Best in-dash navigation stereos for 2018
Check out our customer favorites and best-sellers
In this article... we'll discuss four of our customer favorites for in-dash navigation receivers:
- Kenwood Excelon DNX995S
- Pioneer AVIC-W8400NEX
- Alpine INE-W960HDMI
- Boss BN965BLC with a backup camera
What makes them top sellers and sure bets for 2018? Let's find out!
More and more newer vehicles come with double-DIN (4" tall) dash openings, so why wouldn't you want to take advantage of that real estate with a spiffy and helpful new in-dash navigation receiver? You'll not only get great maps and guidance that'll work even when your phone can't provide directions, but you'll also have significant upgrades in sound and smartphone integration, especially with Android Auto™ and/or Apple CarPlay®.
In most cases, you'll also enjoy the ability to hook up a rear-view camera, or play video content from your phone, a thumb drive, or a DVD while you're parked. Many nav receivers also work with the iDatalink Maestro interface module, which lets you keep your car’s factory features, and in some cases will add vehicle performance gauges not available to you before.
As a starting point, here are four recent models which have delivered high customer satisfaction ratings. After reading this article, if you want a deeper dive into what to look for when shopping for a new GPS stereo, check out our in-dash navigation buying guide.
What makes these favorites?
The navigation models we highlight below are not only some of our best-selling stereos. They have also earned an average Crutchfield customer rating of 4 (or more) stars*, which means that our customers really like the receivers once they've spent some time with them.
Kenwood Excelon DNX995S — Wireless Android Auto and a treat for the eyes
What you need to know: Kenwood's flagship navigation receiver delivers more than just great guidance and sound. It boasts a 6.75" high-definition (720p) touchscreen, so its maps and album artwork always look exceptional, even at an angle or in bright sunlight. It’s also compatible with the iDatalink Maestro module. And Kenwood backs it with a 2-year warranty.
Navigation features: Kenwood loads this receiver with guidance by Garmin, one of the most trusted names in GPS. It boasts spoken street names at turns, lane assistance, and realistic views of complicated intersections. It also offers optional traffic reports through the INRIX smartphone app, and includes a 2-year subscription when you purchase this stereo.
Phone integration features: This receiver works with both wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. What sets it apart is that you can also use Android Auto wirelessly, saving you the trouble of having to plug or unplug your phone whenever you get in or out of your vehicle. Kenwood's WebLink feature lets you access Yelp and YouTube through the dash from both types of phone, too.
Audio features: Got high-resolution (24-bit/192kHz) FLAC, DSD, or WAV music files? This Kenwood can play 'em. The Excelon badge means this Kenwood packs gold-plated 5-volt preamp outputs for better signal transfer, not to mention a 13-band EQ. You also get an HD Radio™ tuner built in, plus compatibility with SiriusXM satellite radio.
Pioneer AVIC-W8400NEX — Wireless compatibility for Apple and Android fans alike
What you need to know: Pioneer's newest navigation receiver sports a 7" capacitive touch display, perfect for controlling Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which can both be employed wirelessly. It also works with up to two cameras, including a dash cam. And it’s compatible with both SiriusXM satellite radio and the iDatalink Maestro module.
Navigation features: Pioneer uses HERE guidance, which includes nearly 12 million points of interest and coverage across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Canada. Built-in real-time traffic updates keep you aware of possible delays, and spoken speed limit warnings help you stay on the right side of the law.
Phone integration features: As mentioned, it works with both wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto using a native Wi-Fi network. Pioneer's AppRadio Mode+ gives you access to more apps, including a media player, news, and a calendar to help keep you organized. For older phone owners, Wi-Fi Miracast lets you mirror your phone's screen on the receiver's display without a wired connection.
Audio features: This Pioneer boasts a 13-band EQ and the ability to use AutoEQ (with an optional microphone) to tune for your car's specific interior. It also offers time correction and listening position adjustments, as well as programming pre-set volume levels for different sources. It plays hi-res lossless digital files, and Pioneer's MIXTRAX feature lets you blend your digital music files into a seamless mix with DJ effects.
Alpine INE-W960HDMI — Superior sound and satellite radio solution
What you need to know: Alpine saw that a lot of their customers were into satellite radio, so they made the wise choice to include a SiriusXM SXV300 satellite radio tuner with this stereo. New users get a 3-month subscription free when they purchase this stereo. The INE-W960HDMI’s 6.1" display puts all the stereo’s mapping, entertainment, and audio controls right at your fingertips.
Navigation features: Guidance across the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, including 3D terrain views and 3D representations of buildings and landmarks.
Phone integration features: Built-in Bluetooth® for hands-free calling, plus excellent control over your Pandora app. It plays well with iPhones, and its HDMI input makes it easy to connect your Android or Windows smartphone for on-screen control of select apps.
Audio features: A 24-bit digital-to-analog converter ensures all your music from discs or files sounds great. Alpine lets you customize the sonic characteristics to match your ride’s upholstery type, number of speakers, and speaker locations.
Boss BN965BLC with a backup camera — No-frills guidance, plus a touch of safety
What you need to know: The receiver's finger-friendly 6.5" screen gives you convenient command of your music and maps. This receiver offers playback from thumb drives and SD cards, plus a front auxiliary input and disc player. A wireless remote control lets your passengers get in on the action. And Boss includes a rear-view camera so you can get into and out of tight spots without fear.
Navigation features: Its maps cover the entire U.S. (except Hawaii) and Puerto Rico. It offers spoken street names at turns, so you’ll be sure about your next move. Lane information and signposts provide additional detail.
Phone integration features: Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free streaming and calling, but there’s not a lot of integration beyond that. If you want to listen to music from your phone, you’ll have to either stream it or use the stereo’s auxiliary input.
Audio features: A 10-band EQ lets you make crucial adjustments. The Reverb feature gives your tunes a bit more personality, including a “Bathroom” setting to echo your favorite shower singalongs.
With the right navigator, getting there can be half the fun
If you're ready to make the move to better maps, sound, and phone integration, there are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for a navigation stereo:
How much do you want to spend? An in-dash navigator that seems like a great value is probably limited in key phone integration features and sonic tweaks. If you don't need to access your favorite maps while driving and are generally not too picky about sound quality, a more expensive model might be overkill.
How long do you plan to use it for guidance? Some manufacturers let you update your receiver's maps for free or for a fee. However, if you can't update your maps, your receiver might not be terribly helpful for directions in a few years.
What fits your car? You'll need to pick a navigator that fits the dash of your car, which is generally not a problem for most double-DIN dash openings. For some newer vehicles, replacing the factory receiver might be impossible because of climate controls or other features which will be lost. There are a handful of options for single-DIN (2" tall) openings, typically with fold-out screens. Receivers without a disc player are especially easy to fit. Use our Outfit My Car tool to refine your choices.
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*Note: The star ratings cited are current as of October 2018.