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Why car modifications could invalidate your insurance

A mechanic making modifications to a car.

From tinted windows to alloy wheels, complete body kits to tiny decals, car modifications come in all shapes and sizes. But any change to your car's likely to impact the price you pay for cover – meaning, your insurance provider will want to know about it.

We've put together this simple guide to help you understand car modifications and make sure you don't end up invalidating your insurance.

What's classed as a modification?

A modification is any change that differs from the manufacturer's original factory spec. The changes could be performance-related, like suspension and exhaust upgrades, or aesthetic, such as stickers and tinted windows.

Common modifications

Compare the Market listed the top five most common modifications as:

  1. Engine. Tweaking engine performance can increase the speed of the car, with insurers likely to increase premiums as a result.
  2. Wheels. Bigger wheels could impact handling, while shiny alloys could increase the risk of theft.
  3. Sat nav. Sat navs that aren't built-in could also turn your car into a target for thieves.
  4. Tinted windows. Some insurers may see tinted windows as an attempt to increase privacy, but you need to make sure you're on the right side of the law.
  5. Alarms/immobilisers. Boosting the security features on your car could lead to a drop in the price you pay for cover.

Other popular modifications include stickers, bodywork, exhaust upgrades, spoilers and parking sensors.

The impact on insurance

Certainly the majority of modifications will see your premium rise. This could be because the modifications increase the value of your car, making it more expensive to repair or replace parts. Insurers might also be wary of certain modifications impacting the handling, and therefore the safety, of the car, too.

Risk also plays a part. If you've modified your engine to make your car faster, insurers may think you're more likely to be involved in an accident. Also, insurers might increase your premium if modifications make your car more attractive to thieves.

But it works both ways – certain modifications can lead to you paying less for insurance. These are likely to be changes that boost your car's security and safety, according to Compare the Market. The top three are:

  1. Parking sensors. Installing sensors on your car could lower the risk of minor bumps and see your premium drop by an average of 13%.
  2. Security features. Industry-approved alarms, immobilisers and tracking devices double up as great thief deterrents, and you could be rewarded with a discount on cover.
  3. Tow bar. Fitting a tow bar onto your car for a caravan, trailer or horse box could lower your premium by 20% because you're likely to drive slower and more cautiously.

No mod too small

If you do decide to modify your car in any way, the best piece of advice we can give is to let your insurer know. That way, you won't run the risk of having a claim denied because you didn't tell them about the modification.

One mistake many drivers make is not telling insurers about modifications already made to a car – for instance, if you buy a second-hand, modified car. It's down to you to check if the car has been altered in any way from the original spec, and pass on this information on to your insurer when you get a quote.

To modify, or not to modify?

Remember: modifications are just one of many factors insurers take into account when calculating the price you pay for cover. But in most cases, making a performance or aesthetic-related change to your car will increase the price of insurance.

If you're a young or new driver, you probably already pay over the average for insurance. So, you should really think twice about modifications that will see you parting with even more cash each year.

For straightforward insurance at a competitive price, it's got to be Hastings Direct. Get a quote today to see how much you could save.

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