Cost to Replace a Car Stereo Head Unit? (USA)

Cost to Replace a Car Stereo Head Unit - featured image

The labor cost to replace and install a car stereo head unit should be around $100 in the United States. Factors such as the model of the stereo and car and the location of the installation can also affect the labor price. 

Continue reading to see an explanation of the cost. 

How you calculate the labor cost – Stereo Replacement

Many factors directly affect the labor costs associated with any car work, and replacing a car head unit is no different. You can make sure you not getting ripped off by knowing how long it should take for them to install the car stereo

You can often ask for a breakdown of costs. Labor is usually listed on the receipt. 

How long it takes: (1/2 – 1 Hour). It should be between 30 minutes to 60 minutes for a professional auto electronic mechanic to replace a car stereo head unit.    

Type of garage and locations hourly rate: Most independent auto shops charge between $70-$90 per hour, and most dealerships charge between $80-$125 per hour. Most people are unaware, but major retailers such as BestBuy and Walmart also install stereos, usually for a flat fee of around $100. 

Your state and location can also play a factor in the labor cost. A study by CarMD found that Colorado had the highest labor costs, and Vermont had the cheapest, with a nearly $35 difference in the hourly rate charged.   

Type of Auto Shop Hourly Rate  Flat Fee (Install)
Indepant Auto Shop $70 – $90 N/A
Main Dealer $80-$125 N/A
Big Retailer (BestBuy. Walmart) N/A ~ $100 (or Free)

Most independent auto shops charge between $70-$90 per hour, and most dealerships charge between $80-$125 per hour. Most people are unaware but major retailers such as BestBuy and Walmart also install stereos, usually for a flat fee of around $100.  

Unless you buy a radio through the store. Then they can install it for free. 

Main Costs of Head Unit A Install

Now, we’ve all had a time when our car’s stereo system starts to break down, and believe me; it’s a hassle to get it repaired. Or you simply what to upgrade your stereo system. 

Between the cost of the inspection, the difficulty in finding a correct model for your car, in addition to finding one you actually like, it’s one setback after the other.

To that end, the average labor cost for replacing a stereo unit is usually around $80 to $200. I know that’s a large difference, but let me break it down for you. See our article about all the costs associated with a car stereo install.

Reason 1: It’s the Central Unit

See, there’s a reason why it’s called the Head Unit. Without it, the rest of the car stereo just won’t work. It produces the signal, controls sound levels, and accesses the audio units. This means that it’s rather complicated and somewhat tricky to remove.

Reason 2: It Depends on the Model

Much like any car, there are a lot of head units for stereos. You have bad ones, good ones, and of course, the top-of-the-line ones. 

You have units that can fit nicely, with knobs and dials that only play the radio, to units with voice command, touch screen, automated GPS, and can download CarPlay apps.

Basically, you get what you pay for, but some models require more wiring and fitting.

Reason 3: Installing is hard

Now, I’m pretty sure many people who can install a head unit entirely and competently.

But, as said before, it’s the central unit. It is complicated, and as such, you need tools, knowledge of the car’s systems, and the model you’re trying to install. 

It’s a lot of work, and as such, you generally need to go into a mechanic shop in order to get one installed.

Each mechanic shop has its own rates, so that’s a lot of research to do for one machine. 

Pro Mechanic
Pro Mechanic

Double DIN VS Single DIN Labor Cost

A single-DIN head unit is simpler to install and will take less time for the mechanic to fit than a Double-DIN unit. The labor price could be more if this is the case.

Major retailers charge to install radios often charge a standard price irrespective of whether they are single or double DIN units. 

This can all vary, though, depending on your vehicle’s make and model, along with the type of stereo being installed. 

Stereotype Approximate Time Approximate Cost
Single DIN Stereo ~30 Mins $50 – $100
Double DIN Head Unit

(Touch screen)

60 Mins+ ~$100

See our standard head unit sizes article and the difference between Single-DIN and Double-DIN.

How Much Does it Cost to Install a Touch Screen Radio in a Car?

A touch screen radio usually costs around $100 for an installation, taking around one hour to be completed. The labor cost is the main factor to consider regarding the install.  

A Double DIN head unit is typically a touch screen, so we’re basing the pricing on this factor. 

CarPlay Android Head Unit
CarPlay Android Head Unit

Other cost factors to consider when installing a touch screen radio is:

  • Any additional wiring
  • Fascia Panels
    • A facia panel allows installing an aftermarket radio where the factory stereo face or opening is not quite the correct size.

Timelapse of Touch Screen Radio Install in a Car

Does it look difficult? 

Final Thoughts

So, how much should it cost?

Naturally, a fair amount. You have a complex machine being installed in various car models, and that machine may have different functions and needs than other Head Units. 

This results in a lot of different factors coming together to form a rather annoying and complicated process. 

Here’s a quick recap:

  • The Head Unit is the head of the stereo system. It handles all of the stereo’s processes, audio, audio levels, and sends messages to other parts of the Stereo system.
  • There are many, many models of Head Units, and some are more complicated and more difficult to install.
  • Installing a Head Unit isn’t easy, as you either need to have expert knowledge yourself or take it to a mechanic, who charges their own rates for installation.  

It varies, but in general, you should expect to pay over around a hundred dollars for an installation, depending on where you go, what model you want, and how difficult it is to install. 

I loved my car but was frustrated with my media system. So I upgraded my stereo, making silly wires and precarious phone mounts a thing of the past. The Apple Car Play stereo was so good I wanted to show more people how this could be done and truly upgrade their cars multimedia system! Founder
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