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A lot of things have improved in the automotive world over the years, and some things seemed to have done so without being noticed at all. The humble car stereo is definitely one of these items, with today’s touch screen models boasting a range of useful features and high end functionality that car stereos of yesterday could only dream off.
Today the right model can be a key part of the dashboard installation and, through synching with various devices can make your car a safer and more fun place to be. Buying a new stereo can however be a big investment, with both the initial financial outlay plus the installation time taken into account.
That’s why we’re here to help you find the perfect model for you.
The Best Touch Screen Car Stereos
The first model to make our list is from Boss Audio, and it is very much the budget option on the list, being the only product to scrape in under 100 bucks. For the money though it does have a range of useful features.
The biggest plus that jumps out is the sheer range of formats it can accommodate in playback mode. We have everything from DVD and CD playing through to Bluetooth synching to stream audio from a phone or MP3 player to a useful USB slot that you plug stored media straight into.
Physical inputs comprise the USB slot we mentioned above, as well as SD Card compatibility and AV input slots – it can even be synched to a rear view camera if you have one.
The downside is that it frankly looks as cheap as it costs, and it is not going to improve the appearance of your dashboard at all. It’s also missing a few of the bells and whistles you’d expect on a more premium model. Still, for the price it’s kind of hard to be too down on it.
Built in Bluetooth
Supports Multiple Inputs
- BrandBoss Audio
- Weight4.8 lbs
Cheap! Very, Very Cheap.
Pretty Wide Input Compatibility
Poor Built in GPS
This model from Jensen comes with a price tag about twice the size of the Boss Audio product we looked at above, however at about 200 dollars it’s still somewhat toward the lower end of mid range.
It does live up to it’s name, bringing with it the ability to use a number of playback formats – CD, DVD, Bluetooth connectivity, pretty much anything you can think off. The screen size in particular is impressive, a 6.2-inch LCD monster that is especially useful for DVD playback.
So it’s shame that in any mode other then DVD, the display is pretty boring. That’s especially true in Bluetooth playback mode, where there is virtually no visible display at all. That seems like a bit of shame given the effort that Jensen have gone to cram such a big and bright screen into the stereo.
Still, it does pretty much everything you want from a touch screen car stereo, and whilst it may not do it with the flair of more premium brands, that midrange price tag makes this a very appealing model.
Built in Bluetooth Connectivity
Large 6.2 Inch Screen
Music & Video Playback
- Weight5.85 lbs
Excellent Bluetooth Connectivity
Compatible with Apple & Android Phones
Very Generic Display
Pioneer are well regarded as one of the best manufacturers of car stereos and associated electrical equipment, so it shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise that they will be featuring twice on our list. This entry is the cheaper version of the two, and it is missing a few of the premium features we’ll find on the other Pioneer.
That being said, this is not a particularly cheap model, and nor it is a poor effort. The nicest feature about this model is definitely the screen. At 6.2 inches it is one of the bigger ones, but it is also LED Backlit. That means it looks good, has a sharp display and should work well in all types of light level.
2-volt pre amp output is decent, if not top of the range, and sound quality should be good at most levels – but you may notice some background hiss if you crank it to 11. Bluetooth hands free is good and intuitive, it’s just a shame that you can’t install Siri directly, instead all voice commands run through the phone, which can be annoying.
Still, the Pioneer name alone is a guarantee of quality, and this is certainly a very good model.
6.2 Inch Screen
LED Backlit Display
5-Band Graphic Equalizer
- Weight3 lbs
Pioneer Quality for Lower Price
No Remote Control
Siri Voice Commands Run Through Phone not Stereo
This Single Din sized model is a pretty unique design from Boss Audio, and it is in fact the only one of it’s kind on the list. Naturally, a Double Din is usually going to beat a Single, at least in terms of usability. There is simply more space to work with so the screen is nice and big, the display is crisp and it’s easier to use.
Not all cars are set up for Double Din sized radios though, and if yours is not then this product could interest you. The main body of the stereo is Single Din sized, with a large touch screen mounted atop it.
You are getting exactly the same features as the Boss product above – so audio streaming from a range of devices that can sync via Bluetooth or the USB slot, and Bluetooth Hands Free technology for making phone calls or talking to Siri or Alexa.
As we discussed above, Boss is a bit of a budget level manufacturer. So on the one hand, a price tag of around 100 bucks is very welcome. On the other, it is clear this is a budget model, with, for example, some of the buttons feeling a little cheap, and the overall build quality lagging a bit behind a high end model. . Still, a very unique design with a range of useful features.
Bluetooth Hands Free
DVD & CD Playback
- BrandBoss Audio
- Weight5.05 lbs
Single Din Size
Does Not Charge Devices
Only Plays MP3 Files
Kenwood is another well-recognized manufacturer, and they have brought this model to the market for a shade under 300 bucks, making it a bit more expensive than typical midrange.
What are you getting for that cash though? Well, the first thing that stands out is the fact this model comes equipped with a HD radio receiver (in addition to standard FM & AM). If you like radio a lot then consider checking out this model, because HD radio is such a step up from the standard bands in terms of audio quality.
In addition to that we have a well designed and user friendly interface, and the model is bundled with preloaded Ipod, Iphone and Android controls so you can easily sync your devices and control them through the stereo. There is also a USB for physical synching, and the port is strong enough to charge devices that are plugged in.
The only downside is that the interface can be a little sluggish in use, often with a bit of a delay between pressing an option on screen and seeing the command carried out. That could well be patched in a future software release however, and until then it’s a pretty minor complaint for an otherwise very good stereo.
Built in Phone/Ipod Control
6.95 Inch Screen
- Weight7 lbs
Great for Radio Lovers
Easy, Synched Controls for Phone or Ipod
Our second model from Pioneer, and it truly is a premium level, extremely well designed product – however for the price tag it’s sporting, you’d expect it to be! As we mentioned above, the Pioneer name plus the price tag is your guarantee that you’re getting a truly premium product here – but what features is it packing to justify the dent it will make in your bank account?
You get all the standard features you would expect. Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls on the fly, a wide and comprehensive list of media file playback including DVD and CD. Built in control for Ipod, Iphone & Ipad makes synching and using Apple devices incredibly easy but is also has excellent synching with Android devices (if a little less hands on control).
The NEX (Network Entertainment Experience) is the jewel in the crown, boasting a totally innovative blend of build in synching and external cloud based services to provide an incredibly easy and intuitive way to use all of your apps on the go. The 7-inch screen is both gorgeous and huge and really helps you make the most of the NEX functionality too.
This is a really well designed, really well thought out model. If you can look past the price tag – perhaps see it as a long-term investment – you could be onto a winner.
Built in Bluetooth & Siri Eyes Free
Cloud Connectivity to Connect to Multiple Devices
- Weight6 lbs
Top Quality Build
Internal Amp for Excellent Audio Output
This model from Regetek is a pretty low priced entry, and as such has a few pros and cons. The pros, other than the price, are definitely the screen, which at 7 inches is one of the biggest on the list.
That brings us neatly to one of the drawbacks however, which is a complete absence of DVD and CD playback. It’s a shame to have a screen this big and not be able to play DVD movies on it.
Away from that we have the standard Bluetooth connectivity, and the device has a built in microphone to make calls easier (you don’t have to root tout your phone and bellow into it!)
That’s about it. It’s a pretty basic model for a low price that will probably do a decent job, even if it is severely lacking in the bells and whistles and extra features that you’ll find on higher end models.
7-Inch LCD HD Screen
Built in Microphone
- Weight2.25 lbs
Excellent Quality Screen
No CD or DVD Playback
We like JVC products here at Car Bible. The veteran electronic manufacturer may not have the star appeal it did back in the day, but it can still crank out quality products, of which this is one. Add in the fact that it comes with a price tag under 200 dollars and you can see why it piqued our interest.
The truth is though, this is a painfully midrange model. The fact it is made by JVC adds an air of quality. But feature wise we are pretty much at the minimum expectations, with Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and media streaming and no CD or DVD playback. The display is very dull and workmanlike, so don’t expect people to compliment the stereo, or probably even notice it.
However, if you want a good quality model that just quietly goes about it’s business answering phone calls and playing the radio (which is at least HD, that’s a big plus) this is a very good car stereo that’s just a tad boring.
50 Watt Power Output
Built in Bluetooth Technology
Satellite & HD Radio
- Weight4.85 lbs
Great Radio Receiver
JVC Build Quality
Relative Low Price
1.1 USB Port
Best Touch Screen Stereo Buying Guide & FAQ
Well, there are some serious high tech devices on that list. The stereo with the most features or most glitzy presentation may not be the right one for you however. To help you decide on the model that best suits your needs, we’ve put together a short rundown off all the important features you should bear in mind whilst selecting your stereo.
After that, we know a big concern with new stereo owners can be the installation process – either how much it’s going to cost for a professional installation, or just how to go about handling your own stereo installation. So we’re going to take a look at that too, because we’re just awesome like that.
Different Types of Car Stereo Systems
There are a number of different features which can make up a car stereo, however broadly speaking the main thing that separates them is size, and that comes down to Double and Single DIN, which by the way stands for Duetch Industri Normen, because it was originally used to standardize car radio sizes in Germany. It’s not complicated; it just refers to the height of the front panel.
Single is the traditional (read old school) size, double is the modern size. A double gives space for a nice big screen, which is why most of the models on this list are double sized.
What Features Make a Good Touch Screen Car Stereo?
Size (Double or Single) – See Above!
Screen Size – There may not be a huge difference in screen sixes, however if you are planning on watching AV playback, it does make sense to pick the biggest screen size you can find. A stereo that can play films can be a life saver when you are driving distances with kids on board by the way. In addition, if you are planning on using GPS, naturally a bigger screen will display the map that bit better.
Backlight – Most (but not all) models have backlit screens. That makes them easier to see at night, so if you drive after dark a lot, consider getting a backlit model so you’re not peering at a gloomy display.
Detachable Front – This is a useful anti theft feature. If the front clicks off, you take it away when you park the car. The head unit left behind is useless without the front, deterring any would be thieves.
Connectivity – You ideally want the stereo to connect easily to as many devices as possible. After all, the whole point of the thing is to make your life that little bit easier. If the stereo has built in operating apps that synch with the phone, that’s useful as it means you can access things like your address book and messages from your dashboard display.
How Much Does it Cost to Install a Car Stereo?
If you want to take the hassle out of installing a new stereo, then it could be a good idea to consider putting it in the hands of a professional.
Prices are going to vary across the board, depending on various factors such a where you live in the country and how many audio auto shops there are near you for price comparisons. Very broadly speaking you should be looking at:
- Standard In Dash Stereo Install - $75
- In Dash with DVD Player - $100
As with anything it is of course worth shopping around, and do keep an eye out for a installation company that offers a long warranty/guarantee for their work.
How to Install a Touch Screen Car Stereo in a Car
Or you could DIY it, and it’s not as complicated as you may imagine. This guide from the cool folks at Lifewire will talk you through the equipment and procedure of installing a new Double Din stereo.