In Hong Kong, many car enthusiasts like to modify their automobiles to improve their performance and look. Vehicle modification is more common in the West such as Europe and the United States. Some drivers may add turbochargers to boost the engine, while others upgrade their suspension to adjust the height of the ride. However, the modification process will inevitably involve legal and insurance issues.
Today, we will quickly take a look at what we should pay attention to when modifying vehicles in Hong Kong.
Is it illegal to modify a vehicle in Hong Kong?
"Illegal modification of vehicles" is an offense that we often hear of, so many people have a false impression that modification of vehicles must be illegal.
Nevertheless, according to Section 53 of the Road Traffic Ordinance of the laws of Hong Kong: "no person shall alter or cause or permit to be altered a motor vehicle or trailer so as to render its condition such that the use thereof on a road would contravene any provision of this Ordinance as to the construction, weight, equipment, brakes, steering gear or tires thereof." In other words, as long as your modification does not violate the Road Traffic Ordinance, there won’t be a legal problem.
For example, adding an exhaust tip that extends out past the body of the vehicle (further than the original) or makes more noise than the OEM's (Original Equipment Manufacturer) original part will be illegal. But if the altered exhaust tip does not extend length or increase noise, then it will be considered legal.
How do I determine whether the modifications are legal?
If you want to ensure your alteration is legal, you don’t necessarily have to read the entire Road Traffic Ordinance. The Transport Department has uploaded a few documents to help car owners determine whether their modifications will be legal or not, of which two documents are particularly important:
This is an exhaustive guide of what alterations are acceptable and what aren’t. All car owners who would like to alter their vehicles should read this document first.
Car owners are required to notify the Transport Department before making certain kinds of alterations. This document offers details on the application procedures and the criteria for notifiable alteration approval.
Can I get insurance compensation for modified vehicles?
Whether you can get insurance compensation for modified vehicles really depends on whether your alteration is legal.
If it’s an illegal modification, under no circumstances will the insurer offer coverage. The insurer may even cancel your insurance policy, so you will have to bear all the damage and repair costs out of pocket. The police may also charge you for illegal modification. After all, if the police suspect your car has been modified with either illegal parts, or in a way that breaks any of the traffic ordinances, they have the right to ask you, at any time, to submit your car for testing at one of the Transport Department's testing centers.
But if it’s a legal modification, then it will depend on the terms of your insurer and your motor insurance policy.
If you’ve completed the alterations to your vehicle before purchasing motor insurance, most insurance companies will require you to submit a list of modifications made and parts added to the vehicle, so that they can judge whether it will be too risky to cover the parts or modifications.
If you’ve secured motor insurance and would like to alter your vehicle, you should contact your insurance company. As long as your alteration is legal, most insurers are willing to add a rider to your policy terms, which includes the coverage limits of different alterations. However, you should also note that your premium will likely increase after the alteration given the higher risk of your vehicle.
Although there is no way your insurer and the Transport Department can know about your modification the instant you do it, you should not leave it to chance. If you need to modify your vehicle, you should contact your insurer and the Transport Department whenever necessary.
Will modified vehicles be covered for accidents?
To obtain insurance compensation for a modified vehicle, there are two premises: the first is that it should be a legal modification and the second is that the insurer should already be notified of the modification.
One final point to note, in the event of an accident, the insurer will only assess the damages and reimbursement based on OEM parts. So even if you added an HKD $12,000 stereo and entertainment system to your car, the insurer will merely value it at the original stereo cost provided by the manufacturer, which will likely be well below the value of parts added.
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