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Does Your Car Belong on the"Fast and Furious"Movie Set?

By Ryan Hurlbert on March 9th, 2010
Auto Insurance

You just paid $7500 for new wheels and tires. Sure, it's a lot of money, but you car looks GOOD! With your tires and wheels, the $5,000 stereo, the custom paint, and the carbon fiber hood, you probably have as much invested in modifications as you paid for the car.

What if your modified car is stolen? Or totaled in an accident? Does the auto insurance company include all the extras in your settlement?

Disclose All Modifications

Many car insurance companies limit the dollar amount of modifications they are willing to cover. In order to receive coverage, you should disclose all modifications to your agent when you purchase an auto policy. You should tell your agent about additional lights, stereo equipment, sunroofs, interior upgrades, wheels--you get the idea.

If the equipment wasn't on the car when it left the factory, it is considered a modification. Your agent can tell you which modifications require additional coverage. You may be required to provide receipts to prove the value of your customization. This also protects you at the time of a claim if the original receipts are no longer handy. If you further customize your vehicle, and fail to notify your auto insurance carrier, you won't have coverage on the subsequent modifications.

Modifications for Those with Disabilities

It can cost thousands of dollars to install chair lifts, hand controls, special seats and other modifications required for those with disabilities to access and safely operate a car. Make sure your modifications are covered by disclosing everything to your insurance agent. Even if you buy your modified vehicle directly from a dealer or up-fitter, you should still disclose the modifications separately.

Specialty Car Coverage

Cars with extreme modifications that are only driven on a limited basis may be covered by a specialty insurer, similar to the coverage provided to collector cars. This may be the only way to adequately cover your investment, but you may not be able to drive the car much--most specialty policies limit you to less than 2000 miles a year.

Racing and Track Days

Read your policy carefully if you plan to race--legally or otherwise. Many states allow auto insurers to deny coverage for damage during competitive events, or damage sustained on a permanent racing facility.

If your driving plans include racing or track days, read your policy carefully. Most likely, you are responsible for damage incurred under these driving conditions. However, some states don't allow insurers to deny coverage for track days or driving schools, only actual racing. Racing includes autocross or gymkhana events, even if only one car is on the track.

Is There Such a Thing as Going Too Far?

Certain modifications may render your car uninsurable. Some companies do not cover vehicles that have been lifted or lowered because altering the suspension can alter the handling and safety of the vehicle. Some companies do not cover vehicles that have been modified for racing. Many limit the coverage available for stereo systems or wheels, and you are not likely to find coverage for radar or laser detecting equipment.

You may look at your car and see a $3000 car with $30,000 worth of modifications, but if you don't have the right kind of coverage, your insurer looks at your car and sees a $3000 car that is a huge theft risk.

Not all auto insurance companies treat modifications the same way, so it pays to shop around. Compare auto insurance quotes and make sure to tell agents, who are competing for your business, everything about your modified car.

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