Cheap aftermarket parts, terrible car modifications, horrendous paint jobs: You can see or hear these disasters rumbling down the road a mile away. They offend the senses, lower a car’s resale value and sometimes even make the car more dangerous to drive.
Worst of all, these aftermarket car modifications make you look downright foolish. So in case you’re thinking of modifying your ride on a budget, here are 15 car mods you should steer clear of.
1. A Massive Rear Wing
Unless you commute to work in a Formula 1 race car, avoid this car modification. Because whatever the race car driver in you might think, it does not look cool, said Matt Degen, senior associate editor for Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com. “Let’s be honest: If your car had the kind of performance that demanded the stability and downforce for which a wing is intended, it would already come with it,” Degen said. “Slapping one on isn’t fooling anybody.”
2. Racing Stripes
What do these and a giant wing on the trunk have in common? They won’t make your car any faster, said Degen. “If you have a dedicated track car that you race on weekends, sure, why not. But painting stripes on your 25-year-old economy car or the family minivan will do nothing, but incite laughs from everyone else who knows better,” he said.
3. Scissor Doors
Sorry, but turning your Mazda into a Lamborghini is never, ever going to work. Worse, this car modification can not only hurt the resale value of your car — it can be dangerous, said Shayrgo Barazi, an automotive engineer. “For example, if the car rolls over, it can be very difficult for emergency workers to get the door open due to the hinge design,” Barazi said.
4. Lowered SUVs
Congratulations, you’ve hit the trifecta of bad car modifications all in one: This one is not only terrible for resale, but also dangerous and just plain illogical, said auto journalist Ryan McElroy of CarKeys, a car consumer information site. “Aside from the fact that it completely and utterly defeats the point of buying an SUV, lowering your car to within an inch of its life can also be extremely dangerous, as it’ll negatively affect the car’s handling,” McElroy said.
5. Giant Rims
You might think giant rims look cool, but Barazi noted that those over-sized rims dramatically change the suspension geometry originally designed for your vehicle, thus causing the car to handle poorly. “This is especially a big deal if you need to perform a rapid lane change or maneuver around an obstacle in the road,” said Barazi. Resale value: negative.
6. Too Many Bumper Stickers
You’re super into politics, or punk bands, or witty sayings. But stickers can ruin more than the view of the driver behind you. “We call that sticker bombing in the automotive world,” said Barazi. “Kudos to you if that’s what you’re into, but know that when it comes time to sell your car that prospective buyers won’t appreciate them as much as you and will more than likely send a low offer your way.” And yes, stripping them off is way harder than you think.
7. Bad Tint Jobs
When professionally done, tinting gives the vehicle a distinguished appearance, provides shade and affords privacy, said Barazi. “But if the installer is inexperienced or uses cheap tint material, then the tint tends to bubble up and appear tacky and cheap,” he said, adding that this ruins the aesthetics of the car and reduces its value in the process.
8. Wing Doors
Different than scissor doors, some of the most iconic cars of all time have featured winged doors — be it the incredible Mercedes-Benz 300SL, the DeLorean DMC-12 made famous by the “Back to the Future” franchise or, more recently, the Tesla Model X, said McElroy. But if you don’t drive an exotic vehicle, he advised sparing yourself some ridicule. “That sound you’re hearing is laughter, and no, they’re not with you,” McElroy said.
9. Outrageous Body Kits
A relic from the days of “The Fast and the Furious,” body kits were once popular but have faded from the aftermarket car parts scene, said Barazi. “The ironic thing is that in most cases aftermarket body panels make vehicles less aerodynamic and decrease the aesthetic appeal that the car originally had,” he said. He added that most body kits are made of cheap polyurethane that cracks easily and rarely fits correctly, leaving hideous gaps between the bumpers and the rest of the body panels.
10. Coffee-Can Muffler
Exhaust systems from the factory decrease noise pollution and make for a comfortable, noise-free ride. “Coffee-can mufflers almost always have an obnoxious, raspy tone that makes you want to rip your ears out,” Barazi said. “From a resale perspective, installing a coffee-can muffler will definitely reduce the value of your ride considering only a small percentage of car buyers are interested in attracting so much attention to themselves.”
11. Booming Sound System
Everyone in hearing range gets it: You really like music with bass. But there’s a difference between immersive, audiophile-grade sound systems and those bass-only aftermarket systems merely meant to go boom, said KBB’s Degen. “Beyond making your car sound like a rattle trap to anyone outside — and vibrating the bones of anyone unlucky enough to be your passenger — they’re just annoying and could possibly violate noise ordinances,” Degen said.
12. Obnoxious Paint Jobs
Obnoxious paint jobs go hand-in-hand with obnoxious car mods, said McElroy. And in case you’re wondering, flame paint jobs count. “Yes, they look awesome on old-school hot rods, but on your dad’s old Camry, not so much,” said McElroy. Barazi added that it will likely hurt resale value. “If you don’t ever plan on selling your car, then feel free to paint it hot pink or matte black. But if you do end up selling your car, expect to get much less than KBB [value],” Barazi said.
13. Neon Lights
Popularized after the original “The Fast and the Furious” movie, neon lights — especially ones that give off glowing ground effects — have lost their luster and are now just considered tacky, said Barazi. “Neon lights are not cool. Period,” he said. The only positive, said McElroy, is that drivers can spot you a mile off and adjust their course correctly — to avoid you. “They also give ants a nice suntan,” McElroy said.
14. Wood or Cardboard Body Parts
If you don’t have the money for real spoilers or side skirts — or at least something that won’t warp or disintegrate in the first sprinkle — stop right there. Crafting auto body modifications from leftover wood or cardboard is never a good idea, said McElroy. “The underpowered, smoke-belching horror that results will trigger the alarm bells of any insurer or police officer worth their salt,” he said.
15. Rims Worth More Than the Car Itself
Awesome rims are cool — on the right car. But on the wrong car, they only call attention to your silliness. “Of all the major downsides of spending more on rims than the car itself — and there are many — the biggest is that if anybody ever decides to steal the wheels, the owner’s just lost more than half the total value of their car,” said McElroy. Barazi added that you might want to keep the standard wheels for when you sell this classic because you’ll never recoup the cost of the rims. It’s best to sell them separately on craigslist — to someone who wants to look equally silly.
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About the Author
Terence Loose is an award-winning freelance writer who writes about everything from travel and sport to fitness and finance. He is a Hawaii-based writer who has covered a broad range of topics during his 20-plus-year career, from finance and education to travel and celebrity. He is a former editor for both Movieline and COAST Magazines and his work has appeared in publications as diverse as COAST, Riviera and Movieline to the L.A. Times Magazine and Orange County Register.