Plenty of us like to tinker with our cars (and there's nothing wrong with that). But when the time comes to sell, it can be a different game entirely. Selling a modified car is usually more complicated than selling one as it came out of the showroom.
Selling a modified car is more difficult than selling a stock one. Follow this guide to get the most for what you’re selling and find the right buyers.
Selling a Modified Car: Best Tips to Consider in 2023
Some of us modify our cars for performance improvements. Others, to make them look different. Sometimes, all the owner wants is a great stereo to enjoy the ride a little more. In a way, modifications are what make a car inexplicably "yours".
If you've modified your car, we don't blame you. It's a great way to get the most out of your ride.
If the time has come for you to sell it, however, you're in for a surprise. There's no denying that modified cars don't have the same market as stock ones.
So what should you do? It all depends on your modifications and how much time and money you're willing to invest in reselling it.
Simply put, most buyers want to buy a car exactly how it looks when it comes out of the showroom. They don't want fancy-schmancy body kits and spoilers or an overly loud muffler. At the very least, they want to know the second-hand car they're buying has genuine parts.
That said, there are plenty of people out there who would pay more for certain modifications.
Here are a few general points to help you understand why customising your car might affect its value:
- Your average buyer won't see modifications as an added benefit. Especially if you've made structural changes to your car, you'll have to consider the fact that you built it that way for you, not someone else.
- Modifications are often seen as a sign of wear and tear. If your car has racing mods (such as a roll cage) or you've changed its suspension, some buyers will see it as heavy use mileage alone can't account for.
- UK law prohibits certain mods. Certain engine upgrades, overly-loud exhaust and window tint are just a few of the many alterations that significantly reduce your pool of buyers due to UK safety regulations
- Low-quality modifications don't age well. They can damage the car in the long run and decrease its longevity if done improperly or with low-quality parts. Be sure to properly research your modifications before you start tinkering with your ride!
- Modified cars tend to attract a certain type of buyer. There are plenty of buyers just like you looking for a unique experience stock cars can't provide. But they're few and far between. And there's no guarantee they'll find your specific modification appealing.
- Some modifications are desirable to buyers. If you installed a really nice soundsystem or upgraded the suspension to higher performance specs, you will attract enthusiasts and car fanatics. Even then, it'll require extra market research and legwork on your end.
- OEM upgrades will increase your car's value. If you upgrade your engine, transmission or suspension with genuine parts from the manufacturer, dealers will want to buy it and buyers will be willing to pay more.
If your car has anything other than genuine parts (it's possible to modify it with OEM parts), you can't sell it to a dealership. If you're selling your car online to a car-buying service or online dealership, you'll run into the same problem.
Reputable used car sellers always require an AA Inspection Report to qualify for sale on their forecourts. The AA inspection verifies the car is mechanically sound and in good condition. Since it's a reputable agency, it increases buyer confidence as well.
The AA tests under strict guidelines, so modified cars almost always have some sort of flag come up on the report. Engine induction kits, suspension upgrades and exhausts, for example, are huge internal modifications that change the car completely. Although they may have been installed professionally, the AA can't verify them. they'll have no choice but to highlight these issues on the inspection report.
Buyers want to know they can trust the vehicle they're sinking thousands of pounds into. Without a clean report, they have no verification.
It's important to understand what counts as a car modification. In most cases, if it wasn't available on the factory model then it counts as a modification and must be declared when you sell your car.
Examples of modifications that could affect the value of your car include:
- Engine performance components — induction kit, ECU remapping, exhaust upgrades
- Suspension modifications — lowered springs or coilovers
- Cosmetic changes — body kits, spoliers, window tints or anything that affects your vehicle's outside appearance
- Interior changes — different seats, steering wheels or trim pieces
- Exterior lighting — LED headlights, fog lights and underglow neon
- Wheels and tyres — upgraded alloy wheels, wider tyres or low-profile tyres
- Brake system upgrades — improvements like high-performance brake pads or braided brake lines, customised brake calipers
- Stereo system — upgraded head unit and speakers, amps or subwoofers
- Performance clutches — aftermarket clutches for better gear changes
- Turbo or supercharger installations — high-performance upgrades to squeeze extra power out of the engine
- Paintwork or vinyl wraps — personalised colour changes or vehicle wraps can be a fun modification, but not all buyers will share your taste
- Aftermarket security features — additional alarms or immobilisers
- Towing equipment — a tow bar or winch
Important note: The UK government requires on-road vehicles to meet certain standards. If your car has aftermarket racing components, the buyer may not be able to register it for road use.
Whether you're selling a van, car, or truck, you still have one excellent option. By selling your car privately, you may even get a better price because you won't have a middleman taking their cut.
Your first step is to list it on classified sites. These sites are great because you can target hobbyists or collectors with specific interests. These sites have millions of users, and they're highly reputable.
You can list any kind of car on them. People use classifieds to:
- sell a non-running car
- sell a salvage car
- sell a damaged car
- and, yes, sell a modified car.
Many classified sites let you list for free. All you have to do is follow these steps:
- Take some high-quality pictures of your car from different angles.
- Gather the documents you need to sell your car.
- Write a comprehensive description that includes the make, model, year, and condition.
- List every modification and provide information on how they affect its performance or value.
- Mention service work, maintenance work and any repairs that you've done.
- Include your asking price and contact information (phone number or email).
- Buyers will message you directly via WhatsApp or send you an email when they see your listing.
Since it's modified, checking the "market value" won't do as much good when you're pricing your car ready for sale. But there are other modifications out there.
Do a bit of research on cars with similar modifications. Set a price that's realistic and reflects the car’s condition, its performance, and any upgrades you have made.
It can also be useful to consult an expert. Find a specialist with experience in selling modified cars, like a mechanic or a dealer who specialises in customised vehicles.
Having your documents will be a huge help when getting the most for an aftermarket car. Don't sell your car without a V5C or MOT certificate. Replace them first.
Once you have a few bites, book viewing sessions and negotiate the buyer's price. When you've reached an agreement, write up a bill of sale to document the transaction and protect both parties.
To ensure no grey area, your bill of sale should include the following information:
- Your full name and address
- The buyer's full name and address
- Car details — make, model, production year, colour and registration details
- VIN matches V5C document? (Yes/No)
- Registration completed by buyer/seller? (Yes/No)
- V5C exchanged? (Yes/No)
- Buyer received green slip (V5C/2) (Yes/No)
- An itemised list of all modifications (with descriptions)
- The sale price
- Buyer/seller signatures and dates
Remember not to transfer registration documents until the buyer sends you money and the payment clears.
You have two primary ways to accept payment for your car:
- Bank transfer — quick, easy and leaves an electronic record for both parties.
- Cash — the safest and fastest option as you can verify it in-person (at a bank). Plus, you won't have to wait for anything to clear.
To keep everyone safe, exchange documents and money in a public place. Make sure you also take time to reexplain the features or modifications of your car, so the buyer understands how to use them.
Once the money hits your account, you're almost done. All you need to do is hand them the green slip (V5C/2) and notify the DVLA.
To do so, all you have to do is complete the form on their website. Then, they DVLA will send your vehicle's new owner their V5C logbook through the post within five days.
It helps to put yourself in your buyer's shoes. Besides the above, there are a few important considerations buyers typically look at when they're in the market for a modified car.
When your buyer takes out a new policy on your car, the insurance company will make certain assumptions. Based on its make, model and year, they'll use an average value to determine the insurance premiums. In the event of an accident, they may refuse to pay out if they discover the car has undeclared aftermarket parts.
Modifying a car almost certainly voids its manuacturer's warranty. So if the buyer experiences issues, they won't be able to take advantage of the original protection (if there was any remaining).
Many vehicles also come with service plans. This makes it easier for the owner to fix certain parts if they fail. If you've modified the car, this service plan likely won't apply either.
Your car's vehicle tax band is determined by its engine size, fuel type and emissions rating. If you make modifications to the car, it may be reclassified into a different band, resulting in a higher road tax for the buyer.
Safety is paramount when buying a car. So check your vehicle's safety components before advertising it. Make sure all its:
- Airbags are in working order
- Seatbelts are intact and functioning properly
- Tyres have the right pressure, tread and condition
- Brakes are fully functional
Modifications will often bring the vehicle's safety into question. Any additional measures your buyer has to take to rectify these issues will bring down its value.
Although online classifieds are the best place to list your car for sale (and a great way to reach potential buyers from all over the UK), you might also consider:
- Auto salvage yards (if you're selling your car for scrap)
- Car auctions
- Car dealerships for trade-in value (if you have OEM modifications)
- Car dealer websites/marketplaces
- Online forums or groups devoted to modified cars
- Social media (Facebook Marketplace, Instagram)
- Online car buying services (though only certain ones will take it)
Modded cars don't always sell for less. Some buyers will pay more for performance, design and feature improvements. But they do sell for less sometimes, depending on their condition and other factors.
Expect your car to sell for less if:
- You're selling to a generalist audience
- Your modifications are too extreme for the average buyer
- The aftermarket parts don't add to the performance (e.g., a loud muffler)
- The workmanship is shoddy or illegal
- You are missing some or all of your supporting documents
- The car is old or outdated
If you can do the research, set a realistic price and be transparent about your car's modifications, there's no reason you shouldn't be able to sell it. When selling it on the private market, remember to take all the necessary steps to protect both parties, and you should be able to complete a successful sale.
Want to learn more? These are the questions our sellers ask us most.
A dealership might take your modified car in for part-exchange, but it depends on the types of modifications you have made. In general, most dealerships prefer to buy vehicles that are as close to their original condition as possible because they're easier to sell. That said, some will buy modified cars with certain modifications (e.g., performance and aesthetic upgrades).
Since you aren't getting these parts from the original equipment manufacturer (nor are you having them installed by a certified mechanic) there will always be inherent risks with selling a modified car.
Aside from the ones mentioned in this article, roadworthiness is the biggest issue. If your car has been modified to make it unroadworthy, it is against UK law to sell it without explicitly disclosing this. If you forget to disclose this or are unaware, you could face legal ramifications.
If you're trying to trade in your vehicle and your modifications aren't from the original equipment manufacturer, you might want to consider reverting them before selling. That said, it's not always necessary or practical.
If your modifications are in working condition and don't pose a safety risk (like certain suspension components), it might be worth leaving them on for the added value they can bring to a buyer.
Yes, there is. Whether you're looking to buy or sell a modified car, there are plenty of online resources to help you out. Search for online marketplaces and forums that cater specifically to the modified car community. These platforms make it easier for buyers and sellers to connect.
If you're selling a modified car, it's more important than ever to have your V5C logbook, a valid MOT certificate, parts receipts and service history. That way, you can prove to prospective buyers your vehicle runs smoothly and is safe to drive.
Having this paperwork on hand will also help the process go smoother. If you don't have a V5C or MOT certificate, we strongly recommend getting one before selling your car.
The amount of time it takes to sell a modified car largely depends on the market you're targeting. If you post your car on an online marketplace, for example, it could take anywhere from a few days to weeks before you receive an offer.
If you're selling to a dealer, it might be quicker since they already have a network of potential buyers ready to buy from them. The same is true if you use social media or online forums.
Either way, it's important to be patient and realistic with your expectations about how long the sale will take.