I had an interesting agreed insurance valuation request this week for a 2007 E92 335i Coupe, originally delivered as an SE Automatic but now manual and highly modified from factory spec.

Photos showed that the car was finished in Crayon Grey rather than its original Space Grey. Sitting lower than standard, the non-standard colour and lower ride height were the most obvious items from a huge list of modifications including manual conversion with short shift, Quaife LSD and ceramic clutch with single mass flywheel, hybrid turbos with MTC intercooler, aluminium charge pipe, methanol port injection and Mosselman oil cooler, Miltek exhaust with catless downpipes, BC coilovers, upgraded brakes, Sparco seats with 4-point harnesses, RS alloy wheels, a half cage and more. The owner quoted a build cost of over £25,000 and, while some aspects were still works in progress, the overall impression was positive.

Showing 110k miles on the odometer, this car had been reinvented from its former self. To get a better idea of what that former self looked like, I carried out an HPI check and discovered two insurance claims: a Cat S (structural) claim about five years ago and a lesser Cat N claim two year later. A quick scan of salvage auction photos showed the 2017 aftermath and, while it was obviously structural, and we can’t necessarily see everything from photos, it did not appear to be that heavy. It was no surprise that the car had been repaired; the 335i Coupe is a rare bird with an impressive turn of speed.

Howmanyleft showed that while 1021 SE Auto Coupes had been registered in 2007, manual cars numbered just 370 units. As always, one must take this data with a pinch of salt, but this sort of split between auto and manual tallies with expectations on a car of this type. While used buyers are keen on manual examples, new car buyers have a different attitude: the cars are usually work tools bought through fleet companies. Sitting in traffic all day with three pedals to manage is not always preferred.

This SE Auto had 11 previous keepers, so the current owner was keeper number 12. While this would not be great for market value as a desirable used collectable with a rising market profile in factory original condition, 11 previous keepers on a car with two notes on the hit list has a lesser effect.

Cat S in insurance valuation

Records of insurance categorisation are not unusual on modified cars. Significant accident damage or extremely high mileage heavily devalues prestige and sports cars, and so the vehicles are ideally placed to be repaired and modified rather than using an undamaged original car that would cost quite a bit more to buy, only to be taken apart.

Given the amount of money that some people spend modifying their cars, it is amazing how few owners agree insurance valuations in advance. Two recent write off reports for very different vehicles – a Porsche 911 Convertible and a modified Vauxhall Corsa – highlighted the difference between actual market value and insurer-assessed market value in total loss/write off valuations for specialist cars: over 20% in the case of the Porsche and much more on the Corsa.

For owners of modified cars who end up in total loss claims. Let me stress that, whatever anyone tells you, there is absolutely no substitute for agreeing the insurance valuation in advance. The stress of negotiating a market value settlement that is always less than a valuation agreed in advance, not to mention the time involved in settling a claim, which can often take months on modified cars, with all of the onus on the owner to provide recent market valuations that often do not exist, makes an agreed valuation worth its weight in gold.

As to our modified 335i, the history of the original car was undeniably material to its current valuation, but the owner had done things right and the car had been repaired to a good standard. My valuation balanced many factors including the HPI check history, market interest in 335i manual coupes, the value of the car as used parts, the cost to replace or recreate the car in modified form with an allowance for wear and tear, market observations for similar cars with adjustments for specifics and more.

The owner was happy with the number. There is little doubt that, in a total loss situation, it was much higher than the value an insurer looking at a market value policy would be trying to settle at and was a wise investment in a stress-free future life.

Photo by Fabian Albert on Unsplash