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Do Modified Vehicles Break the Law?

It’s summertime! Now’s the time when everyone cracks open the garage, revs their engines, and hits the road in their souped-up vehicles!

While classic cars are popular vehicles to update and drive, we also see a rise in modifications made to modern vehicles. Popular modifications can be hazardous for the driver and others on the road. In worst-case scenarios, they’re illegal and can even result in death. If you are considering modifications, you should first determine how - or if - you’ll be able to insure the vehicle.

Factory-built vehicles sold in Ontario meet standards set for noise and safety to protect motorists and allow Ontarians to enjoy the beauty of their community in peace. If your vehicle is noisy enough to disrupt civilians, you could be at risk of a fine as per the Highway Traffic Act section 75(1) Ontario Traffic Law. This section states that motor vehicles must be equipped with a muffler in working order and in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual noise, and excessive smoke. This means that you cannot operate a vehicle that has a muffler cut-out, straight exhaust, gutted muffler, Hollywood muffler, or a by-pass or similar device.

If you’ve ever wondered if the police care about noisy cars, the answer is yes! In fact, police across Ontario have enacted “Project Noisemaker” to crack down on the owners of these modified vehicles.

Aside from exhaust modifications, there are other changes that can seriously compromise the vehicle, and increase the risk of a devastating crash. A lowered vehicle does not ride high enough to protect the driver and can hit items low to the ground, which might normally go under the vehicle with ease. A lifted vehicle rides high and can cause much greater damage to the vehicle it hits in a collision. The stopping power of the vehicle can be limited as well. With diminished visibility, a pedestrian or cyclist is in greater peril when near a lifted vehicle. A lifted vehicle can also put much greater strain on the engine, increasing the chances of overheating or fire.

For all these reasons, an insurance company wants to know about any and all modifications to a vehicle. You MUST advise your insurance company in advance of driving your modified vehicle, so they can make a decision about whether the vehicle fits within their guidelines and rules for writing insurance, which is filed with the Ontario Auto Insurance Regulator (FSRA – Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario). When a vehicle is not a fit, the insurance company is obliged to make a decision about insuring the vehicle and must be consistent and compliant with its regulatory filings.

Every insurance company is different and there are places where a vehicle can be insured, but it often comes with significant conditions and costs for the coverage. We have done our research and have concluded that NO insurance company will insure an after-market modification. They all require that an underwriting review before approving and insuring a modification.

As brokers, when our clients communicate their modifications, we take care and perform our duty to listen, think, provide analysis to situations, ask questions and respond. If you’re considering making modifications to your vehicle, be sure to contact your insurance provider beforehand to discuss the changes and understand how they will affect your insurance policy!

If you have more questions about your vehicle, contact us!