If your mechanic has suggested an engine tweak or parts upgrade to your performance or sports car, is your current insurance still valid? It’s a question that many drivers forget to ask, and it is one of the most expensive mistakes performance car owners make. Here’s why!
What counts as a car modification?
Any post-purchase changes to a standard issue vehicle are legally considered to be modifications. Many vehicles have built-in pre-purchase options offered by the manufacturer, such as a sports configuration, but if changing the performance requires an independent mechanic and aftermarket parts – i.e. non-standard components not necessarily endorsed by the car manufacturer, it is a modification. Although some are entirely aesthetic, most modifications are intended to increase speed, improve handling, or to add value. Regardless of the motivation, every change needs to be declared and, moreover, not all vehicle modifications are road legal in the UK.
Making sure you are covered
Traditional car insurance policies are based on the manufacturer’s original design and preferred parts. If your vehicle has modified or aftermarket parts, these will not be stated in the policy, and are therefore not legally covered by the insurance. Therefore, to avoid the driver assuming the cost of repairs to modified parts, the insurer must be told.
Getting the full value
Modifications often add considerable value to a vehicle and are therefore seen as an important investment. Unless the modifications are clearly listed in the insurance policy, any additional value will be lost if the car is stolen or written off in an accident. As such, even though modifications can push up the premium, the risk of not declaring alterations can be much more expensive.
Honouring the policy
Undeclared performance-improving modifications, particularly when they increase the horsepower (bhp), can void the policy. In the case of an accident, it is almost impossible to eliminate a modification as being in some way implicated, so insurers will simply refuse to pay out. If the car is stolen, it is difficult to prove that the thieves weren’t attracted by the modified parts, so insurers are equally justified in declaring the policy void.
Making the most of safety nets
Many modifications are sensible and add value to a vehicle, and insurers are keen to encourage this by offering equally sensible premiums. However, potentially dangerous modifications are often discouraged, which has as much to do with protecting road users as preventing stratospheric claims. When considering a modification, it is a good idea to ask the insurance provider how it will affect the premium first. If the figure is surprisingly high, it is often a reflection of the risk it poses to the safety of the driver and passengers, and therefore indicates a poor investment.
Will my car insurer have a problem with offering insurance for modifications?
Many modifications are offered by mechanics as standard, including options such as tweaking the onboard computer or switching to branded parts. Most insurers are familiar with these alterations and have off-the-peg the policies to match. If your ambitions are more bespoke, it pays to partner with an insurance provider with a special interest in modifications. This way, the policy can be designed to fairly reflect the unique value and performance of the vehicle, and to accurately cover the cost of any specialist repairs.
If you want to make sure that your vehicle is fully covered, or if you want to determine whether a planned modification is financially beneficial, ManningUK can help. For more information, please get in touch with one of our performance car insurance specialists.