Buying a vehicle isn’t cheap. For most of us, it’s among the most expensive purchases we’ll make. When you’re spending a large amount of hard-earned money, you’ll naturally want to make your new car feel like your own.
For some, this simply means getting to know how it works and taking great care of it—everything from routine maintenance to regular services and filling up with the best-quality fuel. For others, it means they want to customize it, adding performance enhancements and other modifications.
The projected value of the US automotive aftermarket, according to HedgesCompany.com, the automotive market research company.
That’s all well and good—and it’s certainly easy to understand the temptation—but car mods are a common cause of warranty coverage being denied.
With one in three US drivers unable to afford unexpected repairs and relying on warranties for peace of mind and to provide protection from the highest costs, it’s important to get clear on what can be covered under an auto warranty—and what can’t.
Find out more about the various ways you can protect your vehicle, or read on to find out how to get extended warranty protection for modded vehicles.
What Counts as a Modified Vehicle?
Modifications can improve performance (such as chassis upgrades) or comfort (for example, a step rail for families with young children). Depending on your tastes, they can also improve the overall appearance of your vehicle.
Some manufacturers and approved dealers offer ‘official’ upgrades, and drivers can also choose to buy aftermarket parts to upgrade their vehicles.
What Does the Law Say?
The Magnuson Moss Warranty Act lays out what can void a warranty on a vehicle, altogether or in part. It says that vehicle owners aren’t compelled to use manufacturer parts, but the warranty provider won’t be liable to pay for repairs caused by an aftermarket part.
In addition, the Federal Trade Commission says the burden of proof is on the warranty provider to show the aftermarket part caused the problem. So, there is considerable protection for drivers if they want to make modifications to their vehicles.
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What Does It Mean for Drivers of Modified Vehicles?
We recommend you always check with your warranty company before modifying your vehicle.
If you want to modify your vehicle for aesthetic or performance reasons, you can often do so without your warranty being voided. However, the aftermarket parts you use may or may not be protected, depending on what warranty providers are willing to cover. Similarly, if another part of the vehicle requires repair as a result of the modification, those costs will not be covered.
This means the best course of action is ensure the modification work you get done comes with its own warranty. Secondly, it makes sense to check with your warranty provider whether they offer cover for the modification. If they do, you may have to pay a surcharge—but at least then you’ll be confident you’re covered if it fails.
Getting an Extended Warranty for Modified Cars
For extended warranties, it’s a little different, and significant performance-transforming modifications such as installing turbochargers or upgrading the suspension are more likely to make getting extended warranty protection a headache.
There are some popular modifications that are routinely covered under extended warranties, however, such as:
Making approved upgrades
Some upgrades are offered by manufacturers or authorized dealers, and these are likely to be within the terms of an extended warranty.
Changing the size of your tires
Whether there’s a look you like or you want to improve performance on the surfaces you drive on, using specialty tires isn’t usually a problem for warranties. A word of caution: it pays to think whether the new tires will actually improve performance for all your driving—how will ride quality hold up for long-distance journeys, for instance?
Getting a lift kit
Lifting the vehicle on its tire bearings by up to 4% or by 4 inches is often covered, even if a surcharge will sometimes apply.
However, we’d always recommend checking with your chosen warranty company first, as terms and conditions vary between providers and their plans.
If you’re trying to choose the right coverage plan for you, head over to our buyer guide, or read our reviews of the top providers here.
Modified Cars and Extended Warranties: Your Checklist
When buying a used car:
- Make sure to inspect it thoroughly and ask the seller whether or not it’s had any modifications made – if so, ask to see the paperwork and check if they’re under warranty. The Federal Trade Commission recommends asking for an independent inspection of any used car you’re thinking about buying.
When you’re tempted to customize your vehicle:
- If you’ve already taken out a warranty, call the provider to double check you won’t be voiding your coverage plan.
- If you haven’t got a warranty yet, consider whether the enhancements you want to make are likely to prohibit you from getting warranty coverage in future.
- Ensure any modification you get done comes with its own warranty.
Better safe than sorry applies with vehicle modifications. You don’t want to void a warranty and end up having to foot the bill, so check the small print, get in touch and ask specific questions before taking out coverage plans. Always check the terms carefully before you sign.
You can learn about extended warranty fundamentals, including what they cover and how they work, in our starter guide.