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No Insurance Coverage: Forming A Policy Against Tuners

Insurance—Or Lack Of It—May Spell The End For Sport Compact Enthusiasts


Canadian Ron Shortt is a far cry from the fast and furious type: The 47-year-old Toronto man drives a 2002 Pontiac Sunfire back and forth to his job as a computer information technology specialist, and his driving record is snow-white clean—no accidents, no tickets.

None of that mattered when Shortt decided to dress up his Sunfire with off-the-shelf, bolt-on interior parts, special wheels, a trick exhaust and lowered springs. In response, his insurer of 15 years, State Farm, canceled his policy, citing the lowered springs as a big no-no.

As with muscle cars of yore, which faded away as much because of jacked-up insurance rates as the triple whammy of high gas prices, government emissions rules and safety regulations, insurance companies are embarking on a collision course with the booming population of drivers who insist on tuning their sport compact rides.

“The insurance industry may be able to accomplish what the police could never do,†says Shortt, “by making all these cars illegal to be on the streets because they can’t get coverage.†Shortt eventually wound up back with State Farm, but not before he reinstalled the factory springs and had the work verified by an insurance company adjuster.

Steve Budzinski of Ottawa also was dropped by State Farm because of performance upgrades to his Acura Integra Type-R. “My underwriter flat out told me it no longer wants to insure modified cars,†said Budzinski.

State Farm Canada spokes-man Derek Fee says the insurer has no blanket policy to refuse coverage to the sport compact segment, but he acknowledges some sport compact owners—particularly those involved in street racing—are a growing concern. “That subculture is causing difficulties for the rest,†Fee says.

In the United States, major insurers like AAA and State Farm say sport compacts aren’t a problem—at least not yet. State Farm spokeswoman Ana Compain-Romero says the company has no issues with minor upgrades such as lowered springs and tuned exhaust systems, but she recommends informing your agent about any modifications, especially when you go from minor to major. Changes discovered after the fact (say, after an accident when an owner is trying to collect against the policy) may void the coverage.

“Changes are subject to an agent taking a look and an underwriter deciding if we can extend coverage,†Compain-Romero says.

That kind of talk has some people worried Canada’s sport compact insurance woes could be a precursor of similar trouble in the United States. Steve McDonald, senior director of government affairs for the Specialty Equipment Market Association, says the aftermarket group is keeping an eye on the situation and gathering information.

“We’re not sure how widespread it is,†McDonald says. “We are alarmed by the possible implications of this.â€

Meanwhile, auto manufacturers are powering ahead with plans for performance models, as well as building up their inventories of performance parts that can be used to turn their sport compact entries into tire-ripping street burners. Automakers contend they are merely responding to demand from customers who want performance.

Are they concerned about potential insurance pitfalls? “To a degree, yes,†says General Motors sport compact expert Bob Kern. “But 90 percent of kids say ‘So what?’ Most kids are dedicated to the cars and aren’t really reading the fine print. I think a lot of them don’t know they could invalidate their policies by modifying their cars.â€


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There's a lot of this happening in the states as well. A few MR2 guys i know were denied coverage by their insurance companies because of modifications to their cars which "may have contributed to the likelihood of an accident."

One of them also had a letter sent to him citing that these modifications encouraged street racing and other illegal activities.

Insurance companies are enough of a scam. Now they're getting bitchy about what we put on the damn cars?

Someone would get a lot of business if they started an insurance company that specifically catered to the modified car market.

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Guest saleen351

how does a company know what you did to your car? never had an issue with my 5.0, which would destroy those ricers performace wise and I was 20 years old....

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Originally posted by saleen351

how does a company know what you did to your car?

the second you get into an accident and a claims adjuster shows up, or even i've heard of them being informed by adjusters inquiring about the car at places where it might get work done or get inspected.

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Its called a friends shop and tear that shit off if its able to be seen.

We had my last car stripped within 2 hours of the accident putting stock parts on.

If the car IS said to be totalled and its still the banks car, you cant touch a damn thing.

I got everything off the car right before it went to get scrapped. Its good to know people. I actually made MORE money off all the parts then what the car was worth.

It was a '99 Jetta btw :D

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