October 1, 2009

Customization: Adding Tweaks To Your Vehicle May Affect Your Auto Insurance

Thanks to celebrity endorsements, custom car television shows, and new availability, customized vehicles have become increasingly popular in recent years. Forget the dashboard hula girls of yesteryear; today’s car owners are enhancing their vehicles with chrome rims and grills, hydraulics, LCD monitors, customized murals, spinners, expensive stereo systems, and DVD players. Many owners believe that these hot accessories will increase the value of their cars, but what many don’t know is that they can also increase their auto insurance rates””or cost them their coverage altogether.

Before making any expensive improvements to your vehicle, call your insurance company to find out what types of customization they do and do not cover. Since not every insurance company is willing to cover every type of auto enhancement, you do not want to discover after you have already paid for said enhancement(s) that they are not insurable. If your insurance provider does cover the types of customization you want, ask whether there are additional costs associated with insuring the enhancements you plan to make. Many companies offer “substantial customization” coverage that you can add to your comprehensive and collision coverage for an additional fee. The amount of coverage this plan offers varies by company, vehicle type, current policy, and sometimes even driving record, so if your customizations cost more than your company covers, it’s wise to explore other companies’ coverage plans. There are two very good reasons not to make the mistake of attempting to hide customizations from your auto insurance company: first, if you are caught, you will likely be charged with insurance fraud; and second, if the extremely expensive rims, stereo, and grill you failed to report are ever stolen, you obviously won’t be compensated for your loss. As customization increases in popularity, so does theft; protect yourself and your investment.

Another big factor in keeping your auto insurance rates on your customized vehicle as low as possible is safety. Though it can be tempting to customize your car yourself, it is much smarter and safer to have a trained professional do the work for you. By taking this route, you avoid dangerous, improper installation of parts, lower your accident risk, and thus, become a lower risk for your auto insurance company. Additionally, do not make any vehicle modifications that obstruct your driving ability or pose a danger to other vehicles in any way. If you choose to install any customization that your insurance company deems dangerous (regardless of whether you do the work yourself or hire someone to help you) and get in an accident, they may refuse to pay your claim on the grounds that your modifications made the vehicle a driving hazard.