Are you ready for some new sound in your vehicle? With a simple car stereo installation, you can easily upgrade the sound quality to further enjoy the latest jams. But, how much does it cost to install a car stereo, and what parts will you need?
In this guide, I evaluate the various factors affecting the cost of having a car stereo installed. I also discuss times when you should consider upgrading the car stereo and the various parts that may be needed. In the end, I talk about how long the average car stereo installation takes.
How Much Does It Cost To Install A Car Stereo?
For a basic car stereo, it can cost as little as $50 to $100 to have a car stereo installed, depending on the equipment chosen. On the other end of the spectrum, a complete stereo installation, including a receiver, subwoofer, amplifiers, and speakers, could easily cost more than $1,000.
It all depends on the type of car stereo you want and whether you want other accessories such as amplifiers and subwoofers. Let’s take a look at the factors that affect car stereo installation costs.
Factors Affecting Cost to Install a Car Stereo
1. Equipment Chosen
If you only need to swap out the head unit for a comparable model, the installation time isn’t going to take long. For this reason, you are looking at a lower cost.
On the other hand, if you want to revamp the entire system and you purchase all-new equipment, the labor cost is going to be much higher. Additional services can add even more time to the equation, such as if you want to install sound-dampening materials or re-route wires to a new location.
Plus, if you are choosing high-tech equipment, there’s a level of configuration that needs to take place. For example, if you are putting a navigation system in the car, this all needs to be set up. You must factor in the time that a professional installer is going to need for this customization.
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2. Installation Location
The place you choose to get your stereo installed will also affect the price. If you pay your brother’s neighbor, you may be able to throw a small amount of cash at him and be satisfied. On the other hand, paying any professional is going to cost more.
Among professional stereo installers, you have several options. You can go to a specialized car electronics location, but the prices at these establishments are often among the highest. With that expense, you gain access to a group of professionals that can handle the most complicated installation.
If you are just looking to have a simple installation performed, you might prefer asking your neighborhood Walmart for a price instead. Many locations will install a car stereo head unit for as low as $65 if you purchase the radio from the retailer.
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3. Type of Vehicle
You would think that installing a car stereo would be the same with every vehicle, but that’s not always the case. Some vehicles make it much more difficult to get electronics installed, thereby adding to the cost. Ask the installer to give you a complete estimate upfront so you know what you face.
If the dash needs to be taken apart or pieces moved to get the wiring in the right place, you are looking at a higher bill. The other problem that can occur is pieces breaking because your car is old. In older vehicles, the dash area can become brittle from UV exposure and wear. If something breaks while you are installing the stereo, this is just one more cost you have to deal with.
Signs it’s Time to Replace a Car Stereo
Aside from having the desire to install a better car stereo, there are some signs that you might consider the upgrade. Car stereos are electronic components, so anything can go wrong. If you have been using the stereo heavily, you might notice some of these symptoms of failure.
- No power
- Lack of volume
- Receiver stops playing some media, such as a CD
- Features on the head unit cease working
- Buttons or controls stop working
- Speakers start to buzz
- Audio quality suffers
- Crackling, especially as the volume is turned up
- Sound cuts in and out
If you aren’t familiar with the car stereo, it’s best to have a professional troubleshoot where the failure is. Instead of replacing the entire sound system, you may be able to swap out one component and enjoy beautiful sound once again.
Parts Needed for Car Stereo Installation
1. Head Unit/Receiver
The head unit is the part that you control the rest of the stereo from. It’s otherwise known as a receiver and it sits on the dashboard of the car. There are two different sizes of head units, either the single DIN or double DIN.
You can purchase a very basic head unit that controls the radio and may have a few other media input options for well under $100. On the other end of the spectrum, there are also sophisticated and technologically-advanced models with GPS units and DVD players for several hundred more.
If you plan to upgrade the speakers at all, you will want to consider adding an amplifier to the equation. Amplifiers handle electricity and route it where it’s needed.
Amplifiers are best when running high-performance speakers or a subwoofer. However, depending on how much electricity is needed, you may also need to install another car battery that’s dedicated to the system. The amp size you choose will depend on the other equipment you want to run.
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You can cut costs with some budget-friendly speakers or go all out for an immersive experience. Your most basic speakers are going to keep the cost down, but won’t provide nearly the same sound as a high-performance setup would. If you want to hear every high and low, you are going to need to invest a little bit of money.
In a basic setup, four speakers are all that’s needed. Two would be in the front and two in the rear. However, newer vehicles and performance systems carry many more speakers. In some cars, you may need to replace eight or more, especially if the previous system was considered high-end. If you spend $100 a speaker, the equipment alone could cost you $1,000 or more.
4. Wiring Harness
Considering the amount of power running through the system, you will also need wiring and a harness. If you plan to install a brand-new system that’s better than what’s already in place, you will probably need new wires run and a harness to hold all of the components.
While a wiring harness can make it easier to work on the system later, it will cost you upfront to have it installed. The other benefit of having this harness is how neat and clean the entire system looks. Without a professional, you can hunt down any wire you need in the future, making it easier to work on your own system.
How Long Does it Take to Install a Car Stereo?
If you are simply having a head unit installed, it shouldn’t take more than an hour to install a car sterep. The only reason it would take longer is if the new head unit is not comparable to what’s already in the slot. Additionally, if it’s hard to get into the dash to remove the old head unit, installation could cost more. For most head unit swaps, you can wait for the car at the installer.
If you prefer to have an entire system configured for your listening pleasure, plan on giving up your car for several hours. Even with a group of professionals working on the job, it could easily take four to eight hours until everything is completed. More time is added if you need other services, such as sound-dampening installation.
Can you put a new stereo in an old car?
Yes. It is possible to install a new car stereo in an older car. However, if you want to install a modern double DIN head unit, you may need to make major modifications to your car’s dashboard, depending on the car model.
Can you install a car stereo yourself?
There’s nothing stopping you from tackling the job on your own. With some basic experience, it’s easy to replace a car stereo head unit or swap out a speaker. Where you might run into trouble is adding some performance components into the mix.
For example, if you want to add speakers or other equipment, you will also need to run wiring. This can be a complicated matter. Furthermore, if you are using an aftermarket amplifier in the system, there is some tuning that should be performed. You may even need to add a second battery. To ensure the best sound quality, it’s often wise to hire a professional instead.
Can you add a screen to an old car?
Yes. It is possible to add a screen or double DIN head unit to an old car, but it may require modifications to your car’s dashboard. There are car stereos with expandable screens that fit in original car stereo slots.
How many watts is a good car stereo?
To determine how many watts is good for your car, you need to look at the speakers installed in the car. But usually, anything between 50 and 200 watts is enough for standard speakers in most car models, but it also depends on your preferences.
A car stereo installation cost can cost you anywhere from $50 for a simple car stereo installation to over $1000 if you want big speakers and good amplifiers. It all depends on the complexity of the car stereo system you want to be installed and who you have to do the job.
In most cases, it is best to leave this type of job to the professionals if you are not completely sure of what you are doing. They have the experience and expertise to get the job done right the first time. In addition, they usually offer some form of warranty. So if something goes wrong along the way, you’ll be covered.
Remember that if you connect the car stereo wirings wrong, you can damage other very expensive car electronics parts.