Cost of car stereo installation

Expect to spend around $550 for a new head unit and installation

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If you’re looking to upgrade the audio quality in your car or fix a broken part of your sound system, the good news is that you can sometimes do it for as little as $25.

But what stereo components are that cheap? What is a “head unit,” and what will it cost? Can you install a car stereo yourself to save on costs? And in what cases would a warranty cover your car’s audio system?

Read on to find out.


Key insights

  • The cost of new car audio can really range anywhere from $25 for a do-it-yourself speaker replacement to $2,500 plus for an all-new custom setup.
  • If you’re looking for a cost-effective audio upgrade, a new head unit can boost sound quality and add valuable features like Apple CarPlay for around $400 in parts and $150 in labor.
  • As you might expect, the cost of replacing or upgrading audio equipment in a Mazda is cheaper than in a Mercedes-Benz since the latter may require additional labor and more expensive parts.
  • The cost to repair or replace broken car audio equipment is typically covered under most factory and extended bumper-to-bumper warranties as long as you didn’t cause the malfunction.

How much does it cost to install car audio?

The cost to install a new car stereo can range anywhere from $25 to more than $2,500. It entirely depends on what you’re looking to have done:

  • On the low end, you can easily replace a pair of blown speakers on some vehicles for around $25 in parts plus some elbow grease.
  • On the high end, you can create the Mona Lisa of car audio with a brand-new head unit, speakers and subwoofers (plus the amps and custom wiring to power it all) — if you don’t mind spending $2,500 or more, including labor.

To help you set a budget, we’ll break down the main components of a car’s audio system and what they might cost to replace or upgrade below.

How much does it cost to replace a car’s head unit?

The head unit is the “brain” of your stereo system. Depending on the vehicle, your head unit may feature a touchscreen, a series of physical knobs and buttons, or a nice combination of both.

A quality head unit often costs $300 to $700. Expect to spend $100 to $150 more for professional installation.

In many modern cars, the head unit and the infotainment system have been combined into one component — but that doesn’t mean you can’t replace it. Many people choose to upgrade their head units/infotainment systems because it’s a relatively easy and cost-effective way to get multiple benefits, like:

  • Better sound quality
  • Bluetooth capability
  • Touchscreen controls
  • An improved interface
  • Apple CarPlay/Android Auto functionality

As for cost, a good head unit from a company like Kenwood, Sony or Pioneer can cost around $300 to $700 to purchase, and many come with instructions for a no-cost DIY install. If you’d prefer to let the professionals do the installation, the labor cost to install a head unit typically ranges from $100 to $150.

How much does it cost to install car speakers?

Speakers turn the electronic signals from the head unit/amplifier into actual sound. Car speakers are commonly located inside door panels, but they can also be found inside the dashboard, footwells and even headrests. Put another way, your car may have multiple pairs of speakers for you to replace if you want a new sound system.

Speaker prices usually range from $25 to $200 per pair. Installation fees vary.

A pair of well-reviewed JVC speakers can cost as little as $25 on Amazon, and even high-end speakers like Kenwood Excelon XR-1701s cap out at $200 at the time of publishing.

Provided they’re a direct fit and don’t require additional wiring or an amplifier, installing speakers can be as easy as popping off your door panel, unscrewing your old ones and fitting your new ones. (Author’s note: With zero prior experience, I installed a pair of Rockford Fosgate speakers on my Mazda in under 20 minutes.)

That said, the cost of installing new speakers can quickly escalate if you’re going beyond just unscrewing and replacing the factory units.

Some car audio enthusiasts go to great lengths to get that “concert hall-quality” sound, installing additional speakers inside custom-made housings and wiring it all back to the head unit. A custom setup like this can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the vehicle and the labor hours involved.

The cost to install new speakers can also rise if your speakers are difficult to access. While removing the door panel on a 2001 Mazda is virtually effortless and risk-free, the same job on a Mercedes-Benz S550 might cost $200 in labor alone, raising the cost to install the same high-quality speakers from $200 to $600 plus.

How much does it cost to install a car subwoofer?

A subwoofer provides additional bass for your sound system. If your stock audio sounds “tinny” even with the bass maximized on the equalizer, you might enjoy the addition of a small subwoofer — enough to provide some chest-punching bass without rattling your car apart.

Installing a subwoofer averages around $1,000, including labor.

Unfortunately, it’s often far more expensive to install a subwoofer than it is to replace a factory speaker. That’s because you’ll probably need to pay for the subwoofer, something to house it, a separate amplifier to power it, a bass control knob, wiring and $150-plus for professional installation (which is highly recommended).

All in, you’re looking at around $1,000 to install a subwoofer in a car. Still, that could be worth it if you plan to own the car for years to come and you really crave more thump in your music.

Is the cost of car audio installation covered under warranty?

Installing new car audio equipment can be covered by both factory and extended car warranties, but only under certain conditions.

Car warranties only cover parts that fail due to factory defects.

For starters, warranties only pay to fix or replace covered parts that no longer function. If your current car stereo works fine and you’re just looking to upgrade, don’t expect any help from your warranty.

Plus, auto warranties only pay to fix factory defects and never cover failures due to damage, neglect, abuse, misuse or any other outside cause.

In other words, if you genuinely have no idea why your audio system is acting up, there’s a good chance you can get it repaired under warranty. But if you accidentally spilled coffee on your head unit or splashed mud into your speakers, your claim will most likely get denied.

Whether or not your stereo is covered under warranty will also depend on the type of warranty you have. Most bumper-to-bumper warranties cover car audio systems, but more limited powertrain warranties don’t, for example. (If you’re not sure what kind of warranty you have, you can look up your warranty coverage using your VIN or by talking to your extended warranty provider.)

I had major issues with my factory radio. … Thanks to Endurance for its quick response when contacted by the dealer to replace my radio with an identical, new factory radio.”
— a ConsumerAffairs reviewer in Texas

Assuming you have the right kind of coverage and your stereo failed for the right reason, you should be able to file a claim to have it repaired at little to no cost.

“I had major issues with my factory radio,” wrote a reviewer in Texas. “They were able to get my radio approved and installed in 2 days. Thanks to Endurance for its quick response when contacted by the dealer to replace my radio with an identical, new factory radio.”

In short, your car’s audio system should be covered under your factory bumper-to-bumper warranty (should you have any remaining). If you don’t, you might consider buying an extended auto warranty to protect your audio system and other sensitive mechanical and electronic components for years to come.

» LEARN: What does a car warranty cover?

What affects car audio installation costs?

Earlier, we mentioned how the cost to replace or upgrade your car’s audio system can range anywhere from $25 to upwards of $2,500. That’s because car stereo costs come down to three main factors:

  • Parts: Head units can range from $50 for a basic system to $700 or more for a high-end unit. Meanwhile, a pair of good car speakers can range anywhere from $25 to over $200.
  • Labor: If you drive an older and/or non-luxury vehicle, there’s a good chance you can install new speakers or a head unit yourself using a YouTube tutorial and basic tools. But something like a subwoofer installation on a luxury vehicle might cost $300-plus in labor alone.
  • Scope: Replacing two factory door speakers can cost $25 and 20 minutes of your time. A custom setup with a new head unit, multiple additional speakers, and a subwoofer or two can require additional wiring, custom housing(s), multiple amplifiers and five-plus hours of labor to the tune of thousands of dollars.

To keep upgrade costs low, consider starting small with a simple speaker or head unit upgrade — whichever is easier to DIY on your particular vehicle. If both seem daunting, don’t hesitate to get a quote from a local shop.

“When attempting a DIY stereo install, it’s very easy to damage other components and systems with shorts or feedback,” experienced mechanic Eric Hamilton told us. And if a part of the process makes you feel confused or uncomfortable? “I would recommend letting Best Buy do it,” Hamilton said.

Quick and easy. Find an auto warranty partner now.

    FAQ

    Can you install your own audio equipment?

    You can install your own audio equipment, but the difficulty of a DIY approach totally depends on your vehicle and the equipment you’re installing. Fitting two new door speakers in a Mazda may take 20 minutes, but installing a subwoofer in an Audi may take hours of professional labor.

    Try finding a video tutorial to show you how easy or difficult it may be to install select audio equipment on your car. If it makes you feel uncomfortable or unconfident, it’s best to let the pros take over instead of risking damage to your electronics.

    What are the signs you need a new stereo?

    If your head unit/infotainment system is frustrating to use, unresponsive, or simply lacks the features you want (like Apple CarPlay), it might be worth upgrading.

    If your overall sound quality is subpar, you might consider upgrading both your head unit and your factory speakers.

    If one of your speakers is quiet, buzzing or sounds tinny, you may need to replace it.

    Before you pay for any of the above repairs, though, be sure to check whether your vehicle is still under its factory bumper-to-bumper warranty.

    How long does it take to install a car stereo?

    Installing a new head unit can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours, depending on the compatibility of the factory wiring harnesses and whether you’d like to install the microphone included with many units.

    Will installing an aftermarket head unit void my warranty?

    The answer is no; installing an aftermarket head unit won’t void your warranty. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act prohibits manufacturers from voiding warranty coverage simply because you installed an aftermarket part.

    The manufacturer can still deny your claim if they can prove that the aftermarket part caused a warranty-protected part to fail, however.

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