How car modifications can double the cost of car insurance

Modifying your motor could double the cost of your car insurance – so if you’re looking to tune-up the turbo engine, fit a full body kit, or bolt-on a bigger exhaust, you may have to think again. The number-crunchers at MoneySuperMarket have analysed a whopping 2.3 million quotes run on modified vehicles and found that adding performance-enhancing and aesthetic features can significantly increase the cost of cover. And failing to tell your insurer of even the most modest of modifications could see your policy invalidated.

What is a car modification?

A car modification is a change made to a vehicle – to improve aesthetics, function, or performance – so that it differs from the manufacturer’s original factory specification.

What car modifications increase the cost of cover the most?

It’ll probably come as no surprise that tweaking the engine or fitting a body kit will pump up the price of your premium – what may come as a shock is by how much a modification can increase car insurance costs.   And even making cosmetic changes can significantly push up premium prices – custom paintwork could see you paying 36% more, while adding ‘stripes, decals or badges’ can put an extra 22% on the cost of cover.         Do enough work to your set of wheels, and you could see your premium rise 100%.     It’s not all bad news though, if your modifications are purely functional you could see a drop in the price you pay for your annual premium.         Adding parking sensors, for instance, can see the cost of cover drop by 13%, while fitting a tow bar can see prices fall by as much as 20%, most likely because drivers who tow trailers or caravans typically have to drive more slowly.

What are the most popular car modifications?

After analysing 2.3 million car insurance quotes for modified cars, our data boffins found the most popular car modifications are:
      • Adding alloy wheels
      • Installing a tow bar
      • Having suspension work done
      • Making changes to the exhaust system
      • Adding tinted windows
Kevin Pratt, consumer affairs expert at MoneySuperMarket, said: “Modifications can be a great way to personalise a car and in some instances will improve performance, but can quickly bump up the cost of your car insurance. Insurance is based on risk, and modifying your car is a warning sign to insurers.         “For example, spoilers or turbo engines will mean a vehicle goes faster, and therefore increase the likelihood of an accident, while car phones and sat-navs are attractive to opportunistic thieves, so insurers balance the scales by pushing premiums up.”

Who modifies their cars?

The chart below shows young drivers, young male drivers in particular, are more likely to drive modified cars.  Young drivers also pay the highest car insurance premiums, so should be particularly mindful when altering their vehicle.
At the extremes, the types of modification men and women make are quite different. We can see below that men are more than five times more likely to upgrade their brakes than women whereas females are over 50% more likely to drive a car with air conditioning added.
Interestingly, females are also 40% more likely to fit parking sensors than men - and before anyone makes any disparaging remarks about women and reversing, consider the price impacts before passing judgement.

Shop around for modified car insurance

Insurers believe modifications like parking sensors and tow bars actually lower the risk of accident for both men and women, and so pass on the benefit in terms of savings for those astute enough to put safety first. Kevin Pratt continued: “For some, modifications are an addictive hobby, but the most important thing to remember is to inform your insurer of any changes, preferably before you make them, so you can find out the impact on your insurance. You certainly shouldn’t wait until it’s time to renew your policy. “When you change anything about your car, you change the original specification which may invalidate your policy if you don’t inform your insurer. Reporting the changes might mean a higher premium, but having an invalid policy is considered fraudulent and could reduce or even remove the prospect of a pay-out if you had to make a claim. “At a time when premiums are high and getting higher, drivers should be doing everything they can to get the best possible price. Those who have modified their vehicles and experienced price hikes should shop around at renewal to ensure they’re getting the best deal possible. Using MoneySuperMarket can save drivers up to £221 on their policies.”

Have you modified your car and seen a dramatic increase in the cost of your car insurance? Or have you made a modification to save money? Let us know...

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