What’s the cost of an iPad car installation?

iPad Mini installed in our Honda Element

$800 to install an iPad mini in your car?  Um, no – it’s a lot more than that.

This week in the shop, I had a customer inquire about having an iPad installed in his 2007 Nissan Altima.  I’m sure you’ve seen videos of Soundman on YouTube installing iPads in vehicle dashes and I’m sure you’ve wondered how much it would really cost to have that done in your own vehicle.  A quick google search brings up some questionable results.

The number one result is an article from Geek.com declaring it costs $800 to have an iPad mini installed in your dash. The article is actually quite misleading. The $800 price tag is really only for the customized dash kit. It’s clearly stated it doesn’t include the iPad, but it also doesn’t include any of the electronics or installation labor required to accomplish this. Read on to find out the true cost of an iPad car installation.

“I want an iPad installed in my car.”

I went out to the vehicle with the customer to see what kind of equipment he had, factory stereo or otherwise, so I could put together a quote for him.  He confidently informed me, “I want this (holding his iPad) installed here (holding it in front of his factory car stereo).  And I don’t care what it costs, I just want it done.”   

I took a quick look at the vehicle and noticed it was all stock except for an amplifier and subwoofer in the trunk wired in to the stock stereo system.  After assessing the situation, we ventured back into the shop.  I was somewhat concerned I was wasting my time.  Usually when someone says they don’t care what it costs they have no idea what it costs.  However, I kept an open mind and responded:

“It’s all totally doable, we’ve done this in a couple cars.  My own Honda Element has an iPad mini installed for the car stereo.  There’s a few things you’ll need in order to do it and there’s a couple different ways we can accomplish this.  The main thing is you’ll need an external amplifier and some type of external volume control.  We can either use a processor like an Alpine PXA-H800 with dedicated controller or we can go the more simplified route and just use a 5 channel amplifier with a dedicated volume knob. Either way you need an amplifier and a digital to analog convertor.  Also – I don’t really recommend amplifying stock speakers, so I’ll also include new speakers in the estimate as well.

iPad Mini installed in our Honda Element
iPad Mini installed in our Honda Element with Alpine PXA-H800 processor

The customer didn’t flinch as I rattled off the long list of equipment he would need and he was obviously really excited about the whole process and couldn’t wait to get the estimate.  I asked him to give me a couple days so I could go over it with an installer.

I let him know I would email him the estimate and call to confirm he received it.  If it all looked good, he should come back in so we could dial in the details.  At that point, I’d demo a few different speakers and amplifiers and then I’d show him the Alpine processor vs going the amplifier/volume knob route.  In the end, I’d give him a few variations on the original estimate to choose from and if it all looked good to him we would just need a 25% deposit to book it and get him on the schedule.  The customer anxiously called at the end of each day following our meeting to see if I had put the estimate together yet – he was really interested in getting this done!

What’s it going to take to get that iPad installed in your car?

Two days after meeting with the customer I had his estimate ready.  It included a long list of materials, parts and labor:

  • Dash kit for modification in 2007 Nissan Altima
  • Wire harness so we don’t have to hack up the stock harness – in case he wants to put the stock stereo back in at some point
  • iPad mini bezel from Soundman to be used in custom dash kit for car
  • JL Audio XD700/5 5 channel amplifier to power front and rear speakers and the customer’s existing subwoofer
  • JL Audio HD-RLC level control knob to be used as a volume knob for the new stereo
  • iStreamer outboard DAC for iPad mini (to get analog audio out of iPad mini into external amplifier)
  • Lightning to USB cable to connect iPad mini to iStreamer
  • One Quality RCA cable to go from iStreamer to XD 700/5 amplifier
  • 4 Gauge Stinger Amp Kit to wire up XD 700/5 amplifier
  • Morel Maximo Front Component Speakers
  • Morel Maximo Rear Coaxial Speakers
  • 8 hours custom installation labor to fabricate custom dash bezel to accommodate iPad mini in dash kit ($125 an hour)
  • Materials for fabrication such as fiberglass, bondo, filler, paint, etc.
  • 11 hours regular installation labor ($82.50 an hour plus 5% shop parts fee) to install Front Component Speakers, Rear Coax Speakers, 5 Channel Amplifier, iStreamer DAC, Volume Knob, iPad Dash Kit, Final Tuning and Set Up

So what’s the total cost of an iPad car installation?

Just a little over $4k – not including iPad mini.  I emailed the estimate over to the customer along with the above picture of our iPad mini in our Honda Element and invited him back to the shop for a proper demonstration.  I also called to follow up with the customer and confirm he received the estimate I had emailed him.  There was no answer, so I left a message.

Keep in mind, there are a few different ways to accomplish an iPad car installation.  Our shop is focused on sound quality, so we prefer a hardwired method vs a Bluetooth method.  In our own vehicle, we wanted to have a reliable processor that allowed for multiple amplifiers and advanced equalization, so we chose the Alpine PXA-H800 processor over a simple 5 channel amp and volume knob (or Audison Bit One).

I never did hear back from him.  I guess he did care what it costs.  Either way, I thought this was a great opportunity for me to share details and educate others curious about the process.  At least now you know what the true cost of an iPad car installation is.

iPad as a car stereo? A steering wheel control solution is here.

iPad Car Stereo Steering Wheel Control Solution

Have a really cool iPad installed in your dash as your car stereo, but totally bummed out you can’t use your factory steering wheel controls with it?

Estimated read time:2 minutes 10 seconds.  Want to read later?

Well bum no more.  It was only a matter of time.  Installing an iPad into your dash as your car stereo is pretty cool, but it does (or did) have a few limitations:

  • No Bluetooth interface (for handsfree calling)
  • No reverse camera input
  • No steering wheel controls (for the most part – depending on your installation technique you may have had volume control, but that’s it)
  • Can’t see shit when the sun is glaring (consider a Moshi iVisor anti-glare screen protector)

Thankfully, someone was smart enough to come up with a solution for the steering wheel control conundrum.

iPad Car Stereo Steering Wheel Control Solution
iPad Car Stereo Steering Wheel Control Solution

NAV TV recently announced the release of their StreamBlue iPad car stereo interface, also known as an NTV-KIT510.

For $499.95, NAV TV has provided an interface that will work in conjunction with popular steering wheel control interfaces such as PAC Audio’s SW-IRC, Metra’s ASWC-1 and iDatalink’s Maestro.

This kind of makes me wish I had steering wheel controls in my Honda Element.  Yet I also wish I kind of had a dash in my Honda Element.

iPad car stereo installation in our Honda Element is a work in progress
Yes, the iPad car stereo installation in our Honda Element doesn’t look like much at the moment, but more importantly, it sounds freaking awesome.

Our Honda Element is one of those continual works in progress.  It was coming together really nice and it was sounding pretty awesome (using Alpine’s PXA-H800 and RUX-C800, Morel Elate Hybrid Components, JL Audio 12 W6 and Audison Amplifier), but John wasn’t happy with how the HVAC controls were sitting and decided to start from scratch, again.  This poor car is like the cobbler’s kid who goes shoeless.  And I am also not unlike the cobbler’s kid, check out these babies.

iPad Car Stereo Chick
Support Car Stereo Chick, Winter’s coming and she needs new boots!

Back to the iPad car stereo interface at hand.  NAV TV tells us:

StreamBlue is a super high-quality Bluetooth 4.0 with EDR (extended data rate) audio streaming interface that provides a seamless and secure bi-directional wireless connection with your tablet or smart phone.  

The included and selectable analog RCA or digital S/PDIF (electrical coaxial) outputs allow the StreamBlue to be used by directly connecting to a factory or aftermarket audio input, aftermarket amplifier, or to a third party audio processing unit with either analog RCA or digital S/PDIF input.

StreamBlue supports pairing of up to 8 different devices and provides a 12 volt, 1 AMP remote output whenever a Bluetooth connection is active. Additionally, when used in an application where a tablet or smart phone is used to replace the factory radio, the StreamBlue, coupled with a vehicle-compatible steering wheel control interface from PAC©, Metra© or iDatalink©, allows steering wheel control functionality for safety.”

Pretty cool, right?  Now I just need a car with steering wheel controls to try this in.  The NTV-KIT510 can be purchased through an authorized NAV TV dealer.  Contact NAV TV to find a dealer near you.

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