Purchasing a motorcycle is a lifelong dream for many people: what’s not to love about a fast and sleek ride that will be the envy of many friends and neighbors? Before you put the rubber to the road, or even head to the dealership, it’s important to consider one less-than-sexy aspect of motorcycle ownership: motorcycle insurance.
Do I Need Motorcycle Insurance?
If you’ve already looked into motorcycle financing and have decided that you’d like to own your own, then it’s probably not a surprise that you will most likely need to purchase motorcycle insurance.
But it might surprise you that four states — Florida, Montana, New Hampshire, and Washington — actually don’t require motorcycle insurance. As a matter of fact, New Hampshire doesn’t even require car insurance!
But that doesn’t mean you should not buy it. Protecting yourself from costly damage and legal battles will provide financial security and peace of mind. Even in the four states that do not require insurance, the government usually requires some proof of financial investment in your decision and protection against the potential adverse consequences of driving a motorcycle. Florida, for example, requires proof of at least $10,000 in medical benefits coverage, which can come from a health insurance policy. And if you did not pay for your motorcycle outright, you can be sure that the financial institution that did will require you to have insurance.
On the other hand, some states not only require personal motorcycle insurance coverage, but also require motorcyclists to have uninsured motorist coverage as well.
This sort of coverage protects you from having to pay for an accident caused by another rider if that other rider does not have coverage (or has inadequate coverage). Whether or not it’s mandatory, it’s often a smart move to secure this type of coverage — otherwise, you could be hit with unexpected costs if you’re in an accident, whether or not you were at fault.
Just like with any type of insurance policy, it’s important to do your research and shop around to find the best deal on motorcycle insurance.
What Type of Insurance Do I Need?
Just like with auto insurance, the minimum required coverage is generally liability insurance, which will cover any damage your motorcycle causes in the event of an accident if you are at fault.
If you are in an accident, this coverage is generally far from adequate — especially if you are in an accident where you are not at fault. Standard minimum liability insurance will often be inadequate if you’re sued after an accident, and the other party could come after your assets. Liability insurance also will not protect your bike against theft or damage from natural causes, such as strong winds, rain, or hail. Passengers other than you are also not always covered under minimum liability insurance and you may need to purchase passenger liability coverage in some states.
Just like with car insurance, the type of insurance you personally need will be a balance between costs and potential benefits — in other words, it will provide adequate coverage while making financial sense.
How Much Will I Pay for Motorcycle Insurance?
As is the case with any type of insurance, the answer is: it depends. If you already have car insurance, you should certainly check with your insurance agent, as you may get a discount for using the same insurance provider.
You should also research different policies from reputable providers and talk to other motorcycle owners. But the bottom line is that how much you will pay depends on how much of a risk you and your bike are for the insurance company as well as how much coverage you’re buying.
Your own personal risk factors will have a big impact on how much you’ll end up paying for motorcycle insurance. If you live in a rural area, your insurance will likely cost less than if you live in a highly congested urban area. If you have been in lots of accidents or have had many tickets, your insurance will also cost more. If you are either very young (under 25) or old (over 50), you will likely pay more as well. Likewise, if you have ever had your insurance canceled or let your policy lapse. Many insurance companies offer lower rates on motorcycle insurance for those loyal customers who have had another type of insurance policy with them for many years.
The type of motorcycle license you have will also impact your coverage costs.
The better your license, the less you will pay. For example, if you only have a learner's or graduated license, you’ll pay more than if you have a full license for many years.
As with car insurance, it’s not just how risky you are as a driver that matters. What’s actually being insured is not just you as an individual, but your motorcycle as well. The value, make, model, and engine size all factor into premium costs; a fancy bike may be more fun to ride and show off, but it will also be pricier to insure. How you store your bike and where you live will also factor into how much your insurance company will charge. In general, bikes with smaller engines and low horsepower, older bikes, and cruiser style bikes cost less to insure than bikes with large high horsepower engines, new bikes, sports bikes, and turbocharged bikes. Japanese manufactured bikes also generally cost less to insure than Harley-Davidsons and BMWs.
Of course, how much and what kind of coverage you are buying will also play a large role in determining your policy’s cost.
Beyond minimum liability coverage, you have several insurance options — they are similar to the standard options for auto insurance.
Comprehensive coverage will cover “acts of God” such as weather or animal damage, or in the event of theft.
Collision insurance, as the name implies, will protect you in the event you collide with another motorcycle and it is their fault.
Personal injury protection, or PIP, will cover injuries to any parties involved in an accident regardless of who is at fault. This coverage is not available in every state because motorcyclists, in general, are a high-risk category of motorists.
Roadside assistance will cover the costs of getting you and your bike to a garage for repairs in the event that it breaks down. In this same vein, trip interruption coverage will pay for additional costs such as lodging and food if your bike happens to be in an accident during a trip far from home.
Each insurance company will likely have a slew of additional coverage options as a part of their standard motorcycle coverage policies. Check with your insurance provider and other riders to discuss all of the options available to you.
Protect Your Parts!
If you’ve spent money on a custom bike, chances are you are very invested in your motorcycle personally and emotionally, as well as financially. This makes coverage for custom parts and accessories all the more important. You can often buy up to $30,000 in coverage for non-standard parts including sidecars and trailers as well as fancier additions such as stereo systems and custom enhancements.
Ways to Save on Motorcycle Insurance
There are many ways to save on motorcycle insurance costs without skimping on coverage. Tell your insurance provider if you park your bike inside a locked garage, or have installed an alarm, as these measures may mean lower insurance costs for you. Additionally, a motorcycle safety course is a great way to save financially as well as ensure you’re prepared to drive your bike safely. Taking such a course could also help you avoid costly accidents. Cleaning up your driving record, in general, will also lower your costs.
Do you live in an area where it snows a lot during a long winter? If so, a lay-up policy could help decrease your costs by providing lower payments (and coverage) during the months where you won’t be riding your bike anyways.