Overcome by those used-car blues? Don’t despair.

Like many possessions, used cars can quickly lose any glamorous aura they might’ve had. Sure, your bucket has racked up considerable mileage in its life, but it still gets you from Point A to Point B. And just because it doesn’t have a turbocharged engine or diamond-encrusted rims doesn’t mean you have to throw it away, right?

If your car says a lot about who you are, or if you’re just plain tired of driving a drab jalopy, then it’s time to give it some well-deserved attention. Check out these 10 ways to make your ride look (and feel) new without draining your emergency savings fund.

10 inexpensive ways to make your old car feel new

1. Wash it down

A lackadaisical once-over would be a gross disservice to you and your ride — you’re better than that. Throw on some old clothes, crank up some tunes that inspire hardcore scrubbing, and take on every nook and cranny you can reach. Shampoo the upholstery and carpet and throw out any garbage. Think about replacing those soiled floor mats too.

Be sure to wipe down the center console for wayward crumbs and vacuum under the seats for mummified munchies. And if you have technical proclivities, removing the front seats can help you achieve a more thorough vacuuming job.

Additionally, you may want to consider giving your ride a nice DIY detailing to mend any imperfections and protect the paint against the elements.

2. Deodorize that A/C

Catching a whiff of something fierce? Wish there was deodorant for your air conditioner? Well, there totally is! Often times, A/C system deodorizers can be found at your local auto parts store. And it’s best to handle it sooner rather than later — that musty aroma of mold, fungus, and chemicals is not only a breach of your nasal cavity, but could also be a detriment to your health.

If you consider yourself an amateur mechanic, lift the hood and find the cowl vent within the engine compartment, usually found on the passenger’s side. From there, simply spray the deodorizer directly onto the cowl vent screen.

On the other hand, if you want a more detailed, professional touch (and have no clue what a cowl vent screen is), head to your local detail shop, where your vents, vacuum system, and cabin filter can be treated to a comprehensive cleaning.

3. Upgrade the helm

When your cockpit has grown tiresome and lackluster, so, too, can the driving experience. If the steering wheel is worn and pitted, tricking it out with a snug cover can make a world of difference. There’s a bevy of wheel cover options out there — from something sleek and leather to elegant and graceful — and they usually cost less than $20.

Beyond mere aesthetics, however, you may be faced with other problems, like dim dashboard illumination. If you’re squinting at the speedometer when your eyes should be on the road, it may be time to upgrade those neglected switches and knobs. Usually these can be replaced at an affordable price, either with new pieces or recycled parts found at your local junkyard.

4. Get car seat covers

While you’re ensconced comfortably in your car seat, the seat itself is weathering a significant amount of abuse — i.e. dirty clothes, spilled drinks, friction, food crumbs, UV damage, etc.

All of these elements do much to soil your once stylish, comfy seats. And should your interior befall something dreadful, your wallet may take a beating. But life doesn’t have to be so complicated (cue sigh of relief).

If you’re the if-I-can’t-see-it-it’s-not-there type, covering the existing damage may suffice. But car seat covers also offer the first line of defense against the onslaught of aforementioned abuses.

And, of course, dressing your seats in new formfitting covers can enrich the look and feel of the interior’s character, making your car feel new again.

5. Fix those dents and scratches

Is your beloved vehicle mottled with dents and scratches? Dimples are considered endearing by many, but on the body of your car, not so much (go figure).

There are cosmetic benefits to removing these blemishes. But for older cars, fixing deep scratches can prevent rust and further damage.

One option is to find a pro that can “pop out” the dents with paintless dent removal. But if you’re worried about the flexibility of the paint (especially if your car’s older or there’s more significant damage), venturing to the body shop is your best bet.

6. Replace the rubber seals

The rubber trim that seals your car door grows vulnerable to tears over time, and such tears may lead to air gaps that howl in the drag as you coast down the highway. Once you have these tears, cold air escapes when it’s hot and warm air escapes when it’s cold.

Replacing your rubber strips requires patience, meticulousness, and a slight aptitude for adhesives. The strips themselves, however, are typically inexpensive. Replacing brittle seals can put a stop to the incessant howling and your A/C and heating systems won’t have to work overtime anymore.

7. Align or replace those wheels

Remember what it was like to drive your car when you first bought it? Is feeling every little bump and divot in the road now a normality?

Over time, your wheels bear the brunt of abuse and are likely to show signs of wear and tear. Wheel alignment is an important part of preventative car maintenance and often goes overlooked by car owners. But alignment helps your tires track straight and makes for a smoother ride. It can also improve fuel economy and prolong the life of your tires.

The average tire also typically costs about $100, so factor that in if there are any lingering reservations about bringing your car into the shop.

8. Upgrade the car speakers

If you’ve got an older car, the factory default sound system is probably pretty outdated. But you don’t have to break the bank to enhance sound quality. It could be as simple as replacing the factory speakers or custom fitting a system upgrade with a stock radio sound that produces richly layered music.

If you store music files on your smartphone or MP3 player, you may also want to select a lower compression level for your music. While compressing your music offers storage space, you lose those pure high and low frequencies that do much in the way of creating a crisp and textured sonic experience.

But there’s no right or wrong when it comes to car audio, especially if you’ve got budgetary needs. You might even replace audio components piecemeal in order to accommodate budget limits.

9. Stay on top of basic maintenance

Okay, maybe this won’t directly contribute to your ride’s appearance, but keeping it in good running condition trumps even the most expensive custom rims (and oh, how coveted they are!)

With a tired jalopy, basic maintenance may almost seem like it’s not worth the time or effort. But things like regular oil changes, belt checks, filter replacements, and break replacements can keep your old car running for many years to come.

Besides, who wants to listen to the relentless beckoning of an oil-deprived engine?

10. Clean those windows inside and out

Once your ride’s unblemished and your interior doesn’t smell like old socks, finish things off with a window shine. Sparkling panes beautify the overall appearance of the car and you won’t have a pixilated view of the world while you drive.

And if you’ve got inquisitive tykes, there’s a good chance your back window is also smudged, so be sure to get to it too.

Now that your car’s in top-notch condition and the envy of the neighborhood, you’re probably thinking of other ways you can boost the driving experience. Make sure your car (and hard work) is protected with the car insurance coverage that’s right for you. Get a free quote from Esurance today.

DIY hacks


about Evan

From writing content for life coaches to working on indie film press releases, Evan’s motley repertoire has been considerable in the last couple of years. Now he employs his varied aptitude as a content writer for Esurance. He’s also a self-proclaimed polyglot in training with a proclivity for dog-eared books.