Boosted engine capacity. Nitrous oxide cylinders. How about bigger wheels, dropped suspension or windows tinted darker than the night? Spoilers, diffusers and tail fins that'll turn every head in the East Rand as you roll on down the main road, blasting Biggy's 'Dames' at full volume through your purple Calibra amp.
No, we’re not talking about the latest Vin Diesel movie – the Fast and the Furious: Fast10 Your Seatbelts.
We’re talking about car modifications in the illegal underground street racing scene. Modifications for these reasons are obviously prohibited – we hear the hoopla surrounding the topic every year.
You may want (or need) to modify your vehicle for other reasons, though. Drivers of the old VW Beetle, for instance, may want to replace their drum brakes with disc brakes. Or, for instance, you may want to install a Cold Air Intake to boost fuel efficiency, and give your car a little more vooma, as they say. Or perhaps you’re just a hobbyist, or a petrolhead, and you enjoy tinkering.
Whatever the case may be, it is important to note that any modifications to your car may also result in modifications to your insurance, and the monthly premiums you pay.
Let’s have a look at what that entails.
There are many different kinds of car modifications one could make, and many of these could actually be beneficial to the health of the vehicle. These modifications could be to change the aesthetic, the performance, or it could simply be functional. It’s a great way to personalise your car and ensure that you’re getting the best you could possibly get out of it.
Unfortunately, if you have insurance, this all comes with a downside. This is because, from an insurance company perspective, certain modifications could potentially increase risk.
Modifications, such as shiny rims or phone kits, could make a vehicle more susceptible to theft. A car may also be altered to perform above and beyond the ways it was originally designed to. You could drive faster, more rapidly, and take sharper corners. Insurers do not like this. They frown upon such behaviour.
Not to mention that, should a modification process go awry, you may also forfeit your insurance coverage and/or your manufacturer warranty. Now it’s a risk for everybody.
So, it's understandable that with certain adjustments to your vehicle, you will see adjustments to your insurance premium - and it's unlikely that these adjustments will be in your favour.
Of course, hiding this info won't benefit you at all. If you fail to disclose any modifications you’ve made with the insurer, and something unfortunate were to occur, the company may refuse to pay your claim.
It will invariably invalidate your policy as well, because it’s seen as dishonesty. This will leave you without sufficient coverage and out of pocket.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll get away with the small things, either. The modifications made don’t need to be as drastic as a fancy new sound system or a new V8 engine. Every tiny little thing which wasn’t there before needs to be declared.
It is always best, then, to contact your insurer before having any alterations made to your car.
Insurance companies have varied views on what constitutes a modification, just like they have (somewhat) different views what constitutes risk.
Even when buying a second hand vehicle which may have been modified, if you plan on getting it insured it's best to speak to a knowledgeable broker first, and find out how these modifications will affect your policy.
All insurance companies, though, agree on the following: there are two key factors which come into play when insurers look at your fancy new Tokyo Drift beast with underbody strobe lights.
Enhancing your car with high-performance parts means that you’ll be able to hit higher speeds in a shorter amount of time. Your Corsa Lite just isn’t meant for this, and it poses a major risk to insurance providers, as well as all human life around you.
Those same performance modifications also increase the desirability and value of the car, thereby increasing the risk of your vehicle being stolen or getting broken into.
There are a handful of exceptions, of course. Some modifications may even lower your premiums, depending on the insurer. Putting a tow bar on, for instance, indicates that you might spend some time attached to a caravan or a trailer. This means you’re more likely to drive at lower speeds. And then, installing parking sensors will enable you to park your car a lot better and avoid smashing into things when reversing.
Lastly, when looking to get new insurance on your car, it's always wise to compare quotes to see which company will give you the best deal. This is a good idea in general, but given the uncertainty surrounding car modifications these days, it’s an even better reason to find a suitable package to suit your financial plans and lifestyle.
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