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5 key steps to buying the right car stereo

Find the gear that's right for you and your car

Shopping for car audio

When you're shopping for a new car stereo, it's easy to get caught up in facts, figures, and features. So how do you determine what's right for you? Here are five key things to keep in mind while you're choosing car receivers, speakers, and other audio gear.


1. Think about what you listen to in the car

"So, what kind of music do you like?" Yes, we know that's a question most often seen on dating websites, but in this case, it's not totally lame. When shopping for a new stereo, it's not the kind of music that matters so much as how you listen to it.

Do you tune in to local radio? Do you listen to CDs when you're on the road? Would you like to plug your phone, music player, or USB drive into a front USB port? Or do you simply prefer the ease of streaming your music collection or playlists via Bluetooth?

The best-sounding stereo is no good at all if you can't play your music your way, so make sure you choose a receiver that does everything you need it to do.

lincoln stereo

2. What would you like to change about your stereo?

If you've been living with a factory stereo for a while now, you probably have a mental list of "pet peeves" you want to address. Are you tired of weak sound and spotty reception? Sick of not being able to play downloaded music?

Before you start shopping, make a list. Even if you plan to replace everything, it still helps to remember what you hate about your old system while you build a new one.


3. Assess your DIY skills

If you're even slightly acquainted with a tool kit, you can probably install your own car stereo with help from a Crutchfield MasterSheet and our tech support team. Our award-winning, expert help is only a phone call away if you run into a snag. 

sony receiver

4. Set your budget

This is probably the least-fun part of shopping for a car stereo, but it's still important. We'd never dissuade anyone from buying exactly what they need, but we do suggest that you think ahead just a bit when you’re shopping.

When you're setting your budget, consider what you need now, then think about the features you might want to have in a year or two. It's easier to step up now than re-do later.

installing speakers

5. Find what fits

Now that you know what you want, you need to see what works in your car. With Crutchfield's Outfit My Car tool, all you need to do is enter your vehicle information. We'll show you the stereos and speakers that fit, along with any relevant information you need to know before you buy. We'll also match you up with the dash kit, harnesses, and tools you'll need, and even give you a hefty discount on your installation gear.

For more information like this, check out our car audio for the first-time buyer article. You can also contact one of our expert advisors via phone, email, or chat.

Find what fits your vehicle


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