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Editorialisms - Modified Car Market

Now Is The Time To Buy

Peter Tarach
Jun 3, 2009

It's no secret that the real estate market is in the dumps and housing prices are continuing to fall. If you are a homeowner looking to sell, then it's a depressing time; on the other side of the spectrum, if you're in the market, then now is as good a time to buy as ever.

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Which leads me to wonder, Are we seeing the same trend in the modified car market? On a much smaller scale, of course, but from what I've seen, the value of modded cars has been on the steady decline for some time now. I thought we would have seen a resurgence in prices for well-built cars by now, but the economy seems to have prevented that. This presents an interesting question that I have been pondering as of late: Is it better to buy a modified car or go with an unmolested stock car and build it up yourself?

I know what you are initially thinking-the pride and glory, learning experience, and satisfaction are well worth the extra cost of building a vehicle from the ground up. However, time and money are becoming very valuable assets these days, so buying a car that's sorted out and has almost everything you're looking for doesn't sound like that bad of an idea to me. It starts making even more sense when you realize the slump the modded car market is in. K-swapped Civics with all the fixin's used to go for around $15K two or three years ago. At this point, you can pick a similarly fashioned Civic for $8-$10K. Having just recently finished up a K-swap in our Project DC2 Integra and spending nearly four agonizing days completing it-not to mention way more money than I planned-if someone told me I could've bought a similar Integra with almost the same mods for 10 grand I would've seriously considered it. The K-swap alone costs almost that much! Meanwhile, Subaru STIs, no matter how modified, seem to cost virtually the same as bone-stock ones. A 500-whp, fully built track monster can be found for just a few thousand more than a stock one. Tell me that isn't tempting? I could go on and on.

It's a well-known fact that modifying a vehicle doesn't raise its value, but the cost of the parts and labor can often add up to the value of the vehicle itself. However, for all the extra time and money we put into building our cars there is an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment that you don't get when buying someone else's ride-even when it's a fraction of the cost. On the other hand, with the market being the way it is right now, it's now possible to buy a car that you could never have afforded to builo yourself.

What's the right path? Ultimately, the choice is yours, or should I say your pocketbook's. If you can afford to build your dream car from the ground up, there are few things in life (that I've found) more rewarding, more challenging, more frustrating or more fun. There's just nothing quite like pouring your own blood, sweat and tears into a machine built to your tastes, making your own mistakes and learning your own lessons along the way. But if you're more interested in a great bargain than a great life experience, there's never been a better time to "steal" some fully built machines at bargain-basement prices. It seems unlikely that these fire-sale prices will last too long, because once the economy bounces back you can bet the modded car market will too. So if you happen to spot a LS1-powered FD RX-7 like we did recently on and love the motor swap but don't really care for the wheels and suspension mods, with the money you're saving you can always customize it to your liking afterward. If I weren't in the business of building cars, I'd probably be scooping up a heavily modified EVO or that RX-7 right about now!

By Peter Tarach
352 Articles



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