How to Put a New Stereo in Your Car for Under $45

I knew I’d be doing a lot of driving. Audiobooks pass the time more quickly, and allow me to be entertained and learn a lot while the miles fly by. In my mind, the only good way to store and listen to audiobooks is via an mp3 player, iPod, or smartphone, because you don’t have to shuffle CD’s, or bring a bunch along (or burn them beforehand if you purchase online).

The only problem was the stock stereo in our 2000 Camry doesn’t have and auxiliary input, nor does the tape player work correctly for using a tape adapter. Since it was just going to be me and the boy the whole trip, I decided I had to have a stereo with aux-in. Here’s how I did it for less than $45:

  1. Find someone selling a stereo like this deal I found on KSL, on a site like craigslist.org or KSL classifieds. Make sure to use the search options to find an older listing that’s been on there a while. This gives you more bargaining power.
  2. Make an offer, or ask what they’ll take. In this case just asked if he’d sell just the stereo (because I didn’t need new speakers), and if so, how much? He responded $20. Done!
  3. Meet, get the new stereo and see what comes with it. Hopefully it includes some kind of adapter for the wiring, with a bunch of loose ends. This seller ended up throwing in the speakers too, since he didn’t want them (now I’ve got to get rid of some brand-new speakers, let me know if you’re interested).
  4. Go to Target, and buy an install kit for your vehicle ($19-pre tax). Yes! I said Target, not Best Buy. I bought one at best buy first and it a) did not have wiring adapters, etc, b) cost more. I returned it when I found the awesome one at Target. It included install parts and wiring for many foreign-made cars of the years surrounding our vehicle. They had the same kits for US-made vehicles, too.
  5. Install the stereo. You can find instructions online of how to take out existing stereos. Then from there you’ll just want to take the 2 sets of wire adapters (one that connects to the back of the stereo, and one that connects to the vehicle’s wiring) and join all the wires, which are color coded. Finally, follow the instructions included in the install kit for how to mount the new stereo (with probably a little pocket beneath it to fill the extra space) into your vehicle, plugging the now, joined wire adapters into the back of the new stereo and the vehicle.

It took me about 2 hours to install, but that’s because about half the time my 15-month-old boy was in the backseat crawling around, grabbing parts and tools from me, and trying to climb over the console into the front seat to “help.” I’ve already spent over 12 hours driving in the past week, and the new setup hooked up to my Droid X Android phone just great. I’ve listened to a couple audiobooks: Outliers by Malcom Gladwell (excellent) and Tree of Sacrament by Nick Galieti (also excellent) as well as a lot of music via Google Music Beta.

NOTE: If you get static in the audio when the device is connected to the aux-in and charging via the cigarette lighter plug, it’s called a “looping ground” issue. I have yet to fix this on mine, but will post an update when I do. I’m fairly certain from my research that merely connecting the ground (usually the black wire) from the stereo to the ground on the cigarette lighter, will fix it.