HomeCar InsuranceModified car insurance | The Independent

Modified car insurance | The Independent

From stickers to spoilers, if your car has had any modifications that affect either its performance or its appearance, it’s important you let your insurer know about them. This will ensure that you’ve got the right amount of cover, should you need to make a claim. 

Get the lowdown on how to buy insurance for modified cars, as well as what modifications affect car insurance with our comprehensive guide.

What is modified car insurance?

Modified car insurance is the same as regular car insurance; it just means your insurance provider has taken into account any modifications that have been made to your car.

Insurers will consider any changes that have been made to the look or performance of your car as a modification. This can range from something as simple as fitting parking sensors to more substantial alterations, such as bigger wheels, spoilers, or exhaust upgrades.

If you are in any doubt as to whether something will be considered as a modification, it’s always worth checking with your provider, even if it’s only for something minor like a roof rack.

If your insurer doesn’t know about any modifications to your car, and finds out about them in the event of a claim, your insurance may not be valid and your claim might not be paid.

Most car insurance companies offer insurance for modified cars. However, there are also specialist modified car insurance companies that may suit higher-spec performance cars with more modifications.

Will modifications make my car insurance more expensive?

Modified car insurance go faster stripes

Go-faster stripes look flash but are likely to increase your car insurance (Adobe)

When you tell your insurer about modifications that have been made to your car, they will need to consider whether the changes will affect the risk posed by your car.  

Insurance companies normally assess the risk of a car by checking what insurance group it falls into. Groups are numbered one to 50, with group one being the cheapest to insure and 50 the most expensive. Once a car has been modified – and is therefore no longer a factory model – this rating is invalidated, with insurers arguing they cannot vouch for the quality of the work or know whether it has had a negative impact on the car.

Before they can give you an accurate modified car insurance quote, insurers will need to consider the following:

  • Do the modifications increase the value of your car? This will affect the cost of repairing your car or writing it off after an accident. It will also mean your insurer will need to pay out more money if your car is stolen
  • Will the modifications make it a target for criminals? Some modifications could make your car more attractive to thieves or make it more susceptible to vandalism
  • Could the modifications increase the risk of accidents? If the modifications increase the speed or power of your car, the risk of a collision is likely to be higher. Some modifications might also make your car harder to handle

This means that most modifications will increase the cost of your car insurance. However, there are some that shouldn’t have any impact on cost and a handful that could actually reduce the cost of your insurance.

You might also be asked to supply photos of your car’s modifications.

It’s important to note, however, that exactly how modifications are perceived and the impact they will have on your premiums will vary between different car insurers.

What is covered under insurance for modified cars?

When you buy comprehensive car insurance for a modified car, you will have the same level of cover as you would when you insure an unchanged car. It just means that the risks posed by the modifications to your car are factored into the price.

Comprehensive car insurance for modified cars will cover:

  • Repairs or replacement costs if your car is damaged in an accident
  • Damage to other cars or property if you were at fault
  • Injury to yourself, passengers and other drivers
  • The theft of your car
  • Fire damage to your car
  • Your personal possessions
  • All of the modifications that have been made to your car, so long as they are legal and have been declared to the insurance company

Some policies may also include additional windscreen cover, breakdown cover, motor legal protection and courtesy cars. However, if they are not included as standard, you can normally pay extra to add them on.

What is not covered by modified car insurance:

Your policy will only cover modifications that are legal. This means you won’t get cover for:

  • Tinted windows that are too dark: Windows must allow at least 70 per cent of light to be legal in the UK, otherwise your visibility could be impaired. The front windscreen must let 75 per cent of light through. This won’t be a problem with factory-fitted tinted windows, but you may encounter problems if you attempt to do it yourself and the tint is too dark. These restrictions don’t apply to the rear windscreen
  • Noisy exhausts: Your upgraded exhaust will be considered illegal if it exceeds 74dB – the noise equivalent of a toilet being flushed. Illegal exhausts are now easier to identify following trials of acoustic cameras
  • Some tinted headlights and tail lights: It’s not illegal to add tints to your car’s lights, but you do need to take care to stay on the right side of the law. Lights cannot be dimmed by more than 50 per cent, and you need to be able to identify the original colour of the light – red in the case of tail lights, and white or yellow for headlights. This is why it makes sense to get this sort of modification carried out by a professional
  • Blue lights: Only emergency vehicles can legally use blue lights – it’s an offence to have any blue lights on your car. This includes under-car lights, as well as lights on your windscreen, washer jets or around your number plate
  • Improperly fitted spoilers: Any spoiler must be securely fitted to your car with no sharp edges exposed. It also must not obstruct your view through the rear windscreen. Police are within their rights to make you remove your spoiler if they consider it to be dangerous

You will also not be covered for modifications that you haven’t declared to your car insurer, whether they are legal or not.

What is the best insurance for modified cars?

How modifications are treated will vary between insurers, so it’s always important to shop around to get the best modified car insurance.

It’s easy to compare modified car insurance on comparison websites. However, if you’ve got a high-performance car with multiple modifications, it may make sense to get some quotes from specialist insurance companies, too.

Companies that specialise in insurance for modified cars argue they have a better understanding of the needs of ‘modders’ and won’t necessarily regard drivers of modified cars as higher risk. They argue that, in fact, these drivers are passionate about their cars and therefore likely to take better care of them than the average motorist. 

A specialist insurance company might also give you a broader range of insurance options in relation to the payout you get if your car is damaged beyond repair or stolen.

Regular insurance companies will normally only offer you the market value of your car; but you might get a higher payout, or more control over what happens to your car, with an agreed value policy or a policy with a salvage retention clause.

Agreed value policies

This is where you agree a figure with your insurer that it will pay out if your car needs to be written off, or is stolen and not recovered. This means the amount you get back reflects the investment you have made in your car – you don’t just get the market value of your car. As this means the pay out is likely to be higher, agreed value policies are more expensive than regular car insurance. In addition to modified cars, drivers of classic cars, kit cars or converted vans might also choose an agreed value policy.

Salvage retention clauses

If your car cannot be repaired after an accident, or the cost of repairs is unfeasible, your insurer might decide to write off your car. When this happens, your car insurer will keep your car. However, if you can’t face the thought of this happening, your insurer may agree to salvage retention. This allows you to buy the car back and either fix it yourself or reuse some of its parts. However, whether salvage retention is available at the point of claim will depend on the level of damage your car has sustained.

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