Your Complete Guide To Buying Modified Cars


Advice on buying a tuned car and how to avoid a lemon

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Car enthusiasts all want something fast and sporty, but their budget may not always allow them to pick the new car of their hearts' desire, hence the growing market for used modified cars. BMW's best car for enthusiasts is one of the M models and Mercedes offers various rapid AMG models for sale. The list goes on with all the RS, SRT, and Sport badges vying for gearheads' attention. But not everybody has the means to buy one of these expensive, specialist models and for these people, buying a used modified car could be the answer. And these modifications don't necessarily have to increase engine power; they can be purely cosmetic too. This short guide will outline the advantages and disadvantages of buying a modified or tuned car.

Tuning a Car

Reasons to Buy a Tuned Car

There are up- and downsides to everything and when it comes to modified cars for sale, the upsides include:

  • The base vehicle is often usefully improved by having been made faster and sportier
  • You get a used fast car with more power for the price of a slower new one
  • Expensive modifications you've planned are already done, included in the price
  • The appearance of modded cars may have been significantly improved
Tuned Car

Disadvantages of Used Modified Cars

Unfortunately, there are just as many cons as pros when buying a modified car used:

  • Substandard after-market engine parts can fail or cause expensive engine failure
  • Unprofessionally performed mods can compromise safety and reliability
  • If the vehicle is still under warranty, the modifications void the warranty
  • Some modifications may be covering up accident damage
  • Reselling a modded car is not always as easy, as aesthetic enhancements are often personal and subjective

How to Choose Among the Modified Cars For Sale

Be smart when you buy modified cars to protect yourself from potential expenses and headaches. Keep the following in mind when browsing tuned cars for sale:

  • Ownership history report. Find out as much useful information about the vehicle's history as possible, as well as how many owners it's had. If this information is unavailable, it could raise red flags.
  • Service history and proof of mileage history. Modified cars should be serviced and maintained regularly and there should be proof of services, as well as the mileages at which these were done. You can phone up the service centers and confirm that the stated mileage is correct and the maintenance actually happened. The same applies to modifications not related to the engine or mechanics - winches, bigger tires, snorkels and the like all need to be regularly checked and maintained.
  • Repair record. Meticulous owners keep records of the repairs to prove the car was properly cared for. A salvage title could be a bad sign and, in some states, vehicles with a salvage title cannot be used on public roads.
  • Hidden damage. Take an expert along to carefully inspect a car for signs of crash damage or damage caused by changes and modifications. Remember that styling add-ons can hide crash damage.
  • Vehicle use. Determine how the vehicle was used. Was it only used on the street or did it spend considerable time on the track? Extended track use accelerates wear and tear.
Used Modified Cars

Where to Buy Modified Cars

Buying a used car can be tricky, and more than a little risky - be sure to read our comprehensive buyer's guide here. Where to buy modified cars adds yet another layer of complication. Buying modified used cars for sale from the online classified is an option, but this is particularly risky with all the grifters out there. Well-known, established websites are safer, but you'll still have to carefully inspect the cars. Meet-ups, car shows, and car clubs are better and give you more opportunities to network, speak to owners, and physically view and drive cars.

Conclusion: Is A Used Tuned Car Worth It?

Yes, used modified cars can be worth it if you find one that has been professionally modified with quality parts and properly looked after by its owner. You could be driving away with a vehicle that offers you a lot more than when it left the factory. However, as always, buyer beware. You have to check it out very carefully and walk away if it looks shoddy, abused, or neglected.

Buy Modified Cars


Will my insurer insure my modified car?

Yes, most insurers will insure a car if the modifications are disclosed. However, it might be more expensive to insure. Generally, modifications such as tow bars, leather seats, sunroofs, and backup cameras are already covered. However, custom wheels and tires, turbocharged or supercharged engines, substantial infotainment or audio upgrades, or racing accessories will typically cost extra.

What are the best car modifications on a budget?

In terms of engine tuning, replacing OEM air filters with performance equivalents and doing optimization work such as flowing cylinder heads and replacing the exhaust are cheap and yield noticeable benefits. Other cheap and popular mods include suspension tuning, leather upholstery, short shifters, larger alloys, or body tuning such as installing vinyl wrap or adding spoilers or skirts.

What are the cheapest cars to modify?

Affordable cars that were sold in significant numbers and that have an enthusiastic following are usually the top modified cars, because they are cheaper to modify, with more plentiful after-market parts available. Examples of the best modified cars include the older models of the Ford Mustang, Mazda Miata, Jeep Wrangler, and Honda Civic.

Will engine mods reduce reliability?

It depends on the modifications you choose to do. Some minor optimizations, such as performance air filters, free-flowing exhaust systems, and flowed exhaust or air-intake manifolds, can improve performance and economy while maintaining reliability. Others, such as fitting a turbo or supercharger, might reduce longevity and put additional stress and strain on the other components, accelerating their wear.

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