Are you a big fan of modded cars? Do you dream of turning your car from dull factory-spec banger to high-performance racer with a tweaked engine, new brakes, alloy wheels and a custom respray?
Your dreams might fall to earth with a bang when you realise that your insurance company might put your premiums up dramatically. They might even tell you to insure your newly modded car elsewhere.
In this article we’re going to look at what counts as ‘modification’ where car insurance is concerned, why you need to tell your insurer about any mods, and how to get the cheapest and best insurance for modified cars. Let’s dive right in.
Table of Contents
What counts as car modification?
When you’re talking about car insurance, any change you make to the factory specification of your car counts as a modification.
For instance, if you add a high spec entertainment system or a tracking device or if you chip the engine, or get a custom respray, that’s modifications.
A new entertainment system for instance increases the value of the car, so the insurer would have to pay up more if your car was stolen. And if a thief can see the system from outside, it might make your car more likely to be broken into. Alloy wheels are more likely to be stolen and would cost more to replace than the regular specification – they’re also more brittle than steel wheels, so more likely to be damaged by potholes.
It’s easy to think that it’s only if you’ve extensively modded your car that you need to worry about telling your insurer – or that it’s only a rechipped car that will push up your premiums. But in fact, all modifications count.
Modifications might also increase the cost of repairs, because you’d have to get special non-standard components. And any mods that increase the performance of a car put it into a higher risk category, so they’d put up the cost of insurance.
For most insurers, there are some car modifications that don’t affect insurance or that won’t affect your premium by very much. Generally, cosmetic mods, those involving security, and satnav systems are the most likely to be overlooked. Car mods that don’t affect insurance might also include parking sensors and tow bars.
However, not all insurers have the same ideas about what modifications affect car insurance and which modifications they’ll overlook, so it’s important to check.
You may have to pay an administration cost for changing car half way through insurance, and the same is true of adding mods. Get them all done at once so you don’t pay multiple admin fees.
Who are the best modified car insurers?
When you’ve got an extensively modded car you’ll need to speak to an insurer who understands the technicalities. You’re looking for a specialist car insurance and that means you’ll probably find the best deals at specialist car insurance companies like Sky, Adrian Flux and Elephant. We’ve shown some of the best in the table below.
They understand exactly what modifications add value to a car, and how much performance different types of modification add. They employ staff many of whom are petrolheads and classic car fans, and who really know what they’re talking about. That’s why they can give you a better quote on modified van insurance or on car insurance for modified cars, because they’re not going to get scared by the mere idea of jacking up the suspension, and because they don’t treat all modifications alike.
Equally, most modded car policies are one-offs, written for a particular car. So a lot of specialists want to talk to you on the phone if you have extensive modifications.
They can also help with full custom car insurance and with modified classic car insurance for older cars.
Will my insurance cover the modifications?
If you’ve spent a lot of money modding your car, you’ll want to know that your insurance covers your modifications.
Some regular policies won’t.
Most policies say that if the cost of repairs to the car is higher than its market value, then the insurer will have the car scrapped and pay you to replace it. But if you have done a lot of customisation, you don’t want to replace your resprayed, remapped, pimped and souped up Ford Fiesta by a casual, factory spec car.
In this case you really need a proper modded car insurance which will work in one of two ways:
- Agreed value – you and the insurer work out what your modded car is worth. If it’s damaged, that’s the value that the insurer will pay out.
- Salvage retention. Instead of scrapping the car, your insurer lets you buy it back so that you can repair it yourself.
The best insurance for modified cars takes into account the fact that your modifications have a value – and that you want to keep your car the way it is.
You might also want to talk about cosmetic car insurance; if you have a respray or vinyl wrap, you’ll want insurance that will cover scratches and grazes so your car stays in tip top shape. Car paint insurance doesn’t come as standard with most policies, but modified car insurance might cover it (or you can get extra cover).
Of course, if you decided not to declare your mods to your insurer, you’re not going to get paid to reinstate them. But worse, your whole policy might be invalidated.
What does modified car insurance cover?
If you have an extensively modified car you’ll need to purchase specialist modified car insurance. This insurance will work just like a normal policy but it will also cover the cost of your modifications.
An ordinary policy might cover you although you have modified your car, but if you made a claim it might only pay out for standard parts, not for the mods. Car modifications insurance should give you like-for-like cover to repair your car the way it is now.
A fully comp car insurance for modified cars offers expanded cover for:
- third party liability – if you damage someone else’s car, or injure them;
- fire damage;
- theft – if your car is stolen and can’t be recovered;
- repairs to your own car in the case of an accident:
- modifications repaired like-for-like:
- agreed value of your car rather than market value of the basic specification equivalent.
The best modified car insurance will give you much better cover for specific mods than a normal car insurance policy.
How much a modified car insurance is going to cost?
It’s very difficult to say how much modified car insurance will cost, because all modifications are different. All insurers are different, too. Some will whack up your premiums by 20% for just a few stickers and alloy wheels. Others are less punitive.
That’s why it’s worth getting a specialist modded car policy. Some drivers have even found that by going to a specialist, they end up paying almost the same as they would for an unmodified car.
If you use your modded car as a second car just for shows and rallies, you might be able to get a low mileage discount which could help reduce your total premium.
How does modifying a car affect my insurance?
Modifying your car could put up your premiums. If you turbocharge a car you could see your premiums double, while you might see a 15-25% increase in premiums for tinted windows and a respray. But each insurer uses a different scale for pricing.
When you’re thinking about what modifications affect car insurance, and how they affect it, you need to remember that insurance companies use car insurance groups as the basis for their pricing. Each car belongs to a given insurance group which reflects the car’s value, performance, ease of repair, and various other factors.
If you modify your car, you might well take it out of its insurance group. For instance if it’s more valuable, or faster, or more expensive to repair, then the insurer is taking a higher risk insuring it than would be the norm for that car. And because it’s no longer in a group, the insurer is going to have to make a value judgment on just how much the modification has changed the risk.
Car insurance modifications list:
|Type of modification||Specific modification||Insurance impact?||Might add this much to your premium|
|Cosmetic||respray, vinyl wrap||value based||10%|
|Cosmetic||tow bar||low to negative||-5%|
|Cosmetic||complete body kit||medium/high||60%|
|Systems||dashcam||could be positive||-15%|
|Systems||parking sensors||could be positive||-15%|
|Systems||immobiliser||could be positive|
|Systems||tracking device||could be positive|
|Engine/performance||chipping / remapping||high||40-60%|
|Engine/performance||changes to suspension/transmission||high||50-60%|
For minor modifications like a tow bar or an audio system an insurer might be willing to overlook them. However, major modifications, or a number of different modifications, probably mean your insurer won’t continue your insurance at the current premium and might not be happy to continue insuring your car at all.
Could some modifications help you save money?
Modifications such as security systems, like better immobilisers, an improved locking system, or a tracking system, could actually save you money.
Some insurers will also reduce premiums if you add parking sensors – because you’re less likely to damage your car or someone else’s while reversing into a parking space. And a car with a tow bar is sometimes cheaper to insure, because typically, the kind of driver who installs a tow bar isn’t going to be interested in going as fast as possible, but in towing the family bikes or boat.
Ask your insurer before you install them, though.
How can I get cheaper modified car insurance?
To get cheap car insurance for modified cars you’ll need to compare quotes online. Using a comparison site to trawl through the market cuts the hard work out of the job, but you’ll still need to take a good look at the various insurers’ policies for exclusions, and assess the level of cover, before you buy.
We showed the best insurers for modified car insurance in a table further up – we’ve done quite a lot of the work, so you don’t have to!
We have a few other tips for making sure that your modified vehicle insurance doesn’t break the bank.
- If you belong to a car club, check if you’re entitled to a discount. Some of the specialist insurers have strong links with clubs and offer a decent discount to members – quite rightly believing that if you belong to a car club you’re the kind of driver who’s going to take care of your wheels.
- Keep your car in a lock-up garage and not on the street, if you can. Higher security means lower premiums.
- Accepting a higher voluntary excess can reduce the cost of insurance for modified cars. However, remember that in the event of any claim, this is the amount you’ll have to stump up before the insurer pays anything out. Make sure you’d actually be able to find that money if you needed to.
- Reduce your mileage, particularly if this is your second car and you drive another car most of the time.
- Pay annually rather than monthly, as this is usually cheaper.
Can I get modified car insurance under 21?
Yes, but it could be expensive. Young drivers are statistically a high risk for insurers and are charged high premiums. Add a high performance car to the mix and you can see why modified car insurance for young drivers is a particular challenge.
Modified car insurance brokers will be the best place to start. Several of them make quite a speciality of providing cheap modified car insurance for the younger driver. Some insurers who specialise in cover for under-21s, such as 4youngdrivers, will also consider modded cars.
Do I need to tell my insurer about modifications to my car?
You need to tell your insurer about any modification you make to your car, however small. or you could invalidate your insurance.
For instance if you crashed your car and needed extensive repairs, your insurance could refuse to pay out simply because you’d got stickers on your bumpers. Technically they’d be within their rights to do that.
By the way, you will definitely invalidate your insurance if any of your mods are illegal, such as
- neon lights,
- tinted windows that admit less than 70% of the light,
- exhausts that don’t comply with noise and emissions regulations.
(Do tinted windows affect insurance in any other way? Generally not – if legal, they’re only a cosmetic modification.)
What if my car was already modified when I bought it?
If you have bought a car that is already modified, then you need to tell insurers when you ask for a quote.
Unless you’re an expert – or unless the mods are obvious – you’ll need to depend on the seller’s honesty here. You should always ask if the car has been modified, and for extensive mods, try to get as much documentation as possible. If you’re not sure, get the car checked over by a mechanic.