Getting an aftermarket stereo used to be straightforward. Head down to the electronics store, pick a new unit, yank out your old stereo and install the replacement in a same-size dashboard cavity. Installation professionals could do it in a jiffy — and the resulting unit fit snugly, looked OK and brought you up to speed with the latest technology: a tape deck, a CD player and eventually an MP3 jack.
That's hardly the case today. Cars from the Ford Fiesta (above) to the Honda Accord integrate cutout-free stereos into ever-more seamless dashboards, but audio technology continues to improve faster than car companies update models. Market researcher NPD Group reports nearly a third of people already listen to music in their cars off a smartphone or MP3 player, and near-future systems boast complete smartphone integration. Today's new-car buyers don't have the easy ability to upgrade their stereos like they once did.