There is a lot of debate and opinions for what is the best car stereo. Realistically, this is a tricky question to answer because each person (and vehicle) has different needs. Instead of giving just one option that I think is the best car stereo, I’ll list out my favorite receivers in different groups. Hopefully this will help you find the best stereo for your car and application.
Best Budget Car Stereo
As far as I’m concerned, any car stereo under $100 should be considered a budget stereo. Of course there are really cheap car stereos that you can buy at Wal-Mart for $45, but there is a big difference between cheap stereos and budget stereos. My favorite budget car stereo is the Pioneer DEH-X4900BT.
This is a name brand, Bluetooth car stereo with tons of features for under $100. It's got a CD drive, front USB, front aux input, Spotify support, and is both Android & iPhone compatible. It is also compatible with Pioneer's ARC (Advanced Remote Control) App for simplified stereo control from a connected smartphone.
Best Audiophile Car Stereos
I don’t think that this will be any surprise here. My pick for the best audiophile car stereo is the Pioneer Stage 4 DEX-P99RS. It features tons of sound quality features such as L/R Independent 31-Band Digital Equalizer, Auto Time Alignment and Auto EQ, 32-Bit Binary Floating-Point DSP, and much more.
This is a high-end, audiophile car stereo with tons of advanced features designed to let the user fine tune the sound quality. From a 31-band EQ to a 32-bit DSP, this stereo does it all.
Best Car Stereo for Navigation
When it comes to a navigation receiver, the clear winner is Kenwood. Typically I’m not a big fan of Kenwood for a variety of reasons, but their navigation with Garmin is really the best. My choice for best navigation receiver is the Kenwood eXcelon DNX693X. The Garmin interface is easy to use and the navigation is near flawless. It also features a 6.2″ touchscreen display (there are still buttons and knobs), smartphone connectivity and MHL connections, as well as complete Bluetooth functionality.
This is a full featured 6.1 inch navigation receiver that features the famous Garmin navigation, as well as iPhone/Android support, MHL/HDMI connectivity, parking guide lines, and many more features.
Best Car Stereos for Smartphones
With the release of newer technology like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, it is pretty easy to see the Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX is the clear winner. Most notable is the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality that enables advanced connection of a smartphone to the car stereo with a very intuitive user interface. For those iPhone users out there with Siri, the AVIC-8200NEX has complete Siri control for true hands free control of the stereo and phone.
This is a flagship stereo from Pioneer that features complete control with Apple and Android devices by using Apple CarPlay and Android Auto respectively. Both of these applications provide superior control of the smartphone directly from the receiver.