If you’re like most people who want to treat yourself and loved ones to a car stereo upgrade, the price is the biggest concern. You might have said this a few times: “I want the best I can get for my money.” I want to share 4 tips to help shave a few bucks off your bill and save you money in the long term.
1. Decide what about your future stereo you absolutely can’t live without. Everything beyond that is secondary.
Most of the features you will add come from replacing the factory radio. The trend is moving away from bare bones radios, as we see features like built-in navigation, satellite radio, BlueTooth cell phone integration, and more. However, a lot of vehicles can benefit greatly from even a sub-$100 radio upgrade. Often the deciding factor between one model of radio and the next is BlueTooth. If you want to stream music from your phone wirelessly this is a feature you’ll need. Another major point to consider is iPod integration. It can be well worth it to research which brands offer the best iPod interface.
2. If an iPod connection is the only thing you really can’t live without, check if there is an iPod interface kit that’s compatible with your vehicle.
A lot of cars don’t have this upgrade available, but it can save you big money and it doesn’t cost anything to ask a professional installer.
3. Here’s what you should expect if you go in to ask a shop what it will cost to add subs and an amp.
- You need a way to get an audio signal from your factory radio to your new amplifier. This is done either by running speaker wires directly to the amplifier, or by installing a Line Out Converter(LOC, sometimes called a High Low Converter or HLC). The speaker wire connection(called High Level Inputs) is not available on many amplifiers, but it might save you some money. The LOC will add a modest charge to your bill, less than $25.
- You’ll need an amplifier installation kit. There are countless brands and sizes out there, but the most important thing is to get the right size wire to match your amplifier. A 4 gauge kit is the most common size needed for 1 subwoofer amplifier and it can usually handle 1 more amplifier for a later upgrade. Expect to pay at least $50 for a good quality kit.
4. Buying online can save you money right now, but do your research before you get your PayPal account or debit/credit card warmed up.
Manufacturers typically have at best a 90 day warranty for goods not sold and installed by an authorized reseller. That great 2 year warranty your buddy got when he took his car to the local car stereo shop is not the same warranty you’ll get for ordering the same gear online. I highly recommend you buy from a reputable local shop and pay them to do the install. Imagine this scenario: You buy an amp from a shop and install it yourself, then you accidentally wire it backwards and it goes up in smoke. As dumb as it sounds it does happen.
You will save yourself a headache in the future if anything goes wrong, and the additional money spent on parts and labor up front will save you money in the long term.
If you’re OK with a short warranty period and you still want to buy online, also check the web site’s return policy. Give them a call or e-mail if you don’t understand their policy, or if you have questions about what to buy. If you don’t get a satisfactory response, look elsewhere.