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Car insurance and the impact of modifications
Some drivers like to make their car a bit special. They aren't happy with the standard factory model, but prefer something different - maybe alloy wheels, bucket seats and a roof spoiler.
Modifications to your car can increase its value and improve its performance, but they can also affect your insurance premium.
Insurers are usually wary of modified cars because they pose a higher risk. If, for example, you fit a new exhaust system or body kit that enhances the performance of the car, you immediately increase your likelihood of a claim. The same is statistically true of minor modifications, such as tinted windows or alloy wheels. It doesn't help that many modifications are carried out by young drivers - already one of the riskiest groups to insure.
If you modify your car, you might find that some firms will simply refuse to quote for car insurance, especially if you are a newly qualified driver. And if you can get cover, you will almost always have to pay a higher premium.
To keep costs down, you might be tempted to keep quiet about any modifications, especially minor tweaks. But failure to disclose any alterations to your car could invalidate your policy and the insurer could refuse to pay out in the event of a claim.
What constitutes a modification?
A car that has been altered in any way since it left the factory gates could be described as modified - and the modification should be declared. But insurers' attitudes to modifications vary. Some hike the premiums in all cases; others might be more lenient with small alterations, such as alloy wheels, that don't boost the performance of the car.
Can I cut the cost of modified car insurance?
There are several ways to cut the cost of modified car insurance. First, try and keep the modifications to a minimum. And remember that modifications intended to enhance the performance of the car are likely to have a bigger impact on premiums than an extra set of headlights or undercar neon.
Some modifications actually lower the cost of car insurance. If you fit approved security systems, such as an alarm or a tracking device, you should be able to negotiate a discount on your premium. You might also want to purchase some locking wheel nuts if you have a set of expensive alloy wheels on your car, to reduce the risk of theft.
Think too about where you park your car. A flashy car can be a temptation to thieves or vandals and you will often get relatively cheap modified car insurance quotes if the vehicle is secured in a locked garage overnight.
It's tempting to drive fast when you take your modified car for a spin - tempting but unwise. If you pick up penalty points on your licence, your insurer will almost always increase your premium. And if you have an accident, you could lose any no claims discount.
Young drivers often struggle to find affordable insurance for modified cars. It might help if you add an older, more experienced driver to the policy. Or you could pay for some extra driving tuition. The Driving Standards Agency's Pass Plus Course covers a range of skills including night and motorway driving - and it can reduce your premium by about 15%.
Pay as you go policies are another option. If you fit a tracking device or 'black box' in your car, you effectively pay for the miles your drive. You can even potentially cut the cost of modified car insurance even further if you agree to avoid night driving or driving during rush hour.
It's always important to shop around for insurance for modified cars. Also, don't automatically renew with your existing insurer because you might be able to get a cheaper deal elsewhere. A number of specialist firms offer car insurance for modified cars, and they can sometimes quote competitive premiums, as well as extra cover for track events, for example. You might also be able to insure your car for an agreed value with a specialist firm. A mainstream insurer is often willing to insure your car only for its original value, before any modifications. So you could be left with an insurance shortfall if you have fitted some expensive tinted windows or alloy wheels.
You can search quickly and easily for quotes for modified car insurance using MoneySupermarket's free online comparison service. We aim to help you find a better deal and a cheaper premium, with our average car insurance customer saving more than £350 a year on their cover.