Motoring programmes glorify car-mod culture, but at what price for vanilla drivers?

Barbara Bradshaw IIB Biba

You know these blogs, by now: I always try to see parallels in the insurance broking arena in what, to others, may be seen as everyday events.

Today, I am reflecting on a TV motoring programme I recently saw in an idle moment, which involved the restoration of a not-quite classic sports car. The commentators, programme comperes, mechanics – call them what you will – were advocating taking said vehicle to a specialist to have the ECU upgraded and tuned, increasing the BHP by an amazing 20%.

In addition, there were different wheels, and some struts to improve handling. I won’t bore you with more petrol-head chat, but suffice it to say that the car was no longer manufacturer’s specification.

At no time was there a caveat from those running the programme, nor afterwards in the captioning, to make sure any purchaser notified their insurance company of the modifications. And we all know, don’t we, that in the event of a claim such non-disclosure can – and many would argue, should – warrant refusal to meet the claim.

It is not the insurer seeking yet another reason to avoid paying, it is simply a matter of receiving the right premium for the risk. It is a truism that with face-to-face conversations – over a broker’s counter or even knowing a locale as is the insurance broker’s modus operandi – there is a better chance of establishing fact from fiction than the ubiquitous website purchase where a dozen or so questions secure the cheap rate in a matter of (if we believe the adverts) seconds.

We constantly hear of insurance premiums bearing the brunt of uninsured drivers’ claims and the ambulance chasers hiking the premiums for the rest of us. Modified vehicles are yet another factor and, judging by the number of hot hatches with body kits, big bore exhausts and super woofer sound kits seen on our roads, it is quite a common factor.

We must seek assistance from the programme makers to offer this warning about disclosure, we must make more of the question regarding change from the manufacturer’s specification and we must make sure drivers are aware of their obligation to disclose, just as with claims and conviction records.

And, I must add, I am not trying to stop people having fun, nor being individuals, but to pay their fair whack so that another young person (particularly the young) can get a reasonable premium for his or her ordinary plain vanilla vehicle.

I read in the newspaper last week that a man was caught on the motorway drinking coffee and using his laptop while driving. The police spokesman said: “£60 fine and three points”.  Again, why is more not made of the increase in premium (probably over three years) because of such a conviction. Perhaps that would be more of a deterrent than the fine. Insurers start a campaign, please.

Barbara Bradshaw is chief executive of The Institute of Insurance Brokers (IIB).