is one of the largest in the world. Based in Amsterdam, the company was founded all the way back in 1891 in Eindhoven by Gerard Philips. Today, the company has a large assortment of high-quality products, including the PD9016 9-inch Dual Portable DVD Player.
You probably haven't heard of Wonnie outside of video and home theater tech circles, but this Chinese company has a large presence in the DVD player market. Specializing in affordable, portable solutions, the lineup of DVD players is expansive and offers virtually anything you could want for your vehicle. As a prime example of what Wonnie can offer, check out its Dual Screen Portable Car Headrest DVD Player.
Car DVD Player Pricing
- $100 and under: It's actually quite easy to find a quality DVD player for under $100. In fact, most player options, especially portable varieties, live within this range and offer basic screen sizes and image resolutions.
- $100-$200: In the mid-range, screen sizes and advanced features become more commonplace. A few permanent models like flip-out players and built-in infotainment systems also start in this range.
- $200 and above: The most expensive DVD players tend to be either permanent products or high-end portable options with HD or higher screen resolutions.
Since DVD players are all about playing movies, TV shows, and other videos, the screen is arguably one of the most important components. The size and quality of screen will directly influence the quality of the image itself. DVD players tend to be on the smaller side of screen sizes, averaging around seven to nine inches diagonally. Like tablets, computers, and televisions, they come in different resolutions like HD (1080) and 4K. The higher the resolution/video quality, the more details tend to come out of the screen. Typically, larger touchscreens, swivel screens, dual-screen DVD players, and higher resolutions tend to increase the viewing experience and price tag as well.
Beyond the video itself, audio quality completes the media experience for most players. Different manufacturers and models tend to take different approaches to audio. Some use built-in speakers to deliver sound, while others stick with a simple headphone jack so the audio doesn't bother other passengers. Regardless of the audio type, the sound delivery should be distortion free with volume control that's easy to find and use. You may find some Bluetooth players for wireless headphones as well.
Installation can be a tricky aspect when getting a new DVD player for the car. Permanent mounts that sit in the dashboard or on the roof are less universal in design, meaning some vehicles might not be compatible with the player's mount. Portable DVD players and most headrest models, on the other hand, play well with many vehicle interiors. These mounts either replace the existing headrest or strap onto it with little time and effort.
- Supported Formats: Modern DVD players are capable of playing different types of video and audio formats. Since a few restrictions and incompatibilities can exist, it's good to find a player with the most support for different media formats, unless you want to familiarize yourself with the differences between WMW, MP3, and more. An actual DVD and CD player slot is also helpful for playing physical media.
- Memory: If you don't want to keep swapping DVDs in and out each time you want to watch something new, built-in memory is a must. DVD players with permanent memory will either have a built-in hard drive or expandable memory via some kind of SD card slot or USB port. Expandable memory is convenient since you can use multiple cards to hold more files at the same time.
Best Car DVD Players Reviews & Recommendations 2020
The UEME Portable DVD Player gets our top spot for one simple reason: It's truly portable. Designed for car and home use, the DVD player comes with almost everything you need to use it nearly anywhere you want. There are also a few extra accessories thrown in to make the use convenient.
First and foremost, this DVD player is designed for general use around the house and car. Unlike dedicated car DVD players, this one has a few design features to accommodate this general use, including a flat bottom and swiveling screen. The battery has a charge that lasts long enough for most short road trips on a single charge.
The picture quality is passable for the average passenger, but some minor artifacts and discoloration is common depending on the state of the pixels. Noise is also common when the player is reading an actual DVD in the optical bay.
SUNPIN's Portable DVD Player has a few surprises in store if you are looking for something that is budget-friendly without giving up too much in terms of image quality or screen size. In fact, this is one of a few portable DVD players that come with a 9.5-inch screen so you can enjoy a large image without the equally large price tag.
For a budget dash camera, the image quality is surprisingly good. While it doesn't have a 4K resolution, the color production and basic details are good enough to enjoy with most TV shows and movies. The sound quality is also good enough to understand quiet dialog when not using a headphone.
Volume-wise, the max level isn't very loud without a pair of headphones. While this might be a good thing in a crowded vehicle, you may have trouble listening to quite scenes and dialogue. Some bugs in the system also make it difficult to use at times.
This headrest monitor by eRapta sits comfortably in the high-end range of portable car DVD players. Unlike more budget-friendly options, you get a lot for the money you'll spend on this one, including an actual optical DVD drive and an extra-large screen measured 10 inches diagonally.
The combination of an ultra-thin, widescreen panel, headrest mount, and multiple audio input sources make this a versatile DVD player. Since it simply straps to the back of a seat, the quality and versatility almost rival more permanent DVD players without the complicated installation process most require.
There is a lot to like in terms of quality, but the design of the DVD player is another matter. Unfortunately, the overall size is just off. There isn't enough screen real estate to allow multiple people to enjoy one player at the same time. On the other hand, the screen is bulky for smaller children to hold comfortably for long periods of time.
- Not all DVD players are compatible with all physical DVDs and CDs. You will likely find different options that only support SD cards, basic DVDs, or even Blu-ray discs.
- Most DVD players also play music. If you have a basic stereo system and a large family, individual players are great for portable music as well.
- Pay attention to the power supply of each DVD player. Different types use different power supplies. Batteries are common for portable options and may plug into the vehicle via the 12-volt outlet.
- Get more out of a car DVD player by choosing a portable player that's compatible with home media. If it can hook up to a TV, for example, you'll have an instant home DVD player as well.
Q. Are car DVD players easy to install?
A. This depends on the type. Permanent players like in-dash and flip-out models may require professional help or service to get done right. Portable options, on the other hand, are easy to take on and off whenever you want.
Q. How big do screens get?
A. Like other portable screens, such as tablets, screens can get up there in size. Most large DVD players top out at around 13 inches since any larger starts to interfere with the available interior space and head and leg room.
Q. Do wireless devices work with DVD players?
A. Wireless devices like cordless headphones can work with some DVD players if the player has Bluetooth connectivity.
Q. Can I watch TV on a portable DVD player?
A. In most cases, no. Most car DVD players use saved media files. A couple of options, however, come with a portable TV antenna you can mount somewhere out of your car. The reception will vary depending on location.
For the best all-around DVD player that is at home in a car or living room, check out our top pick, the UEME Portable DVD Player.
Save some money with our top value pick, the SUNPIN Portable DVD Player instead.