Things to look for when buying a modified car

Viewing a modified car to buy can be an uncomfortable experience if you’d struggle to tell the difference between a DPF & DMF. This is the same when buying a regular used car or a modified used car. There are a few easy yet crucial things that everybody can look for and are easy to spot. Below we have detailed a few main areas you should at least look over once when viewing and test driving a used car.

Benefits of buying a modified car

There are plenty of benefits of buying an already modified car. Especially if you plan on buying a stock car and modifying it yourself, you could save yourself a lot of money.

Generally, modifying a car doesn’t add much value when compared to the original car’s value. Depending on the modifications, it could even negatively affect the car’s value if not done well.

The two obvious benefits on buying an already modified car are better appearance, and better performance. These are the two main reasons that people upgrade their cars.

Both performance upgrades and aesthetic upgrades both cost a lot of money just to buy the parts, let alone to pay for fitting. For this reason alone buying an already modified car for a small premium can work out very cost effective compared to making the modifications yourself.

There are exceptions to this rule however. Certain aftermarket parts can be very sort after and carry a high resale value. Take a full Akrapovic exhaust system for example. The value of the part alone can exceed £3,000, £4,000. If this part was installed on a car for sale it would increase the car’s value.

Another good example would be tuning companies who offer full overhaul packages. Companies such as Hamann & Vorsteiner offer full upgrade packages which can include performance tuning and aero upgrades. Cars which have full kits such as this can fetch a premium price.

Potential negatives of buying a modified car

That’s not say there isn’t any negatives of buying a modified car. There can be many.

First, the most obvious, most costly, yet easiest thing to prove. You don’t know who has carried out the work, or their level of expertise.

Our number one tip when looking at buying a used modified car is to see as much paper work and receipts as you can. Without receipts from mechanics, the turbocharger on that sweet looking miata may be ready to blow.

Most body modifications, when done tastefully look cool. Fact. They can however be hiding some nasty surprises. Rust, Dogdy paint work, accident damage just to name a few. This one is harder to tell as receipts only tell so much of the story.

If a car has been in an accident or is listed as an insurance write off, Cat D or Cat C there should be accompanying paperwork showing the extent of the damage along with paperwork regarding the repair. If you know a car has ad an accident but you aren’t presented with repair receipts be wary.

A top tip is to always check the panel gaps around the car to ensure they are even. Also try to view the car twice before buying, making sure you visit at different times of day. This is to check the body panels for consistent paint colour. Quite often direct sunlight hides the fact that a body panel has been resprayed, and can be easier to spot on an overcast day.

Vinyl wraps can also hide some dodgy paintwork, so always ask the seller their reason for respraying or wrapping a car.

If you are looking to buy a newer car, you may still be within the manufacturer warranty period. If you are be aware that certain modifications can void your warranty.

On a plus side a lot of upgrade parts do carry their own warranty against failure. As an example alloy wheels and refurbishments generally come with a years warranty against the paint quality.


Things to check when looking at a modified car

Alloy Wheels

Alloys are one of the most common modifications. They are relatively plug and play and can make the quickest visual improvements to an OEM car.

If it isn’t obvious via the appearance then ask the seller the manufacturer of the wheels to ensure they are a good quality.

Exhaust Systems

Another popular modification. Whether the goal is for freer air flow and performance, or pure noise, this one is a common first mod.

It is always good to roll yourself underneath the car and check how the exhaust has been attached. Whether it is clamped on, and therefor easy to remove. Or whether it has been welded on.

DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter)

While talking about exhaust systems, a popular, yet illegal modification on diesel cars is to remove the DPF.

These very expensive filter systems generally get clogged and require replacement around 100,000 miles depending on the owner’s type of driving. They can be thousands to replace, yet can be removed for a few hundred.

If during an MOT a car is found to have no DPF then it is an instant failure. Currently the DPF search in an MOT is only a visual inspection of the box, so it can be gutted and not spotted by an inspector.

Engine upgrades

An important area to inspect and ask the seller about is upgrades to the engine, as these can really bite a buyer if not done correctly.

Upgrading the power output of an engine, either through bolt on parts or ECU remaps cause additional wear throughout other areas of the system, particularly around the clutch and flywheel. Stock clutches are only designed to handle so much power, and if a car is pushed beyond this then an uprated clutch is required amongst other upgrades.

It is always best to ask and know what you are getting in for if performance modifications have been made.

Interior Modifications

Finally interior modifications. These can often improve the appearance and quality of the interior by including materials such as alcantara. Just a quick note, in particular regarding steering wheels. Just ensure to ask about air bags as a badly fitted steering wheel upgrade could cause air bags to not deploy in the event of an accident.

Before you buy

One last tip before you hand over any money. Give your insurance provider a ring and ask their stance on insuring a modified car. Some insurances flat out don’t allow you to insure modified cars, and some charge a premium for each modification. Better safe than sorry!

If you’re going to look at a modified car with the intention of buying, make sure you print out and bring our modified car checklist.

Looking to learn more about modifications, and which should go together? Learn more by reading our Ultimate Guide to Car Modifications.

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