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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.

  • Mark from Eastover NC

    Posted on 9/6/2023

    I just bought an antique car that has a RetroSound stereo installed that has a couple of USB plugs available. On road trips I like to listen to books on CD. Can you recommend a CD player that might be compatible either portable or simple under dash installation?

    Commenter image

    Dominic DeVito from Crutchfield

    on 9/6/2023

    Hi Mark - thanks for reading. We used to carry add-on/portable CD/DVD/Blu-ray players back when demand for discs was higher, but it has fallen off greatly in recent years. One of our Advisors may be able to guide you toward an alternate solution if you get in touch via phone of web chat, but as of right now we don't carry any portable or under-dash players I can recommend. A web search should hopefully lead you to a reputable dealer if you are determined to go that route. Alternately, thrift stores in your area could be a source for secondhand electronics.
  • Benny Rosario from Fishkill

    Posted on 7/21/2022

    My question is, is there someplace where you can get a AM/FM CD player for a KIA/SOUL 2020 or I'm just reaching for the moon, thank you in advance for any assistance that you can provide me with.

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 7/21/2022

    Benny, At the moment, radio replacement is not recommended for the Soul. The main reason is that the hazard light button is built into the radio assembly. That could change in the future, but for now, new speakers will be your best path to better audio. Give us a call and talk to one of our advisors. We can help you choose the right gear and give you the right advice on how to install it.
  • Neil Brunner from Stockton, MO

    Posted on 7/12/2022

    Hi, I have a 2022 corolla hybrid. It has the large touch screen and no cd player. I would like to install a cd player as an "add on". Is this a possibility?

    Commenter image

    Crutchfield Writing Team from Crutchfield

    on 7/12/2022

    Neil, Not exactly, but you do have options. When you enter your vehicle's info into our Outfit My Car tool, you'll see which stereos fit your car, plus the correct harness. If you have any questions, our advisors are available via phone or chat.
  • John Manning from Costa Mesa

    Posted on 2/21/2022

    So I'm gonna be getting a new vehicle soon. I have a large collection of Cd-Rs and CDs. I'm sure hoping for a solution to this issue. I'm one of those who geek/out on recording stuff to listen to, primarily while driving. It really disappointing that car makers want to take this option away.

  • Chris from Rocky Mount

    Posted on 3/5/2021

    I just purchased a 2021 Chevy Blazer. I can't believe there's no option to put a CD player on this thing. All they had to do was put one itty bitty aux input on the dash somewhere and I could've bought a cheap portable CD player. I don't listen to a ton of CD's but I want to have the choice. Like others have said, we've invested a ton in these CD's over the years and the option shouldn't have been taken away. I thought I had found a solution on one site that offered a plug n play USB CD device but it wasn't compatible with this new Blazer. The Blazer comes with USB ports so I don't know why it wouldn't work. I'm not one of these that wishes to pay for XM, I-tunes and any other streaming device. We are being nickle and dimed to death to listen to music and watch/steam tv and movies these days. Enough's enough.

  • Carol Coons from Albuquerque

    Posted on 1/27/2021

    Some Subarus and Vws have them especially in the 2019s

  • dave stemerick from Slickville

    Posted on 12/16/2020

    born 1958 DOOMED getting new truck (ford ranger) no cd player. salesman says don't worry it streams / blue tooth i still have a flip phone

  • Jeff from Houston

    Posted on 12/5/2020

    I was at the electronic box stores today and they had no CD screen type players left and said they are being phased out. I was able to purchase a Pioneer 2550NEX for my 2007 Silverado a few weeks back . Thank goodness! I really like all the features that it comes with it especially the iphone car play. I have over 600 cds so glad I was able to get this. If it ever fails to play guess I will have it repaired instead of trying to buy a new unit.

  • Joyce from North Bellmore

    Posted on 11/12/2020

    I am sad that I can not find a reliable car with a CD player. I like to listen to books on CD on a long drive. The libraries have so many of them, and the car is the perfect place to hear them. Is there a solution so that I can still hear books being read while in the car?

    Commenter image

    Dominic DeVito from Crutchfield

    on 11/13/2020

    Hi Joyce - sorry to hear your search for a car with a CD player is so frustrating. Please see my response to "William R Alldridge from OGDEN" just below for some ideas. A chat with one of our Advisors might help as well; give us a call when you get a chance!
  • JOSEPH HOOPER from Clayton

    Posted on 11/8/2020

    Is there a single din or dbbl din out there; without all the interface stuff just an cd/mp3 am/fm. I don't have to use my phone n drive. Not interested in my radio doing it for me. Or the option. Help... Lol Thanks, Joseph

    Commenter image

    Dominic DeVito from Crutchfield

    on 11/9/2020

    Hi Joseph - thanks for your inquiry. There's likely a CD player we sell that works for you, but we need to know a bit more about your vehicle before we can make a solid recommendation. A Crutchfield Advisor will be in touch via email soon to assist (and you can always call us if you're in a hurry).

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