Automotive designs have changed dramatically over the past 30 years. From the boxy cars of the ’80s to the new 2016 releases over the past few months, the appearance and performance of our cars is something many car owners take pride in. What has also changed – maybe at an even a faster pace – is the automotive aftermarket industry.

From performance upgrades, to cosmetics, to DIY customization, the growth and variety of this industry has created the ability for more and more enthusiasts to truly personalize their car. Here are just a few of the current trends and new popular products available for aftermarket vehicle customization:


In the last few years, the emergence of auto paint alternatives has provided greater room for creativity. Matte paint and limited chrome is now a widespread trend. Instead of tirelessly waxing and buffing for the perfect reflection in your hood, these owners are sporting flat, relatively low maintenance paint jobs that bring out the body lines of any car or truck. It has actually become so popular that some luxury car manufacturers are now offering their off-the-lot cars in frosted greys, blacks, and blues. 
Want the look, but don’t want to deal with matte paint? Or possibly you want your entire car in gold, chrome or zebra striped? In the ‘90s and early 2000s, this would have been a hefty bill from a custom paint shop. Now you can buy a car wrap, watch a few how-to videos on YouTube, and completely change the look of your vehicle in a weekend. These wraps are relatively low cost, able to be removed, and can have just about any design, pattern, color, or image. 
Lighting is also a feature many are personalizing. For example, LED bulbs are becoming increasingly popular. With a substantially higher lumen output, longer lifespan and lower energy use, LEDs are an easy upgrade that will increase both the safety and appearance of your vehicle. LEDs are also great for auxiliary lighting such as headlight halo rings because they are available in a multitude of colors and sizes. 


Audio and electronics upgrades have always been popular DIY projects. From your basic speaker and sub upgrade, to sound competition cars pumping over 160 dB, there are many different brands, styles and sizes available for aftermarket subs, stereos, amps and speakers. Whether you’re bumping to tunes on your drive to work, or looking to start the party at a tailgate, you can customize sound and quality.


The aftermarket performance upgrades possibilities are staggering and are only limited by one’s budget. In terms of popular DIY upgrades, many people look first for air intakes and exhaust systems. Intakes come in a wide variety, either cold air or ram style, and dry or wet filter with a multitude of finishes. Exhaust systems come as complete or partial replacements, with cat back, muffler back or pieced. Regardless of what is chosen, these are all relatively simple jobs that increase both horsepower and engine efficiency and give your vehicle a more aggressive sound.
Suspension upgrades are also popular. Depending on what type of vehicle and driving style you have, you can choose from lift kits and heavy duty springs, lowering springs, or adjustable suspension such as coil overs or air ride suspension. For lowered cars especially, air ride and other adjustable suspension systems have created a more comfortable ride.
Even if you are not a diehard auto enthusiast there are still many ways to personalize your vehicle, from roof racks and truck bed accessories, to custom floor mats and window visors. Whether you’re looking for increased functionality, more performance or an outlet for personal expression, car customization helps us to appreciate all of the different auto industry styles. 
Richard Reina is the training director for, an online superstore for all things automotive from performance to repair and customization. Learn more at

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