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Buying a Used Car: Should I Buy a Car That's Been Modified?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro January 2014

If you're interested in buying a used car, you may run across one that's been modified. We don't necessarily mean modified to go faster -- many used cars are changed with tinted windows, aftermarket wheels and unique paint schemes or stripes. So should you buy a used car that's been modified? We've examined the pros and cons. 

Benefits to a Modified Car

If you're searching for a sporty car that's had engine modifications to make it go faster, the benefits are obvious: It will likely go faster. Better yet, modifications rarely have any effect on a car's value. That means if you were planning to make the car faster, the previous owner has already spent the money to do so -- and you won't have to spend a dime. 

There are also benefits if you're looking at a car with modifications such as tinted windows or aftermarket wheels. Once again, these items won't add any value to a used car. You'll basically be getting them for free when you buy the car. 

Drawbacks to a Modified Car

In many cases, the drawbacks to buying a modified car can outweigh the benefits. When it comes to engine modifications, the main drawback is that you often don't know who did the work, or the person's skill level. The result is that you may be buying a car with a lot of go-fast parts that don't properly fit, or accessories that may cause long-term damage.

If you can find out who added the accessories -- through receipts, for example -- we suggest looking up the shop to make sure it's reputable. If it is, you may not need to be very concerned about reliability and dependability. You may also consider calling the shop to find out when it installed the parts and whether the parts include a warranty.

The same goes for aftermarket items such as tint and wheels. While adding tint or wheels may seem easy, amateurs who do this work may actually cause problems to a car or truck. Again, we suggest searching through a vehicle's service records to find out who did the work. 

The other problem with an item such as aftermarket wheels -- or paint features such as a stripe -- is that not everyone may like the finished product. If you buy a car with aftermarket wheels, we suggest tracking down a set of originals in case the next buyer doesn't want the aftermarket units. 

Our Take

Finding and buying a used car can be difficult, especially if you're a car enthusiast looking for a unique model. If that's the case, you may have to settle for a vehicle with some aftermarket accessories. If you do, be sure to have the car inspected, and try to get detailed receipts for any work that's been done.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Used Car: Should I Buy a Car That's Been Modified? - Autotrader