How Do Modifications
Affect Your Insurance?

We take a look at vehicle modifications what they are, how insurers see them and how they can affect your insurance premiums.
"The first thing I think we can all agree on is if you make any changes to your vehicle get in touch with your insurer"

The subject around vehicle modifications and how they may affect your insurance premiums or claims has been doing the rounds recently. From Martin Lewis's article on how they can negate your insurance to the Financial Ombudsman Service's rulings on two separate cases which suggest otherwise, we thought we'd take a more in-depth look.

The first thing I think we can all agree on is if you make any changes to your vehicle get in touch with your insurer and speak to them, in some cases it could make your premiums cheaper. Still, most importantly, it will protect you from any nasty surprises if you need to make a claim.

In this article, we'll take a look at some of the most pertinent questions such as what is a modification, and how will it affect your insurance cover?

What is a modification?

Modifications and what classes as a modification are topics which often create a lot of debate, so what are they? Some insurers say that any change to a vehicle can be seen as a modification while others say changes that improve a vehicle's value, performance, appearance or attractiveness to thieves.

"It is so important to speak to your insurance provider."

One thing you can be sure about and that is no two insurers agree on what is a modification. Each insurer will have their definition as to what a modification is, this is why it is so important to speak to your insurance provider, not your mates, parents or local mechanic.

What could an insurer consider a modification?

Wheels, Brakes and Suspension

  • Wheel spacers
  • Wheels - carbon
  • Wheels - magnesium
  • Wider tyres
  • Wider wheels
  • Trial tyres
  • Chassis changes
  • Fork braces
  • Forks – extended
  • Frame modified
  • Steering change
  • Suspension – airbag/hydraulic
  • Suspension – updated/lowered/stiffened spring & dampers
  • Suspension changes
  • Uprated anti-roll bars
  • Uprated brakes

Bodywork

  • Rear roof spoiler
  • Front or rear spoiler/airdam
  • Body kit
  • Rear valance
  • Paintwork/designs/decals
  • Murals
  • Graphics/decals - decoration/nonadvertising
  • Paint work – non standard
  • Paint work – race replica
  • Painted signs
  • Non-standard respray
  • Badges indicating increased performance
  • Stripes

Engine, trans & exhaust

  • Bored-out engine
  • Engine casing guards
  • Engine chip
  • Engine tuned
  • Carburettor changed
  • Chipping – engine management system changes
  • Dual controls
  • Exhaust system changes – cosmetic and performance
  • Induction kit (non-turbo or turbo)
  • Intercooler – any changes
  • Uprated cam
  • Stage 2 head
  • Stage 4 head
  • Uprated fuel injection
  • Water injection system
  • Gearing change
  • Blueprinting
  • Overdrive
  • Snorkel
  • Supercharging

Bodywork 2

Interior and Exterior Body Mods
  • Additional seating
  • Additional windows
  • Door poppers
  • Cabriolet conversion
  • Campervan conversion
  • Carbon fibre bonnet
  • Interior changes
  • Larger speakers
  • Petrol tank changes
  • Upholstery changes
  • Rear sets
  • Winch
  • Changing to a convertible
  • Bonnet bulge
  • Altered pedal configuration
  • Awning – added or upgraded
  • Fairings
  • Fibreglass panels
  • Luggage system/panniers
  • Roll bars
  • Roll cage
  • Seats - removal
  • Seats - replacement
  • Flared wheel arches
  • Flared wings
  • High roof
  • Hoist
  • Galvanised chassis
  • Emergency services blue light
  • Refrigeration
  • Pop up roof – added or upgraded
  • Side skirts/sills
  • Side steps
  • Road conversion
  • Tail lift
  • Wheels, Brakes and Suspension

    • Wheel spacers
    • Wheels - carbon
    • Wheels - magnesium
    • Wider tyres
    • Wider wheels
    • Trial tyres
    • Chassis changes
    • Fork braces
    • Forks – extended
    • Frame modified
    • Steering change
    • Suspension – airbag/hydraulic
    • Suspension – updated/lowered/stiffened spring & dampers
    • Suspension changes
    • Uprated anti-roll bars
    • Uprated brakes
  • Bodywork

    • Rear roof spoiler
    • Front or rear spoiler/airdam
    • Body kit
    • Rear valance
    • Paintwork/designs/decals
    • Murals
    • Graphics/decals - decoration/nonadvertising
    • Paint work – non standard
    • Paint work – race replica
    • Painted signs
    • Non-standard respray
    • Badges indicating increased performance
    • Stripes
  • Engine, trans & exhaust

    • Bored-out engine
    • Engine casing guards
    • Engine chip
    • Engine tuned
    • Carburettor changed
    • Chipping – engine management system changes
    • Dual controls
    • Exhaust system changes – cosmetic and performance
    • Induction kit (non-turbo or turbo)
    • Intercooler – any changes
    • Uprated cam
    • Stage 2 head
    • Stage 4 head
    • Uprated fuel injection
    • Water injection system
    • Gearing change
    • Blueprinting
    • Overdrive
    • Snorkel
    • Supercharging
  • Bodywork 2

    Interior and Exterior Body Mods
    • Additional seating
    • Additional windows
    • Door poppers
    • Cabriolet conversion
    • Campervan conversion
    • Carbon fibre bonnet
    • Interior changes
    • Larger speakers
    • Petrol tank changes
    • Upholstery changes
    • Rear sets
    • Winch
    • Changing to a convertible
    • Bonnet bulge
    • Altered pedal configuration
    • Awning – added or upgraded
    • Fairings
    • Fibreglass panels
    • Luggage system/panniers
    • Roll bars
    • Roll cage
    • Seats - removal
    • Seats - replacement
    • Flared wheel arches
    • Flared wings
    • High roof
    • Hoist
    • Galvanised chassis
    • Emergency services blue light
    • Refrigeration
    • Pop up roof – added or upgraded
    • Side skirts/sills
    • Side steps
    • Road conversion
    • Tail lift

How Will A Modification Affect My Insurance?

Different vehicle modifications can have varied effects on your insurance, from reducing your premium for many safety modifications to raising your premium by making your vehicle more desirable.

Ultimately, it is down to your individual insurer as to whether your premium goes up, down or stays the same and that is another reason it is important you contact them concerning any changes you wish to make.

If you are planning to make changes or additions to your vehicle's specifications contact your insurance provider first, it may be that you may reduce premium increases by including some modifications that your insurer deems making your vehicle safer or more secure.

Lower Premium

Some modifications may make your insurance actually cheaper. Mods such as alarms, tracking devices and parking sensors may lower your insurance premiums.

Increased Premium

Bodykits, aftermarket wheels and entertainment systems to name just a few mods that may increase the cost of your insurance as they add extra desirability to potential thieves

No Change

Some modifications may not affect your insurance premiums at all. Modifications such as floor mats interior boot lights, car seat covers may have no affect at all but it is always worth checking.

How Can I Tell If The Vehicle I Have Bought Has Modifications?

Insurers and insurance brokers understand that not everyone is an expert on vehicles. Some of us know where the oil, water and fuel go but that's about it, some know even less than that, so how can we expect those people to know whether or not the car they just bought is modified?

Modifications come in all shapes and sizes and can affect any area of your vehicle as we showed above, the question is how can you tell?

Were those wheels standard or are they custom alloys fitted later on and is that boot spoiler a manufacturer's addition or not?

Point of Purchase

Ask the person you are buying the vehicle from about any modifications or additions added to the vehicle since it was new. Often people like to store receipts of purchases made.

Main Dealer

Go to your vehicle's local main dealer and they should be able to shed light on anything that isn't standard for your vehicle. Anything that isn't standard should be in their report.

Your Insurance Provider

Previous insurers may have information on your vehicle but your best bet is to gather up as much information on your optional extras you can find and send it to your insurance provider.

My insurance provider won't cover my vehicle's modifications, who will insure me?

The best place to go, when you cannot find an insurer or insurance broker who are able to assist you with a specific insurance product, is The British Insurance Broker's Association or BIBA for short.

If you follow the link below and head to their "Find Insurance" page (there's a dark blue tab at the top of the page) you can input the type of insurance you are looking for and then enter your postcode for the nearest insurance professionals who will be able to assist you.


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What does the Financial Ombudsman Service say?

The following case study was taken from the BIBA report on vehicle modifications which you can find a link to below. Should you ever need to dispute your insurer here is a link to the FOS website.

Mr T’s car was stolen from the street where he parked it while he was visiting his local gym. He put in a claim under his motor policy and later told the Ombudsman he was ‘totally shocked’ when his insurer refused to pay out. The insurer said it was clear from the information Mr T provided in his claim that the car had been modified.

However, he had never notified the insurer of any modifications and he had answered ‘no’ when asked on the proposal form if he had modified or altered the car. The insurer had therefore ‘voided’ his policy (in effect treating it as though it had never existed) and it told Mr T he was not covered for the theft. Mr T complained that he was being treated unfairly, but the insurer would not alter its view, so he came to the Ombudsman.

Complaint upheld. Mr T confirmed that he had added ‘a satnav unit, Bluetooth kit, PlayStation and CD changer’. However, he said he regarded these as ‘simple additions, not modifications’.

The Ombudsman looked at the proposal form that Mr T had completed when applying for his policy.

This included a question headed ‘Modifications’, asking if there had been ‘any changes to the engine, plus any cosmetic changes to the bodywork, suspension, wheels or brakes’. Mr T had answered ‘no’.

The Ombudsman accepted the insurer’s point that the changes Mr T had made could well have made his car more attractive to thieves. However, there was nothing on the proposal form to indicate that it considered changes of this type to be ‘modifications’. The Ombudsman did not see that Mr T could reasonably have been expected to know, from the examples given by the insurer, that he should have answered ‘yes’ to the question about modifications.

The Ombudsman upheld the complaint and said the insurer should settle the claim in line with the usual terms and conditions of the policy. The Ombudsman said it should also add interest, from the date when the car was stolen to the date when the claim was settled.

Our Top Tips

Our broker's have put their collective heads together to provide you with some top tips about your insurance and vehicle modifications.

Contact Your Insurance provider

It been said many times but whether you have modified your vehicle or you are thinking of it your first call should be to your insurer. It's important to ensure you do not lose your valuable insurance protection.

Check Your Documents

This applies to any insurance you take out always inspect your documents to ensure you have the cover you need and have paid for. With concern to vehicle modifications check to see when it is applicable to contact them about any changes.

Talk to Your Main Dealer

Have you recently purchased a second hand vehicle? How do you know it hasn't been modified? The best way to find out is by popping along to the vehicle's main dealer and if still in doubt gather as much proof as you can and send it to the insurer.

Double, Double Check

If you use a comparison website ensure you double check the insurer's exact questions on vehicle modifications and then check them again on the insurers own website as often some data may be incorrect on a comparison site.

Save Money

We all like to save money, yes? Well, if you are planning some modifications to your vehicle speak to your insurer first just to make sure they will still cover you and also to see whether they have some modification suggestions which may reduce your premium, so if planning a mod that will cost more plan a mod that will save too.

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