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Shopping for a new car, with good sound in mind

Heads up!

Welcome to this article from the Crutchfield archives. Have fun reading it, but be aware that the information may be outdated and links may be broken.

I'm in the market for a car. This isn't something that I do very often. I'm the person who buys a car and then drives it until it's well past paid for. I have a friend who has owned 14 cars in the same amount of time that I've owned one.

I love my Ford Contour, and the stereo, speakers and XM radio in it. I love the low maintenance and relatively cheap repair bills. I love the fact that it survived two front-end collisions. I even love the color (dark blue metallic).

I don't love the air conditioner that has been breaking every summer for the past few years, the passenger window that doesn't roll down anymore (thanks to a break-in), the broken cupholder, or the fading paint.

I also don't love car shopping. I've had car salesmen show me the vanity mirrors, but not mention the engine size or gas mileage. Frankly, I don't know as much about engines as I do stereos, so I depend on my car-enthusiast friend to help me out.

I let him know what I like and he starts shopping around. He gives me a list of potential cars, and I start my shopping process. I take test drives to see how each car handles, what the interior is like (I'm not a tall girl, so finding a car that doesn't sit too low to the ground is important), and what just feels right.

But then I do something extra. Music is a big deal to me, so I find ways to enhance the sound system. I make notes about the factory sound system. Is there an external amp? Is OnStar® or a satellite radio included? Does it have a subwoofer? I then take my notes, plus the year, make, model and body style of each car and visit Crutchfield's Outfit My CarSM tool. This way, I can learn if my iPod® will work with the factory stereo. I can see what speakers fit and whether I can use my Pioneer radio.

I want to make sure that when I buy a car, I will be able to replace the speakers or radio if I want to. I also want to know if my product choices are going to be limited by fit restrictions or wiring problems. I've already eliminated a few cars based on the size of the radio opening in the dash or the lack of space to accommodate decent speakers.

I've eliminated an Audi because of wiring issues. If I get a Ford Five Hundred, I can use Polk speakers, which I love. Volvos are also cars in which I can only replace the speakers, and not the stereo. Curses!

Being an active girl, I like Subarus for the cargo space (big enough to fit my bike), my Pioneer radio will fit, adding satellite radio is easy, and Polk speakers fit. Sounds like a winner.

But then again, there's always that Saab convertible I saw the other day. And it is blue.