Best DVD & Video Car Stereos in 2024

Why Trust Our Opinion on Car Stereos?

CarAudioNow is an awarded automotive blog, built by car enthusiasts over a decade ago. Led by our editor, Kameron, with a handpicked team of skilled writers, we’ve rolled up our sleeves to personally install and test a diverse array of car stereos – in cars and on our test bench. We’re not just acquainted with car stereos; we know how they should sound, perform, and which features they need to have to offer value for your hard-earned money. Whether they’re purchased by us or provided by manufacturers – our recommendations are a blend of real-world experiences and extensive research that guides our recommendations.

Also, no AI-generated lists or content here. CarAudioNow is committed to crafting unique meaningful lists with accurate and practical insights to help you make informed decisions. We don’t simply regurgitate information and declare a few car stereos as “the best.” Our focus is on delivering genuine, unbiased content, driven by our passion for the products we endorse. Reader trust and our reputation take precedence over quick gains or Google rankings too – though those are certainly appreciated! Read more about how we choose our top lists here.

In this article: We'll review our top pick in-dash DVD video players on the market with photos, quick reviews, opinions, features and more. We've broken down our choices by categories such as budge/cost, connectivity, CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and more.

The ideal video playing multimedia receiver comes with a variety of features that many OEM and even single din CD receivers do not. The quickest and easiest way to gain multimedia playback, including DVD and video inputs for adding devices such as game consoles and tablets, is to add a DVD and Multimedia compatible head unit to your car. You can read more about how to add video to your car for more details and recommended ways to watch video content or play games in your car.

No matter what your reason is, you can count on one of the top DVD head units on our list to provide a great, user friendly multimedia experience while enhancing your audio quality. But before you choose a multimedia receiver, you need to be certain that it is going to fit!

There are two (main) sizes of head units on the market today: single-DIN and double-DIN. If your car's dash has a double-DIN opening, you can fit both a single-DIN and double-DIN. But if your car has a single-DIN, you'll only be able to fit a single-DIN receiver, unless you customize the opening. You'll need to find out which size your car can fit in order to choose the right one. Take a look at the image below to see which opening you have:

single din head unit vs double din head unit side by side to compare

The image above shows the same Toyota Tacoma dash, but with different sizes. It's worth noting that your dash might appear to have a single din, but upon closer inspection can actually fit a double din. To make sure, check out the vehicle fit guide at and see if there is a double din sized dash kit for your car.

It's also worth noting that cars under 10 years of age often include multiple screens now that display different information. One screen might be dedicated to the radio and climate control while the other is dedicated to GPS. In these cases, we would not recommend replacing your head unit with a standard aftermarket unit because you could lose key functionality to your vehicle. In these scenarios you'll want a vehicle specific aftermarket replacement.

For those of you who have vehicles older than about 10 years, or vehicles that don't have multiple screens with different systems powering them-your installation and upgrade is pretty straight forward!

Here Are Our Recommended In-Dash Car DVD & Video Head Units of 2024

Best Overall DVD Player Car Stereo

Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX

Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX DVD Multimedia Player with Apple CarPlay on screen
Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX tilted view with media and clock
Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX navigation on screen
Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX back view with all wires
Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX remote control

Latest Prices

Key Features

  • Double din DVD/CD receiver
  • 6.94″ motorized touchscreen
  • 13-band graphic equalizer with EQ presets
  • Built-in iPod, iPhone, and iPad control
  • iDataLink Maestro-ready
  • 50 watts x 4 channels RMS with built-in MOSFET amplifier
  • Bluetooth, USB, HDMI connections
  • 6-channel preamp outputs (4-volt front, rear, subwoofer)
  • Plays CD and DVD

Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX Quick Review

Pioneer recently introduced the NEX line to take advantage of the newest connectivity options currently available. The 4500NEX features a massive 6.9” touchscreen that is easily installed in many vehicles to add modern functionality. The capacitive touch screen is clear and easy to see, even in bright, direct light. It can even be adjusted to compensate for bizarre dash designs and to make viewing angles easier. It packs all the latest features into an easy to use device, making it our top pick.

Display Details

The clear resistive touchscreen is nice looking and has a modern, framed finish that will blend in with most dash panels. The screen measures a diagonal of 6.94-inches and it has an aspect ratio of 16:9. The resolution is 800×480, which seems low compared to your big screen TV, but works very well for the confines of a screen this size.

The display is motorized and opens to reveal a CD/DVD insert. The motorized screen also provides you with a slick way to adjust the angle for optimal viewing comfort and to reduce shadows and glare. The head unit includes 13 backgrounds that you can choose from to suit your ride in style.

Advanced Streaming Options

The 4500NEX is out-of-the-box equipped with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, making it a great upgrade option to take advantage of today’s most popular forms of streaming content, whether it is a navigation app, music, or even pictures of your dog! Connectivity includes apps for Pandora, Spotify, and SiriusXM radio among others. The 4500NEX is equipped with Miracast for Android and allows wireless screen mirroring.

Wireless screen mirroring is a method of displaying content from your smartphone on the screen of the DVD player. You can use this feature to stream a movie or TV show from your phone onto the head unit, but you must be parked to use this feature. A wired connection is available for devices that aren’t compatible with the head unit formats.

Hands-free and Distraction-free Features

Voice control is recognized as a leading technology to reduce distracted driving, and the Pioneer 4500NEX is already fully equipped. In addition to all the great connectivity options, Pioneer really made a solid product that is safe to use while driving, something that many manufacturers struggle to do.

Built-in Bluetooth connections make hands-free calling simple, and the stereo even includes the microphone to make it work in any car. Bluetooth is also a great way to stream audio content when you are driving.

The user interface features a simplified design with oversized icons. The layout is easily customizable so you can put your favorite features up front without cluttering up your screen. Pioneer provides built-in apps for weather, music streaming, and other features to make operation as simple as possible for customers.

iDataLink Maestro Compatibility

One of the more complex aspects of modern car audio head unit upgrades is re-integrating the various systems and controlling the factory features through the head unit. Sometimes these are simple things like volume controls on the steering wheel, while other times, you will lose functionality of driver assist features, climate controls, and other important features.

The solution is an iDataLink Maestro. This device integrates the aftermarket stereo into your specific vehicle. Only head units that are iDataLink Maestro compatible can use the connector. This head unit is iDatalink Maestro-ready, making complex installation significantly more simple. Check out our list of Best iDatalink Maestro-ready head units for more options.

Types of Media

This CD/DVD head unit plays numerous formats so that you aren’t stuck with a DVD you can’t watch. The DVD formats are DVD, DVD-R/RW/Video Playback. Supported CD formats include CD, CD-R/RW. The head unit will also play MP3 files, FLAC files, MPEGs, and AVI/DivX files.

Audio Features

The Pioneer AVH-4500 has numerous tools to improve your audio experience. A built-in MOSFET amplifier produces 50 watts to each of four channels. Three RCA preouts rated at 4 volts give you lots of options for subwoofer and amplifier additions. A 13-band digital equalizer and EQ presets makes tuning the 4500 simple.


Dual rear USB ports let you connect to MP3 players, smartphones, and tablets without using Bluetooth and serve as a 1.5a charging option. The head unit has a dedicated port to connect a backup camera and another of the assignable ports can be used for a second camera.


This is our overall top pick because it offers power, control, and an easy-to-use interface to provide a seamless audio and video experience. The screen looks very nice in all types of light and the customizable layout made it simple to access the best features quickly.

Best Multimedia Head Unit With HDMI Input

Sony XAV-AX8100

Sony XAV-AX8100 Home
Sony XAV-AX8100 side view of screen and chassis
Sony XAV-AX8100 HDMI In with video playing on screen
Sony XAV-AX8100 HDMI input on the bottom of the screen
Sony XAV-AX8100 plugged in to iphone
Sony XAV-AX8100 rear view

Latest Prices

Key Features

  • 8.95” floating resistive touch screen media player
  • Adjustable mount provides up, out, and tilt adjustment
  • Built-in WiFi and Bluetooth
  • WebLink-equipped
  • Rear USB, Front HDMI
  • Single-camera input
  • 55wx4 Peak, 20w4 RMS
  • Three 5v pre outs (Front, Rear, Sub)
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible
  • Ready for SiriusXM radio

Sony XAV-AX8100 Quick Review

Sony continues to offer innovative solutions to challenged dash installations to make it easy for you to get big, bold touch screen connectivity into your car. The XAV-AX8100 is the latest flagship in the proud line of digital media receivers, and it offers a massive list of useful features so you can play your music your way while staying focused on the road ahead. This Sony XAV-AX8100 in-depth review will examine the features and functions of Sony’s newest offering in the XAV-series.

Installation Features

The XAV-AX8100 crams all the high-powered components into a single-din chassis to make it easy for you to fit this receiver in any dash. You can use an adapter to fit the 8100 into a 1.5-din or double-din opening provided you have the depth. Sony states the AX8100 measures 5.35-inches from the front of the screen to the back of the chassis. The AX8100 screen measures 1.57-inches deep according to factory literature.

Display Features

The display on this receiver is just cool. Measuring at 8.95-inches on the diagonal, it’s a big piece of real estate. Like the previous AX8000 model, the display screen is three-direction adjustable to accommodate a variety of dash designs. The display can move up by 2.36-inches from center, out to a total depth of 2.36-inches including the thickness of the screen. You can also tilt the screen by up to 10 degrees to get the perfect viewing angle. Sony has not introduced the ability to pan the screen to make viewing by the driver easier in straight-on installations yet.

A feature that we have liked on all the XAV-series is the physical buttons. They are well-sized, laid out in a logical fashion, and are easy to use. This head unit keeps the physical buttons in the same location as other XAV receivers.

Touchscreen Features

Sony takes a minimalist approach when designing their user interface. We like it because it’s simple. When you want to find something, simply swipe on the resistive touch screen to bring up the page you're looking for and to gain access to your apps. The home page is customizable allowing you to put your most-used apps front and center. The display is clutter free, easy to read, and doesn’t require a tech lesson from a 12-year-old to help you figure out.

The one thing we would like to see from Sony is the removal of the white-only physical buttons. They simply don't compliment all car interiors. We would like to see Sony upgrade these buttons to RGB so that you can match them to the color of your interior lighting.

Audio Features

The XAV-AX8100 packs a punch with a built-in Dynamic Reality Amplifier II that provides a manufacturer-rated 20 watts RMS to each of the four channels. One of the best innovations with this head unit is the dynamic stage organizer. This bit of tech digitally alters your music to compensate for speakers mounted low in the door or under the dash and makes it seem like your tunes “jump off your dash.” The AX8100 has a built-in 10-band equalizer that helps you adjust the frequencies of your favorite music until the sound is just right.


On the back of the unit, you’ll find a full complement of RCA ports to make adding amplifiers or powered subwoofers simple and easy. Using the front, rear, and subwoofer RCA inputs, you can add amplification for any system you’ve got in mind easily and conveniently.

Wired Connections

A single rear-mount USB allows streaming of digital content and phone charging capabilities. The real star of the show is the front-mounted HDMI port that will enable easy streaming of many lossless formats with minimal data loss. This is a much better type of connection and something that was sorely lacking on the AX8000 model, particularly when streaming video content.

Wireless Connections

WiFi and Bluetooth allow you to connect your smartphone wirelessly to stream your favorite content from apps like Spotify, Pandora, and other music platforms. Voice control makes using Apple CarPlay 2 with Siri and Google Assistant, the best ways to get directions, make and answer phone calls, and select audio sources while staying focused on driving. The XAV-AX8100 is out-of-the-box ready with CarPlay Navigation and Google Maps for Android users.

A new addition to the AX8100 is the ability to use WebLink to cast the screen of your smart device directly to the massive touchscreen. This is the easiest way to play movies, music, or even display a slideshow on-screen.


We’ve been fans of this series of receivers for a while now. They are simple and intuitive to use, look great, and are easy to install. Our problems are minute. For example, it would be wonderful to angle the screen toward the driver a few degrees. Certainly not a deal-breaker by any stretch of the imagination.

Read more about this head unit in our full writeup and demo of the XAV-AX8100's features.

Reasons to Buy
  • Excellent screen size, resolution, and ease of use
  • Easy access to the most important features
  • Bluetooth works extremely well
  • Front HDMI port is great for streaming video content
Reasons Not to Buy
  • No pan adjustability
  • Lacks aptX or aptX HD encoding for streaming hi-res audio files

Best Wireless Apple CarPlay & Android Auto Car Stereo


JVC KW-V960BW angle view
JVC KW-V960BW music playing
JVC KW-V960BW main front view
JVC KW-V960BW maps view
JVC KW-V960BW maps view with directions
JVC KW-V960BW rear view of outputs and inputs

Latest Prices

Key Features

  • 6.8” LCD touchscreen, Double-DIN chassis
  • 22Wx4 RMS, 50Wx4 Max
  • Built-in Bluetooth for wireless streaming
  • Connects up to five phones simultaneously
  • Three pairs of 5V preamp outputs
  • Four camera inputs
  • Dual USB ports
  • Dual zone technology to allow rear monitor video and in-car audio
  • Wireless mirroring for select Android and iPhone models
  • iDataLink Maestro compatible to retain factory steering wheel controls

JVC KW-960BW Quick Review

The KW-960BW is the newest CD/DVD player from JVC, and it’s got plenty of tricks up its sleeves. JVC went above and beyond to find ways to get creative and integrate as many ways for you to enjoy music, movies, and other media. The 960BW is our Best Wireless Experience pick.

Wireless Connectivity Features

These days, there are plenty of head units that take advantage of the powerful technology of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These AI voice-assistant programs are incredibly useful and can even make you a safer driver. Unfortunately, many of the systems out there do a poor job of integrating these programs.

JVC made sure that integration was built in, giving you the most seamless and simple way to use your favorite assistant programs to change music, ask for directions, or make phone calls. You can do it all wirelessly using newer iPhone or Android phones. The receiver has a built-in 5 gHz WiFi and a 2.4 gHz Bluetooth connection that are used together to link your phone with the receiver. Older devices can connect via USB to the connector on the rear of the head unit. 

Screen Mirroring

The JVC 960BW lets you wirelessly mirror the screen on your compatible iPhone or Android device. iPhone and Android users can mirror through the Mirroring for JVC app. ANdroid users can also use MiraCast to wirelessly stream content from apps like YouTube and Netflix.

Screen mirroring only works when the parking brake is set in your car. Audio will still play, but the screen will not show on the head unit display. Some apps will work including Wave and Maps programs.

Multiple Phone Connections

One of our favorite features is the ability to connect up to five Bluetooth-enabled devices simultaneously to the 960BW using DJ Mode. The feature lets your friends get in on changing up music that’s particularly great on long road trips.

You can also connect two phones simultaneously to the head unit so that you can answer calls hands-free from either phone. This is a great feature that helps make driving safer and easier. The receiver is designed to make hands-free calls easier and supports voice dialing

DVD Playback

The JVC AVH-690BW has a front-loading slot so there is no motorized screen to get damaged. The head unit will play DVD/DVD-R/DVD-RW formats and play CD/CD-R/CD-RW formats as well.

Dual zone technology lets you play a DVD on the display and send it to the rear headrest monitors for an easy way to control back seat entertainment.

Audio Technology

The head unit provides 22 watts of RMS power to four channels using a built-in Mosfet amplifier, so you’ll get a decent amount of sound. Front, rear, and subwoofer five-volt outputs make it a snap to hook up an amplifier for even better sound. Front and rear outputs are balance and fade adjustable while the sub has independent level control but not fade or balance.

The 690BW has a built-in crossover network that is switchable between a two-way and a three-way network. Use the crossovers to send the correct audio frequency to the speakers that use them for better sound.


This is our wireless pick because it offers numerous opportunities to connect without strings. There is nothing we dislike more than cables running every which-way, so the decision JVC made to focus on wireless connectivity gives this head unit the ability to effortlessly entertain.

Reasons to Buy
  • One of the few wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto units on the market
  • Excellent audio and video performance
  • Great connectivity options
  • Wired and wireless connections are very stable
Reasons Not to Buy
  • 6.8″ screen instead of 7″ screen
  • No HD radio, requires an app for HD radio streaming
  • Confusing user interface due to multiple “home” pages

Best Budget Video Car Stereo

Pioneer DMH-241EX

Pioneer DMH-241EX
Pioneer DMH-241EX iPod
Pioneer DMH-241EX usb
Pioneer DMH-241EX menu
Pioneer DMH-241EX rear

Latest Prices

Key Features

  • 6.2” Touchscreen, Double-DIN chassis
  • 14Wx4 RMS, 50Wx4 peak
  • Bluetooth for hands-free calling
  • USB direct control for iPhone
  • Digital media receiver (does not play CDs or DVDs)
  • 5-channel preamp outputs, 2V
  • 3.5mm minijack A/V input

Pioneer DMH-241EX Quick Review

The Pioneer DMH-241EX replaces the DMH-220X, one of our favorite budget-beater double din options that brought the convenience of a touchscreen along with the option to connect a DVD player to the masses. The DMH-241EX offers all the same great functionality of the 220X while adding some options on our list of “wants” when we reviewed the older model.

Display Features

The 6.2” resistive touchscreen is an ideal size for most cars and light trucks. It provides enough real estate to give you the ability to access different sources quickly, adjust settings, and even watch videos when the car is in park and the emergency brake is set. The 800×480 VGA image quality is standard for this level of touchscreen head unit but provides enough resolution to play video without issue.

The display is bright, and the icons are responsive, making it a snap to switch songs. The unit also comes with three preset background images, but you can always upload your own custom background if you wanted to. Backlighted buttons are blue with no options to change to other colors.

Audio and Video Playback

Audio playback is excellent with the built-in 50-watt MOSFET amplifier that provides 22 watts of power to each of the four channels. A 13-band equalizer gives you in-depth control over specific frequencies to tailor your music to your preferences too, which is what we like to see in all of our recommended mid to upper range head units.

The DMH-241EX plays a wide range of audio files that include compressed formats and high-resolution options. And a built-in digital signal processor with a 24-bit digital-to-analog converter ensures that your music will sound crisp, while built-in high-pass and low-pass crossovers allow you to properly set the signal boundaries for your system’s speakers.

The USB is located on the rear of the DMH-241EX, but with the included extension you can wire it up to any location you’d like. With it, you can connect a thumb drive to play music files or use the USB for a wired Apple or Android connection to access your favorite streaming apps. Although it does not feature Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility, the DMH-241EX is compatible with both Android and iOS operating systems for seamless interaction and music playback.

In terms of video, you can use either a USB thumb drive to play video files (AVI, MPEG4, MKV, MOV, FLV, WMV) or use a the 3.5mm minijack AV input to connect virtually any external audio/video device. You’ll likely need a few adapters to adapt an HDMI to a 3.5mm minijack. We’ve done this several times using a combination of an RCA to Minijack Converter and HDMI to RCA Converter.

Bluetooth Connectivity

Like most units, Bluetooth is built for wireless connections, hands-free calling and streaming from compatible sources. The DMH-241 features Bluetooth version 4.2.

Backup Camera Options

The DMH-241EX has a video input port that you’ll use to connect a backup camera, sold separately. Adding a backup camera to a car that didn’t come with one is a relatively simple process for the DIYer and provides a serious improvement in safety.

App Control

One of the simple additions that we really like is the inclusion of access to the Pioneer app, called Vozsis. The app gives you unique ways to control your music input and lets you access Amazon Alexa for hands-free directions, weather, sports updates, and more.

And although the head unit doesn’t feature CarPlay or Android Auto, you can use WebLink to connect apps like YouTube to view videos on screen or also screen mirroring functionality.

Reasons to Buy
  • A higher-quality option at a great price that has most of the key features and functions
  • Simple user interface doesn’t require a big learning curve to get the most from the unit
  • Interface has great customizable features
Reasons Not to Buy
  • Limited background options
  • No built-in app access makes streaming music apps a little more clunky than other units
  • No Android Auto or Apple CarPlay functionality

Best Single Din DVD/Video Head Unit

Pioneer AVH-3500NEX

Pioneer AVH-3500NEX Best Single Din Car DVD Player with Apple CarPlay on screen
Pioneer AVH-3500NEX navigation on screen
Pioneer AVH-3500NEX angle view with media
Pioneer AVH-3500NEX opened back
Pioneer AVH-3500NEX screen closed

Latest Prices

Key Features

  • Single din DVD/CD receiver
  • 7″ motorized touchscreen
  • 13-band graphic equalizer
  • Built-in iPod, iPhone, and iPad control
  • 6-channel preamp outputs (4-volt front, rear, subwoofer)

Pioneer AVH-3500NEX Quick Review

Very few head units are cooler than a single-DIN unit with a flip out screen. It is just too awesome of a feature to ignore, but many of the units out there are not very good. The 3500NEX is Pioneer’s latest stab at the elusive single_DIN flip out market, and this thing hits the high marks across the board.

The nearly 7” screen is motorized and opens and retracts quickly and flawlessly. The screen is truly beautifully designed with simple to understand icons and an anti-glare coating. Pioneer built-in apps for navigation, weather, and many others. The biggest tech upgrade for this head unit is it now supports Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and wirelessly connects to Pandora, Spotify, and SiriusXM radio.

The previous Pioneer flip out had a well-known issue with detachable faceplate security that would fail to retain the removable portion. The 3500NEX fixed the issue and added a more robust retaining feature that securely locks the faceplate in place.

The touchscreen tends to take all the attention, but the manual controls on the unit itself should also be lauded. Big, bright knobs have a fantastic feel, making on the fly adjustments to sound or song easy.

Distracted driving has become a big issue in the last several years, particularly as infotainment-type stereos have become more standard in newer vehicles. Pioneer has addressed distracted driving here by incorporating hands-free technology using an included microphone. this allows voice-control of many features.

Factory and aftermarket backup cameras can be connected using ports on the rear of the unit. Want to play DVDs, CDs, or stream off an MP3 player? Go for it because Pioneer made sure to include all these features.

Reasons to Buy
  • Sleek design
  • Fits in single-din openings
  • Great hideaway touchscreen
Reasons Not to Buy
  • Some users report poor image quality on the screen

How We Tested

We take a lot of time to research our products. And we're constantly updating them. The list that you see on this page might be an aggregation of the past two or three years of products. We intentionally keep older products on our list if we feel that they are indeed still dominant to others on the market. In order to find the top rated DVD and multimedia receivers, we combine our research across the web with first hand tests and opinions. Among the many things we look at, here's a few general things we consider:

  • Style (Looks, Design) – Who wants an ugly head unit in their dash?
  • Display Type (LCD, Dotted, LCD Text, etc.) – A poor screen can ruin any great movie or feature.
  • Features (Bluetooth, Smartphone Compatibility, Equalizer, etc) – Making sure that you're getting a DVD/Multimedia receiver with the latest and greatest features that the industry has to offer.
  • Power Ratings (Peak, RMS) – Quality of sound is a key component.
  • Price – The most amount of features without breaking the bank.
  • Expandability (# of RCAs, XM/Sirius Read, Steering Wheel Control Ready, etc) – You may need the unit to hook up to external features.
  • Quality – Materials used, manufacturer reputation, etc.
  • Online Reviews – From multiple vendors like Crutchfield, Amazon and more.

The result of our time and effort is a list of our recommended top rated and reviewed car DVD head units. No these are not ads and we don't get paid to feature them (although if you do purchase one please use our buy links to support our cause). We provide multiple comparisons of prices from vendors across the web too in an attempt get you the best price on all of your products. They're normally updated every 24 hours. But in the end, the best video & DVD receiver is one that meets your specific needs and is compatible with your car.

And, be sure to take a look through our Easy Guide to Installing a Car Stereo if you do decide to purchase a DVD Head Unit and install yourself!

Car Stereos & 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 the selection process even more difficult for you.

When we look at car stereos, we look for features we know consumers love, while conforming to the environment of your car. Excellent sound reproduction/music quality is an obvious focus as well. 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 head units for your vehicle.

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 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 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 the quality units will 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:

  • 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, in our opinion, a good head unit will have an easily accessible auxiliary port on the front of the unit.
  • 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 latest car stereos allow you to fully integrate with your smartphone, enabling the 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 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 is what allows you to connect external components to your car stereo. Head units should have at least three 4 or 5 volt RCA outputs (Front, Rear, Subwoofer), Audio/Video (AV) input/outputs, rear view camera inputs (with compatible displays) and a microphone input.

Who Is This List For?

There are a number of reasons why you might be looking to upgrade or install an aftermarket DVD head unit in your vehicle. The most common being:

  • You want to add Bluetooth connectivity for wireless phone calls and streaming music.
  • You'd like to watch multimedia, like YouTube, Movies or other video content while driving.
  • You need to replace your existing head unit because it's broken.
  • You just want the latest and greatest audio and video tech in your car.
  • Your dash is in need of a style update.
  • You're looking to improve the quality of sound while listening to music or other audio in your vehicle.

You may have noticed that “adding GPS navigation to your car” isn't in the bullets above. If you're looking for both multimedia and GPS, you should check out our article on best gps navigation receivers!

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