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How do modifications affect the price of your insurance?

Tools on a work bench

New research by American Express has shown that, in the UK, we'll spend an estimated £108bn on cars this year. Most of us are proud of our cars and we're happy to spend money personalising and adapting them to reflect our personalities and interests. But beware when making improvements to your car's appearance and performance. Any changes which aren't fitted by the manufacturer could be classed as modifications by your insurer, which can cause big increases in insurance costs.

Young, male and inexperienced drivers are the most likely group to have performance enhancing or cosmetic modifications on their cars, and therefore notice the biggest premium increases. They're also on average most likely to claim, so if you fall into this category think carefully before any making alterations.

What are modifications?

Performance related modifications are things which alter or increase your car's performance, like:

  • Upgrading your exhaust
  • Altering your suspension
  • Changing the wheels

Cosmetic modifications will be things which just change the way your car looks, such as:

  • Speaker systems
  • Adding stickers or body kits
  • Satellite navigation systems

How they affect the cost of your insurance

Whether changes are performance related or cosmetic, most will cause your premium to go up. This is because all insurers calculate prices based on the financial risk you and your car present to them. Statistics show drivers who've modified their car's performance are more likely to crash, while cars with cosmetic changes are more appealing to thieves. So, drivers with modified vehicles present a greater risk of loss, damage or theft to insurers and this is reflected in the price they'll offer you.

What sort of things do you need to consider?

Of course you need to be sure any changes you make are safe and legal for the country you're driving in. For example, UK number plates must be reflective and display black characters on a white background for the front plate, and on a yellow background at the rear. There shouldn't be any background patterning and letters must be a certain height and size.

The 3 biggest insurance increases?

  1. Fitting a turbo engine — 132%
  2. Change to car bodywork — 66%
  3. Altering transmission or gearing — 63%.

Source: How pimping your ride will pummel your premiums — thisismoney.co.uk

Will all modifications cost more?

Actually, not all modifications are bad for your wallet. If they're functional or offer added safety you could see a drop in the price you pay. Fitting parking sensors can see the cost of your cover drop by 13%, while adding a tow bar could mean your price falls by as much as 20%. This is because towing a trailer or caravan means you have to drive more slowly, so you present less of a risk.

Do you need to tell your insurer about them?

You'll be asked to declare any changes that have been made to your vehicle, either by you or a previous owner. While not all modifications will affect your insurance price, insurers will have different acceptance criteria depending on exactly what's been changed. Some may cover you at an increased price, while others may not offer cover at all.

Giving the wrong information can mean claims are rejected, or even that your policy is cancelled completely. So if you're not sure, it's best to check with your insurer.

At Hastings Direct we pride ourselves on offering quality insurance at competitive prices. Our car policies come with a range of great benefits as standard, so get a quote today and see how much you could save.

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