It could be that your old stereo has gone up to heaven. You may have bought an old car with no stereo at all. Or you may just be looking to upgrade an old car stereo. But, whatever reason you might have to upgrade your stereo, I say go for it.
Tape cassettes, 8-tracks, CDs – these are all relegated to the dustbin of the past. Everyone knows that. But stereos without Bluetooth and with only USB plugs are just about as archaic at this point.
If you’re going to upgrade and install a new car stereo, make sure you get something that has all the connectivity and convenience your modern life deserves. So, the only question left is, “How much does it cost to install a car stereo?”
Parts of a Car Stereo
For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to quickly explain the different parts of a car stereo system. This will help you decide what you need to install, and also help you estimate the cost of what putting in your system will cost.
Because not everyone’s needs are the same, costs can vary widely. But, we’ll at least get you to a ballpark figure you can use to base your choices on.
This is the same as a receiver on a home stereo system and is also sometimes called by this name. The head unit is the user interface, including all your control knobs, screens, buttons, and connectors.
Modern head units can include Bluetooth, GPS navigation, and even touch screens. So, they’re more like full entertainment centers than just stereos.
Head Unit Slot Size
This has been standardized by the Deutsches Institut fur Norming (DIN). For that reason, there are two sizes you’ll find on almost all modern cars.
- 7.09” x 1.97” Single DIN (180mm x 50mm).
- 7.09” x 3.94″ Double DIN (180mm x 100mm).
Make sure you know the size of your slot before you buy yourself a stereo head unit!
Most head units these days include a built-in amplifier. But, it depends on what you’re trying to do with your sound system. If you want a ton of power and pumping volume, you may want to purchase a head unit without an amp (also called a tuner) and a separate, powerful amplifier.
If you go this route, you may need more space to install car head units and amplifiers at the same time.
A car stereo, like any stereo system, wouldn’t be complete with speakers. All cars these days come with some sort of built-in stereo and speaker system (except maybe in North Korea – I can’t seem to find any information on North Korean cars!).
However, while standard factory speakers can give you a basic listening experience, they haven’t generally got the power and clarity to really help you enjoy your tunes the way you might want to.
Have four or six speaker systems in place. Four of the speakers are generally placed in the four doors. The other two could be anywhere from the main console to the ceiling to the trunk area.
All of these speakers need to be wired into your head unit. So, the more speakers you have, the more wiring will be needed.
Of course, a subwoofer is a type of speaker, but it’s a special one most car stereos don’t have. A sub is big – at least 6 inches. But, in practice, more commonly 10-12” or bigger in a car stereo system like this 15 inch from Skar Audio.
Subwoofers provide the bass kick missing from most car audio systems. If you want to add one or a pair of these large, bassy speakers to your system, you’ll need more than just wiring. You may need a new casing or even a hole to be made in some of your vehicle’s paneling.
If you want to add a subwoofer to a car sound system, likely, your car’s amplifier won’t have the juice to handle it. For that reason, you’ll likely need an extra amp to power your sub as well.
Prices for Installation
There are a lot of factors that determine the price of installing a car stereo. These include the components you want, the make and model of your car, speaker locations, and the level of professionalism you want to invest in.
Places like Walmart will do your installation for about $50/hour. More professional companies might charge from $70-$100 per hour.
Of course, this is just the labor cost and won’t include the components. However, some of the more expensive companies will include parts like wires and a wire harness in their prices.
So how much does it cost to install a car stereo?
For a simple install of 4 speakers and a head unit, you could be looking at between 1-2 hours of labor. With the prices I’ve already mentioned, that can translate to $50-100 at the low-end of the scale and $100-$200 at the high-end.
If you want more speakers, a subwoofer, and/or a separate amplifier, installers will need more time, and that could mean up to double the cost.
So for a basic car stereo installation price, you could be looking at a price as cheap as $50. For something big and complicated, you could pay as much as $400 just for the installation.
Head units, amps, wires, speakers, and subs all need to be factored into the total price as well. But they don’t have to be all that expensive. A basic package like this 4-speaker and Bluetooth head unit bundle from Pioneer is less than $100.
So with that and a cheaper install, you can have a full car stereo system in place, parts and labor, for $200. But if you want bigger, better sound, more connectivity options, and a screen, you’re looking at $400 at the very least.
Need a Better Sound in Your Ride?
We have you covered. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Top 10 Best Car Amplifiers, the Best Monoblock Car Amplifiers, the Best 2000 Watt RMS Amps, the Best 3000 Watt Amps, the Best 6.5 Speakers, and the Best 6×8 Speakers you can buy in 2023.
Also, take a look at our detailed reviews of the Best Car Subwoofers, the Best Subwoofers for Single Cab Truck, the Best Under Seat Subwoofers, the Best Competition Subwoofer, the Best 15-inch Subwoofers, and the Best 12-Inch Subwoofers currently on the market.
How Much Does It Cost To Install A Car Stereo – Conclusion
There you go – now you know. Or at least you have a good ballpark budget to follow. Remember that prices will vary across locations. The type of car may add to the price if your model is harder to wire than normal. But doing your research and shopping around first can help you keep costs down.
Go into a shop and have a discussion with stereo system designers to see what you can get for the price you can afford. Or, if you’re looking to keep costs down, you can always do your own installation, if you’re handy and good at finding and following instructions, that is.
Otherwise, doing your own work could out to be messier and more expensive than going with a professional installation. Good luck.
Until next time, happy listening.