Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Car stereo and price hiding: Buy from Crutchfield but hire an installer.

Our car stereo died a few weeks ago. Wire cutter liked a model that seemed to fit our needs, the Pioneer DEH-X6800BT (Owners manual, I save these on my iPhone) was $112 at both Best Buy and Crutchfield. I didn’t want to do my own installation, so I bought it at Best Buy.

When it came time to do the installation Best Buy told me I needed to spend $70 for a kit — which they didn’t have. It turns out the same kit is bundled free of charge with the Crutchfield device. I can see why Best Buy exploits information asymmetry to hide the true cost of their services, but I think Crutchfield could market their price advantage a bit more. The Best Buy installers (Geek Squad) tell me they’ll do the install at the same price if I bring in the parts.

So now you know. 

(I’ve ordered the unit from Crutchfield, when it comes I’ll decide if I want to try the install myself. In their favor Best Buy is good at accepting returns, in this case an unopened return.)

Update 12/14/2015

After I studied the Crutchfield installation directions little red lights started going off. Especially given vague descriptions of tools I needed (not mentioned previously) and after I took a look at the wiring harness. So I decided to hire an expert.

Best Buy installers require payment in advance and they were booked out quite far. I found a local place with a single (very good) Yelp rating; same cost, quicker appointment, no advance payment and I felt more confident in them. The install took 45 minutes. I’m very glad I didn’t attempt it myself; the uneasy feeling I got from the Crutchfield online directions was well justified. I wonder if Crutchfield more-or-less expects people to pay someone to do the install.

My installer had no qualms about using the Crutchfield gear, he didn’t need anything else.

So after trial and error I’d recommend: 

  1. Find a local installer and confirm they’ll work with the gear you bring.
  2. Look at Wirecutter recommendations. Emily wanted CD so narrowed it down. 
  3. Order from Crutchfield. They bundle installation gear so was $70 less than Best Buy. 
  4. Pay expert to install. Locally I’d recommend this place.
The car stereo seems fine. I won’t do a full review (no time!), but only negatives were a default color change pattern only a teenage boy would appreciate and finding that the Pandora features don’t work with iPhone if you choose Bluetooth connectivity. The former is fixable in settings; the manual doesn’t mention this but you can easily set the display a neutral white. The latter wasn’t a big deal.
There’s a huge volume shift from Bluetooth to FM Radio; when I switched sources I almost blew my stock speakers out. 
Update 12/16/2015
  • The bluetooth connection is messing up Siri, it’s way less reliable. I know of a similar problem with a different BT user. I’m probably going to disable the BT connection and connect via USB.
  • The faceplate won’t come off, it’s stuck on the left side. My installer class that’s a problem with the (free) Crutchfield cage.
  • The UI is pretty awkward, but I’ll figure it out.
  • My Amazon review, including volume issues. I’m going to switch to using the USB/power cable and see if the volume/Siri problems are better.

See also

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