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Car Fads That Robbed Drivers Of Their Hard-Earned Cash

Cameron EittreimJune 14, 2021

The automotive industry has had multiple fads that have came and went in design and accessories. These include everything from the radio deck designs to the types of aftermarket wheels that you can get.

Car fads can be fleeting at best, and every generation has had lots of ‘upgrades’ drivers must have. However, not all of them end up actually helping drivers who bought them. So we took a look back at the worst car fads that simply robbed drivers of their hard-earned cash. Perhaps you were among those who experienced them, so read on right here.

Photo Credit: DUB Magazine

30: Spinner Rims

Remember these obscene-looking wheels that came into existence during the early 2000s? It seemed like every other SUV or truck on the road had a pair of spinner rims at one point or another. These high-priced rims were featured on TV shows and DUB Magazine covers time and time again.

Photo Credit: DUB Magazine

Then sometime after 2008, it seemed that spinner rims all but disappeared. You might still see a pair from time to time but it’s few and far between. There was a period where spinner rims seemed to be on every Escalade or Yukon Denali you saw, yet that just isn’t the case anymore.

Photo Credit: Car ID

29: Chrome Accents

Remember the early 2000s when chrome accents were a thing? Wheel wells, trim, and even mirrors were all subjected to cheap chrome accents. The chrome phase seems to have died off in recent years, but you still see an old Buick chromed up from time to time. This fad happened out of Texas like a lot of car fads do.

Photo Credit: Car ID

Luckily, drivers have since seen the light and realized that chroming every facet of your vehicle might not be the best option. Chrome accent pieces are pricey and just look tacky in today’s world of vehicle customization. There are other ways that you can make your car look great without wasting money on this kind of chrome.

Photo Credit: Rods N Rods

28: Coffee Can Exhaust Pipes

The years following the release of the original ‘Fast and the Furious’ were littered with street racing. Drivers had to have loud exhaust pipes and wings to compete with other drivers at the same time. Influenced by the movie and an onslaught of video games, coffee can exhaust pipes were loud and annoying.

Photo Credit: Rods N Rods

Custom exhaust systems are still a thing but they’ve since been refined quite a bit. No longer is it in fashion to stuff an oversized exhaust pipe on your Civic. Nowadays, exhaust systems are a bit more advanced and sound much better too. A lot of drivers prefer the silent method nowadays to avoid interacting with the police.

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27: Vinyl Decals

Along with the big exhaust phase, there was also a decal craze that took the automotive world by storm. Whether it was a mythical dragon up the side of the car or some fake racing stripes that started to fade after a year, this fad was undoubtedly wasted drivers’ cash. Decals aren’t a bad thing if there is a use for them such as advertising a business.

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But to just litter up the exterior of your vehicle with decals is an obscene thing to do and devalues the vehicle tremendously. Nowadays the decal fad died off and the next generation of drivers are more interested in other attributes of customization. Still, there was a time when slapping some decals on your car was the thing to do and drivers wasted their money as a result.

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26: Oversized Spoilers

In racing, a spoiler gives the car a certain level of aerodynamics that you don’t generally get. That’s all well and good, but for the average driver, having an aerodynamic spoiler isn’t the most important thing. However, the street racing craze of the 2000s influenced drivers to go out and buy these obscene-looking spoilers.

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The oversized spoiler phase was influenced by the popularity of street racing movies and hasn’t gone away since. You still see oversized spoilers slapped on compact cars to this day, and they just look downright obscene. An oversized spoiler does nothing for the performance of the car other than wasting the driver’s money.

25: Donk Rims

There was another popular fad that hit the automotive industry and that was donk rims. Oversized rims were a big thing at the beginning of the 2000s due to the influence of hip-hop music on the automotive industry. The problem with donk rims is that the entire suspension on the car has to be “lifted” which can be a costly process.

Once the wheels are removed the car still has that unfortunate lift to it and the suspension is never the same. Donk rims were a fad that cost drivers thousands and didn’t give anything back in return. Fads come and go and it would seem that this was one of the worst car fads to show up back in the 2000s.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

24: Shag Carpeting

The 1970s were a time of fun and free-wheeling, which made the van an appealing option. Drivers could live in their vans and go from concert to concert. Likewise, the interior of the van was one of the most important parts to customize. Shag carpeting was an expensive upgrade that many put in the interiors of their vans.

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While comfortable at first, shag carpeting can be a pain to keep clean when it ages. As time went on, the van became less of a cultural phenomenon, becoming replaced by other forms of transportation such as the pickup. Nevertheless, there was a time when shag carpeting was one of the most expensive upgrades that drivers could get.

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23: Subwoofers

Customizing your car in the early 2000s was the thing to do and one of the most expensive fads of this time were custom subwoofer boxes. These units generally take up the entire trunk and featured things like neon lighting and glass coverings. While customizing your sound system to this degree can be cool, you lost all but a small amount of trunk space.

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Subwoofer boxes are still around but their popularity is nowhere near what it once was. Having your car booming at the stoplight turned out to be a bad idea. Many of these drivers ended up with hefty tickets for noise violations, so all of a sudden the subwoofer boxes had to go.

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22: Dayton Wheels

The wire wheels known as Daytons were extremely popular throughout the 1990s. It was almost a badge of honor to have a pair of these rims on your car. Drivers from all over the country would go to great lengths to get a pair of Daytons on their ride. Car theft skyrocketed because of these wheels.

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But by the turn of the millennium consumer taste had shifted toward chrome rims and the Dayton went away. You’ll still find these rims on lowriders and such, but the general consumer taste has shifted away from wire wheels.

Photo Credit: Car ID

21: Hood Scoops

Another thing that took the automotive world by storm was hood scoops. Drivers had to have a hood scoop whether they drove a Honda Civic or a big block Chevy. There were hood scoops that could be glued onto the hood and these became quite popular. Cheap, tacky modifications like these were influenced “The Fast and the Furious.”

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Hood scoops are still around, albeit less popular than they were, mostly relegated to modern muscle cars. Few modifications can look as great or as awful as a hood scoop when it’s part of the front of your ride.

Photo Credit: GM

20: Body Cladding

Off-roading has always been popular, but when body cladding came into the style it took it a step further. Plastic body cladding can be glued or drilled onto the exterior of a car, but drivers took things too far. With the wrong amount of body cladding, cars ended up looking tacky and dated.

Photo Credit: GM

Furthermore, the body cladding was also a standard option on most SUVs around the early 2000s and it quickly died off. drivers just didn’t want to drive around in something that resembled an off-road tank.

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19: Chrome Door Handles

Chrome door handles were a fad that came in around the same time as the spinner rim craze. Generally oriented toward full-size trucks, it wasn’t uncommon to see chrome door handles that matched the rims. While this upgrade can look great at first, the cheap chrome accents age quickly and lose coloration.

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This means in just a few years, the car or truck just looks dated and you have to take the chrome off. You’ll seldom see chrome door handles on cars or trucks any longer unless it’s a factory option such as on the Ram Big Horn.

Photo Credit: Car ID

18: Chrome Mirror Covers

Along with chrome door handles, another fad was adding chrome mirror covers to your ride. Chroming in general is going over the top, but especially so if the chrome is just fake plastic. This fad was mostly relegated to the Escalade and Navigator, but you’d also see it on lower-end models such as the Tahoe.

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Chrome mirrors have also seemingly disappeared from the landscape as consumer’s tastes have shifted. With trucks being more luxury-oriented from the factory, the need for chrome mirror covers isn’t there anymore.

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17: Chrome Flames

With all of the other chrome that was being slapped on cars and trucks in the early 2000s, chrome flames were another fad to add. Whether they were being stuck on the fender or the truck bed you’ve probably seen these stuck on a car at some point in time. What makes chrome flames worse than other chrome entries is just how tacky they look, especially on a cheap car.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Chroming was a fun way to add a unique spin to your vehicle, but most drivers went overboard with it. Thankfully the chrome flame fad went away quite rapidly as drivers realized that it was ruining their paint jobs.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

16: Altezza Tail Lights

Another fad that picked up a lot of steam in the 2000s was Altezza Taillights. These European-influenced taillights were transparent and looked different compared to other taillights on the road. Originally introduced on the Lexus IS300, they soon became an upgrade for all cars. Fortunately, like with most fads, it just went too far and the uniqueness of these accessories died off.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Nowadays Altezza tail lights look like a cheap upgrade, yet you’ll still see them stuffed on everything from a Silverado to a Civic. Drivers still buy them but it’s not close to the fad that it once was at the start of the new millennium. Altezza tail lights are a definite no-no when it comes to customizing your car or truck right now.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

15: Fuzzy Dice

When it comes to automotive interior upgrades, fuzzy dice are one of the most iconic fads. They weren’t necessarily expensive but it was something that everyone wanted. Hanging some fuzzy dice from your mirror was a fun and trendy thing to do. Unfortunately, it’s also another way to be pulled over for an infraction and a lot of drivers didn’t like this fact.

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Thus, the fuzzy dice craze of the ’90s seemed to have died off. Instead, these were replaced by unique air fresheners and other items that are much smaller. More recently dash cams have replaced fuzzy dice as the go-to automotive window accessory.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

14: Cow Skin Seat Covers

Most popular during the 1990s, cow skin seat covers were a fad that went in and out. The comfortable fabric was a welcome cover for hot vinyl seating of the time. However, a lot of drivers grew weary of the upkeep that came with these seat covers. The thick fabric showed dirt rather quickly and a lot of drivers decided against it.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Seat covers are still in fashion but not as much as at one point in time. Car interiors are more durable than ever and the need for a seat cover is almost nonexistent. Cow skin seat covers were a comical fad from the 1990s that most of us fondly remember.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

13: Fake Wood Paneling

Another fad from the 2000s was fake wood paneling glued over the top of stock interior pieces. The problem with fake wood paneling is that it looked tacky and fake from the gate, oftentimes much lighter in color than real wood. The paneling also cracks and falls off easily as well.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Everyone wanted to “floss” a luxury car but the advent of wood paneling just wasn’t appealing. You’ll seldom find this accessory for modern vehicles but it can still be had for older models such as the Escalade and Tahoes of the early 2000s era.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

12: Custom Hubcaps

Before actual rims became standard equipment on new cars, most passenger cars were sold with metal wheels. The hubcaps covered the metal wheels and gave the car an individual style. The problem with hubcaps is that they’d fall off and get scratched over time.

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By the turn of the millennium, consumers could purchase all kinds of custom hubcaps. This was a short-lived fad where you’d see everything from spinning hubcaps to blacked-out ones. Fortunately, the automotive industry graced us with alloy wheels as standard equipment and we don’t see these ugly hubcaps anymore.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

11: Billet Grills

Another thing drivers spent money on in the 2000s was the billet grill. Common on pickup trucks, the billet grill was a chrome grille. While a billet grill can look great in some instances for the most part it just looks tacky. With all of the other chrome that drivers were slapping on their cars and trucks, a billet grill went overboard.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

You’ll see a billet grill from this era from time to time, still making its way around the bend. Billet grills were an expensive accessory that didn’t add any intrinsic value to the car or truck. Instead, it just made the vehicle a target for thieves who wanted to have these expensive accessories for themselves.

Photo Credit: CAR ID

10: CD Changers

Before we had music streaming services, there were CD changers, and for a long period, this was the accessory of the elite. So aftermarket CD changers took the place of factory options and these became quite the fad. Disc changers were frequently stolen and it would cost the driver hundreds of dollars to try and get one replaced.

Photo Credit: Disk Changer

With the rise of built-in USB functionality and music streaming the need for a CD changer went away. Thus, adding a CD changer is a fad that we rarely if ever see anymore. Most drivers are at least somewhat satisfied with the factory audio options that come with their vehicle.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

9: Blue Headlights

For a while, blue headlights were one of the hottest fads around, and we’re not talking about xenon headlights. We’re talking straight blue-colored headlights that would blind other drivers on the road. These types of headlights were quickly outlawed in several states and the fines got to be too much for drivers to handle.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Having a unique set of headlights can make your car look a lot better. But if it’s a safety issue for others then the headlights just aren’t worth it. Nothing is worse than being tailgated and blinded by a bright pair of headlights in the late hours of the night.

Photo Credit: Car ID

8: Custom Dashboard Gauges

Another fad of the 2000s was to add custom dashboard gauges to your car. These were everything from flames to the sports logos and could be installed fairly easily. As vehicles got more advanced, the need for physical gauges was gone as everything has become digital nowadays.

Photo Credit: Car ID

Customizing your dashboard is not a very easy thing to do and thus custom gauges are relegated to older vehicles. We’re not sure if a similar fad will make a return as automotive accessory makers try to figure out a way to sell products to drivers.

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7: Camber Kits

Along with the rest of the street racing accessory fad that went on in the 2000s there were also camber kits. These are kits that are designed to drop the car obscenely low, and this fad is still with us today. Ride quality suffers tremendously as it puts a lot of strain on the rest of the suspension pieces.

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The addition of a camber kit is something that most street racing enthusiasts will try to do at one point or another. Unfortunately, this is a fad that doesn’t necessarily do anything for the car performance-wise or any other ways.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

6: Turbochargers

In the early 2000s, most of the cars that enthusiasts gravitated toward were underpowered. These cars include the Acura Integra and the Honda Civic, both of which were notoriously underpowered. Turbochargers weren’t cheap and enthusiasts would stick these on their engines left and right during this era.

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Local authorities caught onto these and a lot of these modifications were banned or made the car difficult to smog. Turbochargers are still around now but are standard equipment on most new cars to get more power.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

5: Branded Decals

Branded decals are some of the most annoying accessories that drivers have wasted their money on. From the giant Honda sticker across the top of an Accord to the various off-road stickers, you see on pickup trucks. These decals often cost a boatload of money and don’t do anything for the resale value or performance of the vehicle.

Photo Credit: TRD

Branded decals are perhaps one of the most obscene accessories that have come out of the past decade. Drivers tried to show off their vehicle pride but these decals seemed foolish for the most part.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

4: Lamborghini Doors

Auto enthusiasts were doing everything featured in rap videos in the early 2000s. Adding a pair of Lamborghini doors to your Honda Civic or Chevy Tahoe seemed like the popular thing to do at the time. These doors were very expensive to install and it required quite a bit of fabrication to get the job done the right way.

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Fortunately, the fad seems to have gone away for the most part; you’ll still see it in the South but that’s about it. Lamborghini doors are a modification that you don’t need and they won’t add any value to the car other than a unique look.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

3: LED Lightbars

Adding various lights to your pickup truck can be a fun experience but it’s oftentimes unwarranted. LED lightbars came into popularity in the mid-2000s as an add-on to be placed at the bottom of the tailgate. While these lights can make the truck more visible, it takes a lot of wiring and extra work to get it done right.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

With the newest wave of modern pickup trucks, it seems like this fad has all but gone away. You’ll see these lightbars on the tailgates of pickup trucks from time to time. Albeit not at all as popular as it once was an upgrade that people would go for.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

2: Keyless Ignition

With all of the other expensive audio upgrades that went into cars around the 2000s, keyless ignitions gained traction as well. Adding a keyless ignition to your car or truck was a great way to get it warmed up for you. Unfortunately, wiring one of these systems is very difficult and it caused a lot of reliability issues in certain vehicles.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Nothing is worse than having an electrical gremlin in your car and these keyless ignitions did that. Most new cars can be started from an app so the need for a custom keyless ignition all but disappeared for the most part.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

1: Baja Lights

Baja-inspired trucks became quite popular in the 1980s and early ’90s. Baja lights, which could be mounted at the top of your truck, were a common modification. Fortunately, the lights didn’t do anything in the way of added performance or value to the car. Nowadays most of these lights have vanished although you have an enthusiast show off a pair from time to time.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Baja racing is still a popular thing but these days Baja trucks come from the factory, such as the Ford F150 Raptor. The Baja racing scene has changed a lot since the early days and Baja lights are just another car fad that drivers unnecessarily spent money on.

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