Selling a modified car

March 04, 2024 by

So you’ve done some tinkering to your car. That’s great, but will you have a hard time trying to sell it when you’re ready for something new? 

Well, the process isn’t too dissimilar from selling any car, but you may find your potential buyer pool has dried up a bit.

If you’re wondering how to sell a modified car, this guide is here to explain.

What is a car modification?

A car modification is when you do something to your car to alter it from its original spec.

This can vary from something as simple as repainting the wheels or fitting a new sporty exhaust, to swapping the engine, tinting the windows, getting it wrapped, lowering the suspension, bodywork changes or fitting extra lights and a massive body kit. These are usually the sort of things you need to inform your insurance company about when you apply for cover.

That said, changing tyres won’t count as a modification if they’re the same size as the tyres your car came with when it was new. General wear and tear items, such as windscreen wipers, fluids and filters won’t count either (unless you’re fitting a performance air intake, however) as they don’t alter the car from its original state – it still looks the same and hasn’t gained any expensive accessories.

How do modifications affect a car’s value?

As much as tweaking your car to suit your tastes and requirements might be appealing, modifications won’t necessarily be to everyone’s tastes. This could affect the value of your car and your insurance premium.

Whether the car’s value changes (up or down) will depend on the extent of your modifications.

There’s a strong chance a modified car could be worth less than an unmodified example of the same make and model, simply because some people prefer a car to look original. The buyer may not like the changes you’ve made or want to pay to have it returned to normal; having said that, there are those that love modified cars and might appreciate the work you’ve done to it so pay more for it than a standard car, but you’ll definitely be appealing to a smaller market. There’ll always be the question mark over how well any work on the car has been done, unless it’s been to a recognised converter.

There are exceptions, of course. For example, if you’re restoring an old car and you’ve made some upgrades to modernise it a little, it may be more desirable. Then again, collectors often value completely original classic cars above those that have been tweaked by previous owners. It all depends on the rarity of your car and if people see your enhancements as a benefit.

Fitting significant performance upgrades to a car may increase its value relative to other models, but it’s unlikely these upgrades alone will guarantee a profit when the time comes to sell it on so carefully consider how much you want to spend on any modifications and if you’ll get that investment back if or when you sell it.

Where can I sell a modified car?

You can sell a modified car in the usual ways, including selling it privately or through part-exchange. That said, your buyer pool may be severely limited by the modifications. Again, your tweaks may not be to everyone’s taste and stock examples of a car are usually more desirable.

One of your best options may be to sell your car directly through an owner’s group of that specific model on social media or online forums. You’re more likely to find a like-minded buyer there, and your modifications may prove more appealing.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to the hassle, why not sell your car with carwow? Our dealers will compete to offer the best price for your modified car as well as arrange collection if you decide to sell.

How to sell a modified car

Here is a quick overview of the most important steps in the process of selling your car.

1. Get a realistic valuation

You will probably know how much you bought the car for and how much you’ve spent on any modifications, but once you add those costs together, does it equal the market value of the car today? Maybe your car was in a bit of a state when you bought it and your modifications have improved its value. There’s only one way to find out by doing some research. We’d recommend starting with the free Carwow ‘value my car‘ service – just enter your vehicle registration number and it gives you a range of potential values depending on the condition of the car. If that sounds promising, and you’re interested in selling your car quickly, then move on to the free Carwow Sell Your Car service and sell it within a few days via our online auction where dealers from across the UK can bid for it, buy it and then collect it from you.

If you have the time, you can compare valuation tools and scour classified ads to see what else is out there. If your car’s had extensive modifications then maybe an owners’ club or forum would be also be a good place to look for a buyer or see what else is on the market at the moment.

2. Prep your car

If you’ve modified your car, then you must be quite proud of it and probably always try to keep it clean and looking its best, so you probably won’t have to do much to prep it for selling; a clean and tidy car is always going to be easier to sell and more likely to achieve a higher price than a dirty or tatty one.

To get the best price for your car it is worth considering getting any minor damage or scuffs repaired, otherwise potential buyers will use these types of things to start a negotiation on price (downwards).

Once you’ve prepared your car and it’s looking as attractive as it’s going to, take it to a location to take some photos for your listing. Before you do, take a look at our tips for taking better pictures that will help you get a better price, here.

3. Create a listing

We’ve already established that, ideally, you should have as many good photos of your car as possible so you can create a listing that makes it stand out against anything else potential buyers are looking at as well.

To give your car’s listing the best chance possible, include as much useful information as possible. That will include length of MOT (if applicable), mileage, age (year of first registration), colour, any service history and any of the ‘luxuries’ people like, such as sat nav, air conditioning, reversing sensors, etc. Then, the important bit: detail any modifications on the car.

Your listing will probably require you to indicate what part of the country the car is in, but for security reasons, don’t be too specific – just the county will do (e.g. Essex).

4. Have your documents ready

Do you have all the documents for your car that you’ll need? Probably the most important document is the logbook (officially known as the V5C) to prove you’re the registered keeper and the car is genuine. Although MOT’s are stored and checked online these days, any paperwork that garage gave you at the time is useful to show prospective buyers.

Service and maintenance records are a great way to show the car has been looked after, and if the car has been modified, then any receipts for that could be worth sharing.

To see the full list of possible documents to have to hand when selling a car, see our guide here.

5. Receive payment and proof of sale

You’ve got a buyer for your car – congratulations – now they need to pay you for it. You need to make sure any payment you receive is genuine before you hand over the keys to the new owner. If payment is by cash, then beware of forgeries and, ideally, go and pay them in at the bank before completing the sale. If it’s an electronic payment, double check the funds are definitely in your bank account.

Keep evidence of the transaction of the payment as proof of sale. For example, you could print out a receipt with details of the car and the price and date of the sale.

6. Notify the DVLA

It’s very important to make sure the details of the registered keeper of the car on the V5C are updated with the buyer’s details instead of yours. If you don’t, then the like of parking tickets or speeding offences will be tracked back to you, then you have the hassle of proving that you’re not the registered keeper anymore.

To transfer the car to the buyer’s name, follow the instructions on the V5C document. You will need the name and address of the buyer in order to do this. There is a section of the V5C to complete and send off to the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) or, alternatively, this can also be done online.

What to consider when selling a modified car

Selling a modified car carries the same caveats (detailed above) as selling any other car, but there are a few extra things that it might be good to consider if you want to get the best price for it.

Will reverting some upgrades increase the value of my car?

Quite often, buyers can pay more for cars without modifications, so if you’ve fitted different alloy wheels or swapped the radio or sat nav unit in your car, for example, and still have the originals, it might be worthwhile changing it back to its original condition, if that’s possible. That way, you can bring your car back to a more original spec without too much work on your behalf, hopefully. You may be able to sell the parts you’ve removed to another enthusiast.

This also goes for removing any stickers or other easily-removable cosmetic bits on the car.

Have I made a note of all the modifications?

Your buyer will need to declare all of the modifications made to their car with their insurance. It’s better to be transparent at the point of sale and make a full list of the modifications made to the car, no matter how small.

It’s worth including any receipts for parts of work done. Buyers are likely to trust the modifications more if there’s recorded history behind them.

Have I valued my car appropriately?

Adding upgrades to a car won’t necessarily translate into adding value to your car. If you’ve made upgrades and are trying to recoup the value of those in the price of your car, you may be disappointed.

You’ll likely need to take depreciation of those parts into account when valuing your car. This is where advertising directly in owner’s groups may prove more fruitful than advertising on conventional car-sales websites.

Sell your modified car with Carwow

Looking to sell your modified car without hassle? Now you can sell your car with Carwow.

All you need to do is provide some details on your car, take a selection of pictures and wait for the offers to roll in from a network of trusted dealers.

Once you have an offer you’re happy with, just accept it and the dealer buying will take care of the rest. All you need to do is hand the keys over.