Is your modified car all show and no go?

Article date: 3 July 2008

  • RAC Inspections warns car buyers to look beyond the bling

Whether it's low-riders, hot rods, street rods, eye catching body kits or custom-flipped paint work, car modifications are a rising phenomenon for the seriously cool looking to make a statement with their motor. However, RAC Inspections warns used car buyers considering a modified vehicle to avoid being blinded by the bling and get it checked out thoroughly.

"Car modification offers people an easy way to make their car stand out from the crowd," explains Nicola Johnson, manager of RAC Inspections. "From fancy paintwork and chrome trims to more serious tuning under the bonnet, car modification is becoming more and more popular.  But this poses some new challenges to the used car buyer. Extra weight from oversized exhausts, different wheel dimensions and amended aerodynamics produced by body kit parts, all impact on a car's performance for better or worse, depending on the quality of the job.  When modifications are done well, they are done very well, but when done badly, they are illegal and dangerous."

RAC Inspector, Ron Waldock, remembers inspecting a typical boy-racer Peugeot 106 that had had a set of big wheels and sport springs fitted. "The car had been lowered so far that the extra-large wheels were rubbing against the wheel arches and had rubbed away the inner liner and paint on the inner wings, so that they were rusting. The inspection was also hampered because the car was so low it was hard to get the jacks underneath.

"One lad had spent £3,500 having a body kit fitted to a Vauxhall Corsa. There were four huge six-inch diameter exhausts. When I asked what engine the vehicle had, it still had the 1,000cc three cylinder engine - it must have struggled to move."

When shopping for a modified car, it's essential to make sure is it independently inspected. Have all the body parts have been properly fitted and has the tuning been done by  a professional? An inspection not only provides reassurance on a potential purchase but might even help a buyer negotiate with the seller on price. RAC are one of the few companies that will inspect modified cars, and will not charge any extra because of the modifications. The RAC engineers are car enthusiasts as well, and enjoy inspecting a vehicle whose modifications have been well thought out and implemented.

When it comes to insuring a modified car, it's not as difficult as many might think. Although modified car owners can't buy any old insurance online, a call to an insurance company to discuss the modifications will enable appropriate cover to be found. Insurers aren't keen on high value or extreme modifications, such as DIY convertibles, or a drag racing Nitrous Oxide fuel injection fitted to a road car. And changes to the car or parts of the car that will make it more attractive to thieves, such as alloy wheels, could be an issue.

Some owners are tempted not to declare modification to insurers, but this could have serious consequences. If modifications are not declared and the insured hasn't been paying the right premium, the insurer may refuse to deal with any claim.

Nicola Johnson concludes: "It's easy to be wowed by a big spoiler and an extra bit of vroom under the bonnet, but buyers need to be sure customisations are safe. This is where an unbiased eye will help make the buyer aware of any issues. Similarly, we advise anyone whose head is turned by a modified car to declare all the customised parts and discuss cover with their insurer. By taking the right precautions, modified car owners can stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons."

To conduct an RAC Inspection:

log on to or call the dedicated number 0800 085 2529.


For further information:
Dominic Dennis, Margot Tomkinson or Justine Hoadley at HSL 0208 977 9132.

Notes to editors:

About the RAC
With around seven million members, RAC is one of the UK's most progressive motoring organisations, providing services for both private and business motorists.  Whether it's roadside assistance, windscreen repair and replacement, learning to drive, vehicle inspections and checks, legal and financial services or up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information - RAC is able to meet motorists' needs. RAC incorporates BSM, RAC Auto Windscreens, RAC Direct Insurance and HPI.

RAC is committed to providing the very highest levels of service to its members and has been ranked first for customer service by J.D. Power and Associates' UK Roadside Assistance Study for the past two years.

Aviva bought RAC in May 2005.  The acquisition brings together RAC's powerful brand and customer base with the expertise and leading position in motor insurance of Norwich Union Insurance (part of Aviva). Norwich Union is the UK's largest insurer, insuring one in seven motor vehicles and with a market share of around 15 per cent.

RAC's news releases and a selection of images are available from the internet press centre at  

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