Car Personalisation & Modification: Good Idea or Bad Idea?

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Written by Michael Foote, founder of Quote Goat, has over 13 years experience working in the finance, insurance and currency sectors.

For most of us, our car is our pride and joy; an object we feel a keen sense of attachment to. That’s why so many motorists delight in the idea of being able to personalise their car, taking the factory-produced design and settings, then altering them to produce something that is absolutely theirs.

There are, however, potential downsides to the idea of personalising and modifying your car. However, there also also potential upsides to modifying your car, so don’t worry– it’s not all bad news. The question is: how can you tell the difference between the good personalisations and the bad ones that can have a number of negative effects including increasing your car insurance costs?

In an effort to answer that question, below, we’ll dive into the most common modifications and personalisation choices, and decide if they are good or bad for your future on the road.

GOOD IDEA: Custom Paint Jobs

First and foremost, it’s important to note that you will need to inform your insurance company if you change the colour of your car. The colour is part of the descriptor that you are insured for, and if you need to make a claim, that descriptor will need to match the car. This change should not affect your premiums; if you find that it does, it might be worth transferring to another company.

With the red tape out of the way, there’s a very good reason to consider a custom paint job on your car: thief protection. As mentioned here, standard colour cars (such as grey, white, or black) are far more likely to be stolen than more unusual colours or custom paint jobs. The reason for this is simple; the more unusual the car, the higher the likelihood of a stolen vehicle being identified by police. So if you have always wanted to customise the exterior of your car– and you’ll remember to inform your insurer that you have done so — then a paint job is a good way to do it.

BAD IDEA: Modified Stereo Systems

Most cars come complete with decent sound systems these days, yet still the modifications continue. If you find yourself tempted by the idea of being able to turn the volume up, up, and up some more, then that’s a temptation you need to nip in the bud.

Why? There’s plenty of reasons:

  • Large speaker systems can affect the way your car handles, potentially making it unfit for road usage.
  • Large speaker systems may render your car illegal to drive
  • Studies have concluded that being close to loud car stereo systems can increase your risk of accident if used while driving. This study was performed by testing regular car speakers, so the impact is likely to be all the more dramatic for modified speaker systems.
  • Listening to loud music frequently can cause hearing damage that is irreversible.
  • You will drastically damage your car’s resale value if you install a huge speaker system.

Ultimately, you have to remember why you have your car; it’s a method of transport, not a sound system. Most car sound systems can produce plenty of volume by themselves, so the need for added speakers is largely redundant for general usage. It might look great, but given the downsides as mentioned above, this is one modification you’re definitely going to want to skip.

GOOD IDEA: Personalised Number Plates

If you want your car to be truly unique, you can’t go far wrong with personalised number plates. What wants to be stuck with a boring number plate that was assigned to you by the DVLA?

There are a few ways that you can switch your number plate. They are very similar, but do have a few small differences.

The first option is to switch to private number plates that are largely indistinguishable from standard-issue plates. The numbers and letters appear in the same recognisable format, but you can choose private plates that have an additional personal meaning. For example, you could choose a plate that has your initials as the three main featured letters. These plates are very affordable, and though the personalisation is relatively hidden, it’s nevertheless a nice touch.

Alternatively, you can go the full hog and opt for an entirely personalised number plate. This can be something as simple as your name but with a number substituted for a letter, so ‘ERIC’ becomes ‘3RIC’, for example. As fun as these plates are, you will likely find they are more expensive than the first option, so be prepared for this when you look to buy.

Whichever option you choose, there’s no doubt that changing your number plate is a good way of personalising your car. You have to buy from reputable sellers, of course, and notify the relevant agencies — such as the DVLA and your insurance company — of the change, but this is relatively simple to accomplish. Importantly, what changing the number plates doesn’t do is make any material change to the car itself. Material modifications and personalisations are always the most risky, so avoiding these and opting for a simple number plate switch instead is definitely a good idea.

BAD IDEA: Supercharging Your Engine

We have all experienced the bizarre moment when a car speeds past us while out driving, the engine roaring like it’s going through a very small tunnel at very high speed– despite the fact you’re in the middle of a town, and there’s no tunnels for miles. Yes, supercharged engines have a way of making their mark.

If you’re tempted to supercharge your own engine, then this is just about the worst decision you can make. Supercharging might seem fun and exciting, but it’s actually little more than a good way to ruin a nice, working engine. Not only is supercharging outright bad for the engine, there’s also a high chance that your at-home modifications will render the car illegal to drive. At the very least, you’re going to void your insurance policy; you may even find yourself in trouble with the police if your engine breaks environmental noise regulations.

By sticking to the good ideas and avoiding the bad, you can ensure that your personalised car will still be useful, functional, and road legal for years to come.