Buyer's Guide: Best Budget Wheels for Tuners
The Import Tuner Scene in the US drew people who love high-revving straight fours together. Not everyone is capable of blowing huge bucks for mods. So, here's a guide to budget wheels for tuners who are just starting.
The Import Tuner scene is probably one of the most diverse in the car world, having spread throughout the US and other countries, Tuner builds are unique because of the quirk, artistry, and sheer enthusiasm each owner has over the chassis. And this transcended into the global car culture.
A Little History...
Detroit will always be known as the birthplace of American iron. There mere mention of Motor City resonates with icons like the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and Dodge Charger.
Meanwhile, Southern California is remembered as the area that opened its arms to Japanese vehicles beginning in the '70s. These smaller economic Asian counterparts rivaled the efficiency and affordability of American cars.
Soon enough, enthusiasts took notice of the Japanese cars for their economic value, and versatility of parts available. This paved the way to SoCal's emergence as the heart of the Import Tuner Scene. Gone were the days that racing and streets only belonged to Detroit Iron.
Becoming The Import Tuner Scene
The Import Tuner Scene started getting a lot of attention at the beginning of the '90s, a time that predates the first Fast and the Furious movie. And carried over to the early 2000s when the tuner scene really took off.
Oh, don't forget the underglow neon lights
Young enthusiasts wanted to try their hands on building something different, something of their own.
They resorted to meeting together and creating a culture dedicated to loving cars. Soon enough, they bought import cars that were inexpensive and easy to modify. This cemented cars like the Honda Civic as a tuner favorite.
The Import Tuner Scene in the 21st Century
The culture flourished into the 21st Century. Its influence has reached car owners across the states, from East to West Coast. Likewise, JDM and KDM cars on the streets have increased their number the same way aftermarket parts have been too. Inspirations for tuner builds are more prevalent than ever.
Modern tuner guys are still welcomed with many aftermarket modifications to choose from. These days, form and style are favored over function in the pursuit of clout on Instagram.
Nothing wrong with it, just a little...different from back in our days...
The builds have gotten simpler, or "cleaner" in many ways. Many people shy away from the gaudy race livery, gigantic wing that provides little to no real downforce, and body kits that look like it's a straight hotwheels replica.
The past few years also saw a small comeback of many of the trends back in the early 2000s. From wide body pandem kits, to big, big multi-piece wings to complement. (Where our big wang gang at?)
Time brought cycles to the whole tuner scene. Although one thing will never change: the influx of new, young, car owners looking to build their first tuner.
Budget Wheels for Tuners
Import Tuners express their enthusiasm on the streets and shows. The street builds become the beacon of their passion and individuality. Consistent to the true spirit of Import Tuners, cars incorporate modifications that improve their performance and aesthetics.
However, most new to the tuner scene can only afford so much. Not everyone is privileged with an endless cash supply to splurge on a car. (After all, we can't live on cup ramen forever). Most people have other bills to pay and things to support.
Fortunately, the automotive aftermarket has a segment that offers affordable and budget-friendly alternatives. And one of the quickest ways to jumpstart your street build is by getting the best budget wheels that match the build.
Here are some of our recommended budget wheels for tuners:
AodHan Wheels has been around since the late 2000s. It stays on top of its game with modernity and precision engineering to come up with the best wheels for a variety of cars in the performance, luxury, and economy segments.
Its team continues to innovate design and manufacturing processes to cater to modern car enthusiasts. This includes its low-pressure casting for durable yet affordable monoblock wheels. More recently, Aodhan has been using the Flow Formed method for producing robust light-weight cast wheels.
Starts at $187 per wheel
The Aodhan DS05 reminds you how good the wheels on Ferraris and Lambos were during the ‘80s. It retains a very traditional five spoked design with clean lines throughout. This is complemented by a pronounced lip adorned with a generous number of rivets along its circumference.
The wheel design will work pretty well for tuners who want to flaunt a clean stanced set-up. It has enough lip details and offset to add depth to the car. Its stern lines also bring out a lot of personality even from the most modest cars off the lot.
The DS05 comes in 18-inch and 19-inch versions with varying wheel offsets to best suit your car. It is available in gloss black, bronze with machined lip, silver with machined face, gold vacuum, and black vacuum.
Starts at $187 per wheel
The Aodhan DS07 looks like an aggressive wheel with the way its ten spokes spread out like spikes from a thorny crown. Throw in the deep-dish lip and rivets on it, and behold this regal wheel. Its boldness resonates with what the tuner is all about.
Tuners will benefit from a loud wheel design like this, whether they want it as an element of a flashy car or a game-changer to the monotony of a daily driver. Whichever path is taken, the car will surely make a standout of a car.
The DS07 comes in 18-inch and 19-inch with limited wheel offsets. Choose from three finishes: gloss black, silver with machined face, and bronze with machined lip.
ESR Wheels specializes in intricate wheels for a variety of vehicle applications. Most of its selection can come off flashy to the uninitiated tuner. The designs have so much detail that they are artworks on their own.
The ESR team is dedicated to forging high-quality custom wheels for tuners. Each product is meticulously crafted and tested before it reaches the customer. This way, there is no compromise to quality and attention to detail.
Starts at $219 per wheel
The ESR CS01 showcases a modest multi-spoke design. While many, each spoke is narrowly put together leaving ample spaces in between them. Those spaces are just enough to give you a glimpse of the disc brakes behind. It also has a lip that pushes back the spokes inward giving the wheel more character.
It suits any tuner car built for a clean stylish look. It can give off a bit of Euro vibe down there but not enough to overpower the entire theme.
The CS01 comes in a variety of sizes, lips, and bolt patterns. Its standard finishes are hyper silver, matte graphite, gloss black, and matte bronze. But you may opt to reach out to ESR should you want something custom-made for your tuner car.
Starts at $219 per wheel
The ESR CS11 also follows the timeless multi-spoke wheel design but comes with an aggressively deep lip. This first became popular with European cars but soon caught up with the tuners. It did not come as a surprise that this kind of wheel also worked well with Asian counterparts.
This wheel is perfect for stance and VIP themed builds. It gives off an elegant vibe without losing a bit of that edginess tuners would want to have. And don’t discount performance builds because they can also look good in a set of CS11.
The CS11 is available in color-neutral finishes like gloss black, hyper silver, and graphite. It will fit most five-lug bolt patterns and comes in 18- and 19-inch sizes.
Not much has been revealed about Kansei’s background but one thing is sure – the brand is taking on the streets. It offers a couple of tuner wheel designs as mainstays. These take inspiration from renowned JDM performance wheel brands. Despite a modest selection, Kansei does not shy away from making custom forged wheels specific to your tuner car.
Starts at $227
The Kansei Corsa uses a multi-spoke design closely resembling the lightweight mesh performance wheels used by track cars. The spokes put side by side are very symmetric to each other offering a very clean look. The stepped lip pushes back the wheel for an inch or two, adding depth that favors most tuner cars.
This classic-looking wheel is available in 18 inches only for most five-lug bolt patterns. It comes in hyper silver, gloss gunmetal, and textured bronze as it leaves out the fancy colors to other designs.
Vordoven Wheels is one of the younger brands out in the aftermarket tuner wheels scene today. It started in 2014 with a bunch of car enthusiasts. They sought out to further their passion by helping fellow tuners get affordable wheels for their cars.
Despite its affordability, each wheel is manufactured using precision equipment and undergoes rigorous testing. According to its site, Vordoven follows the Japan Light Alloy Wheel Standard for its production.
Starts at 167
The Vordoven Forme 9 is easily recognizable with its five concaved split spokes. This look matches tuner cars seamlessly with its sporty lightweight appearance. With spacious gaps between spokes, it is also very easy to take a peek at the nice brake calipers behind.
At 18 inches and 19 inches, the Forme 9 size is more fitting to modern tuner cars with a five-lug bolt pattern. It is available in machine matte black, matte battleship gray, machine matte gunmetal, and full machine silver.
Starts at $167
The Forme 18 must have one of the cleanest designs on the list. There is boldness in its simplicity. The wheel comes with a concave five-spoke design complemented by a deep stepped lip. Its lines do not take too much attention away from the entirety of the build.
Its one-piece cast aluminum construction makes the wheel sturdy and lightweight. This retains or even improves, the way the tuner car handles.
The wheel comes in 18- and 19-inch sizes and fits most tuner cars with a five-lug bolt pattern. It is available in hyper black but reach out to Vordoven if you feel like having a custom finish.
XXR Wheels has been around since the late ‘70s. It had collaborations with car manufacturers and aftermarket wheel companies over the years. The team behind it is driven to produce high-quality wheels for grassroots car enthusiasts.
The brand believes that the design and quality it offers is a true reflection of its passion. More than that, these wheels come at an affordable price point.
Starts at $120
The XXR 530 is a mix of popular wheel elements in the modern tuner car scene. It comes with a deep concaved multi-spoke design that makes the wheel look stylish as well as aggressive. Its dimensions can easily fit big brake kits underneath and also allows optimum road contact for the best grip.
The wheel comes in flat black, chromium black, and gold. Its size ranges from 15 to 19 inches and can fit four-lug and five-lug bolt patterns. Best to check with the dealer to ensure the correct fitment.
Form Over Function? Think Carefully
Many import tuner builds favor form over function. These builds can often turn heads and receive compliments at your local car meet. However, there is always the other side of the story.
Slammed cars risk the chassis and lower body panels being destroyed by the road. It can also make the car's ride wildly uncomfortable, especially on longer trips.
Excessive camber and the lack of fender gap can inevitably cause excessive tire wear, and tire safety issues at the most unexpected time. Handling also suffers because the wheels are angled in a way that is already far past the optimum contact to the road surface.
Wheel diameter and tire size should also be taken into consideration. While appealing to the eyes, big wheels on low profile or overstretched tires may prove dangerous and impractical for daily road use.
Modifying is definitely fun and makes you stand out. But it should always be stressed that modifications should be done with road safety in mind.
Always check the correct fitment specifications for wheels, tires, and suspension. This includes listing down the correct bolt pattern, stock wheel size, ride height, and other clearance factors.
If in doubt, certified tire shops are more than helpful with mounting and tuning the modified car for street applications.
Getting some proper road force balance on the wheels is a critical safety precaution to not ignore.
If you plan on getting fitment that may exceed your car's stock limitations, you can consider extensive body and suspension modifications like camber kits, wide body kits, airbag kits to make sure you get that tucked, static, fender to lip look you may be after. Just make sure to stay street-legal so you don't risk any run-ins with the five-o.