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UPDATED: Jan 14, 2019
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When you apply for auto insurance coverage, the insurance company assumes that your vehicle features are standard for the make, model and year of release.
If you don’t inform them that you’ve upgraded the tires or changed to a more powerful engine, they will assume that you’re using factory-recommended tires and are still driving on the vehicle’s original motor.
Some consumers view this as an excuse that insurance companies use to get out of paying substantial claims, but there are cases where drivers modify their vehicles without notifying their insurance carriers because they don’t want to pay higher premiums.
It’s always in your best interest to report modifications even if you don’t think they’re substantial enough to impact your premium to ensure that the insurance company has no reason to deny coverage on any claim that you may file in the future.
Some modifications are more likely than others to cause a substantial increase in your rate, and this guide will help you determine the level of risk for any modifications you may consider.
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Most modifications that increase your insurance premium substantially will fall into this category.
Since they’re designed to make your vehicle move faster or otherwise perform above the standards of a typical vehicle, you can expect your insurance company to see them as a heightened risk.
Some modifications that would fit into this category include:
- Enhanced exhaust systems
- More powerful engines
- Nitrous oxide injection systems
- Performance tires
These modifications are designed to change the appearance of your vehicle, and most are concerns for your insurance company because they are known targets for thieves.
The most common modifications include:
- Tinted windows
- Fancy rims
- Side skirts
- Extra headlights
These modifications are added to increase comfort for passengers, but insurance companies may see them as distractions that increase your chance of causing an accident.
The most common modifications involve entertainment systems include:
- Television screens
- DVD or Blu-Ray systems
- Stereo systems with large speakers
- Sub woofers and related equipment
- Bluetooth systems (not added by the manufacturer)
These modifications are actually appreciated by many insurance companies, and they can help reduce your insurance premium. Some of the more common safety modifications include:
- Back-up cameras
- Hands-free cellular systems
- Tracking devices
The idea is that they may keep their insurance premium lower by enhancing the safety of the vehicle along with the performance and appearance.
This may or may not work, but it is something to consider if you want to complete a modification that you know will increase your insurance premium.
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Drivers with disabilities often require vehicle modification if they are to drive safely and comfortably.
These modifications vary from the addition of specialized equipment to design changes that impact the overall appearance and functionality of the vehicle.
These modifications are often expensive, and research has shown that consumers pay out of pocket for more than 70 percent of all medically-required vehicle modifications.
Drivers must then absorb the cost of higher auto insurance rates as a result of their modifications.
Some modifications are considered more of a risk than others, so most drivers can find a solution that doesn’t increase their insurance rate dramatically.
Minor Disability Modifications
There are many state-sponsored assistance programs that help drivers secure vehicle modifications needed to drive to work and enjoy healthy lifestyles, and they often categorize modifications as minor or major.
Minor modifications typically include the addition of specialized equipment without changing the basic structure or functionality of the vehicle such as:
- Air bag removal or disconnection
- Emergency backup systems
- Exterior wheelchair lifts
- Hand controls
- Parking brake extension lever
- Power gear selector
- Power seats
- Reduced-effort brakes
- Spinner knobs
Major Disability Modifications
Modifications placed in this category typically change the structure or functionality of the vehicle in a substantial way.
- Left foot accelerators
- Lowered floor
- Raised door openings
- Raised roof
- Removable driver seat
- Suspension system modification
Are your modifications medically necessary?
If you’re modifying your vehicle due to a medical condition or injury, your state may allow you to complete a driving assessment.
Professionals review your reasons for seeking vehicle modification as well as your vehicle, and then they give you a prescription for needed modifications.
If this isn’t available in your local area, you can also go to your doctor and ask for a letter stating why you need modification to drive safely and comfortably.
Show this documentation to your insurance company along with any verifying documentation that they request, and you may receive a more affordable insurance premium.
Questions to Ask Prior to Modification
There are two questions that you should ask when assessing whether you want to go through with a vehicle modification:
- Will this modification increase my risk of causing an accident?
- Will this modification increase my risk of theft or vandalism?
These questions reflect the primary concern of your insurance company, so they can help you see the modification from the company’s perspective.
If the modification is designed to make your car go faster or accelerate faster, than the insurance company will assume that you plan on driving faster.
Fast driving does increase your risk of causing an accident.
If you put on those fancy rims or add an advanced stereo system to your vehicle, then the insurance company may decide that your vehicle is more likely to get broken into, and that means they are more likely to receive a claim for the replacement of those items.
If you decide to go through with the modification, make sure to contact your insurance company and report the modification immediately.
If they increase your rate, you can compare insurance quotes online to find a more affordable policy.
Start comparing car insurance rates now by entering your zip code in our FREE tool below!