Why do I need motorcycle insurance?
Just like with auto insurance, motorcycle insurance is required to register your motorcycle, moped, or scooter, every state (and the District of Columbia) requires that you produce some proof that you can provide restitution for any damage you cause while riding. In most cases, the easiest way to do that is by carrying a recommended minimum amount of insurance coverage.
In general, the recommended minimums are designed to make sure that you have enough basic liability coverage to reimburse any third parties for any damages that are incurred during an accident in which you are at fault. Some states also require motorcycle owners to carry uninsured motorist coverage in case you are involved in an accident with another driver or rider who is un- or under-insured.
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Each state has slightly different minimum coverage requirements, which you will want to check before purchasing your policy. Technically, that’s all you need to carry, but it’s usually wise to carry more than the minimum, as a policy with better coverage protects more completely. It’s something to consider, especially since in the case of an accident involving a bike and a car (or truck), you are more likely to face significant injury and/or damage to your bike. Consider this: In some states, the minimum liability insurance a motorcyclist would be required to carry is $10k. You could easily cause that much damage to a vehicle and/or its driver in even a relatively minor accident.
If you have a car insurance policy, you’re probably already familiar with the three basic types of optional bike insurance:
- Collision coverage protects you if you hit (or are hit by) another vehicle or if your motorcycle rolls over.
- Comprehensive coverage provides protection from other kinds of damages your motorcycle might encounter, such as hitting an animal, fire, flood, theft, etc. (Note: Comprehensive coverage does not cover normal wear and tear or maintenance and repairs.)
- Personal injury protection (also called medical payments) coverage will pay for your medical costs, loss of income, etc., if you are in an accident that is determined to be your fault.
Generally, with a newer, more expensive motorcycle, or one that is heavily customized, it makes more sense to carry collision and/or comprehensive cycle insurance. If you lease your motorcycle or have a loan on the bike, the lender will probably require you to carry a collision policy. This protects both the lending company and you. If the bike is totaled, you would still need to pay off any loan or lease attached to it, while also presumably paying for a replacement motorcycle.
If your motorcycle or scooter is older and has a lower book value, it may not make sense to pay the additional premiums for collision or comprehensive coverage because if your bike is damaged or totaled, the payment you receive would be relatively small and possibly not much more than the premium you paid. To see if it makes sense to keep this coverage or if you can get lower-cost motorcycle insurance by dropping it, look up its blue book value and compare it to the bike insurance quotes you’ve received.
Personal injury protection is often a good option for riders to consider even if they don’t carry it with their auto policy. Some healthcare plans specifically exclude benefits for injuries sustained during what they consider risky activity and often riding a motorcycle is included in those excluded activities. Check your existing health plan to see if they cover injuries you might experience while riding. If they do not, you need a motorcycle insurance policy that includes personal injury protection.
Other motorcycle insurance options
A basic bike insurance policy works for most owners, but if certain conditions apply to you, there are additional types of coverage you can purchase in addition to your normal motorcycle insurance policy.
Gap insurance: If you lease or finance your motorcycle, you should consider gap insurance. It protects you in case your bike is totaled, and the policy only pays out the actual cash value of the vehicle – which may be significantly less than what you still owe on the motorcycle. Gap insurance is also a good choice if you have a highly customized bike, a standard policy won’t cover the added work that has gone into your bike.
Instead of gap insurance, some carriers offer replacement cost policies, which pay out enough to cover the cost of purchasing a new bike similar to the one that was lost. These policies cost a bit more than the standard actual replacement cost policies, so whether you opt for gap insurance or replacement cost coverage, you still end up paying a bit more each month. Gap and replacement cost coverage typically add just a few dollars a month to your premium.
Lay-up periods: Many riders live in areas where they store their bikes for the winter. If you ride only during certain seasons, look for policies that provide “lay-up” periods. These policies don’t cover your bike during the winter, reducing your overall premium cost. But remember: If you’re tempted to take your bike out during a mid-winter warm spell, you aren’t covered by insurance – if you are in an accident, all the expenses will be your responsibility.
Roadside assistance and towing: This optional coverage reimburses you if your bike breaks down and needs repairs on-site or has to be towed to a garage for work.
Transport trailer coverage: If you use a trailer, or otherwise tow your motorcycle behind another vehicle, this additional coverage provides protection for the trailer and related items.
Trip interruption coverage: A good option for those who take their bikes on longer trips, this optional coverage reimburses you for expenses such as food, lodging and return transportation if your motorcycle is in an accident far from home. (Policies vary, but as a rule, the distance from home to the site needs to be at least 100 miles.)
Umbrella coverage: If you have a high net worth and/or income, an umbrella policy provides additional protection against liability claims you may face. For example, say you are at fault in a particularly bad accident that results in medical expenses or property damage that far exceeds the basic liability requirements in your state. The third parties who incurred those costs, or their insurers, can sue you for any expenses they incurred that weren’t covered by your insurance. With an umbrella policy, you can acquire additional coverage (usually starting at $1 million) so that you don’t have to worry about using your personal assets or getting your wages garnished to cover those costs.
Insurance for scooters, trikes, and custom bikes
Custom bikes: Insurance payouts are based on the value of the vehicle that’s been damaged or lost – usually determined by its blue book value. But with highly customized bikes, it’s hard to pin down an accurate number. By their very nature, the customizations are unique and not easily compared or valued.
For that reason, owners of customized motorcycles need to evaluate their bike insurance options very carefully. You should start by checking out carriers that write a lot of motorcycle insurance policies. Talking to local riders can also give you some leads on carriers in your area with good bike policies. Once you’ve identified some insurance carriers, talk with your agent or broker in detail to make sure the policy for which you are getting a quote covers the kinds of modifications you’ve made to your bike. These customizations include sidecars and any passengers who may be in it, other accessories, safety equipment and replacement cost coverage, especially custom work which may need to be repaired or replaced by specialists.
Scooters, mopeds, and trikes: It’s a common belief that these smaller, generally less expensive, vehicles are covered under any existing homeowner’s or car insurance policies and therefore, separate scooter or moped insurance isn’t needed. That is rarely the case. As motorized vehicles , scooters, mopeds and trikes are typically excluded from standard homeowners or renter’s insurance policies. And while you may be able to find a carrier that will offer an endorsement on your auto insurance policy to cover other vehicles (often as a recreational or towing-related endorsement) it’s unlikely to offer the specific kinds of coverage you need to protect yourself and your scooter or moped fully.
It’s a safer bet to get bike insurance quotes from carriers with experience writing policies specifically for a variety of types of bikes. You want to look for a few key details. The policy should offer the same kinds of protection as outlined above for motorcycles, including coverage for any safety gear or apparel you use, including helmets and gloves. It’s also a plus if the policy provides optional towing and roadside assistance coverage.
Just as with car and motorcycle insurance, your motorbike insurance probably offers discounts for things like bundling multiple policies, a clean driving history, and certain safety precautions such as using a vehicle recovery system or taking safe driver classes.
What is the best motorcycle insurance policy for me?
The best bike insurance policy for you depends on several factors. The coverage you do & don’t need will vary greatly depending on what you ride, where you ride, and other personal details. Factors you should consider when selecting possible policies include:
- What kind of motorcycle you have (make, model, age, and condition), how customized it is, and whether you own it outright or are leasing or financing
- How you ride – average number of miles per year and whether it tends to be local or distance, all year or seasonal
- What, if any, accessories you need to cover – sidecars, trailers, etc.
- What security and safety features you use to protect your bike (alarm system, garage parking, etc.)
- Decide whether or not you’re willing to take a higher deductible and pay for some damages out of pocket.
What does motorcycle insurance cost?
Motorcycle insurance rates vary depending on several factors including where you live, your age and whether you are married, your driving habits and history, the amount and type of coverage you select, the type/age/condition of motorcycle you drive, and of course, which insurance carrier you choose.
You can expect your yearly insurance premium will be between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars per year, depending on those factors. In low-cost insurance states, basic coverage can cost as little as $200-$300 a year. For a custom bike with full coverage, a policy may run closer to $3000 per year.
How can I get cheap motorcycle insurance?
When looking for cheap bike insurance, it pays to do your homework in advance. As we’ve seen, your bike insurance costs are largely determined by the coverage and limits you select, but there are ways you can save money and lower your motorcycle insurance costs.
You can usually get a multi-policy, also called multiline, discount if you hold more than one policy with the same carrier. So, for example, if you have home or renters insurance a carrier that provides your motorcycle or scooter insurance, you can get as much as a 10% discount on both. You may also be able to get a multiline discount if you have more than one bike and insure them all with the same.
Most insurers also offer lower cost insurance if you take certain steps to increase your own safety and that of your bike, such as installing security systems, taking a safe driver course, and/or parking off-street in a garage. Having a good driving history with no accidents or tickets can also earn you a lower insurance rate, or even a rebate if you continue to maintain that safety record while you hold the policy. Motorcyclists, in particular, can lower insurance costs by using safety gear and apparel such as helmets, gloves, etc. Be sure to ask your agent or broker about any such discounts they offer and make sure any that you qualify for are included in your quote.
Selecting a higher deductible is another way to save money on your motorcycle insurance. The deductible is the amount you have to pay out of pocket before your insurance coverage kicks in. For example, if your policy has a $500 deductible and your motorcycle’s damages cost $2,500, your insurer would pay out $2,000. If you selected a policy with a $5,000 deductible, you would get nothing and have to pay for all of the work yourself.
A high-deductible policy provides a little less protection while lowering your overall insurance premium. Low- and high-deductible policies each have their purpose – your specific circumstances and your comfort with risk determine which type will work best for you. As a rule, high-deductible policies work best for people who have the savings to cover a large unexpected expense and are comfortable taking on more risk. Low-deductible policies are a good choice for people with little savings who would have trouble paying for a large, up-front expense. There are also mid-level deductible policies, for those who fall somewhere in between.
Another way to lower your motorcycle insurance cost is by changing how you pay it. You may be able to get a small discount for paying your annual premium in one lump sum at the start of the year instead of in installments, or by setting up an electronic transfer instead of paying by check or credit card. Again, some insurance carriers do a better job of telling prospective customers about these features, so be sure to ask about your options when comparing quotes.
How do I compare motorcycle insurance quotes?
Before you can begin comparing motorcycle insurance quotes, you first need to determine what kind and how much insurance you need. Ideally, you’ll get quotes from several carriers, all of whom specialize in writing bike insurance policies.
Motorcycle insurance companies use roughly the same information when underwriting policies, but they use slightly different formulas to determine each person’s level of risk. The lower your perceived risk, the lower your motorcycle insurance premiums will be. When comparing the insurance quotes you receive, read them carefully to ensure they are all offering the same coverage with similar limits. A policy that has the lowest but offers $50k less in collision coverage and no options, such as roadside assistance, isn’t necessarily the best bargain.
When you compare bike insurance, you’ll also want to double check that any of the discounts mentioned previously that apply to you are represented in the quotes you get. Not all carriers are equal at promoting their discounts, so when seeking motorcycle insurance, it might be worth calling the agent or broker to find out the discounts for which you qualify.
Major motorcycle insurance carriers
These five carriers are among the best known for motorcycle insurance policies and were rated the highest by Consumer Affairs specifically for their motorcycle insurance offerings.
Allstate & Esurance (an Allstate company) – The company snagged high ratings thanks to its good customer service options and experts who can help you choose the right policy for you
GEICO – A national leader that offers flexible payment options and good rates.
Progressive – The first company to offer lower rates for low-risk riders and a trusted name within the motorcycle community for its longstanding service.
Dairyland Cycle Insurance – This company got good marks for policies that cover all brands and varieties of bikes – from motorcycles to scooters, as well as flexible payment options.
USAA – Open to members of the military (current and former) and their families, this insurer has very competitive rates and discounts for good drivers
Actual cash value – A policy that covers only the value of a damaged or destroyed bike at the time of the event
Adjuster – A professional who examines the damage to the apartment, rental home or personal property to establish the financial loss from a covered event
Carrier – The company underwriting your insurance policy
Collision coverage – A policy that protects you if your motorcycle collides with another object
Coverage caps – A limit on the amount of a given benefit that is provided for certain items or expenses
Covered event – Incidents including theft, fire, and water damage that are included in the coverage of a specific insurance policy
Deductible – The amount of a covered claim that must be paid by the insured person
Exclusions – Items or types of damage not covered by an insurance policy
Gap insurance – Coverage purchased at additional cost that protects the insured in case a leased or financed motorcycle is stolen or declared a total loss
Insurance agent or broker – The individual or agency from whom you buy your policy. They may be independent and sell policies from many different companies, or they may work solely with one insurer.
Liability coverage – Insurance for costs incurred by a third party that was caused by the insured driver’s actions or negligence
Motorcycle insurance – A general term for an insurance policy that covers various costs related to the insured person’s motorcycle, moped, scooter or trike, which may include liability, collision, medical payments, or comprehensive coverage among other types of protection
Personal injury protection policy – Also sometimes called “medical payments” this policy provides coverage for medical and related expenses the insured person incurs as a result of a motorcycle accident which is determined to be his or her fault
Replacement cost – A policy that covers that cost of replacing a damaged or destroyed item with a similar new item
Roadside assistance and towing: Optional coverage for on-site repairs or towing required if your motorcycle breaks down while on the road
Transport trailer coverage: Optional coverage for owners who use a trailer or other means of towing their motorcycles, scooters, or mopeds
Trip interruption coverage: Optional coverage that covers expenses such as food, lodging, and return transportation that is incurred if your motorcycle breaks down or is in an accident some distance from home
Umbrella coverage: Additional coverage that provides excess liability coverage, purchased at an extra cost