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Car insurance: what the latest modifications could mean for your premiums

Personal_Finance / Insurance Jan 23, 2020 - 02:24 PM GMT

By: Justin_Weinger

Personal_Finance When is a car modified and when it is not modified? No, this isn't intended as a philosophical question, though many motorists could easily feel as though it is when they are trying to navigate the pitfalls of insuring their car. Still, it's a question to which you really need to know the answer.

That's because, if you do need to claim on your car insurance, an insurer could refuse to make the payout if they learn that the vehicle was a modified one without their knowledge. Worse, the insurer could even cancel the policy, as your payments might not have reflected the car's worth.

What exactly do insurers deem a modification, anyway?

That's where things can get hard to decipher, potentially throwing up lots of confusion between the insurer and policyholder - or applicant. Some insurers consider a vehicle modified "if it has been changed in any way since it was first supplied by the vehicle manufacturer."

That's quoting from the British Insurance Brokers' Association (BIBA) in an Auto Express article. However, other insurers can consider even factory-fitted options modifications.

By these insurers' definition, then, a car is modified if it has received "any alteration to the manufacturers' standard specification... including optional extras fitted to the car when new by the vehicle manufacturer or dealer, which improves its value, performance, appearance or attractiveness to thieves." Such extras include panoramic sunroofs and metallic paint coatings.

Do all modifications attract premium increases?

You could easily assume so, but certain modifications do tend to be spared what could be termed the "modifications tax". Roof racks, towbars and locking wheel nuts are all good examples - though, according to BIBA, it remains "prudent" to let your insurer know of these alterations.

You might find that sat-navs are also automatically covered by your existing insurance policy and premiums. However, this isn't necessarily a given; in its own testing, The Sun found that declaring a sat-nav can actually increase the premium by £114.93.

How hard can particular extras hit you in the insurance pocket?

Auto Express has investigated exactly this matter. In its study, it explored how different modifications can affect the premiums of a 123bhp Ford Focus ST Line driven by a 37-year-old resident of rural Hampshire. The cheapest premium for a standard model here was £467.

However, the premium increased by 4.93%, to £490, if aftermarket alloys were fitted. Meanwhile, decals hiked the premium to £541, representing a 15.95% increase. Upgrading the suspension was pricier still, leading to a £553 premium 18.42% higher than the usual price. An additional turbocharger, meanwhile, brought a hefty increase of 177.52% in the premium, leaving it at £1,296.

Top Gear Tuning spokesperson Daniel Kirk told the Express that insurers will charge a "small increase" if the customer informs them of minor tinkering. Still, he adds: "If you're putting massive turbos on it and pushing big power, you will have to find specialist insurers for that sort of stuff." This is where researching modified car insurance online can really help.

By Justin Weinger

© 2020 Copyright Justin Weinger - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

© 2005-2019 - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.

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