7 Things People Do to Their Cars That Make Them Look and Sound Like Crap

You know the feeling. You're driving along, passing by the more or less generic-looking cars on the highway when you spot one that stands out from the crowd. In some cases, it's a vintage car that's been lovingly preserved or restored, creating an instant flashback to a long-gone era. But other times, we stumble across someone else's idea of car customizing bliss, a rolling testament to their vision of automotive perfection. And it just sucks. I can't remember how many times I've spotted a car and thought, "Why on Earth would anyone do that to their vehicle?" and I'm going to bet that's a familiar feeling to most people.

Beauty is completely subjective and in the eye of the beholder, but here are a few common things some people do with their cars that are almost guaranteed to make them look ugly to other people.

7. Get a Crappy Tint Job

In this part of the country, window tinting is really more of a necessity than an indulgence, since the sun bakes us for a good part of the year. For some reason, lots of cars are still sold without window tinting, and many folks go to a tint shop to get their windows darkened. Many shops that do that kind of work do a great job, but of course there are exceptions. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for, and getting the least expensive window tint installation available is often going to result in heartache down the road. Almost nothing makes a car look crappier than it has to than badly applied window tint. The cheapest tint jobs often bubble up after a year or two of the adhesive breaking down in the sun, leaving the windows looking purple and horrible. Even if the rest of the car looks good, that ugly tint makes the whole thing look terrible.

Bolt that sucker on, and let the wind push you forward!EXPAND
Bolt that sucker on, and let the wind push you forward!

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6. Fake Hood Scoops and Spoilers

There could be pages devoted to the silly and often desperate ways some folks try to make their grocery-getters look like high-horsepower performance cars. Really, that's the underlying desire that fuels many of the terrible-looking customizing strategies on this list, but bolting a fancy body kit onto a stock car often manages to make it look far worse than it was before. Hood scoops and spoilers are the most common of these types of modifications, and I almost always think they make those cars look worse. A Honda Civic with an enormous winged spoiler bolted to its back still looks like a Honda Civic. It just looks like one with a serious case of overcompensation if there's no real performance improvement. If the spoiler and scoop don't get attention, many of the people who drive cars with those kinds of modifications will also have the next item on this list installed.

5. Enormous, Loud Exhausts and Stereo Systems

A performance exhaust system can improve power and (in some people's opinions) the sound of a car, that much is true. While this list is really geared more toward things people do that make their vehicle look worse, riding by a car that sounds like it doesn't have a muffler at all makes an impression, and it's usually an ugly one. Since this kind of mod is usually paired with other awful customizations, it seems appropriate to include here. The same can be said for incredibly loud stereo systems in cars; they're an expensive way to make other people notice a car for all the wrong reasons.

Too many bumper stickers.
Too many bumper stickers.

4. Plaster a Million Bumper Stickers on It

It's common to find oneself sitting behind at a stoplight reading a novel's worth of bumper stickers someone has stuck all over his or her car. A study has shown a link between aggressive driving and road rage with the desire to adorn one's car with bumper stickers. It's a form of territorial marking, and people who plaster their cars with bumper stickers tend to think of their cars as extensions of themselves, and are more likely to take offense at perceived slights while driving. It also usually makes a car's back look cluttered and visually unappealing, and in the case of some stickers, makes the person in the car look like he might be really angry or stupid. The weird trend of window stickers representing every member of a family is also puzzling. Why do so many people feel inclined to show off a visual representation of their family unit? Should we give them a thumbs up if we applaud their ability to procreate? I don't know, but it's a strange sticker trend.

3. Truck Nutz

People in Texas love pickup trucks. A LOT. I'm convinced that there are folks who consider a truck to be the only proper mode of transportation across this state, who somehow never need to haul anything in a truck. Recently some inventive individual came up with the ultimate symbol of pride in truck ownership when he began selling large fake testicles meant to dangle from bumpers. I see them displayed proudly from the backs of trucks on a weekly basis, and I feel it's my duty to tell people, "It makes your truck look really dumb."

Seriously, I'm sure the statement folks with Truck Nutz on their pickups are trying to make is one about the masculine power of their vehicle, but it just comes across like they might really be obsessed with testicles. I'm not sure that's the message most of them are going for, but if it is, well done. In any case, it looks like crap.

2. Ridiculous Rims

The wheels on a car can have a huge effect on the overall visual impression it makes. Classic muscle cars never look right without some version of Rallye Wheels, and similarly, finding a good match of rims for any custom car project is an important consideration. But let's face it, some people buy ridiculous-looking rims, and some them look like shit no matter what kind of car they're attached to. Nothing says "cheap and ugly" faster than a $2,000 set of goofy rims on a car that cost half that much.

Yeehaw!! I have to erase bad paint decisions!
Yeehaw!! I have to erase bad paint decisions!
Photo by Chris Lane

1. A Terrible Custom Paint Job

Where to begin? A car's paint is probably the most visually defining element of its entire look. Custom paint is also a common way that people try to make their cars look cool and fail spectacularly. There are two basic categories of bad paint jobs: Cheap attempts that look like garbage, and expensive, technically well-done efforts that are just ugly for one reason or another.

It turns out that the days of spending $1,000 for a decent basic paint job are over, and you should budget between six and ten times that much if you're going for really impressive custom paint. The materials and skill it takes to do an outstanding job cost a lot, and it can be depressing to discover that the wizard mural you have planned for your vintage van is going to cost as much as the vehicle it's going to be painted on. So a lot of people try to find cheaper alternatives, with varying degrees of success or failure. We've all seen custom paint that looks as if it was sprayed from a can in someone's garage, and that rarely looks good.

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