A woman in a wheelchair opens her car door, showing how vehicle modifications affect car insurance

When it comes to your vehicle, a “modification” is anything that alters its appearance or the way it drives. From purely cosmetic to performance-enhancing, vehicle modifications can include things like aftermarket window tinting, special exhaust systems or mufflers, lifted or lowered suspensions, custom paintjobs and banners, spoilers and skirt kits, wheelchair lifts and hand controls, nitrous oxide, low-profile tires, and under-body lighting.

Your insurance company may allow certain modifications (and may even cover them if they get damaged), while others could affect your coverage. If you’re thinking about modifying your vehicle — or buying a vehicle that was modified after it left the manufacturer — it’s important to learn how the modification could affect your insurance and let your insurer know about it right away. Failing to let your insurer know about any vehicle modification (even one that’s allowed) could lead to a denied claim or cancelled coverage.

What modifications are covered by car insurance?

Generally speaking, modifications for accessibility, appearance, or safety purposes are probably safe, and they could even be covered by your insurance policy if they’re damaged in a collision.

Modifications installed for accessibility purposes

Vehicle modifications that are installed to accommodate individuals with disabilities (wheelchair lifts, hand controls, and customized seat systems, for example), likely won’t affect your coverage, but they may affect your premium if they increase your vehicle’s value. It’s important to let your group’s broker know about accessibility changes so they can make sure you have the right coverage — and hang onto your receipts so your insurer knows how much you paid for the modifications in the event of a claim.

Modifications that will only affect your vehicle’s appearance

Most cosmetic modifications that only alter your car’s physical appearance (like custom paintwork, banners, and spoilers) likely won’t affect your insurance unless they significantly increase your vehicle’s value or increase your chances of being involved in a collision.

Safety or security modifications

Aftermarket safety features (like enhanced braking systems) or anti-theft devices (like security systems, alarms, and steering wheel locks) likely won’t affect your insurance coverage — and some may even qualify you for a discount on your premium.

While modifications for accessibility, appearance, or security purposes are generally allowed by most car insurance companies, every company has its own rules. If you’re considering making any type of modification, it’s important to contact your group’s broker and let them know so they can inform you about any necessary changes to your car insurance policy.

What modifications can affect your car insurance?

Depending on your insurer’s rules, some types of vehicle modifications can lead to cancelled policies or denied claims. Think twice before making a performance-enhancing modification or an illegal modification.

Performance-enhancing modifications

If you’re looking to boost your vehicle’s horsepower or enhance its performance (by swapping out the engine, adding nitrous oxide, or modifying the exhaust system, for example) you may find yourself shopping for a new insurance policy if your current insurance company doesn’t cover vehicles with performance-enhancing modifications.

Illegal vehicle modifications

Some types of modifications (like nitrous oxide, under-body lighting, and dark tinting) are illegal in certain areas. If the modification you’re considering is illegal, chances are it will be pretty tough to find an insurer who will cover your vehicle once it’s complete. To avoid getting in hot water with the law or your insurer, do your research and make sure your modification of choice is legal where you live and drive before installing it.

Keep in mind that all modifications should be installed or inspected by a qualified professional to ensure your vehicle’s safety standards are up to snuff. The rules for vehicle modifications vary by insurer, so be sure to ask your group’s licensed car insurance broker before installing any type of modification — and once the job is done, notify your group’s broker so they can make sure you’ll be covered in the event of an accident.

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