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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Car accessories that can drive up your insurance costs

The automotive aftermarket has bloomed into a huge industry over the last 20 years or so, evidenced by the growth of such consumer shows as SEMA and AAPEX. From simple accessories to performance-enhancing items and even decorative elements, car owners have more options than ever when it comes to accessorizing, customizing and personalizing their vehicles.

However, many individuals fail to realize that protecting these investments means paying higher insurance premiums over the life of the car.

If you are interested in upgrading your vehicle with aftermarket components, take note – the following items may raise your insurance costs:

Aftermarket wheels

Custom wheels are a popular choice for individuals looking to personalize their vehicles, but the cost of aftermarket may be greater than you anticipate. Not only is there a cost associated with the purchase of the wheels themselves (some of which can sell for upwards of $1,000 or more, per wheel), but there are associated costs that owners should also take into consideration. These include reduced fuel economy (particularly noticeable on much larger wheels), more expensive tires, shorter tire life and reduced ride comfort.

After all of these costs are taken into account, the owner must then decide if he or she is going to take the necessary precautions to insure these wheels against theft or loss (and for wheels that cost $1,000 each, the answer to that question should always be "yes"). If so, it will result in higher insurance premiums. All of these costs are "hidden," for the most part, and are only discovered once buyer's remorse starts to set in.

A good way to find out how much more you might be paying for insuring your tricked-out ride is to check your car’s value on a trusted resource like Kelley Blue Book, which estimates the resale value of thousands of new and used cars for sale. Generally speaking, the more your car costs with the accessories and enhancements, the more you can expect to pay to insure it.

Custom stereos

If you're an audiophile, the first thing that you are likely to change on your vehicle is the stereo system. While this isn't nearly as easy on new cars – with their built-in systems and wrap-around dashes – as it is older models, it can still be done. However, as with aftermarket wheels, these systems can be incredibly expensive and once installed, you will want to take measures to insure yours against theft or loss.

A key consideration when it comes to aftermarket stereos is whether your insurance provider will see it as increasing the risk of theft of break-in to your vehicle. If the new component is seen as creating additional risk, this too will cause your insurance premiums to rise. Ultimately, you have to determine just how important it is to have a larger subwoofer or more powerful amp.

Performance-enhancing components

Installing performance-enhancing items on your vehicle is risky, since engine modifications may not comply with your state's emission and SMOG requirements, suspension modifications may be illegal if they result in a vehicle that is either too high or too low and any performance-enhancing mod is likely to be looked at with a suspicious eye from your insurance provider. In plain terms, performance-enhancing parts generally aren't worth the trouble and cost when it comes to car insurance.

With performance items installed on your vehicle, you are likely to see increased car insurance premiums on both your liability coverage and your comprehensive coverage. Think of it this way: if the color of your car, type of car or your age can impact your insurance premiums, so too can choosing to install performance parts that may or may not be legal, and which serve only one purpose – making your vehicle faster! Before you pursue the hot rod route, think twice about the cost.