What is Classic and Antique Motorcycle Insurance?

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A classic, vintage or antique motorcycle needs insurance to be ridden on public roads, just like a typical new bike.

But some antique motorcycles might be highly valuable and more expensive to replace or repair. Therefore, every owner of a vintage motorcycle should strongly consider an insurance policy that includes comprehensive and collision coverage in order to cover any damage to their classic bike.

When is a motorcycle a classic?

Classic, vintage or antique motorcycles are generally at least 25 years old and look the way they were intended to when first manufactured or built. Depending on the insurer, classic bikes as new as 20 years old can be considered vintage, but this isn't always the case. Classic motorcycles typically need to be stored in a garage and should not be your daily commuting vehicle, though they can be ridden semi-regularly.

A custom motorcycle that has been largely rebuilt with fabricated parts might still qualify as "classic," or the modifications might classify it as a custom motorcycle in the eyes of an insurance company. This could have major ramifications on insurance rates, because the costs and labor associated with repairs for a customized bike can be quite high.

What insurance do I need for a vintage motorcycle?

If you ride your vintage motorcycle on public highways or roads, you are subject to the local laws and motorcycle insurance requirements of your state. The majority of states in the US require bike owners to show proof of motorcycle insurance coverage (bodily injury and personal property liability) in order to register their vehicles.

It doesn't matter whether you take regular weekend rides on your classic motorcycle or only use it once a year: You'll need insurance to ride legally. This typically also applies if you have a smaller bike, such as a classic moped or scooter, as you'll generally need insurance to ride on public roads.

Bodily injury and property damage liability insurance pays for expenses related to injuries or damages you might cause to others — or their property — while riding. For example, if you hit a pedestrian, your liability insurance would cover the cost of the pedestrian's injuries, up to the limits of your policy. Motorcycle liability insurance is required in most states and is commonly included in most policies.

For a classic collector motorcycle, comprehensive and collision insurance are two of the most essential forms of coverage, as they cover repairing or replacing your bike if it's damaged or stolen. Your policy can extend to cover both the motorcycle and a sidecar, if you have one, or you can get a multi-bike policy if you have multiple classic motorcycles.

Another popular type of optional motorcycle insurance coverage is for medical payments. This coverage pays for your own medical bills if you're involved in a crash.

Even owners of antique motorcycles who don't take their bikes on the road should still think about comprehensive insurance. There are many potential scenarios where collectors' motorcycle insurance could prove beneficial. Harley-Davidson, Honda, Indian and BMW motorcycles alike are susceptible to being stolen or damaged during transport.

How much does classic motorcycle insurance cost?

While the cost to insure a classic motorcycle can vary, older bikes tend to be less powerful and not as fast, making them less risky, so your liability insurance is likely to be cheaper than it would be for a new bike. But older bikes are generally harder to replace and more expensive to repair, increasing the cost of comprehensive and collision insurance.

In terms of a classic motorcycle itself, there is a long list of things considered when pricing a policy. The type of bike can significantly impact the cost of a policy, as you're likely to find cheaper rates insuring a classic Vespa, for instance, as opposed to a similarly aged chopper.

Beyond the make, model, year and engine of the vintage motorcycle, insurers assess its market value and costs associated with repairing or replacing it. Factors such as the age and location of the owner, where a motorcycle is parked, how frequently it is ridden and whether or not it has an anti-theft device are all considered when pricing a vintage motorcycle insurance policy.

Comparison of quotes from classic motorcycle insurance companies

1960 BMW R69$99$236$135
1953 Indian Chief$301$216$135
1970 Ducati 750 GT$99$216$135
1970 Norton Commando$99$216$135

The comparison above shows quotes to insure different classic motorcycles for a 45-year-old male rider in Ohio, for a policy that includes bodily injury protection ($50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident) and personal property damage coverage ($25,000), as well as $500 deductibles for collision and comprehensive coverages.

Hagerty quoted all four classic motorcycles the same annual premium, while Geico and Progressive offered higher quotes for certain vintage bikes. Each insurer evaluates bikes differently, so we recommend comparing quotes from at least three antique and classic motorcycle insurance companies to ensure you're getting the cheapest rate.

Classic motorcycle quotes you might not be able to find online

Although you can get online quotes for many classic and vintage motorcycles, there are exceptions. Just like classic cars, classic motorcycles that are limited editions, rare antiques or exceptionally valuable for any reason might require a specialty policy to insure them. In those cases, you should call a specialty bike insurer, such as Hagerty or American Collectors, for a classic motorcycle insurance quote.

It's worth noting that a limited edition or collector's motorcycle of extremely high value may require a third-party appraisal or documentation before a company will insure it.

Determining a classic motorcycle's value for insurance

Unlike with vintage automobiles, the majority of large insurance companies will quote policies for classic motorcycles online. They do this two ways: They either offer a quote for a vintage motorcycle based on their own internal valuations for specific bikes, or they ask potential policyholders to declare an "agreed" value. Agreed value motorcycle insurance is typically limited to classic or collector bikes and works similarly to other policies, except the assessment of the bike's value is provided by you, the owner. Some insurers will also ask for an appraisal supporting your declared value, but that's not always the case.

Once a value is declared by the owner, the insurer determines if that amount is reasonable (within an acceptable value range, based on make, model and year) and covers the motorcycle for that value. Since most classic motorcycles are factory built, they are easy for insurance companies to approximately value using the Kelley Blue Book or the National Automobile Dealers Association's motorcycle appraisal guide, which you can use for reference as well.

An agreed value for a classic motorcycle can be both good and bad. It's nice for you, because it allows you to purchase the appropriate amount of coverage if you think your bike was undervalued by the insurer's approximations. On the other hand, it puts the responsibility on you to correctly value your vintage motorcycle. If your estimate isn't correct, you could overpay for unnecessary coverage or be underinsured.

We recommend that if there's any uncertainty about your bike's real value, you should have your bike professionally appraised. Hagerty also has an online appraisal tool that could be used to cross-check. It enables owners of antique bikes to search by make, model, year and VIN (vehicle identification number).

Should you have an accident where your bike is badly damaged enough to be considered a total loss, insurance companies, such as Progressive, typically would pay the agreed value of a classic motorcycle. However, if an owner decides they want to keep their bike, the insurance company will pay out the agreed amount, minus the salvage value of the motorcycle.

If you expect the value of your classic motorcycle to appreciate over time, you should seek out a specialty insurer, as you'll want coverage that is tailored to your bike. You will likely have to provide some form of verification of the motorcycle's worth, such as an appraisal or documentation showing it's a limited edition. It's important not to be underinsured, in case your motorcycle is damaged and worth more than its value when you purchased a policy.

Does insurance cover a classic motorcycle jacket and helmet?

Classic and vintage motorcycle insurance will generally pay to replace safety gear and accessories if they are stolen or damaged in a crash**, as long as you've added the carried contents coverage to your policy**. However, like bodily injury and property damage protection, coverage for accessories usually has a claim limit — the maximum dollar amount the insurer will pay toward replacement.

Motorcyclists tend to have a lot of gear, and the value of standard equipment can be quite high. If you have a classic motorcycle jacket or helmet that is exceptionally valuable, you should consider increasing the claim limit for this category. A typical claim limit is $2,000, but a single motorcycle jacket could cost that much.

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