Hot Ways to Mod Your Ride…Or Not

Matte black Camaro

Like it or not, the car you drive tells others what kind of person you are. Drive a Corolla? You’re telling the world you’re a common-sense, practical, point-a-to-point-b type of person.

Drive a BMW? The world thinks you are a confident, maybe slightly arrogant, performance-appreciating go-getter.

Drive an Escalade? Well, we won’t tell you what the world thinks. You wouldn’t care anyway.

The point is, cars define us even when fresh off the showroom floor. For most people, that’s enough. But for true car geeks, cars must be tweaked and modified to adequately portray the driver’s personality.

Keep reading for some common mods today, and be sure to let us know what you think each says about the driver…

Matte black paint

Civic Type R

If you drive a supercar or a stout, low-slung muscle car, matte black paint can look seriously sinister. On the wrong vehicle (which is anything else, including this Civic) it looks like a pitiful attempt to be cool.

Scissor doors

Ford Focus with scissor doors

Never. I’ve seen these on everything from Lambos to Buicks (and now, on a Focus), and they never look good. Gull-wing doors are slightly better, but unless you have a DeLorean or an SLS AMG, stick with the doors that came stock.

Rally-car look

Rally Ford Focus

My thoughts here are simple: Why would anyone want to plaster corporate logos on their car if they’re not getting paid for it? Rally cars don’t do it because they look good. They do it to pay for performance upgrades. Case closed.

Carbon fiber look

Carbon fiber dash trim

Real carbon fiber? Go as crazy as you can afford to. Fake stuff with the “carbon fiber look”? Might as well fill your car with those little blue “New Car Smell” trees, too.

Side skirts, fins and spoilers

Mitsubishi Lancer fin

The purpose of these is to direct force downward at high speeds to keep the tires planted. Driving a front-wheel-drive Mitsubishi with a giant fin on the rear does not make your car faster or make you look cooler. It makes you look like you’ve dressed your car up for Halloween.

Custom exhaust

Dual exhaust to make your V8 Tundra rumble and roar? Sweet! Giant pipe on the back of your ’01 Neon? You can just stay in the kindergarten of car-dom while the rest of us grow up.

Are any car modifications worth the money, in your opinion?


Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used Toyota Corolla
Used Cadillac Escalade
Used Ford Focus
Used Honda Civic
Used Chevrolet Camaro
Used Mitsubishi Lancer
Used Toyota Tundra
Used Dodge Neon


  1. Lots of people black out their rims, too. To me it just looks like they’re missing hubcaps or something. Only car I’ve liked that look on was with the old Porsche 911s from the 70/80s with the Porsche alloys blacked out except for the outer rim.

  2. For those that hate the low profile tires, from a road course perspective they are an improvement because you can get better cornering. Same with lowering the car, when lowering the car you will usually get better cornering with the right suspension due to less body roll.

    Body kits can be good if done right. Some great body kits could be something as simple as upgrading to a higher trim level bumper cover, kind of like the difference between the Chrysler SRT cars and the models below the SRT. The SRT has its own slightly different front which looks better than the lower models.

    For loud stereos, the problem you see when the car is rattling is the person didn’t use any dynamat. I know of a Chrysler 300 that has a lot of dynamat inside, and it can push out 135dB without a single rattle. If the trunk is closed, you cannot hear the subs from outside the car.

  3. Brian- paint that ZR1 matte black along with those lambo doors and you’ve actually got a pretty sweet ride!
    Joe- I love your sense of customization. Just can’t go wrong with a serious audio system!

  4. Lambo doors on a corvette are about the only modification that I would put on a car. That is, if I owned a corvette. I only want the zr1 so I have to wait a few years until the current zr1 body style drops down to about 50k or less.

  5. well as a bit of an audiophile, I’ve replaced every stock audio piece in my car (with the exception of existing wire, since insulated copper is insulated copper. I’m not going to get a quality/performance boost out of new copper wire). Stock speakers replaced with Polk DXi series speakers with size matched to fit the stock mount openings, stock receiver replaced with a Kenwood receiver, which brought me from just AM/FM radio and a broken cassette to AM/FM, audio CD, data CD (a CD with just a bunch of .mp3 or .wma files), AUX port for mp3 players, USB in the front for iPod integration or to play music off a flash drive, and an expansion port in the back for a CD changer, HD radio tuner, another USB, and probably some other things I’m forgetting. Also added a Rockford Fosgate subwoofer and amp rated at 150W RMS each (around 300W peak, I think, but it never gets that high anyway with the volume level I tend to use). The end result is superb sound quality and rich bass for any kind of music, loud or quiet, and the sub doesn’t drown anything out and gets the job done for anything bass-heavy. To play loud, bass-heavy music in my car does rattle my mirrors a little, but I’ve listened outside my car to my stereo at high volume with the windows and doors closed and it’s not as loud as I thought it would be (one of my bass-head friends said I should’ve bought a bigger sub).

    Now, I haven’t done anything for my car’s external appearance apart from replace my halogen lights with HIDs (aka Xenon bulbs. The kind that are white with a bit of a blue tint); to do anything on this list to my ’01 Buick Century would be absolutely ridiculous. Much better in terms of looks, brightness, and even efficiency compared to halogens, although I pointed mine down a bit so as not to blind everyone looking at me from the other side of the road.

  6. I can’t believe how some people butcher their cars. Jacking them up, lowering them beyond belief; and not only spinner wheels but now wheels that appear NOT to spin as the car moves. How’s that for a distraction? Matte black would best on a Buick GNX and about nothing else. Calling Lord Vader…

  7. I’m into modifying my cars, I drive a 240sx and an Altima SE-R(I’m a nissan nut if u can’t tell) and my friends all drive reputable cars, ie. Is300, 350Z, 300ZX. But recently, we’ve been desturbed by a car by wich the likes you have not seen. A 1991 Honda Accord. Painted lime green with stripes and vinals all over, big aluminum spoiler on the back, and covered in neons. Huge exhaust and horible wheel combonation makes it the joke of the town. He thinks its the fastst car around and it is utterly hilarious. I appretiate clean, we’ll modified cars, but these little fast and the furious wanna bes just sadden me

  8. Oh, you forgot the large diamater wheels/super low profile tires.

    Around here, the dominant trend seems to be ear-splitting noise, either from (lack of) mufflers, or those expensive “tuner” tubes (I can’t call them mufflers) or earthquake stereos. It’s actually pathetic to see those rolling sh-t box neons and civics with the loud mufflers (some also with the tail fins) and stock engines that quickly drop the loud sound behind you as you pass these pitiful putzes. The car stereos are usually mounted in something worth less than the stereo, which of course buzzes and rattles with every pulse. Sometimes you sit a a light and have this rolling wave of thud come up behind you, but it’s always easy to pick out the offending driver– just look for the crappyist car.

    Those giant wheels are the descendents of the equally rediculous spinner wheels, and make any vehicle look like a rediculous buckboard. As with the stereos, the wheels/tires are usually worth more than the car, but hey– it’s borrowed money, so who cares?

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