Insuring Your Motorcycle: A Beginner’s Guide

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It’s no secret riding a motorcycle poses a serious risk to the rider, and most riders are aware that motorcycle accidents are more likely to result in injury or death than car accidents. But most people don’t consider the hard facts: According to a University of Southern California study cited by The Examiner, motorcyclists are thirty-five times more likely to die in an accident than people travelling in cars. According to EdgarSnyder.com, in 2011, roughly 90,000 motorcyclists suffered injuries in an accident, and 4,500 motorcyclists died in accidents nationwide. Since motorcyclists pose a high risk of injury and have higher incidences of accidents while speeding, motorcycle insurance rates remain high across the country.

Even experienced riders who use all safety precautions are still at risk, and each year thousands of motorcyclists are involved in serious crashes caused by other drivers. While safe riding and the proper equipment can make a huge difference in the outcome of any accident, having good insurance coverage is always the next line of protection.

 

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Obtaining Coverage for Standard Motorcycles, Mopeds, Scooters and Dirt Bikes

The basics of buying insurance for your motorcycle are, with a few important exceptions, similar to buying insurance for a car. Let’s cover the basics first: Each state sets its own requirements for bare minimum insurance, with all states requiring some amount of liability insurance, which pays for damage and/or injuries you cause to others in an accident. A handful of states also require personal injury protection (PIP), which pays for injuries you suffer in an accident, and a few require collision coverage, which pays for damage to your own vehicle.

When it comes to off-road ATV’s, dirt bikes, and motocross bikes, your insurer may not cover damage or injury from recreational off roading or stunt riding. Furthermore, if riding a dirt bike on roads and highways is illegal in your state, most insurers won’t cover them on your policy. Check with your insurer to find out what they cover, and whether you have to buy additional insurance.

Some Additional Coverage You May Want

Beyond collision coverage for your bike, and PIP to pay for medical treatment for you and your passengers in case of an accident, there are a handful of additional coverages to consider:

  • Comprehensive coverage pays for incidents like theft, vandalism, fire, flood, or damage caused by an act of nature.
  • Underinsured or uninsured motorist (UIM) coverage pays for damage caused by a driver who has no insurance, or for hit-and-run accidents. Most insurers offer UIM coverage for property damage (your motorcycle) separately from UIM coverage for bodily injury, so make sure you have both covered.
  • Roadside assistance coverage pays for things like towing and jumping the battery. Some packages include an allotment for food and lodging if your bike breaks down more than 100 miles from your home. These packages typically won’t pay for maintenance or repairs, but in many cases, the cost of towing can outweigh the cost of a mechanical repair. Ask your insurer what they offer in terms of roadside assistance.

Custom Parts, Paint, Chrome, and Accessories

Most collision coverage pays for some amount of custom equipment or accessories in addition to the value of your motorcycle, but some policies only allow for an additional $200 or $500, which might barely pay for a saddlebag. Ask your insurer about adding additional limits to your collision coverage for any upgrades or modifications you’ve made to your bike. If you bought it used and aren’t sure, compare your bike to the manufacturer’s stock specifications, or call your insurer to ask for an evaluation to be sure. While you’re at it, don’t forget to add additional accessory coverage to your comprehensive coverage.

Bundle & “Stacking”

According to Newsminer, using your motorcycle insurance policy from your home or auto insurer can lower your rates significantly in comparison to having different policies from different insurers. If your auto insurer doesn’t offer motorcycle insurance, consider switching to another insurer who will cover all your assets at once. Some insurers also allow for policies on multiple vehicles to be “stacked”, meaning that if you have two vehicles insured, each with UIM coverage for $100,000 per vehicle and $300,000 per person for injuries in an accident, you may be able to “stack” the coverage to have $200,000 per vehicle and $600,000 in bodily injury available per accident. This would not apply to collision or comprehensive, where they pay for repairs or the value of a vehicle, but may apply to limits for liability, PIP, or UIM.

Getting All the Discounts

While motorcycle insurance rates are generally higher than those for cars, most insurers offer more discounts to motorcyclists than to car owners. Deals your insurer may offer include discounts for helmet use, protective gear, motorcycle safety courses, and mileage limitations on your bike; be sure to ask your insurer.

Trim Any Excess

If you only ride your bike during summer months, ask your insurer about removing coverage during the winter, or reducing your coverage to comprehensive only during that half of the year — this keeps your bike insured in case of theft or natural disaster. Additionally, raise your deductibles for collision or PIP in order to lower your premium. Just make sure you choose a deductible you can afford, or set aside a savings fund just in case.

Obtaining Coverage for Custom, Classic & Restored Bikes

Whether your bike is a custom one-off or an original classic, you could benefit by taking a few simple steps with your insurance policy. American Collectors Insurance offers agreed value policies, which allow you to establish your bike’s value with your insurer up front — that way, in the case of an accident or theft, there’s no haggling over the value.

They also recommend that for bikes kept strictly indoors for show purposes, you can save money by trimming down your policy to comprehensive only. This way, your ride is covered in the event of fire, theft, or an act of nature, but if you never ride it, you won’t need to pay for coverages like collision or liability. Just remember to call your insurer in case you ever decide to take it out on the road.

What To Do In Case of An Accident

Whether it’s a fender bender or a serious accident, many of the procedures and steps are the same, both at the scene of the accident and through the claims processes. Nation Law and Guthrie Firm are great resources to read up on specific steps to take, and some rules of thumb to make sure you get the medical treatment and compensation for your damages or injuries. Since even the most careful rider with the best equipment can’t avoid injury in a serious accident, it’s a good idea to consult with an attorney soon after such an accident to find out if they can help you with the claim. Most attorneys offer free consultations, don’t require payment upfront, and will only require payment if they win a settlement on your behalf.

If you choose to handle the claim on your own, or if you’re unsure if you need to hire an attorney, Riderz Law has some great tips on how to go about the insurance claim process, as well as precautions to take to avoid a bad settlement.

Ride Safe, Carry Good Insurance, and Be Prepared

Whether you’re a veteran rider or looking at buying your first bike, motorcyclists everywhere can benefit from taking a second look at their insurance company as well as their plan for handling an accident or a claim. By doing some basic research and asking your insurance company about discounts, you could save yourself more money than you imagined. And in case of an accident, your follow-through on the claim is nearly as important as a helmet and riding gear. Ride on!

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