If you’re like me and don’t spend money on anything but food and car parts, then a little splurge won’t break the bank. But how much are we talking? What are the best bang-for-your-buck options? Well, an upgrade or series of maintenance services that cost under $1,000 is a safe bet. For a cool stack, you can do quite a bit and achieve a surprising result. Today, we’re looking at the best upgrades, projects, and maintenance services you can do at home for right around $1,000.


A great place to start is with your car’s suspension. Well set up suspension doesn’t add power, but it will allow you to use your power more effectively and offers a significant improvement to your car’s appearance by lowering its height and reducing or eliminating its wheel gap. If you are on springs or are at stock height, this upgrade is going to provide drastic improvement. You have no excuse to stay skyjacked if a decent set of coilovers will only set you back $1,000 or less. Now, you aren’t going to be in the budget range for anything extremely competitive, but if this is your daily driver, project car, or weekend warrior, you don’t necessarily need super expensive coilovers with tons of adjustment settings that are designed for shaving milliseconds off of lap times. I’d suggest BC RacingST Coilovers, ECS Tuning, or Solo-Werks coilovers. All of these companies produce excellent coilover options for right around that price. As I said, you only need to be concerned with height adjustment, damper stiffness adjustment, and possibly camber/caster adjustment if you want to get fancy. For someone just looking to lower their car with a suspension setup designed to ride lower, height adjustment is enough.


Whether you just want another set or are tired of stock fitment, a set of aftermarket wheels will cost about $1,000 depending on the manufacturer and specs. APEX3SDMAlzor, and Rotiform wheels can be had for around that amount. Wheels are a solid investment, too, since they will generally be worth about what you paid for, or more if they’re discontinued. If you want something that you could easily resell later and still have most of your initial investment, wheels are the way to go. Plus, they’ll look dope and will allow you to run wider tires for more grip if you increase the width and change the offset when compared to your stock alloys.


Most cat-backs, even from well-known companies, are in the 1k-2k price range. If you’re rocking a home-built straight pipe, eBay special, or stock exhaust, then now is the perfect time to make that upgrade to real exhaust for better sound and performance. Milltek Sport is a popular option, as are our in-house exhausts, and finally, our universal build-your-own program allows you to make your own exhaust with the same high-quality stainless steel that we use at ECS Tuning to craft our exhaust systems. Ideally, you want to go with what sounds the way you want and a system that offers low restriction and good scavenging for increased velocity of the exhaust gasses. That will give you some power now and allow you to grow as you increase power from supporting upgrades.

Carbon Fiber Visual Upgrades

Many times we just can’t justify the cost of beauty pieces that do little more than stroke our egos and improve the looks of our cars. When you’re looking for new ways to improve your car, though, you can make the excuse it’s the right time to go for that front lip spoiler or rear diffuser you’ve been eyeing. Our in-house designed carbon fiber exterior upgrades are all extensively tested for perfect fit and durability, so you know you are getting what you paid for with these aesthetic improvements. When you want to accentuate the already impressive appearance of your car, visual upgrades are the best way to go.

Performance Software

To maximize your engine’s efficiency and get the most from your mods, a software upgrade is the best way to go. APRCobbMaloneTurner Motorsport / Shark Injector, and Burger Motorsports JB4 are all fantastic options. I use a Cobb Accessport in my daily driver because it is a piggyback unit that is a handheld device you can load with multiple maps. It gives you the most room to grow. Whether you are completely stock or ‘stage 2,’ there are off the shelf maps available for an immediate performance boost. If you want to get it professionally tuned, the Accessport makes it easy to load in a new file and switch it in minutes. This means you won’t lose your tune if you have to re-flash it to stock for any reason.

Schwaben Scan Tool

The Schwaben Professional Scan Tool is every DIY mechanic’s biggest need in their tool collection. It does more than just read and clear codes; it is as close as you can get to dealership/factory technician tools for in-depth diagnostics, coding, and accessing internal functions in your car’s computer system. If you work on your car at home, this is a must-have and costs under $1,000. If you don’t need any upgrades, but have a stack of cash burning a hole in your wallet, then you need to pick up a Schwaben Professional Scan Tool specific for your vehicle manufacturer. Though, these will only be compatible with OBDII cars, so make sure you actually can use it before you drop the cash on one.


Sometimes, the best upgrade we can make to our cars is performing critical maintenance. Your car can’t perform at it’s best if it’s leaking, overheating, tired, worn-out, and misfiring. Our Assembled by ECS kits help you tackle jobs of any size with everything you need right in one box to complete the project start to finish. Gasket sets, cooling system refresh kits, oil service kits, and more are easy and affordable. Not only that, but they will also give you something to do while you’re stuck at home and help keep your car in perfect working order when we all get back to normal driving in the coming weeks.

Yes, with as little as $1,000, you can make some serious upgrades and improvements to your car. This list is just a few ideas that include upgrades at, around, or below the $1,000 budget and would offer you something to do while we wait out these stay at home orders. If you are working on a project, we’d love to hear about it. As always, feel free to reach out to cdaugherty@ecstuning.com with your latest projects and a chance to be featured in an upcoming edition of Tuned In with ECS Tuning.