Transparency is key when it comes to the definition of car modifications

8th October 2019

Apparently, a small modification to a car could affect a person’s car insurance premium. This is the conclusion drawn by an exclusive investigation into car modification by Auto Express, the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) and Ageas Insurance.

They point out that when it comes to car insurance some things are not as clear cut to motorists. This is because, unhelpfully, there is no standard consensus among insurers when it comes to what is classified as a modification.

There are two camps, it appears. One believes that a modification is any change to the car “since it was first supplied by the vehicle manufacturer”. But the investigation found that there were others who also considered factory fitted options as modifications.

This includes optional extras fitted by the manufacturer or dealer which improves the cars value, performance or appearance. Sunroofs and even metallic paint can be considered an ‘optional extra’!

If you’re scratching your head at this definition – imagine how the customer must feel! Apparently, insurers dislike modifications because they can make the cars more attractive to thieves.  

But it gets worse. Football season may be in full swing but according the research putting a football sticker to show support for your club can count against you as well.

We may all be talking more about politics too, now that Brexit has polarized the country, but emblazoning your allegiance to the ‘Remain’ or ‘Brexit’ camp with a bumper sticker is also a no-no.

This is all because insurers deem it to be too much of a risk because it increases the chances of a car being vandalised. As Auto Express wrote on its site, it’s ‘Keep your opinions to yourself, or be prepared to share them with your insurer first’. Overall, their advice is that if you’re in any doubt – speak to your insurer.

That’s definitely sound advice. But why is it not possible for the insurance industry (both broker and insurer) to make their policies a little clearer? Sure, policy documents littered with terms and conditions do exist on websites, so that’s a start. But let’s be honest – who really trawls through all of that to make sure they understand everything?

Auto Express points out that a while ago, the industry did collaborate when it came to one modification that people would typically make without thinking about whether this would affect their premium.

They came together to agree on winter tyres. Over 70 insurance companies signed an agreement in 2011 which stated that they would not increase premiums if winter tyres were fitted to cars. This was all provided, of course, that they met with the manufacturer’s approval. It’s a shame more such collaboration to standardise all the rules (and reduce confusion) can’t be done.

What can be done, however, is some tinkering (pun intended) to online insurance forms. Changes could be made to make things clearer and highlight to the customer the extent to which insurers go when it comes to their classification of a modification.

Don’t like Manchester United car stickers or sunroofs? Then tell the customer! Highlight it upfront. Don’t bury it in the terms and conditions.

Perhaps some insurers already do this to some extent, but if they did and there was no confusion – would it have been necessary for such a collaboration and investigation into this matter? Probably not…

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *