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How Modifying Your Car Affects Your Auto Insurance

Alexa Goyette

Just the way people wear makeup, get tattoos and piercings, and dress a certain way to express themselves, many drivers practice self-expression by making customizations to their vehicles. Adding a turbo engine for speed, racing stripes for style, or even a wheelchair ramp for practicality can enhance drivers’ experiences on the road. What is often overlooked is the repercussions these changes can have on your auto insurance rates.

Your modifications may not be quite MTV style, circa 2005. Not everyone wants their ride “pimped” out by Xzibit and Chamillionaire. However, you don’t need a hot tub or fireplace in the backseat of your car to see your insurance rates go up. Even the slightest modifications can affect your car insurance.

Auto insurance providers raise insurance rates following vehicle modifications for several reasons. Likelihood to speed, get into accidents, or experience theft can increase following certain car modifications; as a result, your insurer might want to hike up the price you’re paying. On the other hand, drivers might see their insurance rates lower if they add other customizations to their vehicles, particularly modifications that encourage safety and accident prevention.

What is a car modification?

Technically, a modification is any change made to an automobile that differentiates it from the manufacturer’s original design. Name brand or factory parts used to modify a vehicle’s performance can even raise insurance rates. These differences could function to improve performance, safety, or aesthetics. This could be anything from a set of high-performance tires to racing seats; practically anything that enhances your driving experience qualify as a car modification.

Why do modifications affect car insurance prices?

In many cases, car modifications are considered higher risk in the eyes of insurance providers. Many modifications – particularly cosmetic modifications – may increase the chance that your car is broken into or stolen. In addition, modifications that affect the performance and appearance of your car are considered to be higher risk in regard to accidents.

More: High-risk car insurance

What makes modifications low risk or high risk?

In general, changes to a car’s appearance are considered higher risk. Specialized paint work – particularly racing stripes – are a concern to insurers, as they suggest the driver is more inclined to speed. Changes like tinted windows, alloy wheels, and air conditioning are low risk, as they don’t significantly alter a driver’s experience on the road or increase any chances of theft or vandalism.

What are considered to be the highest risk modifications?

You might want to rethink upgrading to a turbo or nitrous engine, as this is considered the highest risk modification; it may increase the price you pay for car insurance by 132%. Insurers believe that faster, more powerful vehicles are more likely to get into accidents. Unfortunately, wheelchair ramps may increase your rates by 69%, though this is most likely a necessary purchase for you or your family. Certain changes to the bodywork of your vehicle – such as flared wings or hood scoops – can increase your rates significantly as well, at approximately a 66% increase.

Can any modifications make car insurance rates go down?

Yes, actually! For instance, parking sensors can lower your rates slightly, as this technology works to alert drivers of obstacles while driving in reverse, decreasing the chances of collisions. A tow bar can also cost you less on insurance, as it ensures that you’re spending more time driving at a moderate speed than if you were not hooked up.

Compare: Car insurance quotes

Should I contact my insurance company before I add modifications?

You should speak with a representative to set expectations; if a turbo engine is really going to increase your rates significantly, you might change your mind on the purchase. Communicate with your insurance provider to see how your planned customizations will increase your insurance premium costs. Maybe your increase will only occur over the length of a 6-month or year-long period, or maybe your rates won’t increase at all. It’s best to be completely confident of your decision to make customizations on your car before you bring it into the shop.

Although you surely don’t want to be paying a higher rate on your car insurance, it’s absolutely necessary that you tell your insurance provider about any modifications made to your vehicle. Different insurers have different qualifications for what makes up a modification, so under some coverages, your insurance may not even be impacted.

For the best possible rates on a modified vehicle, viewing quotes before renewing your insurance could save you a substantial amount of money. Especially if you have high risk modifications, comparing quotes could help you find the cheapest rate for your circumstances.