Last updated on July 4th, 2021 at 10:09 am

If you have a newer, higher-priced vehicle, you likely received your car from the factory with a superb stereo system. However, this isn’t the norm with older vehicles or lower-budget models. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to adjust the sound on a budget. With these ten ways to upgrade your car audio for under $100, you can change the sound no matter what your financial limitations are.

We even have some completely free ideas!

1. Get New Speakers

By simply swapping out your car speakers, you can upgrade the sound significantly. The best part is; this step doesn’t have to cost you a lot. Factory speakers are cheaply made and can’t handle the sound well. Whether you need the best 5×7 car speakers or you require 6×9 speakers, there’s a way to keep the cost down.

However, the more you are willing to spend, the better quality you will receive. If there is one area not to skimp on, the car speakers should be the top priority.

2. Upgrade the Head Unit

If you want to upgrade your car audio for less than $100, you should be able to find a decent head unit within your price range. Likely, a quality head unit is going to cost you close to the $100, so don’t get too cheap in this department. We have offered guidance on finding both the best head units and media units.

If you are going to upgrade the in-dash stereo, consider choosing an option that includes Bluetooth. If you prefer not to upgrade the head unit, we have more tips for connectivity in the next step.

3. Add Bluetooth

As discussed, there are ways to upgrade functionality without adding a new head unit. You can purchase a universal car Bluetooth kit that will transform the way you use your car stereo. If you aren't concerned with getting better sound, but simply want more options, this might be the cheaper option for you.

Not only will this device turn your radio into a speakerphone for hands-free calling, but you can also seamlessly play your music. If you don’t want to invest in a universal kit, you could also opt for an adapter that works with many systems.

4. Upgrade with an Amp

The best car amplifiers do more than make the sound louder. With the right system, you can add deeper dimensions to the clarity. Amplifiers work to send clear signals to the speakers, which is why upgrading both creates a winning combination.

The audio amp takes the lower-powered signals and converts them to a level that is ideal for the car stereo. You don’t need to purchase an expensive amplifier to receive the results you desire. There are plenty of low-cost options that produce better sound.

5. Adjust Your Settings

Tuning your car stereo doesn’t cost a penny. You can alter the quality simply by making a few adjustments. However, you must be smart about the changes you make. For example, you don’t want to simply turn up the bass to produce more sound. This step might cause more distortion and put additional stress on the speakers. Instead, it might be best to turn down the mid-tones and treble slightly to see if that creates the sound you desire.

Most modern head units feature digital equalizers that make it easy to see what adjustments you are making. Ideally, you want the treble set higher than the bass if you are listening to rock music. On the other hand, hip-hop enthusiasts will prefer the bass to be equal with the treble.

6. Pay Attention to Your Music Files

Another instant way to increase the sound quality is to adjust what type of files you are using. Once upon a time, we all used MP3s, but these aren’t going to sound as good on your car audio system.

Uncompressed music files will produce the best sound but do take up more file space. With a lossless format file, you can compress CD-quality music with a reasonable size file. Audiophiles tend to agree that the FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) format might offer the same quality as a CD. However, not all car stereo systems will play this format.

7. Sound Deaden the Car

If you want to upgrade your car audio on a budget, consider adding some sound deadening material. The quieter you can make the noise coming from your vehicle, the better able you are to hear your music clearer. It doesn’t cost much to buy some sound-deadening mats. With the low cost, you want to apply them to your door panels, trunk and other strategic locations throughout your vehicle.

8. Boost the Bass with a Subwoofer

By adding one of the best subwoofers to your car, you increase the bass in your car audio system. The larger subs produce the most significant lower frequencies sounds, but you don’t have to purchase a massive sub to get the results you desire.

You want something that fits your vehicle, works with your amplifier and fits your budget. Do your research first.

9. Adjust the Sound Settings on Your Phone

If you prefer to play music through your smartphone, you need to adjust the sound settings. Thankfully, this step is completely free. If you prefer to use an app for setting adjustments, consider Car Vitalizer for your iOS phone or Bass Booster & Equalizer for your Android device.

10. Use a Flash Drive

Instead of playing music from your phone, you could also utilize a flash drive. While this option has been around for a while, it’s still a valuable choice today. There is less interference to deal with when you plug in the USB drive than with your phone, thereby improving the sound quality. Of course, this only works as well as your head unit performs.

How Will You Upgrade Your Car Audio for Less than $100?

We would love to hear what steps you are taking to upgrade your car audio? Will you start with some of the free ideas or move right to installing new equipment? Let us know the tips and tricks you are making to add changes to your car audio sound quality on a budget.