Last updated on October 21st, 2021 at 01:34 pm

In today’s age you can just about use your phone for everything, including navigation in your car. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto make adding GPS to your existing touchscreen pretty simple. Nonetheless, we still think some of the traditional GPS navigation head units are relevant today and continue to update this list with the latest built-in GPS head units.

An in-dash GPS navigation head unit is the safest way to get turn-by-turn directions without the added distraction and frustration of carrying a portable nav unit or using your smartphone. While your smartphone can give you directions through numerous apps, a head unit that has built-in GPS navigation offers numerous features beyond what you will get from a smartphone. In-dash units can also add Bluetooth connectivity and allow the use of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to enhance your drive if you wanted.

A GPS head unit makes connecting front-facing or reverse cameras simple to add better safety and functionality of your ride. Plus, a built-in unit is often simpler to use and more accurate than using a portable GPS navigation unit.

Who is This Review For?

Upgrading your vehicle’s head unit to a built-in GPS navigation unit is a great way to get more out of your drive. The head units on this list also are fully equipped with GPS navigation without the use of your phone. Yes, most of these units feature CarPlay and Android Auto, but for those who may not have GPS on their phone, don’t want to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto or otherwise just want a fully functioning traditional GPS navigation in their car – these are the units for you. If you don’t feel like you need built-in GPS, check out our Best Touchscreen Head Units or Best In-Dash DVD and Video Players.

This review is also for anyone who wants to upgrade their head unit and add GPS navigation to their car but isn’t sure which one to choose. It’s a great starting point for drivers who don’t have a touchscreen head unit as well or are frustrated with portable options that never work very well. in this list, we tried to give you a good blend of high-end products, but also some low budget products that work great and get the job done without cleaning the bank account out.

Notes on Installation

Before you get your heart set on adding a GPS head unit to your car, you should take a few factors into consideration. Almost all GPS head units are double-din chassis, which means you’ll need to have or make an opening in your dash large enough to accommodate the unit. GPS navigation head units also tend to be deeper than conventional stereos, so you’ll need to know how much room you have in your dash to make sure you have the proper amount of clearance. Forums, enthusiast sites, and even dealership or manufacturer service centers may be able to help you figure out how much space you have before you purchase a head unit.

Looking for a different type of car stereo? Check out these lists!

1. Best Overall Pick: Pioneer AVIC-W8600NEX

Pioneer AVIC-W8600NEX angle view with gps nav on screen
Pioneer AVIC-W8600NEX carplay on screen with apps
Pioneer AVIC-W8600NEX android auto on screen with apps
Pioneer AVIC-W8600NEX rear view of unit
Pioneer AVIC-W8600NEX package contents

Key Features

  • Motorized 7” WVGA capacitive touch screen, Double-din
  • 50 watts x 4 (peak) with built-in Mosfet amplifier
  • Built-in Bluetooth
  • Wireless and/or USB Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • Amazon Alexa and Siri EyesFree-ready
  • CD/DVD Player (Parking brake must be set)
  • Dual camera inputs
  • Dual RCA outputs
  • Subwoofer output
  • iDatalink Maestro-compatible
  • OBDII data-compatible

Latest Prices

Pioneer DEH-X8800BHS Quick Review

When you're looking for a head unit, power, function, and aesthetics are all important factors to consider. Across the board, it’s hard to beat the Pioneer DEH-X8800BHS.

But there’s more to this CD receiver than what meets the eye. Granted, its appearance is nondescript and traditional. As soon as you turn on this stereo is nothing short of amazing. Starting with the aesthetics, the X8800BHS gives you the option of dual-zone color illumination, allowing you to customize the text colors on your screen. This gives you have an extensive color combination range of over 210,000. In addition, the unit has a 10-level brightness control, helping you create the perfect visual setting.

In terms of audio, the Pioneer DEH-X8800 delivers solid. Some of the key features of the X8800 include:

  • Built-in Dual Bluetooth, you have:
  • Wideband Handsfree 1.6
  • Audio streaming
  • Access to Siri Eyes Free, Pandora, Spotify, Android Music Support

But there are other features that complete the system which makes the Pioneer DEH-X8800 great. Including:

  • Built-in MOSFET amp
  • AM/FM/CD, and HD Radio with 100% free subscription on selected stations
  • MIXTRAX for DJ-inspired technology
  • FLAC playback
  • Compatibility with several audio files such as WAV, WMA, AAC, and MP3
  • 13-band Equalizer with 7 preset curves
  • 3 pairs of preamp outputs.

The system also has a remote control, giving you control of the head unit without laying a finger on it. It's compatible with most steering wheel controls, has a 12-month warranty, and is CEA-2006 compliant. Toss in that the fact that you can link two phones to the unit at once and the ability to use Guest Mode for a third phone. You’ll understand why on the top of our list. Truth is, you don’t need anything else to create a great in-car experience!

Pros
  • Feature-rich head unit that perfectly combines user-friendliness with functionality
  • Excellent options for connecting devices and using features you already love
  • Simple to use navigation system is spot-on and has great options for traffic and road avoidance
Cons
  • Limited to five preset background choices
  • Screen is non-adjustable and doesn’t work well when not mounted flat.
  • Pricepoint

2. Best Entertainment Pick: Kenwood eXcelon DNX997XR

Kenwood eXcelon DNX997XR front view with maps on screen
Kenwood eXcelon DNX997XR angle view with carplay and maps on screen
Kenwood eXcelon DNX997XR angle view of android auto
Kenwood eXcelon DNX997XR carPlay on screen with clock
Kenwood eXcelon DNX997XR android auto on screen
Kenwood eXcelon DNX997XR front view with screen off
Kenwood eXcelon DNX997XR rear view of GPS head unit

Key Features

  • Motorized 6.75” HD LCD Capacitive Touchscreen, Double-din chassis
  • 50 watts x 4 (peak)
  • Built-in Bluetooth
  • Navigation by Garmin
  • Wireless and/or USB Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • Amazon Alexa and Siri EyesFree-ready
  • CD/DVD Player (Parking brake must be set)
  • Up to four camera inputs
  • Dual RCA outputs
  • Subwoofer output
  • iDatalink Maestro-compatible
  • OBDII data-compatible

Latest Prices

Buy on eBay $862.00
Buy on Crutchfield.com $1,500.00
Buy on Amazon.com
Last Amazon price update was: October 21, 2021 5:24 am

Kenwood eXcelon DNX997XR Quick Review

Kenwood’s eXcelon Reference Series adds tremendous sound quality and functionality to one of the best navigation units on the planet. The DNX997XR features a 6.75” mechanical high-definition monitor that has adjustable viewing angles and rotates to reveal the CD/DVD port. It’s a slick-looking display that is bright and clear, even in direct light.

The DNX997XR has an amazing user interface that allows you to easily drag-and-drop apps to arrange the most useful items. You can connect wirelessly to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay using a WiFi and Bluetooth connection, and it streams music flawlessly from your favorite apps, MP3 players, or files saved on your phone. Dual rear USB ports let you charge two phones at once while playing music or video. Android users can even wirelessly mirror their screen through MiraCast.

Navigation is provided by Garmin, one of the industries most respected brands. Owners get free updates for three years. Kenwood uses a unique 3D “Terrain view” and voice-operated commands. The view lets drivers know about upcoming hills and curves in a beautiful and easy to see fashion. It can run Google Maps, Waze, and other apps seamlessly, but the built-in GPS is excellent. The DNX997XR uses the Kenwood Traffic powered by INRIX app to provide drivers with real-time traffic, weather, parking and fuel locations.

This is a great choice for the audiophile who really needs high-quality, accurate maps. Every component of the receiver is either custom-built or specifically selected to ensure the highest quality HD audio possible. The Garmin navigation experience and Kenwood’s brilliant user interface make the DNX997XR one of the best navigation head units you can buy. It’s also an expandable system with dual RCA outputs and a dedicated subwoofer channel. One of the audio inputs can even be configured to do the work of a camera, providing drivers with up to four cameras in all.

Pros
  • Audiophile-quality components for an incredible listening experience
  • Four camera options provide drivers with nearly 360-degree views
  • User interface is easy to navigate and customize
Cons
  • Map updates are only free for three years and require the SD card containing the update to be left in place, effectively eliminating the SD card as a playback source
  • Apple users will only be able to connect one phone at a time

3. Biggest Screen Pick: Alpine X308U

Alpine X308U front view with GPS maps on screen
Alpine X308U carplay on screen with apps
Alpine X308U android auto on screen with apps
Alpine X308U with music features playing on screen
Alpine X308U side view of gps head unit screen
Alpine X308U rear view of head unit

Key Features

  • Mechless 8” capacitive touchscreen, single-din chassis
  • 50 watts x 4 (peak)
  • Three pairs of RCA outputs
  • HDMI and dual USB connections
  • Built-in Bluetooth
  • Navigation by HERE
  • Wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Single camera input
  • iDataLink Maestro compatible

Latest Prices

Alpine X308U Quick Review

Don’t fret if your favorite car has only room for a single-din head unit, Alpine has got you covered with the X308U nav receiver. This slick package features a full 8” capacitive touchscreen with all the navigation and audio features you really want, squeezed into a single-din chassis. The smaller chassis not only makes installation in single-din dashes easy, it also allows custom installation in double-din openings so you can get the screen right where you want it.

Alpine gives you nav data through the HERE app, a tried-and-true performer used by several big-name companies because of the ease of use and accuracy of information. Maps cover the U.S. including Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Alaska, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as Canada. Updates are provided through an online site, but you’ll need a PC to download the info. The built-in navigation is easy to use, has a nice look and feel, and is as accurate as anything out there. Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Waze also work very well on the Alpine X308U.

There is one downside to the diminutive chassis- no CD/DVD slot. This might not be a big deal for some drivers though – numbers provided by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) shows that the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020 accelerated a 20-year decline in CD popularity. Currently, around 85% of music listeners stream tunes compared to only a 7% market in physical copies of music. If a CD or DVD player is essential for your set-up, Alpine provides an HDMI port to remotely connect a player.

On top of being an excellent navigation system, the Alpine X308U also gives you great connectivity options and it’s easy to expand. Three sets of RCA outputs make it easy to add amplifiers and custom speaker set-ups. You’ll find dual USB connections to connect your smartphone using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. A single camera input lets you hook up a rearview camera.

Pros
  • Fits in single-din openings
  • A great option for drivers planning on adding amplifiers and speakers
Cons
  • No CD/DVD player
  • Non-adjustable, big screen may block essential dash functions when installed

4. Best Low Cost Pick: Boss Audio BV960NV

Boss Audio BV960NV points of interest on screen maps
Boss Audio BV960NV gps navigation on screen
Boss Audio BV960NV angle view with gps nav on screen
Boss Audio BV960NV rear view of gps head unit
Boss Audio BV960NV in box

Key Features

  • Notarized 6.2” LCD capacitive touchscreen, double-din
  • 60 watts x 4 (peak)
  • Three sets of RCA outputs
  • CD/DVD player
  • HDMI and USB connections
  • Navigation by NDrive
  • Single camera input

Latest Prices

Boss Audio BV960NV Quick Review

Many car audio enthusiasts start out searching for a head unit with navigation features, only to be appalled at the excessive prices. If you are searching for a great nav unit at a terrific price, check out the BV960NV.

For buyers wondering what you give up by going for a low-price option- maybe a lot. The screen is only 6.2”, so it’s significantly smaller than most nav units. Audio options are somewhat limited, too. For example, the BV960NV is not Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatible. It does not feature HD radio like many units. Controls for EQ and various audio settings are simple and basic- which makes the unit easy to use, but frustrating for car audio nuts used to more options for enhancing playback.

The BV960NV does provide a USB port you can use to play files stored on a thumb drive but connecting to an Android or Apple smartphone is not supported. This also means no access to Google Maps or Waze, drivers are stuck with the factory maps. The good news is that-as long as you are in the continental U.S.- the maps are pretty good. Coverage for Canada isn’t available, so skip this one if you’re planning trips in the Great White North.

Audio playback quality is pretty great considering the price point of this unit. The BV960NV offers an RMS of 20 watts per channel and has RCA connections to expand your speakers and add subwoofers. Buyers also get a CD/DVD player with the BV960NV which helps to offset the limited playback options.

Pros
  • Affordable navigation head unit
  • Plays CDs and DVDs
  • Good-quality maps and directions
Cons
  • No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto support
  • No maps for Canada
  • Basic EQ and other audio settings

5. Best Value Pick: Jensen CMN8620

Jensen CMN8620 gps maps on screen angle view
Jensen CMN8620 gps maps on screen
Jensen CMN8620 front view
Jensen CMN8620 angle view with sources on screen
Jensen CMN8620 side view of head unit
Jensen CMN8620 rear view of gps head unit
Jensen CMN8620 in box contents

Key Features

  • 6.8” capacitive LCD touchscreen, double-din chassis
  • Built-in Bluetooth
  • Rear USB connection
  • Navigation by iGo and TomTom
  • 80 watts x 4 (peak)
  • Dual camera input
  • Five RCA preouts

Latest Prices

Buy on eBay $249.99
Buy on Amazon.com
Buy on Crutchfield.com
Last Amazon price update was: October 21, 2021 5:24 am

Jensen CMN8620 Quick Review

Jensen is known for affordable quality, and the CMN8620 is a great choice for budget-conscious shoppers. It boasts a 6.8” LCD capacitive touchscreen and a simple user interface anyone can quickly get used to using. While it isn’t compatible with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, a built-in assistant button on the bezel does make hands-free navigation simple.

Navigation maps are excellent, clear, and accurate. Data is provided by iGo and TomTom which means you’ll have excellent maps anywhere in the U.S., but not Canada. Maps are stored on a microSD card, which must be installed in order for maps to work. Updates are not free.

Bluetooth lets you make hands-free calls and will allow wireless streaming for users with compatible devices. Some features and functions may not function with many common phones. Like many low-cost nav units, audio function is somewhat limited. Five preouts allow for expansion and the built in EQ features 6 presets. Dual camera inputs provide functionality for front and rear-view cameras.

Pros
  • Low-cost option with excellent navigation functions
  • Good audio quality
Cons
  • Lacks important connectivity options
  • Not compatible with iPod players
  • Map updates require paying fees

Best In-Dash GPS Head Units: What to Look For

Every car requires a unique combination of car stereo components to sound great. A car stereo may sound excellent in one car, but sound terrible in another. Additionally, the limitations in size and wiring configuration make selecting a head unit even more difficult for you.

The best car stereo will give you the features you love while conforming to the environment of your car and create an excellent reproduction of the music that you love. With the right car stereo, you'll be able to custom tailor frequencies to your car, integrate your favorite music/media device, connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth and much more.

At CarAudioNow, we use multiple key criteria when rating products in our top lists. Below is a list of criteria that we take into consideration while choosing the best in-dash GPS for your vehicle, and in general things you should know before you purchase.

Power Ratings

Power ratings are extremely important feature to consider while choosing a car stereo. Without an external amplifier, the power output of the car stereo is what dictates the power of your speakers and ultimately the power of sound. There are typically two power output ratings that are given with car stereos:

  • Max Power Output: Max power rating is the maximum amount of power that the car stereo can emit for short periods of time. It is the maximum amount of power that will be sent to your speakers (without an external amplifier)
  • RMS (Continuous) Power Output: RMS power rating is the amount of power that the car stereo can emit at a constant or continuous rate. This is the most important power output rating.

Along with power handling and output, the level of control of the output sound's shape is also very important. This control is typically made through a built-in equalizer (EQ). It will allow you to tailor the shape of sound, raising or lowering the level of certain frequencies in order to best optimize the output sound for the environment of your car. The higher the number of bands that the car stereo's equalizer has, the more you will be able to customize the frequencies and shape of your music and sound.

Display

Display features play a huge role in how stylish and user-friendly car stereos are. High end car stereos will have a high LED pixel count and give customizable features like color and brightness in order to match the color of your interior.

Playback

Playback can be defined as the methods that your car stereo is capable of playing back audio. CD, DVD, MP3, HD Radio, Pandora, Auxiliary (Aux) Ports, Bluetooth; these are all examples of playback types that a single din head unit should typically have.

You will want to make sure that the playback methods that you intend on using is consistent with the playback features of the car stereo. Otherwise, you may be stuck with a head unit that doesn't play your music in the format that you have it. Here is a breakdown of the most popular playback features we recommend you look for:

  • HD Radio: HD Radio is the same radio stations that you listen to, but with a higher audio quality and more metadata than tradition radio. Metadata includes titles, artists, albums and more.
  • CD Player: CD players will play your favorite CDs in multiple formats, including CD, CD-R/RW, MP3, AAC, WAV and WMA.
  • Auxiliary (Aux) Port: Auxiliary ports allow you to connect any music device that you may have using a headphone connector. Typically, the best car stereos will have an auxiliary port on the front of the unit (in our opinion).
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth music allows you to connect to your music on a smartphone or other Bluetooth enabled device, playing all of your music wirelessly from your device via a Bluetooth connection.
  • USB Port: A USB port will allow you to connect your music devices via a USB connection. It will allow you to listen to your favorite music from your device, while charging it for endless listen time.
  • XM Radio: XM radio is satellite radio such as SiriusXM, that allows you to connect and listen to thousands of channels of radio via a satellite connection. This increases the coverage of radio that you have, however requires a paid subscription.

Smartphone Integration

All of the top reviewed head units will allow you to fully integrate with your smartphone, enabling the best features such as Pandora and Spotify while allowing you to answer phone calls without touching your smartphone. With recent legislation prohibiting you from using your phones while driving, it is becoming increasingly important for the best car stereos to fully integrate with your smartphone. Additionally, they will come with microphones with noise-canceling technology that will hone in on your voice and eliminate road noise.

Expandability

Expandability is what allows you to connect external components to your car stereo. The best car stereos will have at least three 4volt RCA outputs (Front, Rear, Subwoofer), Audio/Video (AV) input/outputs, rear view camera inputs (with compatible displays) and a microphone input