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Is the car CD player dead?

Recent survey says "not quite yet"

Indash CD

Remember when your only option for music in the car was the AM/FM radio? Unless you were born before 1960, it’s not likely. Despite the many changes in media formats and sources over the past half century, AM/FM radio is still the top choice for drivers, according to a June 2016 survey by Strategy Analytics called “Usage of In-Car CD Players Continues to Drop, but What Will Replace Them?”

Radio rules for now

Derek Viita, Senior Analyst and report author, commented that although usage of the in-car AM/FM radio continues to decline, it "remains tops for usage and interest, primarily driven by the desire for up-to-date traffic information without the data connection that most popular traffic apps require." So even though more people are turning to their smartphone apps to learn about traffic in their area, most still hear about it through timely on-air local radio reports from their favorite DJs.

In-dash CD players hold on for dear life

The survey also indicated that demand for in-vehicle CD players as a “must-have” feature has fallen to historic lows. But despite the rise of in-dash app interfaces such as Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™, a clear contender for the primary information/entertainment platform has yet to emerge to supplant the traditional compact disc-playing AM/FM radio.

Bluetooth® makes integrating the phone easier

With Bluetooth becoming standard in more vehicles, it’s easier than ever for drivers to hear music through their devices without worrying about the right adapter or cable. And nearly every new aftermarket receiver beyond the most basic entry-level models offers Bluetooth connectivity, typically with some sort of music control.

Portable sources come on strong

“The only source in the U.S. and Europe that continues to show steady (though slow) growth in interest is an in-vehicle connection to apps,” added Viita. The report shows that demand for these types of connections — as well as hookups to portable media players  has levelled off after explosive growth through 2015. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto seem destined to battle it out for in-dash superiority, but aftermarket manufacturers are wisely trying to integrate both platforms in their touchscreen receivers when possible.

Does streaming spell doom for discs and MP3s?

Not only are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto great for playing music stored on smartphones, they’re both compatible with established music streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify. As these services (including Apple Music) become more popular, not only does the compact disc seem doomed to irrelevance, but the concept of digital file storage starts to recede as well. If you’re ready to give up on CDs but not making the move to streaming any time soon, check out our article about MP3s and bitrates.

We still believe in the in-dash CD player

Despite the doom and gloom in the Strategy Analytics report, we’re willing to bet that CD players still have a lot of life left in them. In fact, they’ll likely be on the road longer than your current vehicle, and maybe even the next one. Despite their lack of convenience for accessing a large library of songs at once, they still sound great and don’t depend on your phone or tablet to deliver the musical goods. 

  • bjh from md

    Posted on 6/13/2018

    I am discussed, my new car came without what I ask for a CD player.... I ask the dealer if I could do an aftermarket, they said yes . I ask for a letter of assurance that if I placed and player in , it would not void my warrantee , I was told they could not do that. well I was roaring mad told them id bring the car back and remove my tags leave it and keys on there lot . if they did not stand by their word I contacted the bbb. by mail in two days I received a call from the dealer asking me to come in they placed a add on CD player and attached it in my console with wire to USB port. its not what I wanted but its better than nothing. you have to fight for anything these days . I will buy a older car next time and they can keep there meaning less tech. crap. I want what I want if I going to pay for it... my older car was more comfortable to drive than the new one , I miss it , 30 k .is a lot of money not to get what you want.. buyer be ware!

  • Steve from West Caldwell, NJ

    Posted on 4/6/2018

    I've invested too much money in compact discs over the years to convert to a smartphone to play music in a car, and besides, I can't AFFORD a damn smartphone!

  • dee from chicago

    Posted on 3/1/2018

    unfortunately new digital era and no CD in vehicles is a pathetic idea. My musical interests include such obscure pieces that no one would ever know to what I was listening and streaming or whatever is out there would not make a bit of difference because these systems could not locate what I need to hear. A person like myself with a diverse background in musical genres would be shortchanged by the lack of product that exists in the digital world. Basically, there's a world of music out there that no one will ever hear. I like my CDs, vinyl records and my collection of music and I know what I like. Stop making it difficult for me to listen to it in my vehicle.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/27/2017

    Char, not that we carry. However, if you're interested in replacing your radio with a CD receiver, just give us a call!

  • Char from Amherst

    Posted on 7/26/2017

    Just purchased a 2017 GMC Acadia and I'm very satisfied with it. However, I'm in mourning as it does not have a CD player! I have an extensive collection of CDs I've purchased over the years and not only do I not know how to put all my CDs on a memory stick, I don't want to spend time doing it. I like having individual artists CDs and I know which song is on which CD. I guess I'm just a simple old dinosaur! Does anyone know if there's some sort of portable CD player for vehicles that simply plugs in?

  • rulon black from ogden

    Posted on 6/7/2017

    I have several hundred CD's. They are my preferred way to listen to music. Why should i be forced to buy an ipod and have to spend hours upon hours transferring music to an new device? The deciding factor in my recent car purchase(2016) was that it included a cd player. I already own a copy of the music, why should i have to pay for a digital copy. Many of the CD's include music that is out of print.fashion and is not available for purchase.

  • Jeff Hunter from St. Louis

    Posted on 5/21/2017

    I had a bad experience with the last system that I put in one of my cars. I installed a CD player and new speakers, but the car was a car that was easy to break into and that's what happened. The car was even sitting on my driveway at my house. I still believe in using CD's and still do, but then again I still have "LP's" and cassette tapes to. My 98 Camaro has an in-dash cassette player, but it's been ages since I've used it to. I just believe in the nostalgia history of my life with my audio gear!

  • Jill Chamberlain from Memphis

    Posted on 5/15/2017

    I prefer the CD option simply because I do not want to have to purchase music that I already have on CD and some if what I listen to is not available online. I know I can upload CD's to my apple account, but I have an android phone. Of course, my kids prefer using their bluetooth and iphones.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 3/13/2017

    Keith, unfortunately, we don't carry any add-on CD players any longer. There's just not the demand there once was.

  • matt from aurora, il

    Posted on 3/12/2017

    I'm old. I have a large collection of CDs. In fact I still buy them. In my car, I will listen to the CD(s) on my way home from the record store. But once I'm home, the audio gets put on my iPod and the CD(s) get put away in my collection. My iPod, aside from when it's connected to my computer to add songs, is permanently connected to my car stereo in the glove box. I also have Sirius integrated and Pandora via Bluetooth in the car. I use all these things regularly, but despite having HD radio as well, I never use it. Terrestrial radio in Chicago is a wasteland of crap and commercials. If there were one feature in my car I would never miss, it would be am/fm. If I need weather, I look at an app on my phone. My stereo has a DVD player too, but I will never use it, it was my only choice when looking for a stereo that was touchscreen that also played CDs. I wouldn't have bought a stereo without CD capability.

  • Eric Controne from Asheville

    Posted on 3/12/2017

    I'm sure most of the recent music collectors are all digital bit those of us who have collected mix tapes and cds (as well as avid record collections) over the years still love "hard" media. I still use cassettes in the car as will because it brings the original experience of the recording. While the media does degrade the memory of purchase experience (usually from a show or event) various on with each use. The experience of purchasing "ghost" media disappears add quickly as a Facebook post.

  • Keith H from Huntsville

    Posted on 3/9/2017

    I "hope" an in dash CD player hangs around for many years. I understand all the other digital options. But...I have no desire to convert/record all my CDs to my phone (or some other source). I really wish the multi-disc CD player was still an option. I enjoy grabbing six CDs and putting them in my in-dash cd player. I "assumed" the first step on doing away with the CD player would be a single CD player with a hard drive (to record the CDs to). That would be an acceptable arrangement because I could record my CDs as I listen to them. (This does not require me to take special/extra time to record my CDs to my phone.) But...the most recent new car that I have looked at only has a single CD player with NO hard drive. Another reason I like a multi CD player is that I am an "entire" album listener, not just one or two songs from an album. I know that I am a dying "breed"...but that is what I like. TO CRUTCHFIELD...are there or will there be extra "add-on" cd players. (Like it was before CD players became standard in cars back in the mid 90s.) There used to be trunk mounted CD players and off course the under dash CD players. Do you have any of these CD players?

  • George from Smyrna

    Posted on 3/8/2017

    Hey Jake, the other advantage CD's have is that .wav files on CD sound a lot better than MP3's. Reason enough to keep the format alive.

  • Mark Willilams from Bozeman

    Posted on 3/8/2017

    I will have a cd player in my truck as long as I can obtain one. I don't trust digital - i lost too many songs and albums to it! I like having something tangible to play. The phone solutions and satellite all have subscription fees to use. Once i buy a CD - I don't have to keep shelling out to listen to it, I don't have connectivity/reception cutouts, I just put it in , and it works!! It's dependable, and very small investment with no advertising to listen to. I could go on, but the short of the long is I am not impressed with the electronic storage, i like having teh solid item. thanks Crutchfield for allowing us to stil have a choice! You guys are great!

  • Wesley

    Posted on 3/8/2017

    Usb thumb drive is where its at!

  • Jeff from Metro Detroit

    Posted on 11/8/2016

    Interesting article. Once Bluetooth and USB connectivity to your radio became standard on OEM radios, I really see no use for CD players in cars. I talked to a few people and they have CD Players in the car but none of them have used it because of their smartphone having all their music stored on it or using the apps including myself. I don't want my valuable CD's ruined by extreme weather conditions (stored in extreme cold or heat), worry about theft or taking the time to burn copies of the original and keep the copies in my car. I grew up when cassette players were still an option on cars!

  • Roy from Detona

    Posted on 9/29/2016

    Hi, I still like them!

  • Dennis from West Chester

    Posted on 9/26/2016

    Strange no mention of satellite radio. I don't know anyone who has tried satellite over the years and then gone back to am/fm, and I think it recently passed the 30 million subscribers mark. I think that's like 1 in 4 households. In our cars we use a combo of satellite, streaming (including satellite via stream, among other services), and various storage devices. CDs and terrestrial radio died for us many years ago.

  • J.R. Goad from Blue Ridge

    Posted on 9/23/2016

    I don't understand why you would not include a CD player on every new car.I listen mostiy to talk radio when I'm out anyway,but sometimes I really enjoy a CD in the car. A friend was ready to buy a new Corvette last week, then discovered there was no CD player.Bottom line, he didn't buy the car.I feel the same way.There is way too much extraneous electronic complication in new cars that I,for one,am unwilling to pay for.i listen to music online at home,where it's not a driving distraction.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/19/2016

    Jake, thanks for your input. Your experience is exactly what the research we were referencing seems to suggest. People seem to be adopting modern technologies as their preferred music sources, instead of CD, and yet FM radio seems to be that "instant on" source for most people.

  • Jake

    Posted on 9/18/2016

    I'd say you're dead wrong about this, but you are Crutchfield and I'm sure you have the best perspective on this subject. Personally, I've been all in on the digital and mobile revolution. I was blown away when 3G cellular was good enough to stream, and LTE makes it a snap. I haven't listened to FM in years except for when my wife has NPR on. Apple Music is fantastic as well as a number of other services I've used over the years. Bluetooth and USB still needs work a bit since it still makes an extra step to set up something to play on my phone. Sure if I didn't do anything on my phone since I last docked it, it might pick up where I left off, but more often than not I did use some other app that interrupted how the audio was playing and I have to set up a music app again when I get in the car. Basically cars need to have LTE built in but service carriers charge you extra fees for more access points that nobody wants to pay. But for me personally, wires or no wires, it's completely worth the extra twenty seconds when I get into a car to set something up to play on my phone to have access to millions of songs. To go back to mere hundreds via CD is unthinkable. The only advantage that CD and FM has, is you don't have that step of setting up something to play. You just get in and drive. When industry can figure out a solution to that problem, it will further put a nail in these technologies.


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