Need modified car insurance? Fans of fancy wheels and tinted windows step this way
If your car breaks away from the norm, you'll need to take a look at getting some modified car insurance, as a run-of-the-mill policy just won't cut it.
- All modifications from factory standard must be declared to your insurer or your cover could be invalidated
- Modifications include changes to the bodywork, engine, wheels, a swanky audio system... even fitting a towbar or roof rack
- If you have a modified vehicle, you're likely to face a smaller choice of insurers and – potentially – higher premiums
- Compare multiple polices from regular and specialist insurers and use our other money-saving tips to get the right cover
Do modifications affect car insurance? The short answer is yes. Cover for modified cars can be pricey because many insurers will treat all changes from the factory specification in the same way.
If you’ve made your car faster or more powerful, then insurers assume you’re more likely to be involved in an accident. Got some fancy wheel alloys? If they’re damaged, these could be more expensive to replace than the factory standard.
Modifying your car, even with something minor, could mean that you're facing a smaller choice of insurers and policies. In many instances, this means higher premiums.
Even towbars, racing stripes and roof racks are typically classed as modifications by insurers and should be declared when you arrange cover. If you don't declare all modifications, you risk invalidating your policy – meaning you'll be breaking the law and will be without insurance.
Apart from security improvements, all other vehicle changes may be treated as an increased risk.
But while some companies won't even quote for altered motors, specialist modified car insurers can be more sympathetic when dealing with non-standard vehicles. This is because they recognise some owners and enthusiasts will have spent a lot of money on their machines, and may be more likely to be careful with them.
"Schemes we have for altered cars have less claims than standard cars, which conflicts with received wisdom," says Dan Clarke of insurers Adrian Flux.
"Most enthusiasts have put lots of time, effort and money into their cars. They don't want to risk their investments. The more money they've spent on their car, the more likely they are to be careful with it."
Specialist companies may also deal with items that don't affect the performance of the car by loading their cost onto the excess.
"With items like spoilers, alloy wheels or exhausts – which don't make the car any more or less powerful – a modified insurance specialist might be more understanding than a company which deals mainly with standard cars," says GoCompare's car insurance expert, Matt Oliver. "With these types of changes, the cost can be loaded onto the excess."
How to find modified car insurance
Insuring a modified car can be tricky (and expensive), so it's important to shop around for car insurance to find the right deal. Comparison sites like GoCompare can help you assess your options from both regular insurers and modified car insurance specialists.
All providers will have different attitudes to modified vehicles, and to particular sorts of modifications. Typical examples of vehicle modifications include:
- Changes to bodywork, such as spoilers or body kits
- Changes to the suspension or brakes
- Cosmetic changes such as alloy wheels or paint
- Changes to the engine or exhaust system
- Changes to the audio or entertainment system
When applying for car insurance, you'll be asked whether your car has been modified, adapted and/or fitted with any optional extras.
If your car has been changed in such a way, you should answer 'Yes' and then specify all of the modifications. The quotes you're given will take into account the modifications you've declared.
Modified car insurance for young drivers
If you’re a young driver, your premiums will probably be pretty high anyway, and adding modifications to your car will only make the premiums more expensive.
Young drivers are statistically more likely to claim on their insurance – especially males under 21 – so insurers will take this into account too when issuing a quote for modified car insurance.
Other options for insuring modified vehicles
It may be worth looking at specialist insurance policies or becoming a member of a modified car club. Such a club may be able to help you meet like-minded people, find a suitable insurer and/or leave you eligible for a discount.
What if my car already had modifications when I bought it?
If the modifications are on a new car bought direct from the dealer, these modifications probably won’t add much to your insurance costs because they were fitted by the manufacturer.
If you’re looking to buy a second-hand car which seems to differ from factory standard, make sure you’re aware of the all the modifications before you buy it, so you can declare them to your insurer.
Making modifications while a policy is in force
If you already have an insurance policy in place and modify your vehicle, you must inform your insurer – don't wait until you renew your policy. If you neglect to do this, the same thing applies as if you hadn't declared a modification when taking out a policy – you risk invalidating your cover.
Modifications that improve performance
While all insurers will handle modifications differently, it's worth remembering that performance-enhancing changes are likely to be seen as the riskiest, and will result in the biggest premium hikes.
"The rationale of insurers is to question why a driver would need modifications," says Clarke. "With specialist insurers, you can usually expect a rise in keeping with the increase in power. If you've had your car chipped and it becomes 15% more powerful, then your premium will be about 15% more expensive."
Note also that the logic may not seem obvious when it comes to assessing 'performance improvements'.
For instance, lowering the suspension can make a car handle and corner better, but it still usually makes for a higher premium.
The true value of a modified vehicle may be difficult to establish, as the parts and the vehicle's condition may vary significantly from the market norm for a similar, non-modified vehicle. If you've lavished a lot of time and/or money on a modified vehicle, you may want to consider looking for an agreed-value policy.
Some insurers may also be able to help with salvage retention. In the unfortunate event that your vehicle's declared a cosmetic write-off – meaning its repair would cost more than a new car – salvage retention would give you the right to buy it back. Then you could potentially recoup some of its value by selling off parts.
Cut the cost of modified car insurance
As well as shopping around for modified car insurance, and joining a modified car club, our regular money-saving tips for car insurance also apply for modified vehicles. Think about your vehicle's security and where it's kept overnight, for example, and if your car only does a limited mileage, make sure your insurer knows that.
Telematics policies may also be worth thinking about. With these black box policies, the way you drive could have a significant impact on your premium. This means that motorists deemed to drive safely by their insurance provider may benefit even if their modified vehicle's considered flashy.
Value of modified cars
Remember that altering your vehicle won't necessarily improve its value, even if you see the modification as an improvement. Problems in arranging insurance are one reason for this, but individual taste may be another.