Motorcycle insurance is mandatory in most states, and where required, the minimum amount you must buy varies. Even if your state doesn't require insurance, you really should buy it. The cold, hard accident numbers show what riders know intuitively — riding is riskier than being an automobile passenger.
Your automobile insurance policy does not cover your motorcycle. Your bike needs its own policy and coverage. Fortunately, shopping around for insurance can drive down your costs and save you money because motorcycle insurance rates vary widely. This page will help you learn:
- How to save money when buying motorcycle insurance
- What all those insurance buzzwords mean
- The optional insurance coverage you need, and
- How insurance carriers calculate your rate
5 Ways to Save Money When Motorcycle Insurance Shopping
Let's look at ways you can buy the policy you need and save a few dollars in the process. Following are five common tactics to save money when buying motorcycle insurance:
Shop, Shop, Shop!
Compare prices and offers from three or more insurance carriers. (In insurance-speak, a carrier creates the policy, sets prices, and handles claims when there's an accident. An agent helps you decide which policy you need.) When it comes to insurance quotes, you have plenty of options. Nearly all auto insurance carriers offer coverage for motorcycles, and some specialty carriers, such as Rider Insurance, provide bike coverage exclusively.
Bundle Your Coverage
Maybe you already have an insurer that covers your car and home or apartment. If so, your carrier is a good place to start your price comparisons. Many insurers offer multiple policy discounts, which means you may get a deal if you combine, or bundle, a motorcycle policy with your current coverage. What's more, you have a history with the insurer and agent so you know what to expect in their level of service.
Take a State-Approved Rider Training Course
An excellent way to lower your insurance costs is to take a motorcycle safety class. Not all motorcycle safety training courses are the same. Look for a course that is approved by your state. The National Association of State Motorcycle Safety Administrators (SMSA) recognizes some courses as meeting federal standards for entry-level rider training. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) offers the most common curriculum, but again, look for a state-approved course. Great training will not only make you a better and safer rider, but pay dividends if you keep your insurance record free of claims.
For example, GEICO offers a 10 percent discount to riders who completed a recent state-approved motorcycle safety or military safety course.
Consider Higher Comprehensive and Collision Deductibles
The higher the deductible, the lower your premium. The deductible is the amount you pay out-of-pocket before your insurance carrier pitches it. If you're a careful and confident rider, you might want to raise the deductible on your comprehensive and collision.
Keep Your Driving Record Clean
Accidents, tickets and claims will drive up the costs of your policy. Even worse, the carrier might drop you altogether. The need to maintain a clean driving record c'n't be overemphasized.
You can save money by looking for insurance carriers offering discounts for:
- Mature riders
- Bikes with anti-lock brakes
- Bikes with anti-theft devices
- Members of certain riding clubs
Thanks to advertising, we all know the names of the largest U.S. auto insurance carriers — State Farm, Allstate, Geico, Progressive and Farmers. But others we have never heard of want your business, too. Independent insurance agents, which can pick and choose from insurance carriers to find coverage tailored to your needs or budget, may steer you to an unfamiliar name. Before signing-up for insurance from a carrier you don't recognize, see the NAIC insurance database (a hyperlink is in the Resources below) to learn if the carrier is permitted to operate in your state, is financially solvent and has a low number of unresolved complaints.
Liability? Collision? Comprehensive? Insurance Jargon Decoded
If you're one of those who doesn't understand the language of vehicle insurance, join the crowd. Many riders — like auto drivers — are confused by insurance terminology and don't want to spend the time to understand it. If you don't pay attention, you might wind up with a policy that doesn't meet your needs. You may wish you asked your agent more questions if you get into an accident or if a thief purloins your ride.
You need to know how much it will cost you if an accident is your fault or what you can expect if it isn't. You will see terms like 15/30 and 10/20/10 on your policy. Let's find out what those numbers mean, as well as basic motorcycle insurance terms you must know.
Liability coverage comes into play if you cause property damage, such as knocking down a fence or denting another vehicle. It also covers injuries you cause to another driver or a pedestrian. Liability coverage steps in to help shield you from paying for these damages out of your own pocket. Liability coverage pays up to the stated limit if someone sues you because of the accident. You'll be glad you have liability coverage if you injure or kill someone. Your insurer pays for the victim's income losses, medical and hospital bills and pain and suffering.
Property damage is self-explanatory. If an accident is your fault, the property damage coverage pays for damage to structures, repair or replacement costs for other stationary objects, or repairs to the vehicle you hit.
That leads us back to what the numbers 15/30 mean. In short, they're the amount of insurance you buy for liability coverage. The numbers are expressed in thousands, and state minimums range from 10/20 to 50/100.
The first number (15 or 50, for example) is the limit the insurance carrier will pay someone you injure in an accident. The second number (30 or 100, for example) is the total limit the carrier will pay if you injure more than one person in an accident.
Even if you can afford insurance with higher limits, you might choose to save a few bucks by buying the minimum required by your state. But that strategy could backfire if it's not enough to cover damages if you're at fault in a major accident.
Liability coverage does not pay for your medical bills as the result of an accident. Therefore, it's wise to know your health insurance limits.
Policies also have property damage limits, which every state requires. State minimums range from $5,000 to $25,000.
Each state specifies a minimum amount liability and property damage amounts. For motorists in California, the state minimums are 15/30/5, while the state minimums in Illinois are 20/40/15 and the Florida limits are 10/20/10. Contact your state's DMV or a local insurance agent to learn the liability and property minimums in your state.
No state requires collision or comprehensive coverage. Collision coverage pays for damage to your bike if you run into another vehicle or something else, such a parked car, a post or other stationary objects.
Comprehensive coverage pays for damage or loss of your motorcycle if the cause is something other than a collision. Good examples of non-collision are theft, fire, vandalism or storm damage.
Generally, policies will reimburse you for the fair market value of your motorcycle. That's the amount it would fetch if you put it up for sale just prior to the accident. It's not what you paid for it. If your motorcycle isn't worth much, you might want to forego comprehensive coverage or pick a policy that has a high deductible.
If you financed your motorcycle, your bank will require collision and comprehensive coverage — no matter the cost to you.
Assuming you're a perfect rider, you're still sharing the road with millions of automobiles and trucks — many of which operated by drivers attending to their phones, screaming kids, personal grooming, and other distractions. Even if you do nothing wrong, an inattentive driver may strike you and your bike. Uninsured and underinsured insurance allows an injured driver recover up to the amount of his or her uninsured and underinsured coverage when the other driver has little or no insurance.
You might wonder why you need this coverage. A stunning number of motorists are uninsured. Across the U.S., one in eight U.S. drivers have no insurance. In Oklahoma and Florida a shocking one out of every four vehicles are uninsured.
Insured & Uninsured Motorists by State
|Rank||Highest||Percent uninsured||Rank||Lowest||Percent uninsured|
Source: Insurance Research Council, 2012
If a driver with limited coverage harms you, an underinsured policy fills the gap between what the at-fault driver's insurance will cover and the total cost of the accident. If someone with no insurance hits you, your uninsured policy replaces the liability coverage the driver should have had and covers your costs up to your policy's limits. You cannot buy more uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage than the amount of your liability coverage.
You can buy uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage for bodily injuries, and in some states it's available for property damage as well. The cost for uninsured/underinsured motorists is usually tiny, and accordingly, it's a no-brainer to buy. As mentioned above for liability coverage, it's a good idea to buy a significant amount of uninsured and underinsured insurance — 100/300 is the minimum to buy.
The Myth & Reality of 'Full Coverage'
Like Sasquatch, many people claim to have sighted "full coverage" motorcycle policies. But like Big Foot, full coverage insurance doesn't exist. No insurance policy covers every possible loss in unlimited amounts. When people talk about full coverage, they probably bought a policy combining several insurance types that, as a whole, cover a wide variety of losses in large amounts.
Even though it doesn't exist, you can create something like the magical, mythical full coverage by piecing together the following options:
Most state minimums are too low and were set decades ago. To protect yourself adequately, specify amounts ten times greater than your state's minimums.
As mentioned above, buy an amount covering the value of your bike. Any extra amount is a waste.
As mentioned, buy enough to cover the value of your bike. Again, any extra above your bike's value is wasteful.
Pays your medical bills after an accident, even if you were at fault. Review your existing medical insurance coverage before loading-up on medical insurance.
If you're in an accident and your motorcycle goes into the repair shop, this insurance covers all or most of a rental. A waste of money unless you tour frequently or your bike is your daily driver.
Comes into play if your bike breaks down on the road and needs transport to a repair shop or your home.
Reimburses you for the cost of damages to custom parts you added to the bike.
The last three — rental, road service, and custom parts — are great add-ons if you plan to tour or overland. Conversely, if you rarely ride far from home and your bike is stock, then buying optional insurance is a waste of money.
Insurance carriers do not offer cookie-cutter policies — the details and amounts of protection vary from carrier to carrier. Before selecting a policy, make sure you thoroughly understand it so you know exactly what you're getting.
Your goal is not to buy protection for every possible event. You goal is to buy enough protection to cover your likely events. Ask for coverage and limits that best meets your situation.
Why Motorcycle Insurance Is so Expensive
Even though a motorcycle usually costs less than a car, the likelihood of it being involved in an accident is much greater. And when a motorcycle is in an accident, the consequences are usually more severe.
According to the NHTSA, in 2013 motorcyclists were about 26 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle mile traveled and five times more likely to be injured.
A 2007 report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said riders of sport bikes, which can reach speeds of 190 MPH, had driver death rates nearly four times higher than those for drivers of other types of motorcycles. Accordingly, insurance rates for Ducati sport bikes are higher than equivalently priced BMW adventure bikes.
10 Factors Dictating Your Motorcycle Insurance Rate
How much you'll pay for motorcycle insurance depends on these 10 factors:
Size of Your Bike's Engine
Typically, insurance cost correlates with engine displacement — big bikes cost more. For example, you'll pay more for insurance for a 1200 CC Triumph Bonneville than a 313 CC BMW G310R, all other things being equal.
Older drivers usually pay less for insurance that younger owners of the same type of bike. This is because drivers from 16 to 25 years of age are among the riskiest to insure. Young drivers tend to be in more significant accidents than older-aged motorcyclists and files more claims.
Type of Motorcycle
Sport bikes are generally more expensive than other types, and thus the premiums are generally higher.
Where You Keep Your Bike
If it's parked in a garage you'll probably pay less than if it's parked on the street where it's more likely to get hit or stolen.
Your Driving Record
History of accidents or tickets? Prepare to pay more. The same goes for less experienced riders. If you're a first-time rider you're likely to be penalized because of the higher risk of an accident.
Average Number of Miles You Ride Each Week
More miles equal higher premiums because of the greater chance of a mishap. Fewer miles equal lower premiums.
Where You Live
If you live in a big city, you pay more than someone living in a rural area.
Nineteen states require motorcycle riders to wear a helmet while on the road and 28 states require the protection for only for certain riders, according to Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), a part of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. No matter where you live, it makes sense to don a helmet. An NHTSA study of 900 motorcycle crashes showed that helmeted riders experienced significantly fewer and less severe head and neck injuries than unhelmeted riders and passengers.
If you select a policy with higher coverage limits and a lower deductible, count on paying more.
If you've completed a motorcycle safety course, many insurers will give you a break on your premium. Discounts range from 5 to 20 percent.
Motorcycle Insurance Glossary
Larger-displacement bikes that have bags and a capability for limited off-road use.
This refers to the physical injury a person suffers as the result of an accident for which you are liable. It can include physical injury, and pain and suffering.
A motorcycle that looks like an American-style bike from 70 years ago. Cruisers tend to be long, low, with fat bottoms that scrape fairly easily in corners. The rider sits up straight on it.
The amount subtracted from an insurance payout that you are responsible for. If you have a $500 deductible for your collision coverage and an accident causes $1,000 of damage to your bike, you pay $500 and your insurance covers the remaining $500.
This type of coverage doesn't really exist. The term actually refers to the combination of collision and comprehensive.
If you buy this optional coverage, it will pay reasonable medical expenses if you're hurt in an accident, regardless of who is at fault.
PIP coverage can pay for accident-related medical expenses up to your policy limits regardless of fault. It will not pay for the damages you cause to other motorcyclists or drivers. Medical Payment Coverage will cover certain out-of-pocket expenses not covered by your health insurance policy if you're injured in an accident.
You must carry liability insurance, no matter what state you live in. Basic liability refers to the minimum amount required and it differs state to state.
If your bike is damaged due to fire or vandalism or if it's stolen, comprehensive insurance covers the loss.
Motorcycles are customized in two ways. The first is to build one from the ground up. The other way is to take a stock bike and alter it or add specialized parts.
This refers to anything not covered by your policy, such as individual drivers, certain types of accidents or injuries or weather events and natural disasters.
If your bike is financed and totaled in a collision, gap insurance pays the difference between the balance of the loan and what your insurance carrier pays.
The MSF offers courses designed to develop a novice rider into an excellent one.
This type of liability coverage comes into play if you knock down a fence or dent another vehicle.
Rider and drivers who carry no insurance or don't have enough coverage to pay many claims.
A racing style of bike designed for excellent acceleration, cornering and braking. This type of bike is agile, relatively light, fun to ride and expensive to insure for young riders.
Search the NAIC database to learn if the insurance carrier you're considering has many complaints, is licensed to operate in your state, and appears to be financially solvent.
Click on your state to learn the motorcycle and auto insurance requirements that apply to you.
Accident statistics that compare the injury and mortality rates for automobiles and motorcycles.