Is it more affordable to have a portable DVD player in your car or have the dealer install one?

Car DVD Player Benefits and Drawbacks

Factory-installed DVD systems are becoming more and more common in SUVs, minivans and other family haulers. One major benefit to these systems is that they are original equipment and covered by the car's warranty. Since they're installed by the factory, they fit precisely into the car and often these systems can be operated without any extra controls. These systems also tend to have a large screen (or screens) that can be seen by all passengers. However, these factory-installed DVD systems can be expensive, often adding thousands of dollars to the initial cost of the vehicle. Also, since they're essentially a part of the car, they have to be left in place.

A variation of the factory-installed DVD system is the dealer-installed system. Dealer-installed systems aren't original to the vehicle, but they do use the manufacturer's recommended equipment. Since the system is installed by the dealer, they usually have warranty coverage as well, and offer the same benefits and drawbacks as a factory-installed system. However, because they're installed by a dealer, they can be added to an older car, which is a great option for people who want a DVD system but don't necessarily want to purchase a new car to get one.

Somewhere between dealer-installed and portable DVD players are third-party- or aftermarket-installed players. These systems are bought from an electronics or car accessory store and installed by someone other than the dealer. While this option does allow buyers to customize their system, it also means that the system won't be covered by the vehicle's warranty. In fact, in some cases, work done on the vehicle by someone other than the dealer may even void the car's warranty. The bottom line: Do your research before you act.

Portable DVD players are a lot less expensive than factory-installed DVD players. They cost less initially and since they're completely portable, they don't need to be installed. Since these players are easily moved from place to place, they can entertain in the car as well as on a plane or anywhere else for that matter. The downside is that they tend to have small screens and most have to be hand held, so it's tough for more than one person at a time to watch them. Also, when they're visible in a parked car they can attract thieves.

With all of these choices available, what's the right one for you and your vehicle? What do you really need to consider? Is cost the only factor? Find out on the next page.