By King Johnson
If you spend more money customizing your car than on anything else, you’re not alone.
A recent report by J.D. Power found that more young drivers are buying cars, and that they want to personalize their vehicles with options to make them stand out from the crowd.
“There is a lot of discussion today about many young consumers not having the resources, interest or even passion to own a new vehicle,” says Arianne Walker, a senior director at J.D. Power, in a statement.
“However, this age group really is passionate about vehicle ownership, their driving experience and the image associated with the vehicle they buy,” Walker says. “Not only do they enjoy driving, but they also see their vehicle as a reflection of their identify.
“They want to personalize their vehicle with options and features, and tend to view it as an extension of their personality.”
The report found that 27% of drivers 25 and younger say they “completely agree” that they want to equip their vehicle with options and features to personalize it, compared with 20% of all new-vehicle drivers. Nearly twice as many (19% vs 10%) of the younger drivers “completely agree” that others can tell a lot about them by their vehicles.
Pimping your ride can get expensive. Some customization methods are more expensive than others, and the costs may not be recouped if the car is sold. With that in mind, we gathered nine smart — meaning affordable — ways to customize your car without breaking the bank:
For about $70, an HID lightbulb conversion kit can turn a car’s headlights into a light show on the road. Your headlights can be purple, yellow, or various shades of blue or white.
Another way to use lights to customize a car is with small, bright LEDs, such as lighting the carmaker’s logo. A recent listing on Panjo, a marketplace for car enthusiasts, had a lighted letter “T” for the Tesla for sale for $185. While not cheap (and neither is a Tesla), Panjo also lists many other automotive items for more common cars that are cheaper.
Just like adding new knobs to doors or cabinets around the house can help give a home a personal feel, so can a unique shift knob to your car. While you can plunk just about anything on the shift without having to spend anything, you could go a little wild with a customized skull for about $30. They come dressed as clowns, illuminated chrome skulls, pirates and Uncle Sam.
An inexpensive steering wheel cover for $10 to $50 is one option, but we’re mainly talking about replacing your steering wheel with one that has some personality to it. For $40 to $150, an aftermarket steering wheel can give your car the look and feel of a racecar. But be forewarned: You won’t have an airbag if you install one, so be sure to buckle yourself in safely.
Like a tattoo, having too many decals on a car can look tacky. Or at least not too creative if you don’t know where to stop. But they can be a unique way to pimp your ride, and are a lot less money than a custom paint job.
We’re not talking about window decals that let people know how many people are in your family or what college you went to. We mean car body decals such as racing stripes, flames, bullet holes or scratch marks — something to make your car stand out from the crowd for $20 to $70.
Rims and wheels with things such as spinners inside the hubcaps can turn a boring car into something worth looking at, but they can get expensive. Starting at $50 per wheel, they can quickly cost hundreds of or a thousand or so dollars each. To find something affordable, start at a wreckage yard and look for hubcaps from classic cars.
For $100 or so, depending on your state, you can buy a combination of letters and numbers that are clever but not offensive. If your state’s motor vehicle department issues vanity plates, it will prohibit obscene plates, so don’t try to go there.
We’re not recommending aftermarket seats, which can easily cost $700 or more. If you’re going for inexpensive but still customizable to bring out your personality, try slipcovers for as low as $30 for a pair in a color that matches your car. If you want to make the match look complete, add matching floor mats for about $50 more.
This may not exactly “pimp” out your ride, but a 12V personal refrigerator, such as one for $37 at Walmart, can be a custom device that will make driving a lot more enjoyable. Small fridges can fit in a car’s front and rear console to keep food and drinks cold. Storing beer in them while driving, however, is illegal in some states if the driver can access them.
This is another cheap way to customize your car, though your car’s windows won’t look especially different from the many other cars on the road with tinted windows. Prices vary by location, but can cost about $90 for two front windows.
Tinted windows can reduce heat and glare, and make driving more comfortable. Check with your state’s highway patrol to see how much tinting is legal, since some states prevent extra tinting that prevents police officers from seeing into the front seats.
Remember that not all of these will increase the value of your car, or make it easier to sell. One man’s pride in his pimp ride is another man’s shame. Just remember you’ll need to get additional coverage to protect some of your improvements you make. Shop and compare your insurance rates today!