Be sure to read the small print...
Richard Sizeland is not a regular agility competitors these days, but he still owns dogs. He recently experienced an issue which could be relevant to quite a few Agilitynet people and dog owners and he wanted to share it via Agilitynet.
We currently own a VW Transporter Shuttle, and prior to that, had a Vito. We have had both vehicles fitted with custom made dog cages. On occasion we have left out some of the rear seats out of both vehicles in order to improve access and storage.
The insurance for the VW recently came in for renewal and we thought that we would get competitive quotes.
When talking to the usual vehicle insurers, I alerted them to the fact that we had a tow-bar and had dog cages fitted to the vehicle. In our Shuttle, the cage is removable and secures onto the load anchor points. For this, the third row of seats has to be folded forward to taken out.
One insurer after another came back with the same comments. If we were removing seats, they would not be able to offer cover. It certainly took me by surprise!
Upon further questioning of major insurers, it would appear that because seating has been removed from the manufacturer's specification - even though the handbook tells us how to do this - the vehicle becomes a 'modified vehicle' and, therefore, is subject to customised insurance terms. It didn't make any difference if the seat was only taken out for a short time.
I mention this as I suspect that many people in the dog world are unaware of this interpretation. If you take out a seat from the rear of your van to give their dog more room, or to get the extra cage - even if you put it back in later on - you risk invalidating your vehicle insurance.
It was necessary to go to a specialist broker to cover our needs.
If you have ANY alteration to the vehicle you have to notify your insurance company anything that is screwed into the vehicle i.e. a tailgate guard has to be notified, even sticking paw prints on. This is because if it's fixed to the vehicle, the insurance company has to replace 'like for like' if damaged. If, however, the tailgate or dog guard is clipped in, then you do not need to notify, but you can not claim for it. Basically the insurance companies win, you lose. Stephen Spencer (10 September 2015)
First published 2 September 2015