Continuing our theme of modifying your car on a responsible budget, this week we thought we’d talk about one of the modifications that folks can universally agree completely transform a car. While they don’t add much by way of performance upgrades, a set of attractive aftermarket wheels with more aggressive fitment can completely change the way your car looks. It’s often said that wheels make the car. I certainly agree with that sentiment. However, people tend to think that the wheels that make the biggest difference have to be the most expensive, exclusive, and over the top options on the market. This is our list of wheels we think offer a substantial improvement in terms of fitment and style that won’t shake your bank account to its foundation.
With both ‘traditional’ and ‘non-traditional’ designs, 3SDM wheels are incredibly popular among VW drivers, especially ones that have been aggressively lowered. They work well with vintage and contemporary models and are available in a range of sizes, fitments, and styles for many types of enthusiasts.
Approximate cost: $1000 a set
Our house brand of wheels, Alzor wheels are primarily inspired by classic styles made popular in European motorsport history as well as OEM-syles for an ‘OEM plus’ look. There are options for nearly every contemporary European vehicle you might have in your stable. With designs fitting for Audi, BMW, Volkswagen, and more popular models, there is likely something you would find appealing in the Alzor lineup that is certainly within any budget.
Approximate cost: $600-700 a set
Primarily for BMW owners, APEX Wheels offer styles designed after iconic BMW options that have the multi-spoke look many BMW enthusiasts find appealing. These lightweight wheels are incredibly popular with drivers who spend time on the track but are certainly appealing to strictly street-driven BMWs. They don’t have the widest range of styles but they do offer both semi and fully-forged options that are priced competitively.
Approximate cost – $800-1000 a set
Once again, BMW specific wheels on a budget come from Beyern. These are incredibly faithful to OEM and classic aftermarket styles but carry a more affordable price tag. A vintage BMW enthusiast will have an easy time finding a set that works well for their build. They are also one of the few companies that offer a range of wheels in 4X100 PCD, which is becoming harder to find. E30 owners are the ideal buyer for Beyern wheels, but certainly not exclusively.
Approximate cost – $800 a set
Definitely on the higher end of the cost spectrum but also some of the most widely-popularized wheels thanks to their long history of OEM and aftermarket wheel production, Enkei wheels are some of the most highly respected on the market. Their aggressive and original designs paired with a lightweight motorsport focus makes them suitable for anything from a daily driver to a track build. Even though they are some of the more expensive wheels on this list, their durability and wide range of styles make them worth the money for any enthusiast.
Approximate cost – $1000-1300 a set
Some may argue that wheel companies who take direct inspiration from other companies’ designs are unoriginal, but the reality is there are only so many designs that people find widely appealing. In order to manufacture wheels that most enthusiasts can afford on a budget, mass production with widespread appeal is the way to go. ESM does a fantastic job of providing desirable styles with excellent fitment and size options and doesn’t forget those of us who are still rocking 4-lug cars. These are perfect for the daily driver since they aren’t too expensive and are still quite attractive designs.
Approximate cost – $600-800
If you want unique designs without forking over an arm and a leg, F1R offers striking color options and styles intended to fit even the most modest budget. These have yet to become incredibly widespread. We think they are some of the most slept-on wheels available right now and should have a much larger presence in the scene. If you want to ensure other drivers ask what wheels you’re running, these are an excellent choice.
Approximate cost – $700-900 a set
Last but not least, Regen5 follows a similar principle to F1R. They produce some incredibly striking designs that are both unique and eye-catching. These are perfect for the stance build that doesn’t want to spend triple the cost on wheels that offer the same visual upgrade. While they are slightly more expensive than some on this list, they are definitely the perfect intersection between visual upgrade and cost. You won’t see another set like them if you choose Regen5 for your build.
Approximate cost – $1000-1300
There are, of course, a number of other companies that offer wheels on a budget that don’t make sacrifices to style and quality. We think this list is perfect for anyone looking to make a distinctive change to their car, especially over stock wheels, and would like to remain under $1,200. You can, in fact, have an excellent set of wheels that will be durable and attractive without spending more than you paid for your car to do it.