A wheel shopping guide for any budget
Just bought a used car and need to improve its looks?
Trying to sell a car and wanting to increase its resale value?
Maybe you’ve been involved an accident, and you’re looking for ways to save on the repairs?
Or, perhaps you just landed your dream restoration project and you’re trying to find replica wheels for a classic car?
There are a lot of reasons to buy automotive wheels. We’re here to help you take some of the guesswork out of the process. You have a lot of choices in front of you. Keep reading for an ultimate wheel shopping guide.
Aluminum alloy wheels are one of the best investments you can make in a car or truck. They look great, they last a long time, and they can increase your vehicle’s resale value more than any other component.
FYI: There are also magnesium alloy wheels. But you probably don’t want those. They’re far more expensive than aluminum. And they have a tendency to burn in vehicle fires.
Here are just some of the advantages of aluminum alloy wheels.
- Weighing less than steel, alloy wheels can increase a car’s fuel efficiency.
- Aluminum is stronger than steel. They are less likely to dent or warp under stress.
- Aluminum resists rust and corrosion.
- When they reach the end of their useful lives, aluminum wheels can be recycled into soda cans, sports bleachers, or even automotive body panels.
And then there is the amazing variety of finishes and styles you can get in an alloy wheel, including
- Full-face painted
- Polished with painted accents
Plus, alloy wheels are available in many colors. Black or dark gray-painted wheels can create a stunning look, especially on a black car. Rose-gold wheels are becoming more popular. They compliment white or metallic body paint.
Steel automotive wheels can get a bad rap. They tend to come on base-model cars. But that doesn’t mean they have to look cheap.
An honest wheel shopping guide needs to give equal weight to both steels and alloys. The truth is that steels might be right for you.
Some advantages to steel wheels:
- They are a lower-cost alternative to alloys.
- Steel wheels are good when paired with snow tires. Their extra weight provides more traction on slippery roads. You will also avoid salt or debris damage to your more-expensive alloy wheels.
- With a lower center of gravity applied to your car, you may notice better cornering. Very lightweight cars such as roadsters would do well with an attractive set of steel wheels.
And as with alloy wheels, you’ll find a wide variety of finishes available on steel wheels, too.
- Powder topcoated, in a variety of colors
- Machined, with tiny lines etched into the steel surface that create brilliant patterns
- Chromed, mimicking the look of chrome alloys, but with less durability and more required care
No wheel shopping guide would be complete without throwing in accents and extras. These parts can quickly and affordably add some life and uniqueness to your car’s look.
If you need a quick and easy way to liven up your steel wheels, replica covers will do the trick. These simple plastic parts snap easily onto your wheels’ rims. Some covers are bolted on with the wheels’ lug nuts.
Plastic wheel covers are available to replicate the look of your factory covers. Need to replace a scratched or missing cover? Replicas get the job done.
Bonus tip: You’ll probably want to spring for a new pair of wheel covers right before selling your car or truck. They’ll make a better first impression to an interested buyer.
Replica center caps
You may think a missing center cap on an older or classic car is a lost cause. Not so! Replica center caps recreate the authentic look of earlier-model cars.
Available in chromed metal or ABS plastic, replica center caps can help restore classic auto wheels to a showroom look. The advantages of ABS plastic caps are their sturdiness and ease of moldability (think Lego bricks).
One creative use of replica center caps is applying them and a nice set of steel wheels to a newer car. “Throwback” models such as late-model Mustangs, Challengers, and Camaros are especially attractive in this style.
Chrome trim rings
Snap-on, chromed-plastic trim rings are probably the quickest way to dress up a steel wheel. Pair them with chromed steels and a nice set of center caps, and you can recreate the look of expensive chrome alloys.
Even with a set of black-painted steels, chrome trim rings can set off a car in a unique way. The possible combinations are only limited to what you think would highlight your particular car or truck.