Riding a motorcycle legally on the streets and roads of the United States requires one to have motorcycle insurance. It is the law - ignore it and any rider will face severe legal and financial consequences - and it is wise, too. Motorcyclists are vulnerable, as are their motorcycles, and insurance can help bring a rider or bike back to normal, or as close as possible, should either be damaged in a crash.
It really does not matter which style of riding is employed or which make and model of bike is ridden, insurance is a need, not a want. Going without it is irresponsible and could lead to financial or physical damages from which the rider may never recover.
Fortunately, motorcycle insurance is widely available and there is a policy out there to fit any rider’s needs. The expense will vary significantly depending on the history of the rider and the size, type and value of the motorcycle. However, any licensed motorcycle operator should be able to purchase insurance for nearly any bike, though, classic and vintage machines may require coverage from a specialized insurer.
How much you pay for this will depend on a few important factors. The first, and most important, is the driving record of the rider - both two and four-wheel histories are considered. Next, the bike to be insured is evaluated based on the make, model and purpose, and then the area where the rider resides is taken into account. These three are pulled together with the rider's credit rating (FICO score) and compared with enormous statistic tables maintained by the insurance industry to determine the cost of insuring the bike and rider and the insurance premium is set.
The premium may be affected by other aspects as well. For instance, if the rider has other vehicles covered by the insurance company, he or she may receive a "multi-line discount" when adding a motorcycle insurance policy. Addionally, the following all can help reduce the premiums:
- Completing a motorcycle safety class
- Installing an alarm
- Keeping the bike in a secure garage
Always ask any agent about these options as any one of them can keep the expenses associated with coverage less burdensome.
Finding the best motorcycle insurance has never been easier than it is now. Most, if not all, insurance companies which provide coverage for motorcyclists and motorcycles are online and a quote may be obtained from any of their websites.
This makes getting insured as simple as accessing the Internet and having a credit card. However, with some special cases, such as with a collectible motorcycle, it may be best to work with an agent experienced in those situations in order to get the best policy at a decent cost.
However the insurance is obtained, it must come from a reputable company with knowledge of the motorcycle industry and lifestyle. This has an effect not only on costs, but also on exactly what will be covered should the unfortunate occur. While many parts of an insurance policy are legislated by state governments, significant portions are up to the insurer and insured. Knowing how to choose the correct coverage takes some time investigating what is available and what is advisable for the circumstances.
This guide to motorcycle insurance discusses the following coverage:
- Comprehensive and Collision
- Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist
- Medical coverage
- Roadside assistance
- Full Coverage
Liability insurance covers damage caused by a driver or rider to someone else or someone else’s property when the vehicle operator is at fault. It is regulated by each state and is required for operating any type of vehicle on any paved road in every part of the United States.
Each state has its own minimum coverage standards that must be carried by every road user, and these are often the only amounts a driver or rider will buy. However, since many of these specifications were drawn up many years ago, having higher coverage amounts in these days of ever increasing vehicle values is a far smarter and safer route to take.
The format for a liability policy follows a pattern which is written like this: 15/30/10. This actually translates into English easily. The first number, 15, indicates that this policy covers up to $15,000 for bodily injury caused to another person. The second number, 30, states that the insurance company will pay a maximum of $30,000 for bodily injury per incident under this coverage. And the last number, 10, is there to show that the insurance company will only pay out a maximum of $10,000 per accident for property damage with this policy.
The policy used as an example above is close to what many states have set as minimum coverage. Given that the average automobile or truck sells for over $30,000, a simple fender-bender can cause upwards of $2500 in damage, and with the ever-increasing costs of healthcare, a rider needs much more than what that default policy covers - perhaps ten times the 15/30/10 amounts. The increase in coverage will cost more, but selecting a higher deductible - the amount for which the insured rider is responsible - will reduce the costs somewhat.
The state minimum liability coverage must be in place in order for a rider to be road legal, so it is absolutely required or the rider will have to deal with serious legal repercussions should he or she be involved in an accident for which the rider is to blame. Such an incident could even lead to suspension of an operator’s license.
Comprehensive and Collision
Comprehensive and Collision coverage are designed to repair or replace the bike should it be involved in a crash or stolen, without regard to who is at fault, and they are often purchased together. The cost of these two will usually track closely with the value of the motorcycle itself, though every insurance company does it their own way. Depending on the chosen deductible and the make and model of motorcycle, comprehensive and collision are often rather inexpensive for motorcycles since bikes usually cost far less than a car or truck.
Comprehensive specifically covers the bike from instances of vandalism, fire, weather damage and theft. Collision, as it is named, will repair or replace a bike if it is wrecked in any sort of collision. Neither of them is a required coverage. However, if the bike is a beloved piece of equipment, as it is for most riders, it might as well be mandated for the peace of mind it brings. Do ensure that any comprehensive and collision policy will pay out the replacement value of the bike, so that it will allow for purchase of the exact make and model of the original should that one be deemed worthy of the scrap heap.
Modifications to the motorcycle, such as exhaust upgrades and custom paintwork, may require that additional coverage be purchased. Some insurance companies include this type of protection in their standard comprehensive and collision policies, within reason. Others, though, will ask the bike owner to add a ‘rider’ to their policy. This type of rider is merely a document specifying exactly what is covered and what its value is determined to be for the purposes of repair or replacement by the insurance company.
Highly valuable motorcycles, such as vintage, classic and custom machines, should always have comprehensive and collision coverage to protect the owner’s investment. Doing without is asking for trouble. Many of the larger companies offer special coverage for such machines. However, specialized insurers exist which know the ins and outs of vintage and custom bikes well enough to guarantee that a rider will actually receive the true value of the machine if it is damaged, vandalized, or declared a total loss in a collision.
Choose coverage wisely and always read the policy to be certain that the motorcycle is covered fully in any situation up to its actual full value.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist
Uninsured and Underinsured coverage is usually not required by law, but it is a very inexpensive way to protect a rider and motorcycle from the less responsible road users. If the rider is involved in an accident, and the other involved party does not have insurance, uninsured motorist will pay for any damage to the policyholder’s vehicle. Underinsured is very similar and is for when the other party does not have enough insurance to cover the damages caused by the crash.
Since it is often far less costly than other parts of an insurance policy, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is highly recommended.
Some states actually require medical coverage be included with any motorcycle policy, even if all the rider takes out is liability insurance. The coverage provided here will vary significantly from state to state, and sometimes from insurer to insurer. It is designed to pay the medical bills of an injured rider and is not based on fault - if the rider is hurt in any way while riding, this part of a policy will pay out. The amount it pays, however, is not very large, so personal health insurance is still necessary - and very highly recommended - in case of severe injuries.
Many insurance companies now include roadside assistance with their policies. Most require that the rider purchase more than mere liability, but the roadside add-on is often free or very low cost in that case. This policy addition will assist a stranded rider by either bringing someone to fix the bike or by employing a tow vehicle to move a non-functioning motorcycle to a shop where it can be repaired - it will even get fuel for a stranded rider which has run out of the precious liquid.
Much like uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, roadside assistance will not seem worthwhile until a rider encounters that one situation where it is invaluable. Thus, the small amount for which it is made available becomes a very good deal in short order. Get this coverage; it could save an enormous expense, time not riding, and even a life.
So-called ‘full coverage’ insurance policies are essentially a policy containing everything explained above. The term is broad, however, and can also refer to only liability combined with comprehensive and collision. With the way modern insurance companies are offering their products online, it is not as important to know this as it was when the agent was the only way to obtain coverage. It is still imperative to know what ‘full coverage’ means, and doesn’t, in case some company is using the term to try selling a substandard policy.
Motorcycle insurance is a need and a requirement in the United States, at least the liability portion. It also stands out as a responsible part of owning and operating a motorcycle. Going without at least basic liability coverage is a fool’s game. In the event an uninsured motorcyclist causes and accident which severely injures several people and one or more vehicles, that rider could lose everything to lawsuits and the resulting judgments - serious financial harm like this can lead to bankruptcy (even that will not protect you very well anymore and those who file for it can still end up in prison due to the debts accumulated from a bad crash).
In the simplest terms, research available options, ensure all coverage types are well explained and understood, get many insurance rate quotes from competing companies, and then select the least expensive and most all-inclusive policy available. Do not forget to check that the insurance company is a good partner to motorcyclists; searching online ratings sites and forums for other rider’s experiences is a good place to start this. Once the insurance is obtained, keep up to date on premium payments and pay attention to any changes in coverage over the life of the policy. And, if it is found that the selected insurance company is not living up to expectations, repeat this process and get a better policy.
And, now that rider and bike are covered - get out and ride!
Written By: JC Current