You might think of your car as simply a conveyance that gets you from point A to point B, but maybe it’s a few years old and you are ready for an upgrade. Buying a new car may be an option, but it’s no small expense and may not be practical for you to add new or potentially higher car payments to your monthly bills. Fortunately, there are some simple ways you can upgrade your car’s appearance and features without spending a ton. Check out the six low-cost or do-it-yourself car upgrades below to learn how to make your car feel newer, inside and out.
One of the best things about a new car is that it’s clean, shiny and has that new-car smell. You may be able to get some of the new car aroma back via an inexpensive air freshener, but scrubbing your old car from top to bottom can give it a newer look. Popular Mechanics Magazine suggests starting with shampooing the carpet and upholstery, vacuuming the seat cushions and floor, and clearing out buildup from the engine bay. If you have the proper cleaning products, you can also clean many of the actual engine parts including the battery connections. Then, wash and wax the outside. Consumer Reports says this will not only make your car shine, but will also get rid of paint-damaging dirt and elements from the road.
Detailing your car may reveal dents and scratches you might not have noticed before. Consumer Reports explains you may be able to avoid paying a car shop if you try a DIY dent removal kit. These can be purchased online for as low as $20 and offer all the tools you need to flatten out dents. But keep in mind, the smaller the dent, the trickier it is to fix, according to Consumer Reports.
Minor dents and dings, the kind your car might receive from a hail storm, for example, can be repaired by one of two methods: paintless dent removal or the traditional body shop repair/paint method, according to The National Alliance of Paintless Dent Repair Technicians (NAPDRT).
Because dent repair can vary in difficulty, it may be a good idea to contact a professional auto body shop or dent repair shop to fix any dent, big or small.
If your car is 5-7 years old (or more), there’s a good chance your sound system is out-of-date. But, according to Popular Mechanics Magazine, you can get a new radio head unit that integrates with mobile devices or satellite radio and has Bluetooth capabilities for less than $100 online.
Whether you upgrade your sound system or already had one that was compatible with mobile devices, certain features will only be useful if your electronics have battery life. If you are stuck in traffic or taking longer trips, you may run out of juice before you can charge again. For this reason, Popular Mechanics Magazine suggests adding a power source through your cigarette lighter. There are units available that plug in to the cigarette lighter socket and offer USB plugs for charging electronic devices. With one of these gadgets, you don’t have to worry about your phone dying before your maps app can get you to your destination.
Unsightly scratches and chips in your car’s paint may make your vehicle look aged and worn. To give your car a newer look from the outside, Consumer Reports suggests hiding the wear and tear by applying touch-up paint. Many auto dealers and some auto-parts shops have small bottles of matching paint you can purchase for a low cost. If the scratch is shallow and doesn’t hit the primer or bare metal, you may be able to just dab the paint on the scratch with a paintbrush, let it dry for a couple of days, and then polish the area with a microfiber or foam applicator pad to make sure it blends, says Consumer Reports.
Even if you can use your electronics in the car, it may not be practical, safe, or even legal, in some cases, to hold them while you drive. However, using your phone’s navigation system may require your phone to be in clear view all the time. If your older car doesn’t have a fancy, big-screen navigation system installed in its dashboard, you can purchase a mount for your dash, center console or cupholder for your GPS-enabled phone for approximately $10 to $20, according to Consumer Reports.
You could also create your own DIY electronics dock using a 6-inch by 6-inch piece of stiff plastic and self-adhesive strips of hook-and-loop fasteners, explains Popular Mechanics.
While these updates and car improvements will not make your vehicle new again, they may help you see it in a new light. Knowing how to improve your car with functional upgrades or some minor body work may give you what you want in a vehicle, without having to spend a hefty amount.