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Factory Head Unit vs Aftermarket Comparison and Differences

Factory head unit vs aftermarket stereo system, which one should you go with? Unless you’re driving a modern vehicle, you should definitely choose an aftermarket unit.

Those who’re driving old vehicles, surely missing out on some exciting stereo features such as ear-pleasing audio, Apple car play/android auto, GPS navigation, etc.

Replacing the stock one with an aftermarket unit is the only way to enjoy these features in an old vehicle. However, let’s dive deep into all the reasons why you should choose an aftermarket unit.

Factory Car Stereo

  • Distorted or broken sound on high volume
  • Lacks advanced features
  • Old units lack GPS navigator
  • Complex to use
  • A very limited room for upgrades
  • Heavily constructed for optimum durability

Aftermarket Car Stereo

  • Balanced, clean sound even in max volume
  • Comes with a bunch of advanced features
  • Some of them comes with GPS navigator
  • Very easy to use
  • Gives you wide upgrading options
  • Most of them aren’t as durable as the stock units

Stock Head Unit Vs Aftermarket: Head-to-Head Comparison

There are a lot of differences between stock and aftermarket stereo systems, but here we’ve discussed the major ones. Take a look:

Sound Quality

Usually, factory speakers don’t perform up to the mark, they’re weak, and you’d understand that when trying to increase the volume to max. It’ll realize that the sound is breaking or getting distorted.

The reason why the stock stereo system does that is because of a lack of power. A stereo system that can’t handle high power won’t be able to deliver clean and detailed sound at a higher volume.

In factory head units, you might not get a sound that’ll please the ear even when you maintain the standard volume.

In terms of sound quality, the aftermarket stereo system easily outweighs the factory head units.

Usually, these stereo systems come with better power handling capacity which makes them perform great even with the highest volume.

"The sound in aftermarket units is very balanced and this quality doesn’t fade with time, like in stock units."


Factory head units in old vehicles don’t come with many features. Usually, they feature a CD player and radio. If the vehicle isn’t too old, then probably a cable to play audio from the phone. That’s all you get.

But in aftermarket units, you get a bunch of advanced features. They come with a Bluetooth system which enables you to connect your phone to the stereo system with a few clicks.

They also come with USB cables and micro SD card slots. Best of all, in some aftermarket units, you even get a screen as well where you can see directions, and watch videos.

With some latest aftermarket systems, you even get features like android auto, apple car play, etc. which will enable you to integrate your smartphone with the stereo system.

In aftermarket units, you also get options to change the mode of the tone. There are various modes such as surround, concert, etc. These are something you can’t expect from an old vehicle’s factory head unit.

GPS Navigation

If you have a modern car, your factory head unit might come with GPS navigation. But the manufacturer didn’t include GPS navigation in the old ones. This feature is something that's mandatory if you travel a lot.

Fortunately, many aftermarket units come with a monitor which will allow you to see the directions, the distance you’ll have to cover, and the distance you’ve already covered.

GPS Navigation In Modern Car Stereo

Ease of Use

In old vehicles, the factory head units are operated with buttons which is not only time-consuming but irritating as well. Nowadays, you can find aftermarket units that come with a touch screen that allows you to do everything with a slight touch of your fingertips.

Limited Options for Upgrades

The stock units don’t give you many options for upgrading according to your need.

For example, if you want to upgrade the speakers of your factory head unit, even though you can do it, that won’t be worth it. Because your existing system can’t handle much power, therefore, it won’t be able to fulfill the requirement of the new speakers.

But you can do that with an aftermarket unit because they’re designed to handle high power. If you want to add some extra tweeters or woofers, that’s possible as well.


Even though aftermarket units come with fancy features and appealing looks, most of them aren’t as durable as the stock head units. The original units are constructed with heavy-duty materials to last long.


Stereo systems in old vehicles aren’t attractive, most of them look dull. Whereas, an aftermarket stereo system comes in various appealing options, allowing you to choose the one you like. Though appearance doesn’t seem like an issue to some people, it matters a lot to some.

Factory Head Unit
Factory Head Unit
Aftermarket Head Unit
Aftermarket Car Stereo


Aftermarket units are made by third-party manufacturers which is why they are slightly expensive. This is the only reason why some people hesitate to use aftermarket units.

Ending Note

If you’ve gone through this comprehensive factory head unit vs aftermarket stereo system comparison, you’ve enough reason to upgrade to an aftermarket unit. That being said, when shopping for an aftermarket unit make sure to do thorough research so that you don’t end up picking up the wrong one.

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