Question: I’m thinking about getting a custom paint job on my car. I hope to spend only a couple thousand on it, but it could be more. Will my car insurance policy cover this if it’s damaged in an accident?
Answer: Custom paint jobs aren’t typically covered by your average personal auto insurance policy. This is considered a modification to the vehicle, and unless your car insurance company was notified about the custom paint job and specifically said it would be covered by your current policy, it probably won’t be.
For any damage to your vehicle to be covered by your car insurance policy, you need to have physical damage coverages of collision and comprehensive on it.
Collision insurance covers your vehicle for when it hits, or is hit by, another vehicle or object. Comprehensive then covers you for incidents like theft, vandalism, glass breakage, fire, striking an animal and damages from natural weather events like a hail or wind storm.
Auto insurance providers may include in your comprehensive and collision coverage a small amount of coverage on custom parts, such as $500 or $1,000, if required by state law or because the coverage is part of a company's internal guidelines.
However, if your policy doesn’t state that it will cover any custom parts, then you should assume it doesn’t. In this situation, if your car’s custom paint job were damaged in an accident, your policy would pay only the cost of factory paint for the damaged area.
If you want your custom paint job to be covered, you need to add a custom parts and equipment (CPE) endorsement to your policy (collision and comprehensive usually will be required to be part of your policy as well).
For example, Progressive offers custom parts and equipment coverage. With this company, when you purchase comprehensive or collision coverage you get $1,000 of CPE coverage, in most states. But, then you can add up to $4,000 of additional CPE coverage so that your policy will cover up to $5,000 of custom parts.
Custom parts and equipment coverage varies by insurer. Thus, it's important to read through coverage terms and exclusions before purchasing a policy with a CPE endorsement.
Also, be aware of the limit. If you end up spending $8,000 on your paint job and your CPE maximum limit is $5,000, then you’ll have to pay the rest out of pocket to get a damaged paint job repaired.
If you have a collectible or show vehicle that you are getting painted or customizing, it’s likely you’ll need to look for specialized coverage. (See "Insuring your keepsake car")
Since coverage, limits and cost of custom parts and equipment coverage vary by insurer you should shop around for the company that fits your overall car insurance needs for the best price.
And one tip for the road: Take photos and document any enhancements you make to your vehicle. If you have to make a claim at a later date, this proof will help the claim move along faster.