How does motorcycle insurance work?

Like car insurance, motorcycle insurance protects you from financial liability if you cause an accident while on your motorcycle, and it can also pay for damage to your bike.

Zack SigelAnna Swartz 1600

Zack Sigel & Anna Swartz

Published November 5, 2019

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Motorcycle insurance is required in many states, but you should probably get more than the state minimum amount

  • Like car insurance, motorcycle insurance is made up of different types of coverage that offer different types of protection

  • The cost of motorcycle insurance varies widely and depends on the type of bike you ride, as well as your driving history and other personal details

You probably already know that most states in the U.S. require drivers to have a minimum amount of car insurance, but did you know that similar laws apply to motorcycles too? As with car insurance, your state likely requires you to carry some amount of liability coverage so you’re covered if you cause an accident while on your bike.

In many ways, motorcycle insurance is pretty similar to car insurance: A motorcycle insurance policy includes multiple types of coverage, which offer different types of protection. Like car insurance, good motorcycle insurance will include coverage that protects you from the costs of causing an accident and the cost of damage to your own ride.

Most major car insurance companies also sell motorcycle insurance, and if you have an existing car insurance policy, you can usually save some money by bundling your motorcycle and auto insurance. There are also some smaller carriers that specialize in motorcycle insurance.

In this article:

Motorcycle insurance vs. car insurance

There are many similarities between car insurance and motorcycle insurance, but motorcycles present some key differences that will affect your insurance needs.

Here are some of the differences that are taken into account when comparing motorcycle insurance and car insurance:

  • You’re more likely to have passengers in a car, so car insurance generally extends to cover your passengers too. As you’ll read below, motorcycle insurance usually offers guest passenger liability insurance as a separate type of coverage.
  • You’re more likely to suffer an injury on a motorcycle. The personal injury protection portion of a motorcycle policy may be more expensive than for a car.
  • If your motorcycle includes add-ons like saddlebags or a backrest, you may need additional accessories coverage to protect them in case of a collision (this coverage can also include your helmet).

Beyond specifics like this, though, motorcycle and car insurance are fairly similar. Both protect your vehicle in case it’s stolen or damaged, and both provide coverage for medical and liability expenses if you, a passenger, or someone else is hurt in an accident. Like car insurance, motorcycle insurance is mandatory in most states.

What does motorcycle insurance cover?

As we mentioned above, a motorcycle insurance policy is made up of different types of coverage. And motorcycle insurance includes some of the same main coverage categories as car insurance, including:

  • Liability insurance: Covers the costs if you cause an accident, damage property or injure someone else while on your bike
  • Personal injury protection (PIP): If you’re worried about wiping out, you may want to increase PIP coverage, which covers medical expenses, lost wages, and related damages that you cause to yourself or people riding with you
  • Comprehensive insurance: Covers damage to your motorcycle not caused while riding, like damage from vandalism, theft or fire
  • Collision insurance: Covers damage from a collision with another vehicle or object, no matter who was at fault
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage: Covers you if you’re in an accident caused by a driver or biker without insurance, or whose insurance can’t cover the full cost of the damage

Then there are coverages that are unique to motorcycle insurance, including:

  • Guest passenger liability insurance: A part of motorcycle insurance that works like PIP, to cover medical payments for people who were injured while riding on your motorcycle with you
  • Accessories or added equipment coverage: Works in addition to comp coverage, and covers the costs if your bike add-ons and accessories are damaged in an accident, including things like seats, radios and helmets
  • ** Personal item or “carried contents” coverage:** Covers damage to or theft of items or gear that you’re carrying on your bike, including camping equipment or cellphones
  • Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts coverage: Guarantees that covered repairs to your bike will use original manufacturer parts

How much motorcycle insurance should I get?

Before you decide how much motorcycle insurance you should get, take note of how much motorcycle insurance is required in your state — your state’s DMV or equivalent department will be able to tell you the requirements.

Most states establish minimum amounts of liability coverage you need before you’re legally allowed to get on your bike. But, as with car insurance, the minimum required amount of liability insurance might not be enough to fully cover the cost of repairs and medical bills if you cause an accident — so consider raising your coverage levels beyond what’s required by law.

You should also take into account all the safety gear you’d need to replace in the event of an accident, such as your helmet and the motorcycle jacket that protects you from road rash when you go down. Protection may even extend to accessories like saddlebags, radios, and seats, but only if you choose to add those coverages.

Like car insurance, motorcycle insurance can be enhanced by adding endorsements, which are separate, optional policy provisions that may increase your premiums. A popular add-on for motorcycle insurance is the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) coverage, which may cost you extra but requires any repair shop engaged by the insurance company to use official replacement parts when fixing your bike.

If you're looking to buy a motorcycle, check out our guide to motorcycle loans.

Who sells motorcycle insurance?

Most car insurance companies also offer coverage for motorcycles. That means you can find coverage through big name carriers like:

  • Geico
  • Safeco
  • Progressive
  • USAA
  • Allstate

Relatively smaller companies like Markel and Dairyland can also be good options for motorcycle insurance. And most major insurance companies offer multi-policy discounts, so if you already have a car insurance (or home, or renters) policy with a company, you may be able to save on one or both by purchasing your motorcycle insurance through them, too. An independent broker can help you compare quotes from different insurance companies and choose the coverage that’s best for you.

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What is the average cost of motorcycle insurance?

Like with car insurance, the cost of motorcycle insurance varies widely depending on individual factors like where you live, how old you are and how clean (or not) your driving record is. But the type of motorcycle you ride will have a big effect on your premiums, which can range from a couple hundred dollars to well over $1,000 a year.

More expensive bikes – those with larger engines and pricier builds – are typically much more expensive to insure. And if you spend all your cash on the bike itself, you might not have enough left over to pay your motorcycle insurance premiums. Before you buy a bike, decide whether you want a standard motorcycle or a sportbike. The difference in premiums could be hundreds of dollars per month.

Insurance companies charge lower premiums for smaller engines and vice versa. (Motorcycle engines are described in terms of their engine capacity. A 300 cc engine will get barely any of the speed of a 1,500 cc engine.) You’ll probably get a lower rate if your bike is built for durability instead of horsepower.

Your insurance premiums are largely determined by the amount of coverage you need —— the more protection you buy, the more you’ll pay. But as we mentioned above, your personal details will play a big role too.

As with car insurance, younger drivers will pay more, because they’re seen as riskier and less experienced. Live in a high-crime or densely populated area? You’ll pay more because of the greater risk of theft or collisions. And riders with a poor driving record will pay much more than those whose record is spotless.

How can I lower my motorcycle insurance cost?

You can probably save a little on premiums if you bundle your motorcycle insurance with the car insurance you already have. When bundling insurance policies, carriers frequently allow you pay a single deductible, the amount you have to meet out of pocket before the insurance company picks up the rest, which could save you even more money when you file a claim. Check with your insurance company about this feature, as it may not be offered by every carrier.

Some carriers also offer a small discount for switching to them for your motorcycle coverage. Other discounts, like those for taking a motorcycle safety class, may be available. Like with car insurance, you may also be able to get discounts for paying your premium in full and up front, instead of monthly, or switching your payments to automatic bill pay.

And, as with car insurance, the best way to ensure you’re getting a good deal on your motorcycle insurance is to shop around and compare quotes from multiple carriers before you settle on a policy.

Does motorcycle insurance cover mopeds and scooters?

Not only can you get insurance for your moped or scooter, but in some states you may be required to, depending on the size of the vehicle’s engine. However, because these vehicles are lightweight and typically run at lower speeds, you may be able to purchase less coverage than you’d need for a motorcycle.

Some insurance companies cover motor scooters and mopeds under motorcycle insurance, while others offer separate insurance products for motorcycles and scooters, and still others for off-road vehicles like ATVs.

Learn more about insurance coverage for scooters and mopeds

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.