Insurance policies and prices are determined based on the assumption that your car is entirely standard and meets manufacturer’s specifications. In order to stay within those boundaries, anything you change that puts the car’s handling or performance outside the standard requirements must be reported to the insurance company so that they can adjust your policy accordingly.
The changes that must be reported range from fancy new rims to strut bars to new spoilers. A good rule of thumb: If you’re not sure, go ahead and mention the modification to your insurance company. Full disclosure can make sure you will be covered if you ever need to file a claim. Here’s why:
Rims, Wheels, and Tires
Every car has specific manufacturer guidelines for the proper wheel size and rims. Replacing your standard rims with something more sporty might seem like a cosmetic change, but the insurance company could claim that going outside the manufacturer recommendations can cause the car to handle differently and make it more dangerous to drive. If you switch out your wheels, rims, or tires for something a little racier than stock, you should let your insurance company know about it.
The car’s suspension controls how the car handles on the road. Any major changes to the struts, strut bars, or steering mechanism should be mentioned to your insurance company right away. If you install a lift mechanism or lower the body, the insurance company needs to know about that, too. Sometimes simply installing aftermarket parts to the suspension system of your car is enough to change the car’s classification for an insurance policy. A quick check with your insurance agent when you make the modifications could save you a lot of time and money later.
Most of the modifications that you do to the body of the car do not need to be reported to the insurance company. Tinting the glass, changing the paint, or installing extra lights are not things the insurance company would be interested in. The only body changes the insurance company needs to know about are any modifications designed to make the car go faster. A spoiler, a scoop on the hood, or scoops along the sides of the body need to be reported to the insurance company. All of these can change the way the car handles, which changes the way the insurance company determines your rates.
Engine Power Enhancements
Report any engine modifications that you make to your car, no matter how insignificant you may think they are. There are very few engine changes that cause a car to behave less efficiently. Usually every engine modification is designed to make the car accelerate faster or run differently, which is something the insurance company needs to know about. Modifications to anything from gas delivery to exhaust need to be reported so that you stay out of trouble if you ever need to file a claim on that car.
Potential Consequences of Keeping Quiet
The problem with keeping secrets from a car insurance company is that you never know when you will need to file a claim. As soon as you are in an accident or your car is damaged in some way, your insurance company will send someone to assess the damage so that they can begin to process your claim. If modifications are discovered after the claim has been filed, the insurance company has the right to deny your claim. It is also possible for the company to drop your insurance coverage entirely. You could be left with a broken car that you have to repair out of pocket because you failed to mention those modifications.
Author Dan Nielson is a contract electrician and blogs for truckspring.com, a site that specializes in suspensions for trucks. They have everything from Bilstein shocks to air bags suspension kits.