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Last updated: 23/07/2020 | Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Modified van insurance

People use vans for everything from camping to selling food or to carry everything from surfboards to chandeliers. Vans serve as portable kitchens, dog groomers and even homes. And drivers aren’t keeping these vans as they roll off the lot: they’re making modifications, ranging from cosmetic to creative, to accommodate all these uses.

However, modifications have implications for your van insurance. You’ll need to declare any changes when you’re looking for insurance. If the amendments are dramatic, you may even need to pursue a specialist modified van policy. Failing to disclose modifications can mean your van and its features aren’t properly covered, and can even invalidate your policy.

In This Guide:

What is modified van insurance?

When looking for insurance, you’ll need to provide information about the make and model of your van. All makes and models are assigned to a van insurance group, which reflects their performance, value, and specs. These groups are used by insurers to calculate how risky and expensive your vehicle will be to insure. Unless you say otherwise, they’ll assume the vehicle is mostly as it was manufactured, maybe with some wear and tear.

But if you’ve made substantial modifications to the vehicle, the insurer won’t know what they’re covering. And you may have made changes that increase the risk of accident, the cost of repair, or the likelihood of theft. You’ll therefore need to disclose any jazzy, or just sensible, extras you’ve added, from a paint job to extra seats. Changes that increase the accessibility of the vehicle, including wheelchair lifts and hand controls, also need to be declared.

You’ll also want to guarantee that all those expensive modifications you’ve made—the bike racks or the supercharged engine—are covered by your policy.

Modified van insurance covers your van in the state you’ve upgraded it to. For minor modifications, you can typically obtain insurance from mainstream van insurers. More extensive, or specific, changes may require you to find the services of an insurer which specialises in modified vans.

What counts as a modification?

Modifications for vans often include extra seating, beds, bicycle racks, and even bathrooms or things for their commercial use, like permanent catering equipment or lifting equipment. But given the versatility of vans, modifications more commonly found on cars, including alloy wheels and supercharged engines, can also crop up in vans.

Here’s a list of some modifications you’ll need to declare to your insurer. They range from subtle (tinted windows) to unmissable (tippers).

  • racks and storage
  • extra seats
  • beds
  • bathrooms
  • extra or removed windows
  • tinted windows
  • sunroofs
  • wheelchair lifts
  • hand controls
  • cosmetic changes (paintwork and spoilers)
  • audio and entertainment systems
  • different power supplies
  • alloy wheels
  • refrigeration
  • permanent catering equipment
  • jet washing equipment
  • lifting equipment

Do modifications raise the cost of van insurance?

Typically, modifications will inflate the cost of the premiums on your van insurance. Modifications can increase the risk of the vehicle being stolen or involved in an accident and therefore the expense of replacing or repairing the van should that happen.

Modified vans kitted out with bike racks, high-end sound systems, and high-value equipment are highly attractive to car thieves, who not only get a hold of your vehicle but also the gear inside. Insurers view modified vans as more likely to be snatched off the street - this means they’ll need to be replaced at their cost and so charge motorists more to insure them.

Furthermore, some modifications, including supercharged engines, heavy equipment, and removed windows can also increase the van’s risk of accident and/or the severity of an accident if it does happen.

Repairing an extensively modified van will also be more expensive and time-consuming than fixing a no-frills white panel van. So the insurer, again thinking of their potential expenses, will charge you more for cover.

Modifications also drive up the overall value of the van and thus the amount the insurer will need to shell out if it’s written off or stolen.

Not all modifications will cause the same bump in your premiums, however. You might face steep costs for installing permanent catering equipment, but the effect on your premiums of extra seat or two in the back will be minimal. Installing modifications due to a disability shouldn’t affect your insurance costs significantly due to the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 and the Equality Act 2010.

What happens if you don’t declare modifications?

Don’t attempt to pull the wool over your insurer’s eyes by concealing upgrades you’ve made to the van. If the vehicle doesn’t match the policy, whether intentionally or not, your claims, even for things not related to the modifications, can be rejected. Your entire policy can even be invalidated, leaving you liable for any costs, including for damage your van causes to other people’s vehicles and property.

You won’t necessarily need to take out a new policy if you make alterations to your van in the middle of your insurance term. You will have to notify your insurance provider of the modifications, however, and they may adjust your premiums accordingly.