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How to Make Your Car Your Own, and Keep Its Value

You may already know that a brand-new vehicle loses ten percent of its value in the first month. But did you know that aftermarket parts and accessories lose value faster than the car itself? People who want customized vehicles tend to want to make them their own. The guy who just said, "Sweet ride!" isn't going to pay over market value for your car, no matter how much you have spent on individualizing it.

Here are a few tips and tricks for modifying your vehicle to get the most out of it when you go to sell it. And a few things to outright avoid.

Paint

Custom paint can look great on a car and show off the style of the vehicle as well as the personality of its owner. But unless you're building a ‘50s hot rod, keep it simple. A great alternative to crazy paint is a vinyl wrap. Wraps are completely removable, and when done right protect your factory paint.

Performance parts

Brakes, suspension, and exhaust are all common upgrades. A lot of cars have more potential than factory stock, with a few modifications. Luckily most performance parts are bolt-on, which means you can later unbolt them. Save the stock parts and swap them out when you go to sell your vehicle. If you only used the stock brakes and shocks to get the car home, you can advertise it as having low-mileage parts. Sell the performance parts on their own to make a little more money.

Body mods

Changing the actual shape and style of your vehicle is a big step. Most body-kits require drilling into existing parts. Those are holes that can't be undone. Some body kits stick on, but that glue is super strong and will damage the paint when removed. Be prepared to lose money on this investment.

A lot of trucks have aftermarket bumpers that bolt on. It’s a mod that makes sense: a big all-steel bumper protects more. Like the performance parts, hold on to the originals to swap back.

Lighting

Upgrading the bulbs in your car is simple. It's also something most people will either appreciate or overlook as something that doesn’t detract from the car’s value. Swapping out to aftermarket headlights or tail-lights can be iffy, though—too far from the stock light or with deep tint or colored accents, and you may have trouble finding the right buyer.

Adding fog light or big light bars can go either way. Some vehicles have fog lights on some trim levels and openings molded into trim panels for versions that don’t. If it looks stock, no one will question it, but they also won't pay for it. A lot of big light bars you see on the roof of trucks clip onto the door jamb, leaving no permanent changes. Like the rest of the list, if you don't have to bolt it on, take it off and sell it on its own.

Sound

Adding a removable subwoofer is one thing. Replacing every speaker is another. The fact is most people don’t pay much attention to the quality of the audio system in their car. Modifying the structure of the car to fit custom speakers is going to cost you money you’ll never get back.

Racing

Modifying your vehicle for racing is a project of passion. Beyond a stiffer suspension or bigger brakes to make a street car track ready, building a race car is irreversible. There is a market for used race cars: people looking to get into the sport but lacking the funding. However, the cost of building a race-ready car is beyond any possible resale value.

Fake anything

Vents, air-scoops, badging, and brake calipers—all of them are available at your local auto parts store or online and none of them will add anything to the value of your vehicle. Faux body vents and hood scoops hurt aerodynamics with no added performance. The people who care about the badge on your car know if yours is fake. Those red, oversized mock brake calipers aren’t fooling anyone. You’ll never get your money back on these parts, so just don’t buy them.

None of this is to say you can’t make your vehicle your own, just be smart about it if you plan to sell it later. If you have to sell stock parts to buy custom parts, ask yourself if you can really afford these modifications. Go in with the understanding that your custom vehicle doesn’t have the same value on the open market that it has to you.

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