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Vehicle modification causes insurance complications for Ontario man

Click to play video: 'Modifying your car could void your insurance' Modifying your car could void your insurance
WATCH ABOVE: Loud exhausts, lowered suspensions, even tinted windows: they’re examples of modifications made to vehicles every year by owners trying to personalize their ride. But changing the car’s look or sound can mean your insurance may not be there when you need it most. Seán O’Shea reports – Apr 30, 2021

Modasir Ayobi takes a lot of pride in his car.

A year ago, the 21-year-old Whitby, Ont., man leased a 2020 Subaru BRZ and is working two jobs to pay for it.

The monthly lease costs him about $500. His insurance is even more: $7,200 a year.

But after he collided with another vehicle on March 12 that left his vehicle a total loss, Ayobi got a second shock: the insurance company wouldn’t pay up.

“They denied the whole claim, around $35,000,” Ayobi said.

Read more: ICBC customers set to get COVID-19 rebate due to fewer crashes during pandemic

Ayobi was never charged in the accident although he was determined to be at fault by Desjardins Insurance.

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It refused to pay for the loss because Ayobi had modified the Subaru exhaust system without its knowledge or permission.

When he leased the vehicle in 2020, Ayobi paid more than $2,000 to have a customized exhaust system installed on the Subaru. He kept the original one in his basement, intending to have it reinstalled on the vehicle when a four-year lease came up.

A modified exhaust system, a favourite of many young drivers, is typically louder than the original equipment that comes with the vehicle.

“If I knew modifications would affect insurance I wouldn’t have done that,” he told Global News.

Other drivers are probably unaware as well, especially if they don’t carefully read their insurance policy and the documents that accompany it.

Read more: Consumer SOS: Ontario Volkswagen owner cautions others after sunroof shatters

In an overview letter that was sent to Ayobi at the time he was insured, Desjardins alluded to the risk.

“Your vehicle is considered to be modified if it has been changed in any way from its original condition in order to improve or alter its performance, appearance or increase its value. If you make or plan to make modifications to your vehicle, contact us to make certain we are able to insure you properly,” the document reads.

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Modifications could include a louder exhaust system, a lowered suspension, even tinted windows. If an insurance company believes you have violated its terms, you could pay the price.

Desjardins Insurance not only denied the claim it cancelled his insurance policy.

Click to play video: 'VW owner cautions others after sunroof shatters' VW owner cautions others after sunroof shatters
VW owner cautions others after sunroof shatters – Apr 26, 2021

However, Ayobi’s story has a bright ending: after Global News contacted the company about Ayobi’s case, Desjardins Insurance reviewed the claim and has agreed to pay in full.

“That is correct,” a spokesperson said in an email.

Others might not be so lucky. If someone wants to modify a vehicle, the safe bet is to contact the insurance company to see if it will be a problem.

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