Do Car Modifications Affect Insurance?

Matthew Lloyd
August 10, 2021
Matthew Lloyd

Do Car Modifications Affect Insurance?

Your car looks better and performs better. What's not to love about car modifications?

Increased insurance premiums, for one. That turbo engine you've been thinking about could dock you a mind-boggling 132% premium increase.

Before you invest in car modifications (or a new insurance premium) here's what you need to know about car insurance premiums and car modifications.

What are Car Modifications?

While the phrase car modifications might bring to mind roaring speed machines seen in Hollywood car movies, car modifications refer to pretty much any alteration to your car that changes it from the factory model.

Car modifications are split into two categories:

  1. Cosmetic
  2. Performance

Cosmetic modifications simply change how your car looks—a custom paint job is a classic example of this. Performance modifications make the car drive differently than it was designed to in the factory—installing a more powerful engine, for example.

Car Modifications That are Legal

There are plenty of modifications that are perfectly legal. Others are legal with an asterisk, meaning they're legal in theory but not so much in practice. Some car modifications are legal depending on the state in question.

A paint job, for example, is a perfectly legal car modification in any state. It's not a crime to repaint your car with flames, regardless of whether it's a crime against taste. That said, insurance companies may not look favorably on your paint job, and not just out of taste.

Another common one is tinted windows. These can help keep your car cool, though insurance companies take a dim view of tinted windows for visibility reasons. So do police—by their logic, if they can't see in your car, you must be trying to hide something.

Swapping your tires is a car modification that almost everyone does, and this one is actually worth it—provided that you get the right tires. In some states, you're legally required to switch to spiked snow tires in winter so that you can get traction on ice (hint: these tires are illegal when there isn't snow and ice).

In short, plenty of modifications are legal, but that doesn't mean you're scot-free. Quite the opposite.

Car Mods That Don't Affect Insurance

First, let's address the question on the tip of your tongue: are there any car modifications that don't affect insurance?

The short answer: no.

Pretty much any modification will change your car insurance premium, including purely cosmetic ones. Cosmetic modifications like a new paint job, insurance companies reason, would make the car look more attractive to car thieves. Performance modifications, on the other hand, change the way your car was designed and tested to perform in the factory, and that introduces added risk that insurance companies can't account for.

However, not all modifications affect your insurance negatively. Some might even reduce your premium—parking sensors are an excellent example of this. They actually make your car less risky to insure, since you're able to check your proximity to other cars and objects more accurately.

FAQs on the Cost of Common Car Modifications

To put it simply, most car modifications will raise the cost of insuring your car. It either makes your car more attractive, more dangerous or both. Here's a quick review of what you can expect from three common car modifications.

Does Painting Your Car Affect Insurance?

You might not think a simple paint job could add to the cost of your insurance. Sure, it might not be everyone's cup of tea, but paint is paint, right?

Not if you're an insurance company.

To an insurance company, if you want the baseline rate, you stick with the factory paint job. Otherwise, a paint job—even a simple update from red paint to silver—makes your car look newer and shinier, and that makes it a more attractive target for thieves.

In short: yes, painting does raise your car insurance, even if you're not auditioning for the next Fast and Furious installment.

Do Wind Deflectors Affect Insurance?

Wind deflectors are a rare example of a modification that likely won't affect your premium. However, that's because insurance companies often don't consider them car modifications at all.

Since wind deflectors are a common manufacturer's accessory, insurance companies treat them as part of the factory build. If you get wind deflectors added onto your car, you have to notify your insurance company of the alteration, though they likely won't raise your premiums for it. Then again, they also won't foot the bill if your wind deflectors get damaged, so that's a risk you'll have to accept.

How Much Does an Exhaust Add to Insurance?

Exhaust is a major sticking point with insurance companies, in part because it's a major legal sticking point due to clean air laws and noise laws.

Basically, since exhaust upgrades usually give your car a speed boost, insurance companies interpret this to mean that the car is less safe and therefore more expensive to insure. How much your cost goes up depends on the exhaust, but according to a survey by MoneySupermarket, you should plan on seeing a premium increase of 26% or more.

Also, if your exhaust modification modifies the silencer and increases the noise made by exhaust gas, you're not just looking at a rise in premiums. You're also driving around with an open invitation for police to pull you over and fine you for excessive noisiness.

Compare Car Insurance Quotes for the Best Rate

In short? Car insurance premiums and car modifications don't exactly get along, but you can still shop around to find the best deal, even with a modified car. That's where we can help. We make it easy to compare the best car insurance rates so that you can find the right premium to fit your budget. So if you're ready to drive with peace of mind, just enter your ZIP code and compare quotes from the best insurers in your state.