DIY vs Professional: Comparing the Cost of Replacing a Car Stereo

/ / Car Accessories
Person using car stereo touchscreen

There are many ways you can upgrade your vehicle: buying new rims and tires, installing LED lights, and tinting your windows are just a few. One of the best ways to refurbish your vehicle’s interior, though, is by changing out your stereo. Even if you have a brand new vehicle, replacing your head unit can help provide your vehicle with better sound quality along with other features that the car didn’t come with like a touch screen or Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

There are two routes you can take when replacing your old stereo in your vehicle. You can either install it yourself or you can pay a professional to do it. Both ways have advantages and disadvantages, especially regarding costs and the how-to aspect. In this article, you’ll learn the general cost differences between the two and whether it would be more practical to replace it yourself or hire a professional instead.

DIY vs professional: what’s the difference in experience?

Person replacing car stereo

Replacing a car stereo on your own versus paying a professional to do it will of course come with different caveats. If you want to do it yourself, there’s a lot of research that goes into the process, starting with making sure you choose a stereo head unit that is compatible with your vehicle. Crutchfield is a good website to use because it has a “what fits your vehicle” system. From there, the site will show units of several well-known, reliable brands that are compatible, and any installation gear that may be required for a seamless fit. 

However, buying a new unit is more than just removing one stereo and plugging in a new one. Multiple steps go into replacing the stereo, especially if you are upgrading an older vehicle and need to connect wiring or replace the steering wheel control interface so the brand of stereo can communicate with its controls.

If this type of work is not your forte, that is where going to a professional may be the better option. Most of the time in quality shops, professionals are trained to be able to install car stereos the right way and even help you pick out the best one for your vehicle within your budget. However, your budget for a stereo may dwindle due to paying for labor costs.

Price comparison

Man playing with car stereo

Like most other things, installing a new car stereo in your vehicle yourself is going to be cheaper than hiring a professional to do it. You can go for the well-known brands that have all the perks including a navigation receiver like the Kenwood DNX577S for $850 or the Pioneer AVIC-W8600NEX for $1,200. However, there are more affordable options with good reviews from consumers that still include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and even a backup camera like SJOYBRING’s Double Din Car Stereo for $160 and PLZ Single Din Car Radio Stereo for around $200. However, if you aren’t clear on instructions or struggle with handiwork, this may not be the wisest endeavor.

If you decide you want a professional to install your car’s stereo, you’ll still need to buy the head unit along with the installation fee, but you’ll have peace of mind instead of having to learn the wiring yourself. Places like Best Buy have a Car Electronics Professional Installation program with different prices for specific products. An in-dash car stereo with a touchscreen costs $130 to install. If it does not have a touchscreen, it’s only $80. Majority of reviews for this service are high, but remember that each store is different, so check the reviews of your local Best Buy before committing.

You can also look up your local car audio specialists, but most times, you’ll need to call to get a quote for cost estimates. Most places won’t have prices on their websites. In the end, the decision is up to you whether you feel comfortable installing your new car stereo or hiring a professional to do it instead.

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