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Pimp Your Ride On The Cheap

Watching car-modification shows on cable TV can make anyone feel a little bit jealous. If you're living on a tight, low income, seeing what people with money to burn do to their rides can make you feel more than a little inadequate. While owning and using a vehicle can be a necessity, nobody wants to drive around in the classic "beater."

Most Americans are not driving around in new cars (the average American car is 12 years old).[1] An old vehicle can still look good, but many low-income Americans lack the finances to keep their ride looking its best. Sure, you might be able to afford to keep it running, but a new paint job, shiny new rims, a new sound system, and a spoiler are all expenses that are just a bit difficult to justify.

Even on a tight budget, low-income individuals can find useful ways to pimp their rides on the cheap. You may not be able to get a gold-lined license plate holder, but there are certain things you can do to and for your car that will keep it looking like a ride with some pride.

Taking care of the body
The outside is always the first thing people see, and often the part that gets the least amount of attention. When you're making a choice between paying important bills and putting down several hundred dollars for a new coat of paint, the decision is obvious. You don't need to pay hundreds of dollars to get the outside of your ride to shine. Here are a few ways you can improve the outside aesthetic for your car.

Smooth out dents
One of the best places to start is to smooth out any dents that you may have. You can avoid costly repairs for this by investing in some DIY, at-home kits that will help clear up a range of dents.

Step 1: Use a dent puller. A dent puller is a hand-held device that operates like a suction cup. When you attach this to your auto body, it will latch on and allow you to pull the dent outward. Dent pullers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with different dent pullers that work on different parts of the body or different sized dents. Once you've pulled out the major dents, you'll want to take care of the smaller and larger scratches in your paint (some of which may have been caused by the dent puller).

Step 2: Use a scratch remover. The scratches in your paint can be a pain if you're trying to ride with style. You can remove the majority of scratches, from light to deeper scratches, using very inexpensive home repair kits like the 3M 39071 Scratch Removal System or the NOVUS 2 Plastic Fine Scratch Remover, or many others. Some of these kits require sandpapering the scratches out, while others utilize gels and other liquids that fill in the scratches. You'll need to decide which method you find the most appealing, as each requires varying amounts of work. You will also need to remove scratches from different areas, including windows and headlights.

Step 3: Buff and shine the exterior. Even without a new coat of paint, you can make your car look newer by using a good polish. You'll want to do this with an official buffer, as a regular towel won't fully accomplish the task. Before using a buffing material, make sure you do a thorough cleaning with a good liquid soap designed for the purpose. Follow this up with the buffing material while using your buffer. Always buff in a swirling motion, and avoid allowing the buffing material to sit in one spot untouched for too long, which will cause it to set and require you to rewash and rebuff.

Step 4: Remove the rust (if any). Rust is ugly to look at and getting rid of it isn't always easy. However, getting rid of the rust can have an almost immediate and positive impact on the look of your vehicle and will prevent further damage. Many low-cost commercial rust removers will help get rid of the rust from your vehicle, including Evaporust Super Rust Remover, Permatex Rust Treatment, Turtle Wax Chrome Polish and Rust Remover, among others. Follow the instructions on the product of your choice!

Pay attention to the details
Make sure that you pay attention to the details when cleaning, buffing and removing rust. In particular, you may be amazed how dirty your rims can get. Most rims can be shiny with a good cleaning and a good liquid polish. Be sure to polish your headlights and taillights, as well as clean your windows. These areas can help your vehicle look newer and draw positive attention to your car. To review, you need to:

Pull out any dents

Smooth out scratches with scratch removers

Remove rust with rust removers

Clean your car

Wax and polish

You won't need to do all of these at once, although it's a good idea to wash and wax at the same time.