LAST UPDATED: December 23, 2019
Best Aftermarket Radios: Rock Out in Your Ride
Install an aftermarket radio and enjoy all of the modern features
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON December 23, 2019
If the radio in your vehicle lacks features, then it may be time to upgrade it with an aftermarket option. You can replace your stock radio with one that has modern features and capabilities. You can buy one that has smartphone connectivity or enables you to listen to satellite radio. Look for one that will fit into the original stock radio space with minimal effort required at installation. Check out these top aftermarket radios and their many features.
You can have full iPhone connectivity with this single DIN detachable radio. It has a dedicated subwoofer output, LCD text display, and optional remote control.
The biggest problem is the Bluetooth failing after a few months of use. If a feature fails, you’ll need to send your unit into Alpine for repair.
This radio’s features include a CD player, AM/FM tuner, MP3/WMA/AAC, CD-R/RW, and Bluetooth. It has a USB port for iPods and phones and easily connects to satellite radio.
The light slowly blinks when you turn the volume on or off, when you adjust the volume, or perform other operations. The car audio system comes with a one-year limited warranty
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Benefits of Aftermarket Radio
- Customized experience. An aftermarket radio gives you the option to customize your music the way you want it. You don’t have to constantly switch out CDs or scan the radio for music anymore. You can create your own playlist with built-in smart features of the radio that include music streaming services.
- Add personality. You can get an aftermarket radio that matches that color and style of your vehicle. Many can even be set to flash and change colors with the beat of the music. Units with large touchscreens can even be modified to include pictures or videos that match your taste.
- Improved audio quality. By getting a new aftermarket radio, you could also boost the sound quality of your speakers without ever having to upgrade them. The radio lets you configure sound settings so you get a richer and cleaner sound throughout the vehicle.
- Versatile. An aftermarket radio gives you several options when it comes to listening to music. You are no longer limited to surfing AM/FM radio station after radio station until a song comes on. You can also skip commercials, advertisements, and DJs. Your new radio should come with Bluetooth connectivity so you can play anything on your phone or MP3 player, plus it will give you access to Pandora, Spotify, and other streaming services.
Types of Aftermarket Radios
Single DIN head units are small and compact enough to fit in the majority of vehicles without much hassle. They are seven inches wide and two inches tall. Single DIN radios can feature Bluetooth, AUX and USB inputs, and built-in streaming services. These are the factory standard in most older vehicles.
A double DIN radio is larger than their single DIN counterpart. These feature big touch screens that are customizable to your liking. They can be found in most newer vehicle models and feature many streaming options, rearview cameras, and customizable displays. However, they are more difficult to install in vehicles without them already.
Pioneer is a Japanese corporation based in Tokyo, Japan. The company specializes in manufacturing digital entertainment products such as stereos, radios, speakers, and home entertainment sound systems. It was founded in 1983 and sells the Pioneer CD Digital Music Player as just one of several aftermarket car stereos.
Kenwood is one of the largest developers and manufacturers of electronic components and equipment. The company was founded in the United States in 1961 and is a subsidiary of JVCKENWOOD Corporation of Japan. Kenwood has a headquarters in Irving, Texas, and makes the Kenwood Car Media Player.
Alpine was founded in 1978 as Alpine Electronics of America. It is one of the world’s most premiere manufacturers of electronic components for computers, communications, and car audio equipment. The Alpine Single-Din Car Stereo, is one of the companies best aftermarket radios on the market.
Boss Audio has been in the business of car audio equipment for the past three decades. The company focuses on creating products built for just about any vehicle you can imagine, whether it’s on land or on water. If you’re looking for a great aftermarket radio, consider the BOSS Audio Car Multimedia Player.
Aftermarket Radio Pricing
- Under $100: If you’re looking to save on cash, you can find a decent aftermarket radio at this price point. They will generally be single DIN radios and feature simple interfaces with a compact design. Many may even come with Bluetooth connectivity to stream from your phone.
- $100-$200: You’ll find some high-quality aftermarket radios in the middle price region. They can range from single DIN to double DIN and will come with several features. These can include Bluetooth, AUX inputs, built-in streaming services, voice control, and navigation systems.
- $200 and up: The best car stereo will be more expensive yet more functional. They will come with all the features mentioned above plus more. You can customize their large screens to fit your style and personality.
Understanding how to operate your new aftermarket radio heat unit is important. You don’t want one that is too complicated to figure out. If you’re looking for a simple radio to stream music, then look for ones with Bluetooth so you can connect your phone or device to it. Many also come with built-in options so you don’t have to use a device. Larger screens can make things easier to see while driving but be careful when messing with it while behind the wheel. Buttons—whether physical or digital—should be easy to find and operate.
You should take note of how large the radio panel is in your vehicle. Not all are designed the same, so you may not be able to fit a double DIN radio into your car. Measure the space in your vehicle and compare it with the size of your preferred aftermarket radio to see if there is enough room for it.
The whole point of a new aftermarket radio is to take control of your music. The best radio will come with a number of ways to stream songs to your speakers. Whether you use Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB or AUX cables, use the radio itself, find one that best fits your needs. The radio should let you connect multiple devices to it so you can switch them out during your drive without a problem.
- Power: To get the best possible sound output, you need to look at the radio’s watts per channel. If the system features a higher watt per channel output, you shouldn’t need an amplifier.
- Compatibility: Not all radios will be compatible with your specific iPhone or Android device. Make sure the model you are looking at will pair with your phone or tablet. The best radios will come with a USB port so you can connect them physically.
- Storage: Aftermarket radios are one of the first things stolen by thieves. They can be easy to remove if they aren’t properly locked away. Many come with anti-theft codes that lock them down when not in use, while others are detachable and can be taken with you.
Best Aftermarket Radio Reviews & Recommendations 2020
This is a powerful and compact single DIN aftermarket radio that functions with both iPhone and Android devices. It features a completely detachable face plate, so you can bring it with you wherever you go. Plus, it has a dedicated subwoofer output, LCD text display, and optional remote control.
One of the best benefits of this radio is it comes preloaded with several audio-streaming options including SiriusXM, Bluetooth connectivity, and HD radio. It also has a bright display that you can see in direct sunlight and it isn’t too bright or distracting at night.
As far as downsides go, there are a few. The biggest problem is the Bluetooth can fail after a few months of use. If that or any other feature fails, you’ll need to send your unit into Alpine for repair. Another thing is the buttons can be a bit loose and feel flimsy and cheap.
This is a stylish and sleek single DIN aftermarket radio designed by Kenwood. It features both an AUX and USB port for simple smartphone connectivity. Plus, you can use Pandora, Spotify, SiriusXM, and iHeartRadio through this device for convenience. You can also pair up to five Bluetooh devices for extra versatility.
You can control the interface without even touching the radio with your fingers. By downloading the app, you can take control of the radio through your phone and pass it around to passengers in the back. The radio also comes with a full wiring harness kit that makes for a simple installation.
You will find a few troubling aspects of this radio, especially when it comes to its physical connections. You may have some issues with the Bluetooth and USB ports, where they intermittently cease working randomly. They also are lagging when it comes to speed, as they only support USB 2.0, and not USB 3.0.
If your old stereo no longer works and you need a quick replacement, this Kenwood car audio system is a great choice. It is a minimalist's dream as it only has a handful of features. It can play AM/FM radio, satellite radio, and CDs. You can also play music from your phone or stream music from Pandora and Spotify.
The radio has a USB port located on the front, which allows you to play music from a USB stick and other USB devices. It has a large screen so you won't have to squint to see what’s displayed. It also works with Apple and Android devices.
However, it does have a few features we’re not too happy with. The display is not clear and is hard to see in bright sunlight. Changing input sources is also awkward because of the fragile toggles. In addition, radio scanning sensitivity is not very good.
- Look for a radio that has the features you need, such as Apple or Android connectivity, Bluetooth, or SiriusXM radio. You should also pay attention to the ports so you can plug devices directly into it.
- Measure the space your stock radio takes up in your dash. Then look for a radio that will fit in that space. This will make for a direct replacement and the easiest install.
- Plan for the future and expanding your car’s stereo system beyond the radio. Look at the back of the unit for audio jacks for connecting additional speakers and a subwoofer.
Q: Won’t an aftermarket radio attract thieves?
A: Not necessarily. You can buy an aftermarket radio that has a detachable faceplate and security codes. You can then detach your radio and hide it away when you park. This will deter thieves from breaking into your car.
Q: What’s the difference between single and double DIN?
A: Single DIN radios are about 2 inches tall and won’t have a touchscreen. They typically fit into the same space as your stock radio. A double DIN unit can be anywhere from 4-8 inches tall. Modern double DINs have a touchscreen.
Q: Can I buy an aftermarket radio on a limited budget?
A: You can buy a quality unit for an affordable price. You may find low-cost units have reduced sound quality and usability when compared to more expensive units. However, that doesn’t mean that the unit is bad.
The Alpine Single-Din Car Stereo has several modern features to produce high-quality sound.
If you’re on a budget, then the Kenwood Car Media Player is a quality radio from a reputable brand.