Guide To Modifications
Making modifications to a vehicle can increase its performance, looks and value, but to insurance companies it also increases the risk that you might make a claim. While you might see tinted windows as an attractive addition to your car, insurers could well see it as making the car more attractive to thieves.
A challenge for drivers wanting to make modifications to their vehicle is understanding what constitutes a modification that might affect the cost of their insurance, and what the cost implication is.
Research carried out in March 2011 by Tiger.co.uk quantified this. Making various modifications to a 5 year old VW Golf GTi, driven by a 29 year old with a clean driving licence resulted in the following findings on policy price. The addition of just one modification (an exhaust system, alloy wheels or a body kit) placed about 18% (£105) to the annual premium. The addition of multiple modifications which included changes to the car’s suspension and engine alterations added a huge 55% (or £339) to the price.
This premium cost was even more pronounced for young drivers. A 25 year old driving the same car with the same package of modifications would see their insurance quote increase by 80% compared to a non-modified vehicle, which added over £600 a year to the insurance costs.
By and large, it depends upon the type and degree of modification that has been made. A rule of thumb is that you should always be aware when making any modification and declare any change made to a vehicle to your insurer no matter how small or insignificant you think it may be - otherwise you could be at risk of losing out if you ever need to make a claim.
How do insurers calculate the cost of modifications?
Several factors affect the base rate of your policy such as the insurance group of the vehicle, where you live, where the vehicle is kept and your age. Those factors along with the level of cover you require establish the base cost, and then “loadings” (an amount that the insurance company add to the base rate to cover expenses related to securing and maintaining the business) and discounts are applied.
Vehicle modifications result in loadings being applied to the policy. The amount of loading applied is dependent upon the type of modification that has been made. For example, spoilers or alloy wheels are quite common these days and as such they only attract a small loading. A full body kit and sports exhausts on a vehicle with a chipped engine, however, will attract a far heavier loading.
The other factor you should look out for when considering any form of vehicle modification is whether or not the chosen modification is legal. Cars must meet certain standards for safety, emissions and many other factors – always make sure that any customisation is approved by the law prior to making it!
What constitutes a modification?
Broadly speaking a modification can be classified as any change that has been made to a vehicle that alters it in any way from its factory set up. However, not all will have a bearing on the cost of your insurance and different insurance providers will have different opinions on what modifications incur loadings.
Modifications tend to fall in to two categories:
Performance Modifications: These are the things that improve your vehicle performance such as engine tuning, injection kits, exhausts and filters.
Aesthetic Modifications: these are the things that change the appearance of the vehicle such as tinted windows, spoilers, body kits and alloy wheels.
Vehicle Modifications List.
This list is provided to inform you of some of the things insurers can class as a modification. Please note this list is not an official list, neither is it exhaustive.
- Alloy wheels
- Air filter
- Bucket seats
- Racing seatbelts
- Enhanced carburettor
- Performance exhaust systems
- Body kit
- Suspension tuning
- Increased engine capacity
- Improved brake systems
- Engine tuning
- Nitrous injection
- Cylinder head porting
- Ignition systems
- In car entertainment systems (ICE)
Make sure you are covered.
You must remember to advise your insurer of any modifications at the point when you take the policy out, or, when you make any. If you do not you may find you are no longer covered by your insurance.
There are some general things you can do to make sure you obtain the best price possible on your modified car insurance aside from avoiding modifications all together.
- Keep your annual mileage low
- Having a Pass Plus or Institute of Advanced Motoring qualification can help to reduce the price of your premium, particularly if you are a younger driver
- Keep your vehicle garaged if possible and install the best alarm and immobiliser system that you can afford, a minimum of Thatcham category 2 is recommended
- Become part of a modified vehicle forum or owners club – enthusiasts are normally very knowledgeable and share hints and tips on how to save money and care for your vehicle