Why Do Modifications Affect The Cost Of My Car Insurance?
25 October 2017
Plenty of people are big fans of their modified cars here in Northern Ireland, but while the word ‘modified’ might make you think of boy racers, there is another side to it and the chances that your own car could be modified is more likely than you'd think.
For example, many classic car owners will modify their cars over the years to keep them in top nick as the years tick by. Other motorists will add bits and bobs like tow bars to better suit their needs or lifestyle, while some will update their motors simply to be better looking, more comfortable or more economical.
The problem is that any modification to your car, no matter how harmless it may seem, will likely affect the cost of your insurance – often by quite a bit. We explain why modifications affect the cost of your premiums, what exactly counts as a modification and which are the worst offenders.
Why Do Modifications Matter To Insurance Providers?
When calculating the cost of your car insurance, there are three main factors that an insurance provider will look at: you as a person, where you live and what kind of car you drive.
The reason is that insurance premiums are calculated according to risk; the more likely you are to make a claim on your insurance, the more insurers will charge you in order to offset the cost in the event you do claim.
When it comes to your vehicle, insurers will primarily focus on the following aspects: how much your car would cost to repair if damaged, the value of the car itself, the performance of the car and any security features that your car might have.
Unfortunately, modified vehicles will likely affect every single one of these criteria. A car tricked out with all sorts of expensive parts will cost more to repair than one that’s been left standard.
Likewise, modified cars are likely to have modifications which increase their power and alter the way they drive, which can make them therefore less safe in the eyes of an insurer, and even potentially more prone to breaking down.
They’re also more likely to be desirable in the eyes of thieves and therefore at greater risk of being stolen, while if you own a modified car some insurers may take this as a sign that you’re more likely to be a risky driver depending on the specifics.
What Counts As A Modification?
The words ‘modified car’ might conjure up images of something from 'The Fast and The Furious', complete with underglow lighting and spinning rims, but in truth an insurer can count anything that didn’t come as standard on your vehicle as a modification.
That means that, yes, while aftermarket exhausts, bodykits, spoilers and engine upgrades all count as modifications, so do seemingly innocuous additions like roof racks, parking sensors and even a change of colour.
Sound systems, sat-navs that have been wired into the car itself and Bluetooth phone kits also count as modifications, as do software upgrades like remaps to your car’s electronic system – whether they’re for added power or better economy.
How Much Do Modifications Affect My Insurance Costs?
Depending on the nature of the modifications and their purpose, they can have a negligible effect on the cost of your car insurance or they could cause it to increase dramatically - sometimes by more than double.
Consumer comparison site Moneysupermarket undertook a survey back in 2016 to gain insight into how much different modifications can increase insurance costs by. Below, we list some of the highlights:
- Adding a turbocharger, supercharger or nitrous kit – 132%
- Wheelchair clamps or lifts – 69%
- Transmission or gearing changes – 63%
- Bodykits and panels – 57%
- Specialised paintwork – 36%
- Exhaust system changes – 26%
- Spoilers, side skirts and valances – 23%
- Stripes, decals and badges – 22%
- Tinted windows – 16%
- Alloy wheels – 8%
- Roof rack – 8%
However, it’s worthwhile noting that different insurance providers will have different views on what exactly counts as a modification and how much it will affect their premium. Some can have such a black-and-white view that even putting stickers on your car will be counted as a modification and will affect your insurance costs accordingly.
On the flip side, some insurance providers are much more lenient when it comes to modifications, with some insurers even specialising in providing insurance cover for heavily modified vehicles.
What Happens If I Don’t Declare Modifications To Insurers?
No matter how trivial they may seem, if you fail to tell your insurance provider about any modifications your car has then you run the risk of your claim being refused if you’re involved in an accident or if your car is stolen.
Worse still, your insurer could likely void your policy altogether and failing to disclose modifications could also be seen as fraud, so it’s in your best interest to be completely honest with your insurance provider about what’s been done to your car.
If you’re in any doubt about what counts as a modification and what doesn’t, you’re best asking an insurance advisor while applying for a quote, as they’ll be able to tell you what’s what.
Modifications may result in more expensive premiums, however by accurately declaring them you can be safe in the knowledge that your car is properly covered and fully protected in the event the unthinkable happens.
Are There Any Modifications Which Can Lower My Insurance Costs?
Actually, there are! Modifications made to your car won’t always result in an increased insurance premium, and some sensible additions can actually in some cases cause the cost of your insurance to go down.
Parking sensors are a popular option on most new cars, but many people also choose to retro-fit their cars with aftermarket ones. Due to the fact that this decreases the likelihood of bumping the back of your car, and therefore the likelihood you’ll claim on your insurance for it, adding parking sensors can in some cases reduce your premium.
Likewise, adding a tow bar to the rear of your car can cause insurance costs to fall slightly, as insurers’ data shows that it typically indicates a slower and more careful kind of driver than that which would rather spend their money on a big exhaust.
Finally, having a Thatcham-approved alarm system or a tracking device installed in your car can reduce your insurance costs, given that they make it harder for thieves to steal your vehicle and much easier to recover the car in the event that it is stolen.
If you’re in any doubt, however, it’s always best asking a qualified advisor. If you’d like to speak to us about how modifications could impact your car insurance, you can pop in to your nearest Autoline branch, give us a ring or submit your query here.