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Remember to declare motorbike modifications to your insurer

Modified motorcycle insurance can be a minefield. Some insurance companies might charge extra for modifications while other players could include them in your policy. But some could even lower your premium. Here’s what you need to know.

A close up of a motorbike parked on the road

 

What counts as a bike modification?

You don’t need to join a biker gang to modify your bike.

Any change that alters your bike from its factory state could be considered a modification by an insurance company.

From funky graphics to loud exhausts, they could all fall under the same umbrella. While some modifications might lower your premium, for example changes that increase your bike’s security, most modifications do the opposite.

So, it’s vital you let your insurer know of any modifications you’ve made - from mild to wild and everything in between.

If you don’t tell your insurer they could refuse to pay out if you make a motorbike insurance claim.

So, perhaps talk to them before you make any changes.

 

Will a modification such as a paint job add to your policy cost – or make it cheaper?

Let’s consider:

  • Disclosing a modification is being clear about what you’ve spent and the exact specification. It also means you’ve got the reassurance of this modification being repaired to its original condition in the event of a claim.
  • Some modifications could add value to your machine, which might affect their theft risk or resale value. So, it’s only fair that you make your insurer aware of them.
  • Insurance policies vary – a lot. Some might have tighter limits on what they insure when you pimp your ride. Other policies might be more generous. And some changes could actually make your policy cheaper.

It’s far more common for bikes to be customised or modded than cars. There are also no established defined industry standards to go by. So, insurance companies pay close attention to modified motorbikes.

Broadly, any change that improves the security and safety of your machine might not see a price hike.

While some modifications can be permanent, other changes or accessories can be stolen if not securely fixed – think of some panniers or pieces of touring gear.

 

What doesn’t count as a motorcycle modification?

If you're using like-for-like replacement parts and ordinary consumables – think fuel and oil filters – your insurer won’t usually need to know. Some common changes that aren’t always classed as a modification include:

  • Air filters
  • Turn signals
  • Tyres
  • Seats

Air filter changes are a good example of a mod that can slip ‘under the radar’.

Upgraded ones, for example, can force extra air into the engine, increasing performance and economy. They can also last longer.

Some turn signal changes also might not affect your policy. Upgraded ones might be LED-based and make you more visible at night.

They’re also more energy efficient. You might need to have them professionally installed for them to be valid. Again, check with your insurer.

Like many mass market products, standard-fit tyres are fairly multi-purpose. This means their on-road performance can be a bit underwhelming.

An upgrade to higher-quality tyres could be a better match for your riding style and day-to-day riding environment.

It’s often said that you shouldn’t skimp on the things that keep you connected to the ground. And a good set of motorbike tyres could fall into this category.

There’s also the world of high-tech seats. Stock seats might be on the thin side.

If you’re taller or shorter than average, you might want to look at the aftermarket products here. A new seat shouldn’t change your insurance situation with your insurer, but check.

 

What’s the difference between a motorcycle modification and an accessory?

If it’s an approved manufacturer accessory your insurer should include it as ‘standard’.

Many accessories protect the condition of your machine. Having these tells the insurer you’re paying attention to your bike’s condition – and also paying extra for the privilege!

Bike bar ends or chain guards, for example, are often viewed as accessories. Bar ends help protect your machine from damage. A chain guard could help protect you and your bike while riding.

The same goes for fork protectors or scottoilers, usually. In other words, accessories that help protect your bike’s condition shouldn’t necessarily mean a lift in your premium.

In contrast, increasing your bike’s power is more likely to be seen as a modification. Or a quick shifter that helps you change gear faster. The same goes for tuning boxes that remap the fuel injection system.

Motorcycling culture is steeped in modifications and a specialist insurer should be able to give you a clear answer on where you stand.

 

Do modifications affect motorcycle insurance?

When an insurer looks at your bike it looks for things that could increase your bike’s risk of theft. Or anything that makes it go faster or more expensive to repair.

They also look for any modification that means your bike is safer or harder to steal.

Some modifications might not result in a price hike. That’s because these modifications aren’t seen as heightening financial risk to the insurer.

The exact list of acceptable modifications might vary between insurance companies, but generally they could include:

  • Air filter changes
  • Bar ends
  • Braided hoses
  • Heated grips
  • Huggers
  • Seat replacements
  • Scottoilers
  • Sissy bars (or longer back rest)
  • Screen changes
  • Tank pads.

This isn’t the full list by any means. So, if your motorcycle insurer thinks any of these might hike your premium, it might be worth considering finding cover elsewhere.

Some insurers might offer you further free modifications up to a limited number. But be careful of going beyond this limit, and check the policy small print first.

The difference in attitude around modifications can be huge. If the insurer you’re talking to is at all fazed, it could be worth shopping around

The UK insurance market is big and other insurers might welcome you and your modified bike with open arms.

 

Do I have to tell my insurer if I modify my motorcycle?

Yes, absolutely – it’s non-negotiable! If you don’t then your insurer has every right to cancel your policy. Or refuse to pay out if you make a claim.

If your insurance costs are calculated on incorrect information, it’s unreasonable for the insurer to pay out. So, it’s important you be honest with them.

Part of the reason why insurers are alert to bike modifications is the ease of access with the machine itself – motorbikes are accessible!

This means modifications, often, are easy to do. More so than cars. 

Even better, contact your insurer directly before you make any modifications. You might actually be surprised about what they say.

 

Will my motorcycle insurance premium go up?

Not always. If you’ve invested in motorbike security devices like an immobiliser or extra locks then you’re hopefully slashing your insurer’s risk. They might even recognise that with a discount.

What you’re buying is protection for your no-claims bonus. Plus, protection from the time-consuming faff after a theft or accident.

Think of the paperwork and phone calls, not to mention anxiety a claim can demand.

Some security options that could help lower your premium include:

  • Disc locks – they’re also portable
  • Alarms and trackers – make sure any device is Thatcham-approved
  • Ground anchors – fixed to a wall or floor,they allow a chain and lock to be attached. Consider professional installation here.

You can read our guide on how to get cheaper motorbike insurance for more tips.

 

Are Agreed Value insurance policies good for modified motorcycles?

Many modifications are valued at a standard value. If you feel your modifications are tricky to value, or if your bike is custom-made, then why not consider an Agreed Value quote?

If your dream machine’s written off, the payout could fall some distance from all the cash, energy and graft you’ve directed at it. Especially if it’s a big custom job.

So, you might ask for an Agreed Value policy at the outset. This kind of policy pays out at a specific value if the bike is written off, rather than at market value.

This is where you send your insurer photographs and details of your bike. Your insurer might ask for receipts and other proof-of-purchase ID too, but not necessarily.

These policies tend to stand on their own rather than be an optional extra.

 

Should I modify my bike?

Well, perhaps think ahead. If you’re planning to sell your bike in the medium or long term then a standard-spec machine might be easier to sell on.

If you can’t scratch the itch, why not hang onto your bike’s standard parts and re-fit when you come to sell?

If you’ve an older machine or classic bike and it has potential to appreciate in value, modifying isn’t usually a good idea. Original condition is likely to be prized later on.

So go careful. The more tweaks you make, the less interest you might generate when you come to sell.

And bear in mind if you make too many changes to your machine, you could change its character. Or make it less safe. So make sure any modifications are properly set up. 

 

How can I get cheaper modified motorcycle insurance?

There are a number of ways to get better value modified motorcycle insurance.

Of course, comparing motorcycle insurance is a good start.

Compare motorbike insurance quotes

We’ve already mentioned trackers and chains but they bear repeating. If you opt for a tracker, consider how often you use your bike.

Some tracking systems are on a subscription basis, connected to a 24/7 support centre.

Other systems might rely on a combination of battery and VHF tech. The advantage here is that some trackers have their own battery supply so they don’t drain your bike’s battery.

Premium tracking products feature Automatic Driver Recognition (ADR). This means only approved riders (or drivers) are authorised to use your machine. 

You can always improve your chances of getting cheaper insurance by limiting your annual mileage or taking advanced riding courses.

While advanced riding courses aren’t free or even cheap, they could save you money long-term. And the skills you pick up might even save your life.

Remember that the cheapest policy might be some distance from the best for you. And when it comes to renewing your policy, keep shopping around.