Modifying your motor doesn't have to ramp up your insurance

Some modifications to vehicles are more obvious than others.
Some modifications to vehicles are more obvious than others.

Our love affair with cars is stronger now than it’s ever been. But what we drive (or want to drive) can represent a big expense.

In recent years, there’s been a noticeable increase in complaints to insurance companies about ‘modifications’ – the catch-all term insurance companies use when talking about changes we make to vehicles.

Unfortunately, some insurers can be unexpectedly harsh when it comes to defining what a modification is.

I was talking to one of Resolver’s users recently whose claim had been rejected because she hadn’t disclosed a sticker on her rear windshield.

I agreed that the situation was totally bonkers – and I’m pleased to say that the insurer apologised and backed down when I mentioned it to them.

Though that’s an extreme example, the fact of the matter is sometimes insurers don’t play fair when it comes to what’s classified as a significant modification. Which is why I’m here to help you if you’ve not been treated fairly.

Here’s a quick guide to your rights.

When you take out insurance on your vehicle, you have an obligation to answer the insurer’s questions honestly.

Failure to do so is known as ‘non-disclosure’ and they can reduce a claim significantly or even cancel your policy. This includes modifications.

But the odds aren’t (and shouldn’t) be stacked in the insurer’s favour.

The rules were tightened a few years ago to make sure that insurers also have the same obligation to you.

They need to ask you clear questions about your vehicle and what you’ve done to it.

The questions must be straightforward enough so anyone can understand what they need to tell the insurer – both during the sales process (on the phone or in person) and in the written documentation.

Insurers must highlight any significant terms and conditions in the ‘key facts’ document that comes with the policy.

They must also be clear about what they’re defining as a ‘modification'.

Realistically, they can’t list every possible scenario – let’s face it, T&Cs are already far too long.

But if it’s not clear, I’d expect to see the insurer applying their rules fairly – and not looking for a reason to avoid paying out.

Some mods are thought to make a vehicle more susceptible to damage or theft.

For example, those '80s ‘go faster’ stripes were associated with drivers who’d take more risks on the road. That meant there was potentially a higher chance of a claim – and would result in a higher premium.

Some modifications are obvious. If you’ve got a ‘pimped up’ super sound system in your car, you’ll need to disclose it. But other things aren’t so clear-cut. Even cosmetic changes, like a new paint job, adding a spoiler or even having a roof rack can be considered significant enough to disclose by the insurer.

There’s no such thing as a definitive list of modifications, but it won’t come as a surprise to learn that turbo charging your engine tops the list of mods you need to mention.

Visible improvements also have a big impact, both inside and outside the car. So if your car is your pride and joy, don’t leave any details out when you take out insurance – saving a few quid is a false economy if your claims gets turned down.

* If your mods miss the mark with your insurer, tell us about it. We’d love to hear your stories.

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