Will a Car Stereo Work in a Boat? Pros & Cons + Advice

Will a Car Stereo Work in a Boat featured image

Everyone running automobiles wants all the comfort that comes with it. One of which is a stereo. The car stereo, just like those in a boat, keeps occupants informed and entertained.

Even those lurking in the river want this comfort. Fishermen say even fishes enjoy certain music. However, marine stereos are more expensive than car stereos. So many opt for car radio instead. But, will a car stereo work in a boat?

A car stereo will work in a boat. But it might not last as long as a marine stereo if exposed to splash or high humidity. This is true, especially for open-top boats.

In a hurry? We would recommend the Pyle Marine Bluetooth Stereo as it’s a cost-effective, purpose-built product for the marine environment.

If you still want to use a car stereo, we’ve summarized the pros and cons of using and installing a car stereo in a boat over a conventual marine system.

Pro’s Con’s
Price Not waterproof
Not shock resistant
Technology Durability
Ease of install

Is using a car’s radio in a boat a good choice?

If installing a car’s head unit in a boat gives one what they want, it shouldn’t be something to worry about. First, let’s see if using a car stereo in a boat is a good decision or not.



A car stereo is always cheaper than a typical marine head unit. So most people who want to save a few bucks buy a car head unit instead of a marine stereo.

Getting a marine head unit with the latest technologies may cost above $200. But, at the same time, the cost of a car stereo of the same standard is typically lower, although there are cheaper options available.

For instance, the Pyle Marine Bluetooth Stereo is cost-effective and easily purchased through Amazon.

A lot of choices

The number of built cars surpasses the number of boats. One can lift any vehicle’s stereo and use it on your boat, so long they are compatible. Not forgetting, almost all cars have aftermarket stereos. So there are a lot of options to choose from.

The latest technology

Car stereos, especially Android and Carplay, feature the latest technology such as Bluetooth usability and GPS navigation. You can also call, browse, or play Youtube videos via the stereo. These features alone make the journey enjoyable.

However, GPS navigation is one of its kind. Probably the most important feature needed in the sea. If you don’t know your way around the ocean, the head unit can help you navigate, although not all car stereos will work great for this. 

Water current changes from time to time. So it can help detect the safest route to take. You genuinely don’t want to find yourself in the middle of a high tide mistakenly– It’s scary.

Easy to install

Installing a car’s stereo in a boat takes just a few steps. With the right items and your owner’s manual, you should get the radio installed in a few minutes. See how you can install a car’s radio in a boat; this video also comes in handy.


Car radios are not waterproof

Marine stereos electronics are somewhat coated in plastic coatings. Many even come with watertight seals. So even when water touches them, it takes longer to get rust. However, a car stereo is not built this way. 

Once exposed to salty, moist air, the head unit may rust. That is, so long it’s in a water environment, even if water splash does not damage it, salty, moist air might. But if the stereo is in enclosed doors, you might have little or nothing to worry about.

Shock resistance

Marine stereos are built to resist shock since boats get a lot of pounding from water. However, it’s not so with a car stereo. Too many poundings over time are enough to damage the car radio. 

small boats stereo navigation and control area
small boats stereo navigation and control area

Replacing more often

Since a car’s radio is not built to be used in a water environment, they are most likely to be damaged easily. I.e., inability to absorb shock, resist corrosion or water.

This means you would need to replace it often to continue enjoying all a car’s stereo offers. However, this is avoidable if you take appropriate measures (which will be discussed later). 


The question, will a car radio work in a boat has been answered. But while a car radio will work well in a boat, there are things you must note. For example, car head units are not as suitable in a river environment. Hence might get damaged easily.

If you, however, insist on using a car stereo in place of a marine stereo and want it to serve you for long, these tips might help: 

  • Install it in a cabin where water cannot get to it–that’s if your boat has a cabin
  • If you drive an open boat, install it in a place where water would not quickly get to
  • If the slot available to install the stereo is exposed to water, enclose or use water seals on the radio. Even most marine radio built with tight seals still use some covering for maximum protection
  • Lastly, your stereo expert might know best, listen to him, so you don’t waste your money

Picture of Alex
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 StereoUpgrade.com
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