If you modify your car, your insurer needs to know about it - and not telling them could invalidate your insurance.
Your insurer can react in several ways, such as by increasing your premium, but you won't know until you ask.
Modified car insurance allows you to modify your vehicle, knowing you'll still be covered and the modifications will be covered too. Depending on the insurer, it could cover everything from hot rods to vehicles adapted for wheelchair access.
What is modified car insurance?
Modified car insurance offers the same cover as a standard policy but will also cover the modifications made to your vehicle – by you, or a previous owner.
You will get all the same benefits as you would expect from a standard insurance policy, depending on the features you select. But in addition, the modifications will also be insured.
That additional cover is important for two reasons:
- If you ever do need to make a claim on the policy, you may need repairs to one of the modifications, as well as to the rest of the vehicle, so you need to be certain your insurer will pay out.
- Modifications affect the overall value of a vehicle, often increasing it. If you have not paid for insurance that reflects this, you are likely to be under-insured.
Find out more: how to get cheaper car insurance
Does regular car insurance cover modified cars?
Maybe, but maybe not – and the only way to know for sure is to speak to your insurer.
In general, however, insurers point out that even seemingly small modifications to a vehicle can affect its value – in which case, it would not be reasonable to expect them to price insurance on a standard basis. Equally, insurers keep detailed data on previous claims by all their drivers; certain modifications may be associated with higher claims rates, so insurers will expect to be given an opportunity to price their cover accordingly.
The modifications with the greatest insurance cost tend to be performance-related – like adding a turbo or supercharger, for example.
Some drivers may be in for a nasty surprise. Making a vehicle wheelchair accessible, for example – using devices such as lifts and straps – often makes it more expensive to insure. Insurers argue such vehicles are worth more and cost more to repair in the event of an accident.
In some cases, you may even find insurers will not offer policies that cover particular modifications. You may need to go elsewhere. And they certainly won’t cover illegal modifications.
What counts as a modification?
The short answer is anything that the insurer says is a modification – if your car is non-standard in any way, you should check with your insurer to see if you need a different type of cover.
Moreover, while we often think of modifications as related to enhancing the performance of vehicles, insurers think more broadly. Adding a roof rack to your vehicles, for example, might count, so it’s important to check.
Common car modifications include:
- Bodywork modifications, such as spoilers or body kits
- Engine or mechanical modifications that have an impact on car performance or reliability; these might include cold-air intakes, exhaust systems or ECU modifications.
- Modifications that change how your car handles, such as uprated brakes or lowered springs.
- Visual modifications, such as resprays, vinyl wraps, new alloy wheels or tinted windows.
- Car accessories, such as roof racks, tow bars or immobilisers.
- New or upgraded sound and entertainment systems.
Not all of these modifications will increase the cost of your car insurance – an immobiliser, for example, might even bring your premiums down. But even if you are worried about cost, don’t be tempted to stay quiet about the modifications made to your car; there is a real danger you will invalidate your insurance.
How can you save money on modified car insurance?
Saving money on modified car insurance requires some perseverance. It won’t be possible to get life-for-like quotations from price comparison sites – and, in any case, there are a number of specialist insurers in this market that aren’t listed on these sites. That means doing some ringing around yourself.
Alternatively, this is a good example of where an independent insurance broker can prove its value; they should know where to find the best deals for your individual needs.
Another possibility, for some people, is a policy arranged through a car club or owners club, if you’re a member of one of these.
And don’t overlook the same tips as apply when you’re hunting for good value standard insurance – for example, declare your limited mileage, if you don’t drive the vehicle much, mention any other vehicles you own, and any named drivers who may be considered less risky than you. Find more tips for getting cheaper car insurance in our guide.
One option to consider is “an agreed value policy”, which recognises the time and money spent on a modified vehicle. You agree the value of your car with the insurer and it will pay out this amount if your car has to be written off, regardless of its market value. However, these policies are usually more expensive.
What is an insurance broker?
Brokers are intermediaries that work with multiple insurers to arrange a policy that suits you.
They make their money from commission (charged to the insurer) and/or fees (charged to you). However, by finding far cheaper policies they can save their customers money.
The simplest way to find an insurance broker is to contact Biba by calling 0370 950 1790 or going to its website.
Which insurers offer modified car insurance?
Many high-street insurers will insure modified cars, as long as you disclose the detail of the changes made.
However, these insurers are mainly focused on standard policies and they’re not well set up to deal with more tailored cover – even if you can get insurance, it may not be the cheapest or the best.
Instead, think about using a smaller insurer that specialises in modified cars. You’ll find many of these advertising their policies online, or in the motoring press.
However, the best option for most people is going to be an independent insurance broker with knowledge of the whole market – including the specialists. Based on your individual circumstances, they should know where to find the best deals; they may even have relationships with certain insurers that get you a lower premium than you would otherwise pay.
- Find out more: the best insurers revealed