Depending on your budget and requirements, changing or upgrading parts of your car audio system can fluctuate between an affordable expense to a bank-breaking endeavor. There is a massive difference between entry-grade and audiophile-grade speaker prices.
Keeping this in mind, there are no hard and fast rules regarding when to replace or upgrade your car speakers. There is a raft of situations where a replacement or upgrade may be desirable, or even unavoidable. So here are a few answers to the question of how often to upgrade your car speakers.
Never! (But Only if You are Fully Satisfied!)
Let’s start with the simplest scenario: you are not a very dedicated music fan, and all you need is some radio or music playback while you are driving, without extreme distortions. If you belong to this category, you can live and drive blissfully without having ever to upgrade your car speakers. And since the chances are high that you don’t push your speakers to their limits, they will also last a lot longer than if you were a more demanding user.
This answer is also more applicable for premium cars than for cheap entry-level vehicles. The more expensive your car, the better the OEM speakers and sound systems tend to be. Carmakers are also improving their stock audio offerings these days. So if you are a happy camper with your current setup, why fix something that isn’t broke? Which brings us to the next point…
Only if, Or When They Break
Again, this can happen anytime, like once in 10 years or more frequently, like once every 2-3 years. It depends a lot on how cheap and flimsy the speakers are, and also on how hard you push them. Constantly playing car speakers above the 70-80% levels can lead to excess heat and degrade the parts.
And if you have a customized system with different parts, a mismatch between the impedance and power ratings of individual speakers and amps can also lead to broken or burnt out speakers. Mistakes made during wiring and installation can also reduce the longevity of speakers.
At Least Once, After You Buy A New Car
This is one of the most common scenarios. Despite improvements in stock OEM sound systems in recent years, you can still benefit tremendously from upgrading your car audio system to aftermarket solutions. If you are a keen music lover, stock speakers will most probably not cut it for your ears.
So a good option is to upgrade your speaker setup at least once. The key here is in getting a quality aftermarket solution. Depending on your requirements, it could be as simple as getting a new set of 2-way or 3-way speakers and subs. Or it could be a total overhaul, involving a new 2 DIN head unit, a full component system, with amps and subs in tow. Try not to skimp on this purchase, and you can end up with a reliable system that should last you a long time.
Occasionally, Depending on Tech Innovations
At its basic level, audio technology principles haven’t changed in a long time. They haven’t reinvented speaker hardware technology or anything. But things have been changing at a fast pace in recent years in areas of miniaturization and digitization. Speakers are becoming more compact, and head units are starting to resemble futuristic computers more than simple FM radios or CD players.
So this kind of upgrade is unpredictable. Take the head unit for instance. The average user usually focuses on the speakers, leaving the stock head unit on most occasions. If you have a decent modern car, you would still probably do this. But if you have a slightly older make, you might be better off upgrading to the latest 2 DIN, with features like HD touch screens, WiFi-Bluetooth, and app support.
Regularly, to Improve Fidelity & Quality
This falls firmly in the audiophile category. But even here, there are notable differences of opinion. Some users like to stick with a tried and tested setup over the years. Others might feel the need to tweak and improve their setup once every few years or so. We went to some popular online forums on the topic, and the consensus seems to be that most enthusiasts do make speaker upgrades on a regular basis, sometimes with metronomic precision.
If we had to specify a number, we would say that three or four years seems to be the golden mean here. That gives you enough time to enjoy music and get your money’s worth out of a speaker setup. And it also gives manufacturers enough time to come up with better upgrades and new speaker models as well.
There is no accurate answer to this question. It depends on far too many factors. The most straightforward answer should be something like this: you stick with your car audio system until you break it, or until you feel the need to upgrade!