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Lead image

The advantages of having a touchscreen stereo in your car

Assistance and convenience on display

Why are touchscreen stereos are so popular? In this article, we'll discuss the benefits, cool factor, and safety concerns of large stereo displays.

Why put a large, touchscreen stereo in your dash? Fantastic looks are a great starting point, but there’s so much more you can get from a big screen stereo. You can see all the information you need at a quick glance, letting you get your eyes back on the road faster. You’ll also have expansion options like smartphone integration, navigation, and additional cameras available to you.

Touchscreen receivers come in three styles:

  • double-sized (4" tall) in-dash receivers, the most popular style
  • space-saving, 2"-tall receivers with flip-out screens
  • the rapidly growing category of "floating" touchscreen receivers

But, it’s all about the screen real estate and what it can show you. The large display and touchscreen controls make it easier to do anything on the stereo. Let’s talk about some ways to get the most out of a touchscreen receiver.

Pioneer DMH-WT7600NEX Digital Multimedia Receiver

"Floating" touchscreen stereos, like this Pioneer DMH-WT7600NEX, are becoming more popular for their larger display area and cool looks.

Nice, big display and phone support

With a large screen acting as your receiver's display, it's a whole lot easier to read than the single-line displays of traditional car stereos. You can quickly see what’s playing, who’s calling, and where you’re going.

Many of these receivers offer the functionality of Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™, which emulate your smartphone experience right on the receiver’s touchscreen display – great for keeping your phone out of your hand.

113DDX9907 Kenwood DDX9907XR DVD receiver in dash with backup camera image.

Adding a rear-view camera to your touchscreen stereo provides a better, wider view of what's behind you.

Add a camera (or cameras) for safety

A rear-view or backup camera can help make your touchscreen stereo a valuable tool for staying safe while backing up and to help avoid accidents. Its wide field of view offers a whole lot more of what’s behind you than using your mirror, including areas that your vehicle's body blocks from view. Many new stereos also offer multiple camera inputs, so you can incorporate factory cameras or add aftermarket cameras for areas like your side view – all viewable on the touchscreen display.

Kenwood Excelon DNR1007XR Navigation Receiver

Imagine all your navigation data on a 10.1" "floating" display, like the Kenwood Excelon DNR1007XR receiver with built-in navigation.

Onscreen GPS navigation

Are we there yet? Touchscreen stereos with built-in GPS navigation offer incredible convenience and assistance. But if you don't want to spend the extra money for built-in navigation and future map updates, look for a touchscreen stereo that has Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Both of these options get your smartphone involved to use navigation apps, such as Waze and Google Maps. They appear beautifully on the stereo's large display.

Pioneer DMH-1500NEX Digital Multimedia Receiver

Larger touchscreen displays also let you clearly see and adjust your sound settings quickly.

Customizable and informative display

In addition to the music and caller info that you can see on the display, many touchscreen receivers let you customize the background and layout. So not only can you make a personal statement on the look in your dash, but you can organize the functions that you use the most.

When you’re looking for that perfect sound, you can dive into a receiver’s tone controls and see them clearly (while parked). We also offer iDatalink Maestro interfaces for many vehicles that can show off vehicle diagnostics in your vehicle, depending on the receiver you choose. It can even include climate controls in some vehicles.

setting settings

Take some time to make adjustments on your touchscreen receiver before you hit the road.

Worried about the safety aspect of touchscreen displays?

We’ve heard comments from customers who worry that touchscreen receivers are a distracting hindrance rather than a help. And hey, we get it; we’re on the road, too. Here are some keys to using them safely (and maybe some things you didn’t know about):

  1. Adjust your screen settings before you drive. In the excitement of installing and turning on a new receiver (which we completely appreciate), some people will hit the road and try to adjust the settings on the fly. Simply put, don’t. In fact, most touchscreen stereos won't let you access the menus while the car is moving. Before you put your vehicle in gear:

    • Set the display the way you want it. That includes the contrast, backlighting, dimming, and variable color controls. Sure, you can reset them later if you need to…while you’re parked.
    • Set the functions you use the most for easy access before heading out on the road.
    • Call us with any questions you have about setting up your receiver. When you buy from Crutchfield, you get lifetime tech support, which includes helping you figure out the controls and set up.
    • Read the owner’s manual. Yeah, we know…just had to say it.
  2. Turn off the display. A busy display can beg for attention, but you can turn it off when not needed.

    display on

    display off

    Use the slider to see this Kenwood's touchscreen display on and off.

    There’s usually a one or two button sequence that can disable the display completely and quickly. The audio still works, so your music will keep playing, and navigation apps can still tell you where to go. And it'll automatically turn back on when you touch it.

  3. Get used to the controls. Many folks have mentioned that there are no “muscle memory” buttons and knobs on touchscreen receivers that can be reached without looking, which is a great point. But many models actually do have handy knobs or easy-to-find toggle buttons for volume control or other important adjustments. Some of the knobs are multi-functional for a variety of settings, not just the volume.

    JVC Gesture Control

    JVC incorporates a feature called "Gesture Control" for simple, quick controls for less distraction.

    • Some receiver makers provide for some simple “no-look” controls on the display itself. For example, JVC’s "Gesture Control" lets you swipe the touchscreen display to the right for track forward, left for track back, and a circular motion to adjust the volume – all with your eyes still on the road.
  4. Keep your steering wheel controls in play. Since you’re probably already familiar with these factory controls, why not use them with a new receiver? We offer steering wheel control (SWC) adapters for a wide variety of vehicles and receivers. In many cases, you can actually program more functions you’d use more often into your controls.

    Steering wheel control adapter

    With my factory steering wheel controls linked to my touchscreen stereo, I keep my hands on the wheel when pausing a song or turning up the volume.

    Example: I programmed a “Pause” on my steering wheel controls to simply stop the music without reaching for the screen. It’s great for keeping my eyes on narrow drive-thru lanes.

  5. Take advantage of voice controls like Siri and Google Assistant. While talking to your stereo can seem a little weird at first, they really do help in finding you info on the fly without a lot of distraction. Read more about voice control in the car.

  6. Add a compatible remote control. Many touchscreen receivers work with a trusty handheld remote control. Sometimes it's included, sometimes it's optional. For example, once he learned the remote button layout, my Dad loved using the remote to control his stereo without looking at or touching the stereo. This from a person who asked “Why do I need a remote control for a car stereo?”

  7. Know the driving laws in your state. It’s a good idea to reach out to your local governments to see what the rules are governing smartphone and touchscreen display use. Read our article about phone safety in the car.

Definitely worth a look

Regardless of which one you choose, the elegance of a touchscreen receiver makes them fun to use and incredibly handy. Use our handy vehicle selector tool to see which stereos will fit your vehicle. And our Advisors are available by phone or chat to help you choose the right touchscreen receiver for you.

Last updated 11/13/2020
  • Patrick Taylor from Sheridan

    Posted on 6/27/2021

    My mistake not Sony 8 series, 5 series

  • Patrick Taylor from Sheridan

    Posted on 6/27/2021

    I have used touch screens since 2004 in my civic Alpine flip up. Last year it gave up the horse and finally died. I change to the Sony 8 series and it is friendlier all around. As to the distraction I guess I have grown to it, once you got the two main buttons(a big plus) and Google assist i dont have to be hands on radio. So much I changed out factory on my 2002 Jeep, and 2002 Solaris to Sony 8 series, wife and son love them in the vehicles. I live in Wyoming so the drive between cities is quite the journey.

  • Barrie from Carmel

    Posted on 2/9/2021

    Very informative article, thank you. What I find disturbing and annoying is that there are very few home receivers with HD radio. Yes, we listen to HD in our Subarus and wish we could listen at home. There's seems to be a disconnect between the home-based electronics group, which is shunning HD radio, and the auto market which seems to be thriving on it. Any idea why this disconnect and/or if may ever change?

  • Dale Bowman from Wise

    Posted on 12/1/2020

    I for one hate the touchscreens , I don't like the greasy smudges all over it plus there's times when driving that you DO have to use it and the tiny letters on the display makes it impossible to use unless you keep a magnifying glass in your car , I have controls on my steering wheel but you still have to use the touch screen and now the automotive companies have removed CD players in place of high tech ! I liked listening to my cd's while I could still talk on the phone but now all music goes off when your phone is activated grrrrrr and most new radio displays look like the old Etch-A-Sketch bolted to the top of the dash !! Remember those ? I don't know why they still call them radios they're nothing more than a big distracting computer that shouldn't be there .

  • Gene Bostwick from Houston

    Posted on 10/18/2020

    Interesting comments. Apparently the majority of people leaving comments are under the mistaken impression that we (potential consumers) are more interested in having our behaviours dictated by those that feel they know best what's good for the rest of us. News flash ... not true. I'm MUCH more interested in first hand knowledge as to how the various head units work, the pluses and the minuses, NOT whether I should coose to install one.

  • Ricardo Molina from TOBYHANNA

    Posted on 4/14/2020

    Most of the negative commentary is a complete fail. People fail to realize that in most states it is illegal to be operating the radio while driving. Both hands must be on the steering wheel at all times.

  • James W from Helen, GA

    Posted on 3/1/2020

    I cannot stand touchscreen head units. They require far too much attention to be safe. The menus must be navigated through if you need to change anything or make a call as for some reason the voice commands seem to not work well or are more frustrating than pushing the flat screen menu. Muscle memory cannot be used. With steering controls, it is much better but still I find myself spending too much time at 70 MPH messing with the screen. Btw, I am a highly experienced driver with racing training so I'm not some lame guy going from A to B. I drive tons of rentals for work so I have experienced several factory units. Maybe the aftermarket units are better but I find the flashiness of them more distracting. And bring back volume knobs!

  • Rich from So San Francisco

    Posted on 7/16/2019

    I recently retrofitted my old Civic with a modern touchscreen with Carplay and Android Auto but the lack of steering wheel controls continued to bug me, it was too distracting to constantly look to the touchscreen to have to change the volume or answer a call. Since my car never originally came with SWC retrofitting was a chore. New steering wheel, repinning the harness, wiring up and programming the SWC module, programming the head unit and making the whole thing come together and work was a complete hassle, one that my professional installer wanted no part of. But now that I've installed it and it all works I can say it's a necessity. No more constantly looking and fiddling with the touchscreen. Even Siri and Google Assistant are a button press away. Need to find a gas station or restaurant? Directions to the hotel? Change playlists? Make a phone call? Need to know what the capital of Bolivia is while driving? Just hit the steering wheel button and ask away. It's great! A touchscreen is better than all the idiots I still see on the road with their heads buried in their laps fiddling with their phones while driving. But if you go the touchscreen route then you really need to have steering wheel controls and better yet access to Siri or Google.

  • MarlinB

    Posted on 6/11/2019

    Wondering why nobody from Crutchfield seems to be taking seriously all these posts about how dangerous touch screens are. They only seem interested in responding to questions from people looking to BUY something. CRUTCHFIELD, what are you doing to address these concerns? Are you letting manufacturers know that people want more options with SAFETY in mind (NO TOUCHSCREENS)?

    Commenter image

    Robert Ferency-Viars from Crutchfield

    on 6/12/2019

    Thanks for pointing that out, MarlinB. Our goal when responding to comments is indeed to help people solve problems, whether that's figuring out which product is right for them or how to best use the gear they already have. We don't typically engage in the other conversations that take place. As much as we'd love to, we just don't have the time.

    Driver safety is a major concern for everyone on the road today. Between smartphones, more complex vehicle controls and interfaces, and yes, fancy car stereos, it's just too easy to become distracted while behind the wheel.

    Here at Crutchfield, we have always taken driver safety seriously. We promote products to help keep the driver's hands on the wheel. We refuse to provide tech support that would result in an unsafe installation, say by defeating a stereo's safety features. And we strive to educate our customers about the dangers of distracted driving.

    As for your question about communicating with the manufacturers, we definitely do. A big benefit of our relationships with our vendors is that they rely on us for that direct customer feedback. And luckily, if you don't want a touchscreen in your dash, there are still tons of great stereos out there without them, so we as consumers, do have that option.

  • lone* from Atlanta

    Posted on 4/29/2019

    Touch screen really should be consider the distraction that should be ban from use in car. Also, it is duplicate with your phone and it not operable without eye aide at cost of road safety. Plus for most aftermarket car radio, they be installed at the location that not easier to view. For car with oem touch screen, which most of time would have bigger size and easier to view without to lower your head too much. I strongly agree with many who already point out this to us. Put a music art displayed at 7" and at knee level really a bad practice. I would rather hook up my phone while driving. The speaker, mic, and control is all we can share while driving but not the additional views that for entertainment purpose. Glance of small degree is ok but not at 30 degree, which is way too much off.

  • Thomas Leach from Lexingtom

    Posted on 4/14/2019

    I think touch screen controls are a safety hazard. They require you to take your eyes off the road for many seconds an in some cases over a minute to drill down many levels of controls. I rent cars almost every week in my business travels and have not found a touch screen that I can use without taking my eyes off the road. I'll keep my 2005 GMC Sierra. I can do everything by feel without ever taking my eyes off the road.

  • Rob

    Posted on 9/6/2018

    "You can see all the information you need at a single glance, making it easier to keep your eyes on the road" In practice, they do the exact opposite. Because the user interfaces (UI) do not have to adhere to any standards, no two screens are the same. You can never rely on muscle memory or even tactile feel to navigate the device. EVERY interaction requires looking at the UI and finding the bit you have to touch. This can take seconds, which is time away from the primary function of driving a car. Even the benefits of a reversing camera are dubious when you are focusing on one screen to the detriment of the mirrors all around you. We have a touchscreen in our Outlander and I doubt I will ever get another one.

  • Kylee O'Brien from McHenry

    Posted on 6/15/2018

    Hi, I am 16 and just getting my first car. I have found a touchscreen in the car very useful in the past and just wonder if it is legal for me to have one. I have looked all over and not found a specific law about screens and just want to double check before looking into investing in one.

    Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    on 6/20/2018

    Kylee, unless there are specific laws in your state regarding younger drivers and touchscreens, those types of radios are legal everywhere. Your best bet may be to contact your local DMV to confirm. It's worth noting that it's illegal to have a video playing in the front of the car in every state. That's why touchscreen stereos must be installed properly so that some functions are restricted and won't work unless the car is parked.
  • Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/16/2018

    Casey, they do with the proper adapter. I've passed your question along to an Advisor. Someone will contact you soon to help.

  • Casey Bales from Wichita

    Posted on 4/15/2018

    My wife has a 2011 Chevy Cruze. All of her climate control settings are displayed on her OEM head unit. Do any of these stereos have those functions?

  • Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/20/2017

    Scott, I've passed your question along to an Advisor for the best answer. Someone will contact you soon to help you find a receiver that's not a distraction. Adjusting your receiver settings will likely be part of the solution as well.

  • Scott from Portsmouth

    Posted on 11/10/2017

    I have ADHD these displays are a complete distraction. How do I purchase a new vehicle that does not have one. Or one that the screen is not able to be used and only displays the clock when over 25mph?

  • Jay from Lake city fl

    Posted on 3/16/2017

    Great article. I used the crutchfield menu to find which in dash Navi receiver would work. Really narrowed it down. Thank you

  • Edwin

    Posted on 12/7/2016

    I always felt touch screen was very difficult to operate than manual controls in car head unit since you have to see the screen to control.In case of manual controls you can adjust without viewing it. My car got small accident as i was trying to operate while driving. It's bit of dangerous sometimes. I switched back to normal headunit with manual controls. Now i did not face any problem

  • KenD from Portland

    Posted on 11/23/2016

    I agree with Merwin! Touch screens in cars are a safety hazard, regardless of their size. Tactile buttons are far safer. I'm a bit disappointed in Crutchfield for publishing an article that says otherwise, and in manufacturers for abandoning the safer designs. I'm completely baffled as to how this trend has been ignored by safety regulators. I have complained to the manufacturers of every car I've bought that had a touch screen in it, and I can tell you now that I will never buy an after-market car entertainment system that can't be completely controlled by tactile buttons. I miss my 2003 Jetta with the Monsoon stereo, the last SAFE car stereo I've owned.

  • Jim Hassinger from Los Angeles

    Posted on 11/21/2016

    Something people might think of, if they're worried about touch screens being too distracting, is a phone with Google Now or Siri. "Hey, Siri, play the Beatles," starts up within seconds. "Play Mozart" or anything else you want will start up, and if you do it while watching the road, you're safe and happy with your musical choice. At a stoplight, I'll tell Siri to send a message to my friend Lisa. It's off before the light changes.

  • Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/26/2016

    Tara, unfortunately, we don't recommend radio replacement for your vehicle. Give us a call and an advisor can suggest alternatives to improving the sound in your BMW.

  • Tara E from Richfield

    Posted on 8/24/2016

    I have a 2003 BMW M5. The picture that you are showing for the Stereo is not the same as I have. Which is making it difficult to to have your automatic thing help find a replacement. Thank you

  • merwin

    Posted on 5/19/2016

    I have also observed that touch screens require the driver to focus on it longer to accomplish tasks than buttons. A much bigger distraction from driving. and far less safe for that reason alone. Try to make a selection and hit a bump - now you need to spend time looking at the screen again to figure out what you selected instead and correct it..... Once again, distracted driving. Give me pushbuttons any day. Tactile feedback is superior!

  • Jesse Barnes from Missoula

    Posted on 4/13/2016

    I am concerned about how long a touch screen in a vehicle will last. We are looking at buying a new Honda Odyssey (2012-2014) and then driving it for ten + years. I have never had a computer last ten years and thus I am concerned a touch screen would break or be a major repair eventually. I'd rather save my auto repair budget for mechanical issues not a cool touch screen.

  • Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 3/25/2016

    John, if you have a factory sub, there is an amp powering it. Your sub and amp are located in the cargo area on the passenger side. I've passed your question along to our sales team. An advisor will contact you soon to help you find the right gear for your Ford.

  • John Cariotto from Lincoln, NE

    Posted on 3/25/2016

    We have a 2007 Ford Escape Limited. How do I tell if the vehicle has the amplified bass? The 6-cd changer on the factory radio has a broken gear and I am told it can't be fixed. We're thinking of installing a radio with a screen so we can have a backup camera.

  • Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/1/2016

    Alvin, a variety of touchscreen receivers should fit your 2006 Civic. You can use our vehicle selector to confirm which stereos fit your car and get some info on what else is needed for the installation.

  • Alvin from Miami Lakes

    Posted on 1/31/2016

    Hello, can any of these touchscreens radios/receivers fit in my 2006 Honda Civic Coupe?

  • Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/7/2016

    Brent, I've passed your question along to our sales team for the best answer. An advisor will contact you soon to help you find the car stereo that's right for you.

  • Brent from Petawawa

    Posted on 1/7/2016

    Hey, I'm curious is worth switching out my 2015 kia forte sx model factory HU with nav system and back up camera for high end after market, I have kicker components Kc series and spr 69 rear and powered by pdx4 and alpine mrx 1100 with two 10" alpine type r plus cap. Your thoughts ??

  • Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 12/23/2015

    Sabine, I've passed your question along to our sales team for the best answer. An advisor will contact you soon to help you find the right gear for your Accord.

  • sabine from dallas

    Posted on 12/22/2015

    I have a 2010 honda accord ex-L with navigation, but it is not touch screen, Is there any way I can keep the factory navigation and add a touch screen interface on the dashboard near the air vents? ideally, I would like to use both.

  • Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/30/2015

    Robert, I've passed your information along to our sales team. An advisor will contact you soon to help you find the receiver that's right for you.

  • Robert Aycoth from Forest Hill

    Posted on 10/29/2015

    I have a 2010 ZR1 Corvette. It's Time I upgraded the Receiver. I need Bluetooth, Navigation, Ipod ( Aux Jack) ,DVD and backup Camera. What Options do I have?Who can Install it? Thanks.

  • Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/19/2015

    Dave, I'm afraid there isn't an aftermarket satellite radio antenna that you could swap in and out of a factory connector when you need it. Your only option is to replace your radio with a SiriusXM-ready receiver and additional SXV300V1 tuner, or add on a dock-and-play radio. Both will come with an antenna that will give you the length you need to adjust placement when you have your camper on or off. In that scenario, you wouldn't use your factory-installed satellite radio antenna at all.

  • dave

    Posted on 10/18/2015

    How can I access the sat radio antenna on a 2015 f350 to allow an after market antenna to be installed that would allow playing the Sirius sat radio when I have a cab over camper on the truck blocking the sky. Ford is no help what so ever. Older model trucks used to have access behind the glove box but not any more. Most of the time the sat radio is a waist of time. There has got to be something that will work. Just want to listen to what I'm paying for when I have the camper on.

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    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/17/2015

    Bill, we carry the comparable Pioneer AVH-270BT DVD receiver.

  • Bill Hoover from Phx.

    Posted on 8/15/2015

    How much does a pioneer car stereo model #AVH-271BT cost?

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    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/22/2015

    Wayne, we have researched a good number of Toyota's 2015 vehicles, but not all. Give us a call at 1.888.955.6000 or enter your vehicle information in our vehicle selector. If you purchase a receiver from us, you'll receive instructions on how to install it if we have researched your car, you'll receive free lifetime Tech Support to help you with your installation, and you'll receive a deep discount on any related factory integration gear.

  • Wayne Prather from Vallejo, CA

    Posted on 7/22/2015

    I need a Head unit with all the features. I just returned a unit which there was almost no info and support from the busines. Do you have eniugh info on the 2015 Entune Audio unit from Toyota? I have: AM/FM- CD/DVD-STEERING WHEEL-BLUE TOOTH-R-CAMERA-USB/AUX. I NEED NAVIGATION AND IF WIFI WAS IN IT IT WOULD BE OK. I will be instaling this myself, I just need good instructions.

  • Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/22/2015

    Angel, there are only a few touchscreen receivers that will fit your vehicle. You can use our vehicle selector to confirm which stereos fit your car, or give us a call of 1.888.955.6000

  • Angel Castro from New York

    Posted on 7/21/2015

    I need something like this for my 2004 ml350

  • Craig from MN

    Posted on 7/5/2015

    The double DIN DVD receiver that was in my car when I bought it was nice as long as I didn't listen to satellite radio. Every time I switched to the AUX input the screen would go black and display a message telling me that I couldn't watch videos while the car was in gear. I couldn't get anything else, and the company that makes it told me it was a safety feature to keep me from killing myself watching videos instead of traffic. They told me that the backup camera plugged into the AUX input and there was nothing I could do about it. I could still listen to Sirius, but it wouldn't tell me what I was listening to. I no longer have that receiver. If you're buying one of these, you may want to check on this.