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While modifying cars is often considered an expensive hobby, it doesn’t have to be. Whether you’re just getting into the world of modding cars or looking for a cheap weekend project, these three cars are cheap and easy to modify.

1. 2011 – 2014 VW GTI

A white VW GTI from 2011
A MK6 VW GTI from 2011 to 2014 | VW Group

The VW GTI has long been a favorite in the enthusiast community. Specifically, the 2011-2014 model offers a great value for those starting out. These days it’s a pretty cheap car to buy and modify, averaging between $10,000 and $12,000 for a respectable example. And with a vast modding community, it’s easy to find build options for any taste.

The MK6 GTI is both cheap and easy to modify, with the famous EA888 turbocharged engine as a base. That turbocharged powerplant has few maintenance worries and can handle big power if modified correctly. Even a simple tune and a few bolt-ons can push it to well over 300 horsepower.

The 2011 – 2014 GTI can be slammed on air suspension or built as an autocross car with good coilovers. Those looking for a daily-driven build can find quality coilovers for around $1,200. For that cash, you can both sharpen the ride and lower the stance. 

Even better, the GTI community is vast and diverse. If you can think it, someone has probably already done it. With so many resources, finding help to finish your ideal build won’t be hard.

There are a few downsides to the GTI. It’s both cheap and easy to modify, but manual models will need a clutch upgrade to handle any big power upgrades. In addition, they are notorious for water pump and rear main seal issues, both of which can be costly. The smart move would be to change the clutch and rear main seal in one go to save on labor costs.

2. Scion FR-S/Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ

The Scion FR-S is a cheap car that is easy to modify for track driving.
Scion FR-S | Toyota

Similar to the GTI, the Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ community has branched out into nearly every build imaginable. From drift builds to stanced show cars and everything in between, building a Toyobaru to your tastes won’t be a tall order.

Unlike the GTI, this two-door coupe is rear-wheel drive, making it a great choice for a beginner drift build. And unlike the Miata, the GT86/BRZ has enough interior and trunk space to be a respectable daily driver.

First-gen models go for about $15,000, while a second-gen will cost about $20,000. That may not be as cheap as the other cars, but it is wildly easy to modify for less cash.

3. 1999-2005 BMW 3 Series

An older BMW 3 Series is both cheap and easy to modify.
E46 BMW 3 Series Sedan | BMW

Also known as the E46, the 1999-2005 BMW 3 Series offers rear-wheel drive dynamics and a luxurious cabin. Similar to the GT86 and Subaru BRZ sports cars, the E46 3 Series is cheap and is very easy to modify in just about any direction.

It’s another great choice for drift builds, and its autocross and track day potential is high thanks to a balanced starting platform. While the high-performance E46 M3 can be had for around $20,000 these days, non-M cars go for less than $10,000 on CarGurus.

The age of this car may be a turn off for some, and the complicated engine and differential of the M3 make it tough for beginners to keep up with. Sticking with the 330Ci or 325i makes this platform more beginner friendly. Furthermore, the sheer volume E46 3 Series models out there means finding replacement parts is easy and relatively cheap.

Cheap and easy to modify, these cars are perfect for budget builds

Cheap to buy and easy to modify, any of these three cars are perfect for beginner car builds or a low-cost project. All are fun platforms to start with come with vast modding communities, so finding the right parts for your build is just a quick google search away.

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