Car stereo buyer's guide

Nobody enjoys driving in silence and your favourite songs or even just the radio can break up even the dullest of commutes! You may not realise that the audio system fitted by your car's manufacturer may not be giving your favourite songs or spoken words the quality they deserve.

This is why many of us choose to upgrade our car audio systems to get an audio quality boost. But where do you start?

Top tip: Before you head to Halfords or visit us online, it's worth making a note of the following information so you have a head-start when it comes to ensuring the stereo you chose is compatible with your vehicle.

  • The make, model and year of your vehicle
  • Whether you're looking for a complete overhaul or just a new stereo
  • Speaker locations and sizes (easily located in your car owner's manual or the manufacturer's website) and if you're unsure, we're happy to check this for you.

If you're struggling to find any of this information, then just ask us to have a look for you! We have car audio experts in each Halfords store, so we'll be able to help you check your existing system and make recommendations for the best replacement.

How long does it take to fit a car audio system?

Getting a new car audio system fitted isn't actually that difficult if you know what you're doing! And that's where we can step in – our trained in-store car audio colleagues have plenty of expertise when it comes to even the most complex installations. All of the car audio systems we sell only take an hour or so to fit, so you can drive away with your new and improved system in no time!

How does the fitting process work?

If you’re buying your new stereo in-store, then simply speak to a colleague to book a fitting appointment.

If you’re buying online, then choose the free ‘fitting assessment’ option during the checkout process and pick a date and time. The fitting assessment will last approximately 30 minutes and will give us the chance to double-check that the stereo you’ve chosen is suitable for your car, can be installed seamlessly and will work with your existing controls.

Once we’re certain that everything’s prepared correctly, we’ll book you in for a full fitting appointment on a date and at a time that suits you.

Car stereos

If you're planning on upgrading your car's audio system, then this is a great place to begin. The stereo is the rectangular box that usually sits in the middle of your centre console and provides you with the controls, buttons and screen so you can change tracks, switch channels and see exactly what you're listening to.

When you think of a car stereo you probably picture the conventional, LED display with a volume knob, channel changer and various other buttons. Whilst these are still great, we also have a range of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-compatible head units which are becoming the most popular upgrade options.

Designed to work seamlessly with your phone, you'll be able to take calls, play music through your preferred app, have your messages read to you through voice activation and even use your chosen map app as a sat nav. These stereo systems use a similar layout to your phone too, so you won't need to spend hours figuring out your settings or pressing your way through complicated menus. Just remember you'll need to get Apple Carplay if you've got an Apple phone and Android Auto if you've got an Android phone.

Car stereos with CD players

If you're not quite ready to embrace streaming music and still prefer your trusty CD collection, then there is also a range of stereos with a built-in CD player.

Car speakers

Speakers are likely to be a key area if you're shopping for new car audio systems - after all, this is where the sound is produced! If you're looking for a quick upgrade, then this is where you could potentially swap out the standard speakers installed by the manufacturer. We'll need to know which speakers are already in place, so you can either check yourself or if you're unsure, our expert audio fitters can help guide you through the process.

The most common speakers found in cars are two-way speakers. These are the speakers you'll find in your door frame, consisting of a 'tweeter' (a small speaker that produces high frequencies, like notes and vocals) and a 'woofer' (the larger speaker that creates low frequencies, like bass). These speakers are fairly easy to swap out for an upgraded set, improving sound quality and sometimes even allowing for more volume.

Another more complicated but still popular upgrade is a subwoofer. This is a larger speaker that only deals with bass notes, and will give your music some serious kick - especially with the volume turned up. Subwoofers take up a bit more space than standard car speakers and usually aren't installed by manufacturers, so you'll likely have to give up a bit of space in the boot. There are however some under-seat slim-line subwoofers for those that are short of space.

Where's the best place to fit car speakers?

Cars in particular aren't exactly the roomiest places, so there's a reason why your speakers are tucked away in the door frame or in a pillar. And usually, this is the best place for them. The inside of a car just isn't optimised for fantastic sound quality, so you'll never replicate the exact experience that your sound system in that square room at home is capable of producing - there are just too many obstacles such as uneven surfaces and weird shapes in cars. The speakers that come closest to professional sound quality are our Optisound range, but there are numerous speakers in all price ranges for all solutions.

Shop car speakers

If you're thinking of fitting car speakers but aren't sure where to start or don't want to damage your car, then you can always get a Halfords expert to fit them for you. Just select add fitting at the online checkout or ask a colleague when buying in-store.

What is the best car audio system?

We stock a wide range of car stereo and car speaker brands, so the 'best' option sometimes comes down to personal preference. If you're looking for easy functionality and cool features, then an Apple CarPlay or Android Auto-compatible stereo and no-speaker upgrade may be the best option. If you're a true music lover, then a full speaker overhaul with the addition of a performance head unit, amplifier and subwoofer in the boot (or a slim-line version under the seat) would be the best solution to give your tunes the focus they deserve.

Shop Apple CarPlay

Shop Andriod Auto

Can I fit a new car audio system into a leased car?

You can! We won't tear the car apart when we fit your new car audio system for you, and we'll give you the standard system back intact. Just bring your car back when the lease is up and we'll take your improved car audio system out, re-fit the standard one and even fit your improved car audio system into your new car (additional fitting charges apply).

If you're looking to add car stereo systems to your business's fleet of vehicles, then get in touch! Halfords now offer B2B stereo and speaker fitting at competitive prices.

What is a DAB adaptor?

If you don't want to change your old car stereo but still want all the benefits of DAB digital radio, then we'll be able to install a DAB adaptor for £99 plus £30 for fitting. This simple piece of kit allows older stereo models to pick up digital signals, so you'll be able to enjoy the improved quality and wider range of stations that come with digital radio.

Not sure what DAB digital radio is? Check out our buyer's guide

The best car audio brands


Pioneer is a highly recognisable car audio brand and their stereos are some of our best sellers. Pioneer stereo head units are easy to fit, easy to use and provide excellent sound quality when paired with decent speakers. They will however do the job with the standard speakers in your car, making them a great upgrade option. With the Pioneer SPH-DA230DAB, you'll be able to connect your iPhone too, with Apple Carplay built into this model.

Shop Pioneer car audio


Kenwood has become one of the most famous car audio brands thanks to a wide range of speakers, stereos and add-ons that offer both quality and value for money. Kenwood head units are easy to install and easy to use, so you'll be able to set up your phone and music without much effort, plus there are tons of features on even the most basic models, ranging from touchscreen technology to reversing and dash cam integration depending on the model you choose.

Shop Kenwood car audio


Our wide range of premium quality Sony stereos is packed with features ranging from Bluetooth or NFC connectivity to Apple Carplay and Android Auto. Some Sony car stereos feature touch screens, sound optimisation features like extra bass, and easy linking to steering wheel inputs.

Shop Sony car audio


JVC's extensive range of 'infotainment' systems feature responsive 6.8" touchscreens that allow you to use Apple Carplay or Android Auto, with a touch or swipe used to control your maps, media and settings. You'll also get voice recognition technology for hands-free operation whilst driving.

JVC's best-in-class car systems provide a consistently exceptional quality audio and visual experience for all passengers.

Shop JVC car audio


Optisound allows customers to have the option to have an amplified system in their car, similar to manufacturer upgrades at a fraction of the price. Optisound speakers are car specific, so fit seamlessly into door panels. They have bespoke details to ensure the best sound quality regardless of the shape and size of your car.

Optisound speakers and their installation kits allow for a quick and easy fit, which is vastly different from a normal speaker fit. Optisound is invisible once installed, making it perfect for lease hires or company cars. It can be easily removed when the car is sold or left without any damage.

Shop Optisound car audio


Installing a new car audio system can be tough, especially when it comes to removing old speakers and stereos, hiding wires and making sure everything works properly. This is why it's often easier to leave the job to a Halford's car audio expert. We fit thousands of car audio systems each year in the UK, so we know what we're doing and we'll get it right the first time! Chat to a Halfords team member in-store or book your fitting at the checkout if you're buying online.

Car Audio Bundles

Our car audio bundles are handy if you want to drive away with your new car audio system fully fitted. Once you've booked your appointment online and chosen your stereo, speakers and other car audio features that suit your needs, our installation experts will get everything looking and sounding fantastic, before giving you a full demonstration so you know how everything works. Our fully fitted prices also include any additional parts and labour. That just leaves you with the most difficult job - picking the right playlist!

Was this helpful?

Related articles that may be of interest