Your car might be your pride and joy, but tinkering with it to make it even better could cost you dear. Insurers don’t look kindly on modifications, so any changes could see your premiums DOUBLE. And it’s not just macho modifications such as turbo-chargers and bonnet bulges that cause the problem – even something as apparently benign as a satellite navigation system can bump up the cost of cover by 14%. Worse still, if you don’t let your insurance company know in advance about any changes, your policy could be invalidated altogether – which means no pay-out if you’re are involved in an at-fault claim. And that could be financially ruinous if you are deemed liable for someone else’s injury or death.
Insurers adopt this approach because, they argue, changing your car means changing its original specification from the standard factory model – which means the basis of the insurance proposition is different. And the insurer cannot be sure of the quality of the work that’s been done, so it cannot be 100% confident the vehicle’s roadworthiness has not been compromised. And with something such as a sat-nav, there is an increased risk that you’ll be distracted while driving, which could lead to an accident. This means your insurer needs to know about any changes you make, preferably before they are made. It might mean a higher premium, but the alternative is to risk voiding your cover, which would leave you uninsured. That would mean breaking the law and, of course, not having any prospect of a pay-out if you had to make a claim.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking minor or cosmetic changes are not significant. Earlier this year a vicar was told by her insurer that it wouldn’t have covered her had it known she had religious stickers proclaiming ‘Christ must be Saviour’ on her car. When she submitted a claim to her insurance company after a part was stolen from her car, enclosing photographs, they gave her 10 days to explain why she hadn’t notified them about the stickers.
Rack and ruin
It’s not just stickers which could write off your cover. Your policy could even be invalidated if you fit a roof rack to your car. If you want to be on safe side, always let your insurer know about any additions you make, even if they seem harmless.
MoneySuperMarket has crunched the numbers to discover which modifications are likely to cause the most damage to your wallet, with turbochargers coming out on top. The average annual cost to insure your motor is £423, but add a turbocharger and you can also add a whopping 93% or £393 to the cost of your cover. Modifying your gear box can also prove costly, raising the cost of your premiums by nearly 48%, while changing wheel arches or adding ‘bonnet bulges’ can add 42% on average. Re-tuning your engine can mean 23% higher insurance bills, and even a seemingly minor change such as a new steering wheel can increase costs by 18% on average. Men are more likely to introduce changes which bump up the cost of cover, and are most likely to modify the brakes, add a turbocharger and install air filters.
Not all modifications will increase the cost of your motor cover. MoneySuperMarket’s research found it’s women who come out of top when it comes to making insurance-friendly changes to their cars. They are most likely to add parking sensors, a sunroof and air-conditioning, all of which can bring down the cost of insurance. Parking sensors can cut car insurance costs by a tenth, while adding a secure tow bar will reduce premiums by 6%.