It’s after the New Year, and along with eating more greens and exercising a few times a week, you might have set a resolution to stick to a budget this year. Budgeting well doesn’t mean slashing all of the things you love; instead, it means purposefully setting aside your money so that you can buy the things you need and want.

Improve Your Car on a Budget

(Pixabay / DariuszSankowski)

If you’re trying to stick to a tight budget but want to upgrade your vehicle, here are 20 ways to improve your car that cost little to no money:


  • Clean It Out: Start the year right by giving your car a thorough cleaning. Empty out the pop cans, junk mail, and fast food bags, and tidy up the space. Use a shop vac or go to a car wash to vacuum out all of the nooks and crannies. You should also scrub away the sticky mess in your cup holders. Wipe down your dashboard and any leather with a conditioner product to help prevent cracking, and scrub the seats and carpet with some warm water and a little bit of laundry detergent. You will be amazed at how cleaning out your space will lift your spirits and make the ride more enjoyable.
  • Phone Holder: Instead of setting your phone in the cup holder or in the dash display behind your steering wheel, add a phone holder. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and they can really help organize your space.

    Phone Holder


  • Floor Mats: Floor mats can make a world of difference in keeping your vehicle clean. Where I live, there is a lot of dirt, and it can easily hitchhike on my shoes into my car. Floor mats allow you to shake out the dirt and debris without needing to vacuum every time.
  • Steering Wheel and Seat Covers: Steering wheel and seat covers are among the easiest (and swankiest!) ways to update your car’s interior without having to spend a bucket load of cash. You can find seat and steering wheel covers in just about any color, fabric, and interest available.

    Steering Wheel and Seat Covers



  • Car Wash: A good car wash is one of the easiest, least expensive ways to freshen up your car. Whether you go through a drive-thru at the gas station or break out a bucket of suds, a car wash is a great way to make your car look better while protecting its paint job.
  • Wax: Waxing your vehicle has a little bit of a learning curve, but it can make all the difference in making your car look like new. Invest in some good quality wax, embrace your inner Mr. Miyagi, and grease up your elbow.
  • Windshield Wipers: You should be replacing your windshield wipers every six months or so, but did you know that you can also replace the arms that hold the wipers? It’s true! Windshield wiper arms come in a variety of colors to jazz up your vehicle on the cheap.
  • Headlight Upgrades: Your headlights are a crucial safety feature on your vehicle, so why not upgrade them to LED lights? LEDs use less energy and also produce a much brighter light to help you see better on those dark roads. If you have an older vehicle, look for a conversion kit at your local auto parts store.
  • Tire Shine: It may seem a little frivolous, and dare I say, a tiny bit vain, to want your tires to have that dark black gloss, but tire shine can actually help keep your tires from cracking and rotting—while looking super sleek.
  • Spare Tire Cover: This is a great way to add a little bit of personality to your exterior-mounted spare tire. They come in just about any design you can imagine, and there are even some customizable options.

    Spare Tire Cover


  • Rims: If you’re looking to upgrade your old rims with something that looks swankier, there are a lot of rims on the market that look cool for the sake of looking cool. If function is a little more important to you, keep an eye out for rims that can improve your vehicle’s braking, accelerating, and turning.
  • Headlight Covers: Your car’s headlights can get fogged up for a lot of reasons, and unfortunately, fogged up headlights make your car look old and a little run down. Look for a DIY defogging tutorial online or pick up a headlight restoration kit from your auto repair shop.


  • Tires: There are a few areas on your vehicle that can improve your car’s performance relatively cheaply, and one of those is your tires. If you can’t afford new tires, at least make sure to check them once a month for the correct tire pressure.
  • Oil: Depending on the type of car you drive, you need to get your oil changed between every 3,000 and 7,000 miles. Talk to a trusted mechanic to see if a synthetic oil will help your car run more efficiently.
  • Get Rid of Excess Weight: Having a lot of extra weight in your vehicle can negatively influence your car’s performance. Go through your car and throw away unnecessary heavy items that may be accumulating in your backseat or trunk, and you’ll probably see your gas mileage go up accordingly.

Improving your vehicle doesn’t have to break the bank. Keep the above suggestions in mind as you plan out this year’s budget, and your car (and wallet!) will thank you.