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Times are tough. You really want a new ride, but can't afford it. So why not change the old one instead?

There's been a huge change in the car customising and personalisation market recently with advances in the technology of car vinyls and foils. Going for a complete respray used to take weeks of work and would cost many thousands of dirhams, but now you can transform your ride in a matter of days, and still have change to pay for your next tank of fuel.

Car foiling has come of age. The foils themselves are now hi-tech, manufactured in Europe or the Far East, colour stable even in our sunshine, and usually guaranteed for several years by their local installers.

Hyeleen Basilio, marketing executive of Foilacar in Dubai, gives us an idea of the possibilities. "You can do a full car wrap and completely change the colour, or we can do patterns and stripes," she explained. "A simple design can start around Dh5,000, something like carbon fibre stripes, the same on door handles and mirrors, and of course the spoiler as well." And if you've got flat surfaces inside your car, you can have the same finish applied to wood or metal areas to carry the new look right through the interior.

More extensive treatments cost a little more, but are still very reasonable. A full clear protective coat (which protects your paintwork from dust, scratches, stone chips and UV fading) can be done for around 13K, and a full car foil in any colour you like starts around 2K more than that. Foilacar guarantees its applications for a full three years, and reckons it can do a simple job in around five days.

Nick Lim, vice president, Middle East of the DK Schweizer Group, takes the concept of car makeovers a stage further. "We're the only company in the region that can do both exteriors and interiors in the same place," he said. "DK Schweizer has a hundred outlets all over Europe as well as here in Dubai, and this gives us access to a huge range of colours and materials from stock." But he takes it one stage further. "If on the other hand a customer comes to us wanting to match a particular colour, we can go to our tanners in Italy and Europe and get exactly the shade they want," he added. "We can then do a complete interior retrim, applying new leather to the dash, steering wheel, centre console, gear lever and more."

Nick added that DK Schweizer is doing a lot more work on seats and headliners to keep customers' cars fresh. Alcantara is supplied direct from Italy and can completely transform the interior of a car.

One of their recent projects was a complete work-over of a RR Phantom which was specially tricked out for the Gumball 3000 run. "We can do a basic carbon fibre trim from around Dh5,000, and a basic car foil from about double that. Interior retrims start around Dh16,000, and the process usually takes around a week. We're able to do a job quickly and still maintain quality because we do every stage of the process under the same roof, but the first stage is to come in for a consultation," he said. "Most car owners would be amazed at what we can achieve, how little it can cost, and how smooth the process can be."

One thing you should be aware of is that you must have permission from the Traffic and Licensing Authorities to change the appearance of your car, otherwise you could run into problems with the police or when you get your registration renewed.

Any respectable car foiling company should be willing to help you in the process, and the big players will all arrange the necessary paperwork for you to ensure there aren't any problems down the road.