Budget shopping tips: GPS and car stereo

Associate Editor Antuan Goodwin shares some general tips on shopping for GPS devices and car audio on a budget.

Alpine iDA-X305
The Alpine iDA-X305 is a good example of a car stereo that can be found for significantly less than MSRP. Corinne Schulze/CNET

Looking to save a few bucks on that portable navigation device or epic stereo system for your car? Well, we have a few tips to help you keep more money in your wallet.

Don't be afraid to look at the outgoing models.
In most cases, the newest of the new GPS devices only offer incremental advantages over the models they replace. Meanwhile, the cost of the outgoing models often drops drastically as retailers attempt to clear out their stock to make room for the new. If the difference in feature set is worth the difference in price, you could rake in big savings.

Don't worry too much about the maps not being the most up to date out of the box. Most manufacturers have some sort of a new map guarantee that will allow you to download a free map update within 30 to 60 days of purchase.

Make sure it will fit.
Before you plunk down your hard-earned cash on a car stereo component, make sure that it is compatible with your vehicle. Check to see if your vehicle supports the standard DIN size (most do), or if it can accommodate a double DIN receiver. This is even more important when dealing with speaker components, which vary wildly in size from vehicle to vehicle.

Don't overdo it.
Before you go stuffing two 15-inch subs and a 1,200 watt amp into your Chevrolet Aveo, stop and seek the advice of a professional. Maybe your vehicle, your musical tastes, and your wallet would benefit from smaller speakers and a slightly less powerful amp.

MSRP is just a suggestion.
This is especially true in the world of car audio. It's not uncommon to see a car audio reciever retail at up to 25 percent off of the MSRP. Savings on speakers, amps, and other components is oftentimes greater. This can often add up to hundreds of dollars in savings.

Don't forget to account for installation.
You've picked all of your car audio components and come in just under budget, but when you get to the counter you're suddenly hit with a barrage of installation fees, mounting kits, and accessories. Fear not. You can often save a few bucks on installation simply by asking for a deal. Don't be afraid to haggle.

Enterprising DIYers can save even more money by skipping the expensive labor costs and by shopping for their wiring and mounting kits online.

Take security seriously.
This last one isn't technically a shopping tip, but one of the best ways to save money on car tech is to make sure that it actually stays in the car. Having to buy a new window or repair a broken lock on top of replacing your stereo or GPS device once it's stolen is the ultimate example of adding insult to injury.

Look for stereos with detachable faceplates for security and make sure your speaker and amp installations don't attract a lot of the wrong kind of attention. Don't leave GPS devices exposed when away from the vehicle and definitely don't leave the cradle and charger stuck to the windshield overnight.

 

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