For car enthusiasts, some of the joy of car ownership involves the personalization of the vehicle with several types of aftermarket products. This can be as extreme as lowering the vehicle or adjusting the engine to basic muffler changes or new detailing. Any change to your vehicle can be regulated by the laws in your state and aftermarket parts must meet federal regulations as well. Warranties are often the first battle ground if your altered vehicle ends up in the shop. If your insurance carrier is made aware of aftermarket adjustments to your vehicle, this can impact your premiums. There are some simple aspects to be aware of before altering your car or truck.
Check with your state patrol, local police or DMV about regulations that may impact the amount of changes you can legally make to your vehicle. For example, many drivers purchase aftermarket tint – several states have legal limits on the darkness of tinted windows (for state by state info see www.tintcenter.com/laws/). Similarly, aftermarket headlights, taillights, and even underbody lights are often regulated. Although many of these items may not be a cause for a citation by themselves, if you are pulled over for speeding or another traffic violation, aftermarket violations can be tacked on to the ticket.
Under the Magnuson-Moss Act of 1975, your warranty cannot be automatically voided just because of aftermarket changes. The warranty company or dealership must prove that the modification directly caused the failure in performance before they can make a warranty invalid. Read the fine print on any warranty agreement as these companies will often be very specific of what they consider unacceptable modification because of this law; however, they will still have to prove that the modification caused the malfunction to deny a claim. If your warranty claim is denied, make certain you obtain in writing their exact reasons for rejecting the warranty. You can then pursue the matter with the company directly or file a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
In essence, this question is answered in two ways: first, the perception of your voluntary aftermarket adjustments that suggest a change in driving style or added risk, and, second, the reality of the cost of repairs which encourages the use of aftermarket over original equipment manufacture (OEM) parts.
With the proliferation of online insurance and, at the very least, online copies of your policies, it is important to be aware of any impact aftermarket changes may have on your auto insurance premiums. You can also ask your insurance agent directly about proposed changes. In some cases, changes may suggest an increased risk in driving behavior. For example, if you add a supercharger to your engine to increase air and fuel and give your car more power, your driving habits may become suspect. However, changing the fuel filter, which can also increases power, may not be as suspect as it also improves the cars overall performance and maintenance. Many of the smaller changes to your vehicle are not usually reported and will not impact your premiums; however, if your aftermarket changes are against local laws – you insurance company can become aware through any police citations on your vehicle. The worst case scenario is that non-stock parts may suggest too much risk and your insurance company will drop you – but the more likely scenario is that your premiums will increase. It is best to ask – some companies offer a modification policy that allows for coverage of your vehicle despite some of your changes.
Despite these precautions – if you are in an accident, many insurance companies will allow and even encourage the use of aftermarket parts on vehicles as they are often cheaper than OEM parts. If you insist on OEM parts used in the repair, you may be asked to pay for the difference in price (in some states). However, if you do some research on aftermarket parts and find examples of faults, you may be able to convince the insurance company to pay for the OEM to prevent future claims. The bottom line is to be aware of what is being used to repair your car and stay informed of the negotiations between the repair shop and your insurance company. Again, the influence of state regulations are also at play – check with your state insurance regulator to see if OEM parts are required on your vehicle repair (especially if your car is less than two years old).
Make sure you do your research before modifying your vehicle or incorporating aftermarket parts. Changing your vehicle may mean that you need to shop around for an insurance carrier but it does not mean that you cannot find coverage as long as you are within your legal limits.
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