Being able to play music or podcasts in your car can make commutes far more entertaining.
However, it may only be a matter of time before your car stereos start to fail.
Buying a new car stereo can be quite expensive, and you may wonder why.
Why Are Car Stereos So Expensive? (10 Reasons)
The average price of a car stereo is around $1,000 with some cheaper units costing $100 and more high-quality stereos costing as much as $2,000 or more.
Car stereos are expensive due to the cost of their parts, the different features they offer, the brand name, and the fact that high-quality car stereos are considered luxury items.
Let’s look at these factors in more detail.
1. Amplifier Cost
A vital part of a high-quality car stereo is its amplifier.
Sometimes, you have to buy the amplifier separately from the stereo, but other times, it comes built into the stereo.
If it comes with a stereo, then the stereo will be far more expensive.
That’s because amplifiers are expensive on their own.
The job of an amplifier is to give the stereo more power.
With more voltage, the stereo is able to generate louder clearer sound.
It essentially helps you hear your stereo above the noise of the road.
If you can’t hear your stereo while driving, then it’s probably because it doesn’t have a high-quality amplifier.
Amplifiers are expensive because they are made of several pricey parts.
All those small parts are either welded together by hand or put together in a factory.
Some amplifiers might also be made of some sort of precious metal.
Because amplifiers are expensive, car stereos are also expensive.
Car stereos are expensive when they contain a built-in amplifier.
2. Research And Development Cost
The audio market and the car stereo market, in particular, are quite competitive.
There are several brands all trying to sell the same stereo, more or less.
As such, each company also needs to figure out a way to stand out from the competition.
It needs to find a way to offer new features that drive consumers toward its stereo over another brand’s stereo.
Besides adding extra features, a car stereo company might focus on durability or sound quality.
Whatever the particular benefit is, it takes a good deal of research and development to make it a success.
First, the team has to come up with a unique idea.
They might look at feedback from their consumers to see if there are any glaring problems that they can fix.
That might be one of the features they offer in a new stereo.
They might also consider their competitors and see what they’re doing.
It could be that one competitor’s features are great but have problems, too.
As such, the team might decide to release an upgraded version of that feature.
After brainstorming comes prototyping and testing.
All those steps take time and cost money, too.
Since research and development require funds, the company must ensure it has enough funds to keep it running.
Higher prices on its stereos allow for it to have plenty of money to spend on its research and development team.
Car stereos are expensive because of research and development costs.
3. Brand Name
The brand name of the car stereo can also influence its price.
When a car stereo comes from a well-known brand, it tends to be a bit more expensive than if it came from a generic or unknown brand.
That’s because the well-known brand has spent a lot of time developing its reputation.
It may have been around for a few years or even a few decades.
During that time, it focused on producing high-quality car stereos.
Enough consumers bought its stereos that they formed an opinion that the brand produces high-quality products.
Word spread and now there’s a general understanding that the particular brand is reliable and makes good products.
Companies with popular, recognizable names can charge more for their products after establishing their reputation.
People find it less risky to purchase from them, despite the higher price, since they’ve heard about the brand’s reputation.
As such, they tend to be more willing to pay higher prices for stereos from the brand.
Some expensive brand names for car stereos include:
- Bang & Olufsen
- Harman Kardon
Buying from one of these brands is likely going to be expensive.
Car stereos are expensive because well-known brand names charge more for their products.
4. Marketing Costs
Because of how competitive the market is, car stereo companies also need to spend a good deal of money on marketing.
No one will buy a company’s products if they don’t know that the company exists.
They also won’t buy the company’s products if the company is unable to prove why its stereos are better than the competition’s stereos.
The best way that a company can prove itself is through marketing.
It can create beautiful, enticing ads that showcase its stereos in luxe settings.
It can hire celebrities that talk about the benefits of using that particular car stereo.
It can even focus on the technical aspect of its stereos to prove why they are better than other stereos.
No matter how the company chooses to market its stereos, marketing is essential.
There’s also no shortage of ways to market a product.
While there are traditional forms like radio and TV, there are also other methods like content generation and social media.
Every aspect of marketing costs money.
The more that a company spends on its marketing, the more likely it is to see results.
To ensure it can afford its marketing costs, the company needs to put higher prices on its stereos.
Car stereos are expensive because of high marketing costs in the car stereo industry.
One feature that expensive car stereo systems tend to have is an LCD.
Some companies go all out on their display systems.
It isn’t rare for a company to use an RGB display with dazzling lights and colors.
Others prefer a more streamlined display with minimal lights or flair.
Whatever the particular design, LCDs are common in advanced car stereo systems.
The display allows you to easily see and control your stereo no matter the time of day.
A problem that cheap car stereos tend to have is the inability to be read easily during the day.
The sun is so bright that it can make the lights on the stereo look faded.
You may not be sure what you’re pressing unless you have the keys memorized.
LCDs remove that problem.
You know exactly what button you’re pushing to ensure you’re controlling the stereo perfectly.
However, LCDs aren’t always the cheapest product to make.
They require quite a few parts and expert installation.
Sometimes, you also need a custom-made display to ensure it fits in your car.
That makes the stereo even more expensive.
Car stereos are expensive when they feature advanced displays like LCDs.
6. Integrated Car System
Some car stereos are more than just car stereos.
For example, the stereo might be able to link to other systems like the car’s Wi-Fi.
Some stereos also link to your car’s computer to give you information about the engine’s status.
Some can even link to local weather and display the information on the windshield if you have the right hardware.
Others are specific to a certain type of car.
Luxury cars, for example, sometimes come with advanced stereos.
These stereos are specifically made for those cars.
They not only fit into the car perfectly but they’re made to integrate with the car’s existing systems.
That sort of engineering costs a bit more money than a stereo that just sits in the car independently.
Since it costs more to make a stereo like that, manufacturers have to put a higher price on the stereos to make up the difference.
Car stereos are expensive because some of them integrate with other systems in the car.
7. Long-Lasting Performance
Cheap car stereos tend not to last very long.
The pieces start to degrade and deteriorate with use.
If you happen to listen to your music loudly, which you likely do with a cheap stereo, then it can make the stereo deteriorate even faster.
Because cheap stereos can’t always produce loud enough music for you to hear over road noise, you have to keep turning them up.
However, by turning the volume up, you’re also causing more wear and tear on the system.
You might have to replace the stereo more often which can become expensive.
More expensive car stereos have longer-lasting performance.
Because they produce louder sounds naturally, you don’t have to push the stereo to its max.
That helps it last longer.
More expensive stereos are also made of better materials from the start.
Those materials last longer.
However, they’re also more expensive to source.
If people purchase stereos that are good quality and intended to be longer-lasting, then that also means that they’re not buying stereos as often.
That pushes companies to put higher prices on car stereos to ensure the company can earn as much profit as possible.
It can’t rely on quick repeat sales to generate a profit.
Car stereos are expensive because some last a long time.
8. Bluetooth Connectivity
More expensive car stereos are also capable of connecting to your Bluetooth devices.
This is particularly helpful if you often use your phone to control your stereo.
You might have a playlist or podcast on your phone that you want to listen to.
Expensive car stereos allow you to sync your phone with your stereo.
The stereo can then play what’s on your phone without having to be connected with any wires.
It’s a simple way to listen to exactly what you want.
Developing Bluetooth features isn’t exactly cheap, however.
It’s also an extra feature that not everyone needs.
Since it’s more of a convenience than a necessity, it comes at a higher price.
Car stereos are expensive when they’re capable of linking with Bluetooth devices.
9. GPS Connectivity
Other car stereos can also link to your car’s GPS.
For example, if your car has some sort of map feature or GPS, then you can sync your stereo with it.
If the stereo has a hands-free operation, then you can also use that feature to control your GPS.
That makes finding your way a bit safer and easier.
Like Bluetooth connectivity, connecting to your car’s GPS isn’t always cheap.
Since it costs the company a bit more money to offer this feature, it charges a higher price for it.
Car stereos are expensive because some can sync with your GPS.
10. Luxury Items
A final reason car stereos are expensive is that they’re considered luxury items.
Cars almost always come with standard stereos.
A better stereo system isn’t technically a necessity.
As such, since it’s not essential, an advanced car stereo is a luxury item.
Even a standard stereo isn’t necessary for the operation of your car.
Luxury items cost more money because they’re a frivolous expense.
Manufacturers are able to get away with higher prices because people expect to pay higher prices for luxury items.
Car stereos are expensive because they’re luxury items.