Are you tired of listening to low-quality audio from your stock car stereo? Looking to upgrade to a system that can stream music wirelessly and make hands-free calls? Then it’s time to install a Bluetooth-enabled car stereo.
With the latest car stereos, you’ll be able to play music from your smartphone and access convenient calling features to stay connected on the road. Whether you want a touchscreen interface, HD radio reception, or smartphone integration, modern Bluetooth car stereos have you covered.
In this blog, we’ll explore the key things to know when shopping for a Bluetooth car stereo. You’ll find our top recommended stereos across various budgets and feature sets. We’ll also provide helpful tips for getting your new stereo installed properly and using its features to their full potential. Read on to learn how upgrading your car’s sound system can make every drive more enjoyable!
Selecting the Ideal Bluetooth Car Stereo for Your Vehicle
The first step is identifying the right Bluetooth car stereo based on your budget, must-have features, vehicle compatibility and more. Here are the key factors to keep in mind during your research process:
- Intended Use – How will you primarily use your new car stereo? Focus on features that support your needs, whether that’s streaming music apps, using navigation, adding backup cameras, watching DVDs or optimizing sound quality for an audiophile system.
- Display Size – Many modern units have touchscreens ranging from 6 to 10 inches across. Choose a size that looks proportional to your dash and allows you to comfortably view and access information. Touch capability makes controlling apps and settings easier.
- Smartphone Connectivity – To stream content wirelessly, the stereo must support Bluetooth. Also look for support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to access your iOS or Android device features through the dash.
- Audio Power – Check the stereo’s max wattage and RMS wattage per channel. More power allows you to crank the volume cleanly. Look for at least 15-22 watts RMS per channel.
- Pre-Outs – These RCA ports let you connect external amps for more powerful sound. Look for at least 2-4 pre-outs if you want to add amplifiers and subwoofers later.
- Dash Opening Size – Ensure you choose a stereo that matches the DIN opening in your vehicle’s dash. Double DIN offers more real estate for larger displays.
- Budget – Car stereos range widely in price from under $100 to over $1000. Set a comfortable budget and look for good value at your chosen price point.
Doing thorough research will help you zero in on the ideal stereo that perfectly suits your needs at a price you can afford.
Our Top 5 Picks for Bluetooth Car Stereos
To make your search easier, we’ve compiled this list of our top 5 recommended Bluetooth car stereos across a range of price points. All offer great performance and modern connectivity and calling features.
1. Pioneer AVH-X490BS
With its 7-inch capacitive touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, the Pioneer AVH-X490BS is packed with features. The interface is smooth and intuitive for accessing music, navigation and hands-free calling.
- 7″ LED touchscreen
- Built-in Bluetooth
- HD Radio tuner
- App support for Spotify, Pandora, etc.
- Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
- 55 watts x 4 channels
This Pioneer receiver sounds fantastic and makes it easy to access your smartphone’s features. Note it lacks a built-in navigation system or DVD player. But for streaming music and talk apps, it’s an excellent choice.
2. Alpine CDE-172BT
The Alpine CDE-172BT offers great quality at a very appealing price point. Though lacking a touchscreen, the simple illuminated buttons make it easy to control Bluetooth, apps, radio presets and more.
- Bluetooth streaming and hands-free calling
- Integrated 6-band equalizer
- HD Radio support
- Auxiliary input for devices
- 6-channel preamp outputs
Reliable name brand quality and impressive functionality make this Alpine stereo a budget-friendly option. Just note the display is only black and white.
3. Kenwood Excelon DDX396
Serious audiophiles will appreciate the Kenwood Excelon DDX396’s excellent audio quality and tons of sound customization options. The 6.95” touchscreen provides quick access to wireless Android Auto as well.
- Large 6.95” touchscreen
- Supports wireless Android Auto
- Dual Bluetooth phone connections
- 13-band graphic equalizer
- HD Radio support
- SiriusXM ready
While pricey, the DDX396 is perfect for audio enthusiasts who want expansive sound control and modern tech integrations. Do note it lacks support for Apple CarPlay.
4. JVC KW-V830BT
JVC is known for making quality car audio gear at reasonable prices. The KW-V830BT offers great audio and calling features considering its very affordable pricing.
- 6.8” LCD display
- Built-in Bluetooth for hands-free calling and audio
- Variable color illumination
- Time alignment control
- 3 sets of 4V pre-outs
Focused on sounds quality and customization, the KW-V830BT also comes at a super friendly price point. It’s just missing some bonus features like a DVD drive.
5. Sony XAV-AX5000
With its Apple CarPlay integration, big touchscreen and excellent sound quality courtesy of Sony, the XAV-AX5000 is a sleek, modern pick.
- 6.4” capacitive touchscreen
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Support
- 4 channel pre-outs
- 55 watts x 4 power output
- Alphanumeric search for music
- FLAC audio file compatible
The Sony XAV-AX5000 looks great in any dash while delivering features and audio performance sure to satisfy. Note it lacks onboard navigation or some advanced audio tweaking functions.
This covers 5 excellent Bluetooth-enabled car stereos that should fulfill most needs and budgets. Do even more research to explore additional options as well.
Key Features to Look For in Bluetooth Car Stereos
Beyond the basics like Bluetooth streaming, there are some other great features to look for when choosing your new car stereo:
- Touchscreen – Controlling apps, settings and navigation is far easier with touch input than buttons alone. Capacitive touch works smoothly like a smartphone screen.
- Backup Camera Input – Feed your rear camera’s video to the stereo screen for safer backing up. Some models auto-trigger the camera when you shift to reverse.
- Smartphone Integration – Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allow you to extend your iOS or Android device capabilities through the stereo.
- Navigation – Built-in navigation means you can get directions without relying solely on your phone’s GPS. Some models include free lifetime map updates too.
- DVD Player – Want to play DVDs, CDs or MP3 discs? Ensure the stereo has an onboard DVD/CD drive.
- Steering Wheel Control Compatibility – Retain useful steering wheel music and call controls with the right adapter for your stereo.
- Voice Control – Models with support for Siri, Google Assistant and more allow hands-free voice commands.
- Satellite Radio-Ready – Add a SiriusXM tuner module to receive satellite radio stations through the stereo.
Prioritize the features that best align with how you plan to use your new Bluetooth car stereo to select the perfect model for your needs and budget.
Professional Installation for Seamless Operation
Installing a new car stereo correctly takes skill and experience. For the cleanest install with full functionality, it’s wise to have Best Buy, Crutchfield or a reputable local car audio shop handle it for you. Here are some top tips for a smooth installation:
- Use a dash kit specifically made for your vehicle so the new stereo fits properly within the console. This avoids hazardous modifications.
- Retain full functionality of your steering wheel media controls with the proper steering wheel control interface for your car’s make and model.
- Connect to an external amp with high quality RCA cables run through the dash and doors neatly using grommets.
- Tap into the correct ignition power source with appropriate gauge wiring and fuse protection to avoid electrical issues.
- Mount the stereo securely into the dash kit using the proper installation brackets and screws to prevent rattling and movement.
- Carefully test all functions like Bluetooth pairing, radio reception, pre-outs, and smartphone integrations to confirm flawless operation.
Doing a clean, professional-grade installation is the best way to get optimal performance from your new investment and years of enjoyment from it.
Using Your Bluetooth Stereo to Its Fullest
Once your new Bluetooth car stereo is installed, it’s time to explore all its great features. Here’s a quick guide to get the most out it:
- Pair Your Smartphone – Sync your device to the stereo via Bluetooth to enable hands-free calling and wireless music playback.
- Customize Your Sound – Tweak the equalizer and sound settings to your liking for different music genres. Add amps and subs later as desired.
- View Rear Cameras – Connect backup cameras to see everything behind you when reversing for added safety.
- Access Apps – Use compatible apps on the stereo’s touchscreen like Pandora or Google Maps for music and navigation.
- Make Calls – Place and answer calls hands-free using the stereo’s built-in microphone for safe calling while driving.
- Charge Devices – Use the USB ports on the stereo to charge your smartphone on the go.
- Set Presets – Save your favorite SiriusXM channels and local radio stations for quick access.
- Read the Manual – Learn all the great hidden features your new stereo is capable of by reading the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Avoid Distractions – Only access settings and apps while parked to keep your focus on the road.
Using your stereo to its full potential lets you enjoy stellar sound, convenient phone access, and modern tech features through an awesome in-car interface.
Keep Your Investment Performing Its Best
To keep your new car stereo working flawlessly for years to come, be sure to follow these tips:
- Clean the Screen – Use microfiber cloths and screen cleaners to gently remove dust and fingerprints that can lead to scratching over time.
- Check Wiring – Inspect all wiring connections occasionally for corrosion and damage. Repair any issues to avoid electrical gremlins.
- Update Firmware – Check the manufacturer’s website for the latest firmware updates to keep your stereo’s software up-to-date.
- Back Up Settings – Save your presets, sound configurations and settings to a file you can restore if the stereo needs reset for any reason.
- Add Insulation – Protect exposed wiring with electrical tape or tubing to prevent shorts or damage, especially in the engine bay.
- Use Screen Protection – Install clear screen protectors to prevent scratches and UV damage to capacitive touch displays.
- Watch Voltage – Use a voltmeter to periodically confirm you’re getting 12-14 volts of steady power to avoid issues.
Treating your stereo right goes a long way towards keeping it performing optimally throughout your ownership.
Troubleshooting Common Car Stereo Issues
If you do run into problems with your Bluetooth car stereo, here are some tips for diagnosing and fixing the most common issues:
- No Sound – Check wiring connections, try adjusting volume, switch between sources like radio and Bluetooth, and reset the stereo.
- Touchscreen Not Responding – Attempt to recalibrate the screen through the settings. Check for debris like dust blocking the capacitive sensors.
- Bluetooth Not Connecting – Try re-pairing your phone or other device to the stereo, move phone closer to stereo, and do a full stereo reset.
- Stereo Freezes or Glitches – Likely caused by wiring faults – inspect ground connections thoroughly. Do a hard reset and check for firmware updates as well.
- Screen Image Fuzzy/Distorted – Source may be incompatible with stereo. Try different smartphone, media player or camera feeds to isolate the issue.
- CD/DVD Won’t Eject – Carefully insert a small pin or unwound paperclip into the manual eject hole to open the drive and remove the stuck disc.
- Battery Draining Quickly – Ensure stereo fully powers down when vehicle is off. Don’t leave it in accessory mode. Replace internal backup battery if needed.
Addressing issues promptly can often resolve them and get you back to enjoying your awesome new car sound system.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bluetooth Car Stereos
If you’re feeling overwhelmed researching stereos, here are answers to some commonly asked questions to guide you:
What stereo fits my car?
Look up your vehicle’s year, make and model on Crutchfield.com or MetraOnline.com to find a stereo that fits the dash opening properly along with any necessary mounting kit.
Do I need an amplifier for subwoofers?
Most factory car stereos lack adequate power for subwoofers. Connect subs to a compatible amplifier using the stereo’s preamp outputs. Set gain and crossover points properly.
What gauge wiring should I use?
For most systems, 16 gauge speaker wire and 14 or 12 gauge power/ground cable is appropriate. Using a thicker gauge than required is fine too.
Will steering wheel controls still work?
Yes, adapters from brands like PAC and Metra will interface your new stereo with your car’s existing steering wheel controls so they retain functionality.
How do I install amplifiers?
Use the stereo’s RCA preouts to feed signal to the amps. Mount the amps securely, run power/ground to the vehicle battery, and use quality speaker wire to connect amp outputs to speakers.
My stereo resets randomly – why?
Constant power drops or shorts can reset stereos. Inspect all wiring connections and ground points and repair as needed. Use a voltmeter to check for proper steady voltage of ~12v.
There’s no sound – troubleshooting tips?
Check speaker/amp wiring, try adjusting volume, switch source modes, re-pair Bluetooth devices, and reset the stereo. If issues persist, have a professional diagnose.
We hope these FAQs help you avoid some common pitfalls and solve basic issues with your new Bluetooth stereo.
Upgrading to a modern Bluetooth car stereo is one of the best ways to completely transform your driving experience. With the ability to stream music wirelessly, make hands-free calls, use smartphone apps on the go and more, Bluetooth stereos offer amazing convenience and entertainment.
Just be sure to choose a model that fits your vehicle properly and has the features most important to you. Adding amplifiers, subwoofers and other gear can further boost sound quality down the road. For the cleanest installation, consider having professionals handle the wiring and mounting.
Once installed, take some time to customize the settings so your stereo sounds perfect for your music tastes. Keep up with routine maintenance and treat your stereo with care for years of use. Troubleshoot any minor issues promptly to keep things running smoothly.
We hope this in-depth guide to Bluetooth car stereos helps you find an excellent model and integrate it into your vehicle seamlessly. Drive safely and enjoy the tunes! Let us know if you have any other car stereo questions.