The Best Car Stereo for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for 2023

These digital car stereos allow you to have quick access to your phone while keeping your eyes on the road.

car stereo

We all enjoy listening to music or some other form of entertainment during a drive, commute, or road trip. A car is not the ideal place to install a sound system. This is because there is a lot of glass, road noise, and few options for speaker placement. Each system has to be tuned specifically for the vehicle to get the best out of the sound that is generated. Some systems do just that. Some upgrades replace existing speakers or amps and add extra speakers. We know the audio quality is subjective and varies depending on taste. So if you are going to spend hours behind the wheel listening to your songs, you will need to have an idea of what to look for when you are searching for the best car stereo.

How We Picked

  • Bluetooth Connectivity

    You need to think of your stereo as the communication command center, so connectivity is a must, especially for your phone calls. You can also play your song collection from your mobile device or streaming service.

  • Touch Screen or Voice Activated

    Voice activation features will always be welcome since they enhance safety while driving. It is the new trend, and if you combine it with a touchscreen, you will have an up-to-date infotainment system.

  • Style and Design

    This is more about the car than the stereo, but if you have an older car, you will probably want to match its style or give it a modern twist.

  • Cost-Effectiveness

    As always, we are trying to master the balance between the price that you are willing to pay and the benefits that you receive from such a purchase.

Our Top Picks

Our Top Pick

Kenwood DDX376BT

Kenwood DDX376BT

You will love the playback in your car combined with the convenience of hands-free calls.

The DDX376BT supports wired Android Auto for most phones and wireless for a select few. It’s also compatible with Apple CarPlay. You can access hands-free calls for convenience, stream music, and use your smartphone as a remote control. While parked, you can enjoy a nice movie with the included DVD player.

Buy Now for $249.00

This stereo comes with all the benefits that you are looking for, including connectivity, and will enhance the security of your vehicle.

Our Runner-Up

Alpine iLX-W650

Alpine iLX-W650

You can take control with two fingers.

The best reason for being here is that it can fit into vehicles that do not have a lot of space behind the dashboard. This stereo allows you to optimize the power of your sound system while taking up the same amount of space as a traditional 2-DIN radio. Also, it is really simple to control with two-finger swipe motions on the touchscreen to control volume, skip, replay, and pause.

Buy Now for $349.95

This car stereo comes with all the features you need on a 7-inch, two-finger touchscreen with a chassis that fits into most dashes.

Most Cost-Effective

Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX

Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX

It features a responsive and intuitive touchscreen user interface that is easy to use and customizable

Pioneer Networked Entertainment's experience line features a responsive and highly customizable user interface. This stereo is designed especially for a lifestyle that is driven by the smartphone. It also has a DVD player and can be connected to the backup camera, if one is available.

Buy Now

This stereo is compatible with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, and iDataLink Maestro.

Everything We Recommend

Our Top Pick

Kenwood DDX376BT

Kenwood DDX376BT

You will love the playback in your car combined with the convenience of hands-free calls.

$249.00

Buy Now

Our Runner-Up

Alpine iLX-W650

Alpine iLX-W650

You can take control with two fingers.

$349.95

Buy Now

Most Cost-Effective

Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX

Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX

It features a responsive and intuitive touchscreen user interface that is easy to use and customizable

Buy Now

Who This Is For

For anyone who enjoys listening to music while driving, but not just any music Your music. With Bluetooth connectivity, you can listen to your streaming services, or if you have a personal collection stored on your smartphone, you will be able to listen to it while hitting the road. It won’t matter if the ride is big or small; you will hear exactly what you want to hear. It is also intended for drivers who must be available at all times, as it will sync your calls directly to your car speakers. Especially when you have an older car, or if your car does not have a built-in option that can offer you something similar, Instead of changing your car, change your stereo.

All the options are compatible with the two most popular smartphone systems, Android and Apple, so it will not matter what your preference is; you are covered with these entertainment systems.

They will also improve the calls from your car by providing a hands-free system, so you will not need to take your hand off the wheel to answer. Some options can display maps, so your GPS will be available from the get-go. Make your car one of your preferred places to be, if it’s not already.

Why You Should Trust Us

We have always enjoyed family car trips since we were children. Mom was the copilot, and one of her duties was to be in charge of the music that we were listening to. She always tried to keep everybody happy. It was all about having a good time as a family, and of course, having music made that a lot of fun.

Once we grew older, the same thing happened with friends and eventually with a family of our own, experiencing new songs and, of course, reliving the old classics. So having a decent stereo in the car that can fulfill our expectations is very important to us.

We know the importance that it can have on your daily routine while commuting, traveling, or just having a pleasant drive. Your car is your partner in crime, and the music is just the soundtrack of your life.

How We Picked

Audio quality can be subjective, and you need to find something that fits your specific needs. Not all stereos will sound the same depending on the type of car you have, the speakers in the car, and, of course, the music.

We try to concentrate on other things besides audio quality, more specifically on connectivity. We looked for stereos that are compatible with most devices and provide a truly unique experience for the user.

Furthermore, we also looked for stereos that were easy to configure and easy to use. We do not like to have a great stereo that only a technician can manipulate because, in the end, you will give up on the settings and start listening to the radio, and that is not what we like.

In addition, it is important to consider if the stereo is going to match the ambiance of your car. You do not want to have a super modern-looking stereo in a car that has a square interior or a color that is too shocking, mainly because it can be distracting while driving, and we do not want to compromise security.

You need something nice to look at but not so nice that it will derail your sight from the road; in that area, there are a lot of models that can cover that middle ground.

Also, you need to take into consideration what other features of your car can benefit from a new car stereo, besides the speakers. For instance, if your car has a reverse camera, you can connect that to the stereo so you can display what it is filming. Or, if you know that you can have spare time between your occupations, you can get one that has a DVD player and watch a movie while having lunch. Some students connect video game consoles to it and play in the parking lot after college.

However, when it comes to selecting a car stereo, we recommend checking them out physically so you can get a general idea of how they sound and what they will look like once they are installed on your car and determine if they can cover your particular needs.

Our Picks For You

Our Top Pick - Kenwood DDX376BT

Our Top Pick

Kenwood DDX376BT

Kenwood DDX376BT

You will love the playback in your car combined with the convenience of hands-free calls.

The DDX376BT supports wired Android Auto for most phones and wireless for a select few. It’s also compatible with Apple CarPlay. You can access hands-free calls for convenience, stream music, and use your smartphone as a remote control. While parked, you can enjoy a nice movie with the included DVD player.

Buy Now for $249.00

Our Top Pick

When it comes to a car stereo, the versatility of this model will tackle all the competition, because it has a connection to the rearview camera, and it comes with a DVD player. So you will have much more than you were expecting originally. Maybe your car does not have a reverse camera, but now you can think about getting one.

Why It's Great

Kenwood has a great reputation for audio quality, and they have renewed themselves to keep up with the current trends. It's all smartphone-oriented, so it has a great couple of integrations with Android and with Apple. The screen is 6.2 inches, so it is big enough for the driver to read the screen really fast and is not too big, so it does not distract the driver.

It still has an illuminated rotary knob that controls the volume, which some may consider old-fashioned and probably out of date. But Kenwood kept the knob for a security reason: to manipulate the volume with one hand without losing sight of the road. And besides, it looks really classy.

It also includes built-in apps for Spotify and I Heart Radio, and if that is not enough, it also comes with a USB reader, which you can use as an auxiliary, and it can read CDs. So it looks to the future while maintaining the awesome features of the past.

Potential Flaws

It offers a special wireless feature: the ability to use your smartphone like a wireless remote control, which sounds great. And you can share your smartphone with the co-pilot or other passengers in the back to get control of the audio; however, it could be dangerous if the driver is trying to use the remote while driving. The definition on the screen could be better when you put a DVD in; however, we know that is not going to be its main use.

Other Features

It has a 6.2-inch transparent TN LCD screen with 800 pixels and reads DVD, VCD, CD, MPEG1, MPEG2, JPEG, MP3, WMA, AAC, M4A, WAV, and FLAC. Also, it comes with a USB 2.0 port and Bluetooth 3.0, and of course, the radio gets FM and AM, all with a 13-band equalizer.

Real simple to use since it is all very intuitive, you will spend probably 10 minutes reading the manual and ending it, exactly how to use the stereo. It provides high fidelity, on the audio, and the definition on the screen for video is perfect for regular use.

Our Runner-Up - Alpine iLX-W650

Our Runner-Up

Alpine iLX-W650

Alpine iLX-W650

You can take control with two fingers.

The best reason for being here is that it can fit into vehicles that do not have a lot of space behind the dashboard. This stereo allows you to optimize the power of your sound system while taking up the same amount of space as a traditional 2-DIN radio. Also, it is really simple to control with two-finger swipe motions on the touchscreen to control volume, skip, replay, and pause.

Buy Now for $349.95

Who It's For

This product is great for parents who enjoy being outside and for kids who always enjoy any type of adventure. It is not your average stroller, but it sure is fun and is outstanding in the segment.

Why It's Great

It has a 7-inch WVGA touchscreen that can be controlled with 2 fingers by swiping up, down, right, and left; it is compatible with both Apple and Android. It has Bluetooth hands-free calling and streaming. In addition, it is compatible with Sirius XM and Pandora.

This car stereo also comes equipped with a rear camera and has voice recognition as well. But everything comes in a great design that does not have any physical buttons; instead, all the dispositions are done via the touchscreen. which is just the right size to provide a view of all the apps, weather, maps, and information on the music that is being played without distracting the driver.

Potential Flaws

It does have a great sense of the use of the touchscreen; however, sometimes you just need to concentrate on the screen for changing apps, and managing more complex tasks besides changing the music or managing the volume. The good thing is that the size of the screen compensates for the flaw. The equalizer works just fine — nothing outstanding, but in general, it does a good job balancing the audio with the settings that it has.

Other Features

The stereo performs majestically, the audio quality is incredible, and the system is intuitive. It could be a problem for a couple of minutes, but then you can manage it as if you have been doing it your whole life. It has a 7-inch transparent WVGA touchscreen with 800 pixels and reads FLAC, MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC, AVI, MP4, MPG, MOV, WMV, JPG, PNG, and BMP, and it also comes with a USB 2.0 port and Bluetooth 3.0, all with a 9-band equalizer.

Most Cost-Effective - Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX

Most Cost-Effective

Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX

Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX

It features a responsive and intuitive touchscreen user interface that is easy to use and customizable

Pioneer Networked Entertainment's experience line features a responsive and highly customizable user interface. This stereo is designed especially for a lifestyle that is driven by the smartphone. It also has a DVD player and can be connected to the backup camera, if one is available.

Buy Now

Who It's For

It is built for people who like to have several entertainment options because it has the most complete set of integrations that you could ask for. Everything is packed into a friendly interface that does not look like a big phone.

Why It's Great

It has at least 7 integrations to choose from, which means that you will not get bored easily. It also comes with its own GPS antenna, so it won’t rely on the smartphone's GPS alone, providing a more accurate reading of the map.

The interface is easily customizable; it has been updated to play, pause, and skip with a single touch; and the real surprise is that it can operate larger album artwork, which may not sound as important but reduces reading time by using image recognition, reducing the distraction for the driver. It also comes with an option for not just one reverse camera, but two. And it has color customization, so you can try to match the panel color lights of your car.

Potential Flaws

The smaller design and structure may feel a bit fragile; it is not as robust as the other option, but this can benefit the weight and the folding system, making it very easy to store and transport. This is also reflected in the price, which is the most affordable option on the list.

Other Features

The sound is amazing, and the sound quality is enhanced by a built-in 13-band graphic equalizer. It connects with your smartphone via Bluetooth with the latest Hands-Free Profile (HFP) 1.6 and has an integrated microphone for voice commands.

The interphase is simple to use; in 5 or 10 minutes you will have it all figured out. The customizing options are really simple, but they make the entire difference. It is by far the stereo with the most compatibility among the ones that we compared. It is not the most affordable, but it is worth the cost.

Almost Made The Cut - Blaupunkt BP260PLAY

Almost Made The Cut

Blaupunkt BP260PLAY

Blaupunkt BP260PLAY

A great little, simple stereo that gives you just what you need

This stereo has a simplified interface with large buttons and powerful voice actions designed to make it easier to use with your phone. You can get turn-by-turn directions, make calls, receive messages, and, of course, listen to music.

Buy Now for $209.99

Who It's For

This car stereo is for someone who enjoys simplicity in life. The same person has 20 playlists on the music player and probably does not have Spotify. This is for the old-fashioned who do not stream. It will provide you with hours of fun — because you are the one putting the music on.

Why It's Great

It is convenient, to say the least, and it does not overinflate the price by adding too many apps or services that you probably won’t be using anyway. If you have something extra, you probably have it on your smartphone, so why bother carrying it in the car? If the smartphone and the stereo sync, then you do not need other software lying around. At least, that is the concept.

Since you don’t have to worry about a lot of apps, you can focus on the quality of your collection. Probably you have been gathering songs for too long, and there are just a few places in which you can enjoy your music without being distracted. Blaupunkt knows this and has given us the perfect tool to hide in our little world during commuting hours.

Potential Flaws

The younger audience is likely to disagree with the concept presented by this stereo, claiming that it is overly simplistic. But that is the beauty of it. Actually, the stereo comes ready for a reverse camera, but it does not advertise it, probably because the people that could be interested in the product do not have a car with a reverse camera. But it is nice to know that you can get the upgrade.

Other Features

It supports Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Siri Eyes-Free. Simple, comfortable, and user-friendly is like a pair of slippers; you will not have a lot of luxuries, but they are comfortable and will be with you the entire day if you want them to.

Care and Maintenance

Some cars and systems are more complicated than others, and every car is different, so some specifics may be different. First, you need to set the parking brake and disconnect the negative cable from the battery; this is to prevent short-circuiting the electrical system.

Then you need to carefully unscrew any screws holding the trim in place, or you may break it.

Some models need to have several pieces removed; it is better to work from the bottom up.

  • Pry off each piece of trim.
  • Remove any unnecessary components and pull out any necessary components before accessing the stereo.
  • Disconnect any cables wired to the car.
  • Loosen the stereo and pull the stereo out of the panel.
  • As a recommendation, you can take a picture of how each is wired for later reference.

Unplug every single wire from the stereo connections, starting with the antenna wire, which is a thicker wire separate from the rest. Once it’s unplugged, you should be able to move the stereo around more freely. Finally, release the harness.

Connect it to the power source; this connection will be made when you connect the new stereo harnesses to the harnesses in the car. Remember to ground the stereo. This connection will be made when you connect the harness pieces.

Connect the remaining wires. Plug in the antenna last. Keep in mind that all wires should be connected at the end, and there should be no single one hanging unattended. Test the stereo. Turn the power on and test the AM, FM, and CD components. Turn the power back off. Pushing the stereo into place, reconnecting the components, and snapping all the trims back into place over the stereo. Finally, reconnect the battery.

After everything is set, the next step is to sync your smartphone with your new stereo. CarGenerally, the process involves locating the Bluetooth menu in the settings section of the stereo and then initiating pairing. This will put your device into pairing mode, looking for other Bluetooth devices. You will be able to detect it with your smartphone. Look at the list of available devices on your smartphone. The Car Audio System should be visible there. Click to select and pair.

Some models might ask you for a password, which typically is 0000; the passcode needs to be displayed on both devices.

Once you are done, every time you turn on the ignition, the audio system will search for the last-connected Bluetooth device and automatically connect with it.

When you are connecting the stereo, you need to make sure that all the speakers are connected correctly. One common problem is a bad connection or other wiring connecting the speakers to the sound system. If something is not sounding as it’s supposed to, the speakers may not be grounded properly.

Using a phone while driving is another security issue that can compromise security. We do not recommend doing so, and if you have to, please pull over before manipulating your smartphone for any given reason. And we understand that sometimes we need to make quick adjustments to the stereo, like the volume, changing songs or stations, changing the settings for the map, or something related to the drive. In those scenarios, we insist that you do not take your eyes off the road.