For many people, their car is their pride and joy; and rightly so! Cars are often an everyday-use necessity, so you want something comfortable, reliable, and something to be proud of.
Occasionally, vehicle owners may feel inclined to change their pride and joy to make it that extra bit special or unique. Unfortunately, many “modders” are shocked to find that the resale value of their car is much less than their expectations. After spending thousands of dollars on upgrades, the final value is more sentimental than economical.
But it’s worth mentioning that in some cases modifications can make a car worth much, much more. Some companies rely on this and make some incredible cars, modified way beyond what the manufacturer intended. In short: by modifying your car, you are narrowing your audience when it comes to selling it on. The more significant the customisations, the narrower your audience becomes.
It’s important to remember that the mods you make to your car are very likely to be for your own benefit – your Subaru Impreza didn’t come with a turbo as standard, so you spent $5,000 having one fitted. It’s way faster now, that’s for sure! It’s also worth much less because it’s no longer standard – it’s been ‘tinkered’ with in a way that affects the car on numerous levels.
When the time comes to sell, people will question its mechanical integrity, because you’ve strapped on a part that the car wasn’t designed to have (Impreza fans will no doubt argue that case, but this is merely an example). Is it safe? Will it last? Has the car been thrashed within an inch of is life?! In short: by modifying your car, you are narrowing your audience when it comes to selling it on. The more significant the modifications, the narrower your audience becomes.
Here is a list of mods that will and will not reduce your vehicle’s resale value when it comes time to move on.
It’s easy to get carried away tweaking your vehicle, especially if it becomes a hobby, but proceed with caution. Some mods are more obvious than others in reducing the value of your car. In some cases, quite significantly.
Car modifications that can reduce its value:
Don’t get us wrong, we’re all for adding a personal touch, and when done well, with a touch of class and style, modified cars can look awesome. But when beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder, there are very few people willing to spend tens, if not hundreds of thousands on a heavily modified car. No matter how well done, powerful or stunning it is.
With the more brash, over the top modifications out of the way, we’ll move on to the more subtle, tasteful upgrades you can make. While not adding to the value of your car, they also shouldn’t reduce it. Of course, this should be taken with a pinch of salt (and we can’t be held accountable for any loss of value from performing these mods). Generally speaking, these suggestions are a safe bet and can be carried out without too much worry.
Car modifications that can increase its value:
We always advise buying parts directly from your vehicle’s manufacturer that were designed for your specific model where possible. It is also important to have any work carried out by skilled professionals for the best results and least possible risk. Cars in stock factory condition are almost always worth more than those with aftermarket extras.
These extra-bright, often-blueish headlights will increase your visibility on the roads and cut through fog better than standard bulbs. Not only do they make it easier for you to see further down the road and give a wider peripheral, but they also make you more visible to oncoming traffic and pedestrians. While extra bright headlights are standard in many new cars, a lot of the previous generation did not have these and would benefit from the upgrade. They also look pretty cool and can be fitted by anyone! Here’s a comparison for you can see which is best for you.
Let’s get this clear: we’re not suggesting you add extra speakers and sub-woofers; those things will surely come with negative connotations and likely reduce the value of your car.
Upgrading the standard speakers – the ones tucked inside the door panels (usually) – can give a better sound quality and, as they’re hidden, likely won’t affect the value of your car. It is also possible to upgrade the main head unit (that’s the thing with the twisty knobs and buttons on it to adjust the radio) without it affecting the value. Don’t buy a crappy aftermarket stereo with a built-in DVD player – no one needs that in their car – but instead select a high-quality unit that specifically fits your vehicle. It is an idea to choose a head unit that was made by the manufacturer of your vehicle to ensure the value isn’t affected, although as long as you don’t install anything outrageous or fit it badly, you should be okay. Have a professional do this for you.
If your car didn’t come with alloy wheels as standard, our best suggestion is to buy wheels produced by the manufacturer of your vehicle to enhance the look of your car. Be careful here because alloys wheels, if chosen badly, can look really awful. If you must put oversized wheels with low profile tyres on your car, make sure you at least keep the originals, so you can swap them back when it comes to selling. If you decide to buy a set of second-hand wheels, we suggest you get them refurbished to look like new.
While some may argue leather seats are a bad idea in the Australian heat, there’s no denying they are a sign of luxury. It is fair to assume that most cars don’t have leather seats, many should never be fitted with leather seats, but if your car needs that extra luxury touch, a full set of new seats might be a good way to go – it might even add a little more value to your car.
We must emphasise that you replace all the seats, not just the driver’s seat or front seats – all the seats. Make sure the seats are in good condition and have them fitted by a professional – if in doubt, just don’t do it; or go for a standard upholstered seat as opposed to leather.
For Utes and 4x4s, upgraded suspension can often increase the modified car’s resale value. That being said, a modified four-wheel drive has probably been modified for a reason, leading to questions of its past life, and what kind of a beating it’s taken. If you plan on modifying your off-road vehicle, make sure you know what you’re buying, get brand-new, high-quality parts and have them fitted by a professional mechanic. You don’t want a shock absorber to fail on the beach 30km from civilisation.
In the case of cars, suspension mods are usually not a good thing. To the right buyer, it will be wholeheartedly welcomed, but to many, lowering the suspension of a car is a bad sign. This comes down to the perceived ‘tinkering’ of integral parts, which very rarely gives buyers a good feeling. It’s best to stick with the stock suspension kit.
As mentioned at the start of this article, painting your car can be a very bad idea if you want to sell it for anywhere near market value. That said, if you’re painting for the right reasons, it won’t affect the value – or at least only in a positive way. It goes without saying that you should only ever have a professional paint your car, don’t try that at home!
If you’re having the car painted to refurbish the bodywork and/or have blemishes tidied up, then go right ahead. Be warned though that painting a car is expensive, time-consuming, and will certainly not add the value to the car that you paid for the paint.
Having a car wrapped may look great – often does – but with a standard wrap lasting only a few years (3-5 usually) it begs questions of how much will It cost to remove? Is it going to start fading and peeling a few months after someone buys it from you? What is the bodywork below like?
Tinted windows are very popular in Australia as they help keep out the extreme heat, as well as help to block out the blinding sun. Done right, this modification will certainly have no negative effect on the value of your car. Done badly, and you can expect to receive a lighter wallet than you’d hoped on sale day. Make sure to have a professional do it and make sure they’re done to a legal tint (a professional will advise you of this and shouldn’t be willing to go any further), you don’t want it to be dangerously dark at night.
While not technically a ‘mod’, upgrading the tyres on your vehicle can be a wise investment. Often when people sell their car and need to replace the tyres (either for a roadworthy or just because they were dangerously bald) they will go for the cheapest option possible to reduce the amount they have to spend on a car they’re just going to sell anyway. Good quality tyres are always a good investment. They are the only thing connecting you to the road – do you really want to cheap out on that?
For standard cars, high quality, brand-name tyres such as Goodyear or Pirelli (amongst others) that are suitable for all conditions (obligatory mention of fast-changing weather conditions in Australia) are your best bet. 4x4s and Utes are often more desirable with all-terrain tyres. While full off-road, knobbly mud tyres may be desirable to some, they can be hideously loud on roads, wear down much faster and are usually very expensive. That said, a quality set of B.F. Goodrich A/Ts will be ideal for any 4×4. Don’t forget to replace the spare tyre as well! You’ll be glad of it if you get a flat.
So while modding cars can be a lot of fun, and we certainly aren’t against it, just make sure you know what you’re getting yourself in for. Expect a lower return when it comes to selling your vehicle. It’s a well-known fact mods are perceived as red flags to buyers, so be prepared. If in doubt, keep it simple, or don’t mod at all.
The main points:
The best thing you can do to your car to maintain its value is simply look after it. Keep up with regular maintenance, change the fluids regularly and keep it clean. Respect your car and it will respect you!