Advantages and disadvantages of car tuning: is tuning worth it?

Karolis Bareckas

Karolis Bareckas

Car tuning can turn even the most boring vehicle into a piece of art. While it will allow you to stand out from the crowd or get more power under the hood, tuning also has some disadvantages you need to consider.

In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of car tuning, so you can decide if that’s really something you want to do.

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All you need to know before tuning your car

Tuning can mean different things to different people. People owning SUVs tune their cars to have better traction, beat even the most complicated obstacles, and pull themselves out of the mud. Drivers of sports cars often invest in changing a vehicle’s interior and giving it distinguishing bodywork. Chipping a car’s engine is also a popular option.

Some people tune a 20-year-old Volkswagen Golf, while others invest money into tuning a brand new Mercedes-Benz G-Class – to each their own. Any car can be tuned, therefore only your creativity and the amount of money you can dedicate is the limit.

While a tuned car may be a dream for many, consider the following pros and cons before going down this road.

Advantages of vehicle tuning

Improved performance and power

tuning external elements
Source: Mark de Jong / Flickr

If your car lacks power, you can tune the engine and improve its performance. Both diesel and gasoline vehicles can be tuned. A common way to tune a car’s engine is chipping (or remapping for modern cars) – reprogramming the engine control unit (ECU).

Manufacturers set limitations on modern car engines to improve safety, decrease CO2 emissions, and minimize maintenance costs. However, chip tuning allows you to overwrite those settings and get more power.

Chip tuning can increase your engine’s horsepower by up to 30%. It also can improve fuel economy and torque.

Your car will stand out in the crowd

Retro pickup car tuning
Source: D - 15 photography / Flickr

Car tuning allows you to turn your vehicle into something no one else has. Regular cars look the same, but if you decide to tune your vehicle you can change its looks however you want.

Bumpers, side skirts, spoilers, and lamps are among the parts that can be installed even by amateur car enthusiasts. You can make your car look more aggressive or sporty, depending on your goal.

Race cars require tuning

Toyota race car tuning
Source: Phuket @ / Flickr

Body tuning can improve your car’s aerodynamics, enhancing its performance and stability on the road. However, if you participate in races, tuning is a must. Race drivers usually modify their car’s engine and suspension, change the wheels, install spoilers, and other parts for better airflow. They also get rid of unnecessary weight to make a vehicle faster.

Every gram and horsepower matters when you’re driving in a race. Tuning race cars is an expensive hobby: accidents and minor collisions are common in races, which can destroy everything you’ve worked for the last couple of months.

Optimized fuel consumption

Increasing your engine’s power will also increase fuel consumption. However, some drivers also tune their car to optimize fuel consumption, which often affects the emissions. When a car is tuned for fuel economy, it doesn’t lose its horsepower or dynamic abilities.

Estimates say that your car can save up to 10-20% of fuel after tuning. This is only a relative number, as fuel consumption also depends on a vehicle’s engine and your driving style.

Disadvantages of vehicle tuning

Tuning can void your car's warranty

If you’ve tuned your car’s engine, you’ll most likely lose the manufacturer’s warranty. However, this only applies to newer vehicles – older cars don’t have a valid warranty either way. You won’t be able to hide the fact that your vehicle has gone through ECU remapping, as with the right tools anyone can see if its software has been modified.

Before tuning your car, evaluate if it’s worth losing your warranty. If any engine faults occur while owning a vehicle, you’ll have to repair them yourself and spend a lot of money.

ECU remapping or chip tuning might shorten your engine's life

Custom engine bay
Source: Yahya S. / Flickr

When you add more horsepower to your engine, this puts extra load on all of its components, increasing wear and tear. If you want your car to last, you’ll also have to take it for maintenance more often. Expect to change the engine oil every 6 months or 3,000 miles (5,000 km), whichever comes first.

It might be harder to sell a car with custom tuning

Do tuned cars lose value? Yes. While you may expect that all the money you put into custom tuning will boost your car’s value, it’s quite the contrary in many cases. There’s not so many people interested in tuned cars. It can take time to find a buyer, which usually means lowering the price.

Your best chance is finding a car enthusiast like you who will value all the modifications and improvements you’ve done. However, these types of people often have a precise vision of how their car should look, and it can be hard to bargain.

Is it a good idea to tune your car?

Yellow car frontal part and a headlight
Source: Mark de Jong / Flickr

Tuning your car is great fun, but can also bring many challenges. If you want to get more power, increase your engine’s performance, and have a distinguished-looking vehicle – go for it. Just bear in mind that tuning is a costly hobby, which may void your car’s warranty and even drive its value down in the used vehicle market. Here are a few tips to consider before tuning your car.

Check your car specs using a VIN decoder

If you’re considering buying a tuned car, check what it's been through. This way, you can learn more about a vehicle and evaluate if it's worth the money.

BMW 5 series specs found in a vehicle history report

A VIN decoder also reveals past damages, theft records, and clocked mileage. When buying an older car, it’s important to see how it was driven, as mileage and damages affect its value.

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Set a clear tuning goal

The cost of tuning a car doesn't have a ceiling. Define your tuning goals, plan your budget, and stick to it. High-quality tuning can be expensive, so setting goals will prevent you from finding yourself broke in the middle of the process.

Make your tuning style solid

Open hood of tuned Toyota Corolla Levin
Souce: Nick / Flickr

While installing a cheap spoiler or changing a few interior parts of your car is technically considered tuning, it’s not what you should be aiming for. Note that poor tuning can turn your vehicle into an ugly duckling, so it’s better to evaluate all the risks.

If you’re not an expert, consult professionals, so you would improve your vehicle instead of damaging it. Mismatching colors, wrong-sized wheels, low-quality plastic bumpers – the internet is full of tuned cars that make everyone laugh.

Choose a qualified tuning provider

While there’s no shortage of car repair shops, finding a reliable tuning provider may be much harder. Read reviews, ask around, and do your research before committing to any of them. Make sure to discuss everything in detail so that you can better understand their expertise.

Car tuning is a peculiar business – you don’t want to deal with somebody who won’t be able to provide high-quality service.

Tuning shows are popular in every country, which suggests that many people adore modified cars and would love to have one in their garage. While tuning has advantages and disadvantages, it’s an exciting journey for any car enthusiast.

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Karolis Bareckas

Article by

Karolis Bareckas

Karolis is an automotive writer focusing on the industry part of things. His goal is to educate readers and foster transparency in the used car market. With a passion for storytelling and extensive experience writing in a variety of fields, Karolis enjoys sharing his knowledge and spreading the word about automotive and tech topics. He’s also a a big fan of muscle cars and long road trips.