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  • When you get your hands on a new stereo for your ride, you can either install it yourself to save money or spend $200-800 hiring a professional to do it for you.
  • Installing a car stereo can be tricky. Checking your ride’s wiring diagrams and the new stereo’s installation instructions will help.
  • Hiring a professional ensures a fast and hassle-free installation at a cost.

There are many reasons to replace the car stereo, from sound distortion and choppy radio transmissions to the need for new car audio system features.

Regardless of what’s pushing you to upgrade your stereo, you’ll have to decide whether you want to do the installation yourself or get a mechanic to do it for you. Both have pros and cons.

The best way to figure out the best option for you is to get the lowdown on the process.

Car Stereo Installation Guide

tuning a car stereo
There are many reasons to replace the car stereo, from sound distortion and choppy radio transmissions to the need for new car audio system features.

Before you can install the new stereo, you’ll need to remove the old one. Once that’s done, you can start installing the new stereo if you’re taking the DIY route.

How to Install Car Stereo

Older vehicles usually have simpler setups compared to newer models. That means the installation steps can vary depending on your ride. Here’s what the process usually involves.

Match the Stereo Wires

Though speaker wires won’t always be the same color, the power and ground should match. If you paid attention to where the wires of your old stereo connected to your vehicle’s harnesses, the first step should be a breeze.

Match the wires of your vehicle’s harnesses to those of the new stereo. Check the wiring diagram that came with the stereo for reference. In some cases, connecting the same colors should be enough.

Bear in mind that some vehicles don’t use harnesses. This means you’ll need to study the stereo’s wiring diagram extensively.

Set Up the Mounting Kit

Some stereos come with a separate mounting kit. If yours does, check the instructions that came with it to figure out how to set it up. Otherwise, you can skip this step.

An alternative method is to use a wiring harness pig tail that’s compatible with your vehicle. Most of the time, there will be instructions that will show you how to link the connectors along with guides on wire colors.

It’s also worth mentioning that some vehicles have built-in amplifiers. If you’re unfamiliar with stereo installation, your best bet would be to buy a wiring installation kit to avoid tampering with the amplifiers.

Most of the time, there will be instructions that will show you how to link the connectors along with guides on wire colors.

Anthony Harlin, ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician

Connect the Power Source and Ground the Stereo

Connect the stereo to your vehicle’s power source by connecting more wire harnesses from the stereo to your vehicle’s harnesses. Check the wiring diagram once more to see which wires belong where.

This step also grounds the stereo, boosting its performance and the fidelity of its audio output.

Connect the Final Batch of Wires

Connect the wiring adapter to your vehicle and install the antenna cable. Your stereo should be operational now, but you still need to lock it into the mounting kit.

Set the Stereo

Push the stereo into the slot guided by the mounting kit until you hear a clicking noise. This indicates that the stereo is secure and locked in place. Now, you can test your new stereo out by blasting your playlist or tuning into your favorite radio station.

Benefits of DIY-ing Car Stereo Installation

Although installing your car stereo on your own is challenging, it comes with various perks.

Save Money

A car stereo alone can set you back around $300 to over $1000. The more high-end ones cost significantly more. You’ll have to pay even more if you want an expert to install it for you, which can have you spending between $200 and $800, depending on the mechanic.

Become More Familiar With Your Vehicle

Installing a car stereo can be tricky, but you’ll learn a lot if you do it, like how the parts on your dash work together and how to use a mounting kit. If you need to repair or check something in your stereo later, you’ll have enough knowledge to do it confidently.

Benefits of Hiring a Professional to Install Your Car Stereo

If you’re not confident in your auto repair know-how, you can let a mechanic handle the installation. While doing so can put a dent in your savings, there are benefits that come with hiring professional car stereo installers.

Dependable Expertise

Licensed mechanics won’t make installation mistakes that many DIYers would.

They’re trained to be familiar with what stereo system to install depending on the vehicle and how to ensure correct wiring connections. They also know what configuration to use to get the best audio quality possible, among other essential know-how.

Great Car Stereo Selection

Mechanics know how to find top-notch car stereo systems that fit your vehicle. There’s no risk of them ordering a replacement that’s incompatible or missing the features you need.

If you want to buy the new system yourself and have them install it, you can ask them for advice on what to look for while shopping.

Fast and Hassle-Free Installation

When you hire a mechanic, you can expect a quick and mistake-free installation. Depending on your ride’s year, make, and model, expert installation can take around one to four hours to complete.

If you do it yourself, it might take longer, especially if you’re not familiar with your vehicle stereo system. There’s also more risk of committing mistakes that could set back the process.


Last but not least, most professionals offer warranties. This means that if your stereo acts up after installation or malfunctions in any way within a certain period, your mechanic can fix it up or have it replaced – free of charge. Think of it as insurance in case the professional you hire does a bad job or installs a faulty stereo system.

DIY vs. Hiring A Pro: Choosing the Right Option For You

If you choose to carry out a DIY car stereo installation, it’s important to consider what that entails:

  • You save a lot of money from installation, but you also have to set aside time to set up a new stereo.
  • You run the risk of damaging your vehicle or your new stereo if you’re not yet familiar with the process.
  • You become more familiar with your vehicle.

On the other hand, choosing to hire a professional means:

  • You save a lot of time and effort by having a professional do the work, but you’ll have to pay for the installation.
  • You’ll get a good stereo system that’s guaranteed to be compatible with your vehicle.
  • You minimize the risk of damaging your vehicle or your new stereo.
  • You have warranties that act as insurance in case the mechanic doesn’t install the stereo properly, or if the stereo is faulty.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you. Weigh the pros and cons of both and decide for yourself.

If you have cash to burn and no time to spare, hiring an expert to install a stereo sounds like your best bet. On the other hand, if you want to learn how to install the stereo and save a lot of money in the long run but risk making some mistakes, you can do it yourself.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at

Tony Harlin is a Master Gas and Diesel Diagnostic Technician with over 18 years of experience. He works full-time at a large independent automotive shop as a driveability and repair technician working on all types of vehicles with a focus on diesels. ASE certifications include A1-A9, L1 and L2, as well as X1.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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