Thanks a lot for the replies guys! This really helps. I haven't started planning the upgrade path yet, so I didn't have a fixed budget in mind.
Paul: your recommendations for price range are great, thanks! Ballpark numbers are just what I need since I know NOTHING of car audio. Great info, but a bit too much for me, at least all at once. I don't want a trunk fulla sub either.
My trunk gets used and I'm not willing to cut it up for ICE, but I would sure be open to a decent sub that doesn't need a big fiberglass box in the trunk. Do you know if there is a head unit out there that plays MP3s from DVD-R discs? Not DVD audio, just a normal PC-burned DVD-R full of MP3s. I'm trying desperately to avoid hooking my iPod up to my car.
Pedro: gracias man! Your so right about da quality. I probably should have mentioned that I'm not that cheap, but I just can't afford to do it all at once. Quality is definetly the factor here, not price (within reason of course). I don't mind buying used at all, but since I'm not into ICE, I'd probably get ripped off pretty easily. eBay is out for me since I know jack about this ICE shit. I really need some good research info on this crap!
T.Dot_E30: I'm not sure if that head unit exists, its just what I want.
Would be perfect for me. 4.6gigs of MP3s per disc, 50 cents a blank disc. **** the iPod.
Okay, sounds like head unit is the first logical choice. Anyone wanna help me pick one? Got some good model numbers, links, reviews I could read? Thanks a lot guys. This site sure has gotten a LOT friendlier than the first time I had an account here a few years back!