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It’s not uncommon to find a car that has been modified during the car buying process. This is especially true of enthusiast vehicles. So much so that unmodified enthusiast cars bring a premium. However, some mods can save you headaches down the road. More common on older cars, it isn’t unusual to see some modifications made to enhance the reliability of a car. These are the kind of modifications that you’ll want to look for, not a nitrous system on a ten-second car.

A modified used car may save you money

The infamous orange Toyota Supra is what most picture when they think "modified car".
What most picture when they think “modified car” | Ollie Millington via Getty Images

The above image is usually what people think when they hear “modified”. Well, that or a car with a gaudy shifter and no muffler. However, a modified used car can hold some benefits. For example, a BMW M3 owner may have installed a larger radiator because the car overheats in traffic. In this case, as long as the work was done professionally, that mod will save you money. It’ll save you money for the simple fact that it may be something you would have had to do down the road.

Therein lies the catch to buying a modified used car. Many owners modify their cars themselves. In nearly every case, it’s a real possibility something wasn’t done to factory standards. Of course, it’s always best to verify the quality of the work. If you’re an enthusiast, buying a modified car may save you time. Let’s say you want to tune your car. If the last owner already did that, it’s one less step for you. That is, as long as you keep in mind the quality of the work.

Some modifications will hurt your car

The interior of a modified Subaru WRX.
A Subaru WRX with a modified steering wheel | Joby Sessions via Getty Images

However, it’s far more common that modifications are something you’ll want to stay away from. This is largely due to the reason explained above. You have no real way of knowing the skill level of the shadetree mechanic that just worked on your new to you used car. This goes for shops, too. Look into who exactly fitted that nice new exhaust. Additionally, those mods may not appeal to you or whoever the next owner may be, hurting the vehcle’s resale value.

A more common example of this is window tinting. Enthusiast or not, it’s common to see a modified car where the only change made is the window tint. Once again, this can either save you money and time or cost you it. Poorly installed tint can bubble or tear off, so trust but verify is certainly the name of the game here.

Always research first

A mechanic works on a car up on a lift
A mechanic works on a vehicle | David Ebener | Getty Images

How to Choose a Quality Mechanic

This said, some light modifications on a used car sholdn’t scare you off. As long as you can be reasonable sure the work was done and done right, it’s possible to find some extra benefits to your new used car. What’s more, there may be some old parts laying around that an owner is willing to throw in with the vehicle. Sell these and make a little money back on your new purchase. No matter what, always do your research first. There’s nothing worse than ending up with a lemon.