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Discovery Owners Club
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Discovery Insurance Buyers' Guide

Being a Discovery owner of some ten years standing and enjoying a bit of green laning, you can imagine how pleased I was recently to receive an invitation to a private off-road day. The venue was a new course in the process of construction and the meet was to allow the course marshals the opportunity to gauge the severity of the obstacles for all types of off-road vehicles. After all, a well-designed course has to provide all manner of challenges - too severe and nobody gets round, not severe enough and everybody gets round.

The art of a good course builder is to hold everybody's interest. So it was on the day. There was a varied selection of vehicles present; Discos, Jeeps, Fronteras, Suzukis and of course Defenders, ranging from street standard to heavily modified. Part of the course was non-damaging for those of us who use our vehicles for daily transport. The rest of it ranged from difficult to extreme; the most challenging sections being conquered only by the heavily modified Defenders with enormous body lifts, shortened overhangs and stepped Unimog axles that provided even more ground clearance for the running gear. I was pleased to note that the chopped Discos did exceptionally well too. Everyone made notes and observations and at the end of the day we took part in a de-briefing session where concerns and appraisals were made. All in all a great day out and well worth repeating.

Talking to some of the owners of modified vehicles on the day and reflecting on how I use my vehicle got me to thinking. If you're a Discovery owner like me and fancy doing some mods then one of your biggest headaches is probably going to be the cost and complexity of your insurance. We are all so familiar with the hysteria and bad press surrounding 4x4s, particularly those sporting bull bars, that we approach modification with both trepidation and the question, "What difference will modifications make to the cost of my car insurance premium?". Surprisingly it may not be all bad news.

Insuring a modified Discovery

How insurers treat modifications varies from company to company - so before undertaking any work check if it will affect your premium both now and on renewal. However, the typical modifications that Land Rover owners are likely to make - front protection, sump guards, lift kits, big wheels and the like (mods that don't always enhance the performance of a vehicle but do increase its capabilities) - are sure to interest your insurer. Therefore, rule number one, The Golden Rule, is ADE - Always Declare Everything. It may seem trivial and harmless but declare it. If you don't your insurance could be rendered null and void.

We, as Land Rover owners, are quite fortunate in having the services of several specialist insurers (such as Adrian Flux, Sureterm etc) who, as well as specialising in our marque, fully understand the modifications we want to make and are sympathetic to our needs. Some mods will be more punitive to insure than others, so talk to your insurer before pressing ahead with the work. Most importantly, shop around for a policy that includes like-for-like cover on all your upgrades, so you won't have to fork out again in the event of making a claim.

Insuring a standard Discovery

"Ah," you may say. "But my Discovery is street standard. It's great transport for the daily commute and I want to keep it that way whilst still being able to enjoy being part of the Discovery Owners Club". Well, there are a host of car insurance comparison sites out there all vying for your business with promises of the "cheapest quotes and lowest prices". It usually takes just a couple of minutes to compare quotes from around 40-60 companies, but a word of warning - beware of stripped down policies that provide very few benefits, as it could cost you more in the long run.

One car insurance comparison site that does tackle this problem is gocompare.com - they offer a facility to add additional policy options and see how that policy matches your requirements, so you can see at a glance whether the policy is right for you.

If you have modified your Discovery, it's still worth getting a quote through Gocompare - you just need to confirm the type of upgrades you've made. Not all insurers on their panel will be able to offer cover, but it's worth comparing quotes from those who can.

Insurance for off-roading and green laning

Another question that keeps cropping up: "Do we need specialist cover for green laning?" We all see green laning as being somewhat different from off-roading (for which specialist cover is a must); much more of a journey and an opportunity to explore areas of the countryside that are seldom accessed by motor vehicles.

The term 'green lane' has no legal meaning but is generally defined as a highway that has not had a hard surface applied to it so, in theory, all insurers should cover them as they would any other road although in practice many insurers will insist that they don't.

Probably the safest bet on this one overall is to go with a broker or direct insurer offering explicit off-road cover, for example Adrian Flux or NFU Mutual.

There are, of course, many categories of recreational off-roading - with something suitable for all levels of experience and equipment. Don't forget that Land Rover themselves also offer specialist Land Rover insurance policies that include off-road cover.

Incidentally, many of the brokers and insurance companies who cover off-road use also provide cover for exhibitions, so those of you with extreme machines can show those beasts off and make us all green with envy at the next Land Rover show.

Understanding insurance groups

Whether you have a standard Disco, are contemplating modifying or have already made upgrades, it helps if you understand Land Rover insurance groups and how they affect your car insurance premium.

Insurance groups, based on research conducted by the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre (Thatcham), are set by the Group Rating Panel, which includes the Association of British Insurers and Lloyds Market Association. Cars are assigned to any one of twenty groups with cars in the highest groups representing models likely to cost insurers the most in insurance claims. However, Thatcham have recently introduced a new set of fifty groups to use in tandem with the current twenty groups when testing new cars. This move to fifty groups means each model can be more accurately banded.

The main criteria used by Thatcham to ascertain the grouping of vehicles are: performance; security; damage and parts costs; new car values; availability of body shells; and repair costs and times. It is interesting to note that specialist paint finishes are an important factor in repair costs and are taken into account for group ratings.

Top tips for cheaper car insurance

Being a member of a car club or owners group helps, and (depending on the insurer) can knock as much as 15% off the cost of your car insurance. If you belong to a club your insurer may see you as being a more responsible person and an enthusiast who will look after and cherish your vehicle - this can lower your insurance risk, and reduce your premium. So those of you who are not members of the Discovery Owners Club, join now - you have no excuse.

Choosing the right level of insurance cover is also very important, for example if you have a beaten up old Disco that's only worth a few hundred quid then you could save money by insuring it third party (TP) or third party, fire and theft (TPFT) instead of fully comp.

Other points worth a mention are:

Well, there you have it. Choose your modifications carefully. Choose your insurer even more carefully. Choose your time. Choose your place. You've already chosen your vehicle - ENJOY IT!!