Custom motorcycles and choppers (bikes that have been modified from their original design) are required to have motorcycle insurance like any other bike. But unlike most two-wheel machines, custom motorcycles are often one-of-a-kind and can be difficult to insure. Most custom motorcycle owners will not be able to get a quote for their chopper online and, instead, will have to work with an agent in person or over the telephone. Below is a walkthrough of custom motorcycle insurance and everything else a bike owner needs to know when it comes to shopping for a policy.
What Does Custom Motorcycle Insurance Cover?
Insurance for custom choppers offers the same standard and optional coverages as policies for factory-built motorcycles. Below, we’ve noted some of the details of each coverage that are specifically relevant to custom motorcycles.
Bodily injury and property damage liability (the standard coverages included in all motorcycle insurance policies) protect a policyholder from expenses related to harm or damages to others. They do not cover any costs to replace or repair a policyholder's own motorcycle. These are the coverages required by most states to register and legally drive a motorcycle on the road. Almost all motorcycle insurance companies will offer bodily injury and personal property protection for custom motorcycles, even if they sell optional coverages to chopper owners.
Collision and comprehensive coverages are the two that differentiate custom motorcycle insurance policies from those for production or classic motorcycles. They cover the costs to repair or replace a motorcycle (minus their respective deductibles), which can be drastically higher for custom bikes. Choppers are typically considered much more valuable than production and classic bikes because most are one-of-a-kind machines. Beyond the cost of fabricated parts themselves, the labor costs associated with repairing or replacing custom components is significantly higher.
A basic paint job can cost more than $1,000 and unique artwork can increase its value by thousands of dollars. Any customization beyond that, such as a custom frame or handlebars, could push the value of a bike even higher. Some choppers have significant modifications and others might be built entirely from scratch. For example, most custom motorcycles built from scratch with factory parts can cost well more than $15,000. But garages typically charge by the hour, so if they have to fabricate custom parts, whoever commissioned the bike can expect the cost to be significantly higher. Like building a home, an owner can spend virtually as much money and they want on a custom motorcycle.
Another popular coverage is an optional one: medical payments. This covers medical bills of you (the rider) as well as anyone else injured while riding. Coverage for uninsured and underinsured motorists (sometimes shortened to UM/UIM) pays for bodily injuries and damages to your custom motorcycle caused by another someone else who is inadequately insured.
ATVs, mopeds and scooters, and dirt bikes, while covered under most companies motorcycle insruance policies, each have their own set of rules and regulations. Anyone in need of insuring any of those vehicles that are customized should contact their insurance company.
Who Needs Custom Motorcycle Insurance?
Every motorcycle owner has a need for insurance whether they have a new, inexpensive bike or a pricey chopper. Most states require motorcycle owners to have bodily injury and property damage liability if they ride on public highways or roads. But even a motorcycle meant only for show -- that never sees the open road -- likely needs insurance. A pure show chopper can still be ridden without permission, stolen, or damaged during transit. Without insurance, an owner would be stuck paying for any expenses related to the bike out of pocket.
Custom motorcycle owners arguably need insurance more than other bike owners because of the high value of their rides. As we mention above, the cost of custom parts, upgrades, and labor hours increase the value of bikes compared to what is available out of the factory. This higher value tends to require greater insurance coverage, especially when it comes to comprehensive or collision coverage.
Gathering Custom Motorcycle Insurance Quotes
Most insurance companies, such as Liberty Mutual’s Safeco Insurance and Allstate, will not quote custom motorcycle insurance policies online because it is too difficult to determine the value of a chopper via the Internet. When you request a quote on the company’s website, you are prompted to call and speak to an agent. The agent will then ask you a series of questions to catalogue the various changes and modifications to your bike in order to better assess the value and cost of insurance.
Nationwide does not offer online quotes for custom motorcycles either, but unlike other major carriers, it asks specific questions relevant to choppers. The company has a category for custom and limited edition bikes that shoppers can select and it asks what type of modifications have been made. No other major carrier include both those details in their online quoting, which suggests that Nationwide’s might be more accurate going into the call with an agent.
On the surface, it might seem advantageous of the insurers to force a phone conversation to get a quote. They are more apt to sell a policy speaking to a potential policyholder. But it is in the interest of both carriers and custom motorcycle riders to discuss each individual chopper and determine an agreed upon value. A conversation with an insurance company can keep a bike owner from purchasing too little coverage or too much.
Other companies, such as GEICO and Progressive, require the same information from custom and factory-built bike owners. At the end of the quoting process, it’s up to the owner to choose adequate coverage for their chopper. However, it’s probably a better idea to call and speak to an agent from each insurer.
Progressive specifically notes on their website that the company only offers liability insurance for motorcycles built from a kit, or individual (especially custom fabricated) parts. Any vehicle with a state-assigned VIN number, a replaced frame, or by a manufacturer not listed in the NADA Motorcycle Appraisal Guide is also only eligible for Progressive’s liability coverage. Progressive does cover customizations to factory-built bikes. Every motorcycle policy for a factory-built bike automatically cover up to $3,000 of customizations to any factory-built motorcycle listed in the NADA Motorcycle Appraisal Guide. That’s a nice perk, but $3,000 is hardly enough to cover many customizations. That amount would cover the cost of a custom paint job and not much else.
GEICO is similar to Progressive in that the insurer covers customizations to factory-built motorcycles, but prompts custom motorcycle owners to contact an agent.
Custom Motorcycle Insurance Discounts
Choppers are generally eligible for the same motorcycle insurance discounts as factory-built bikes. It is generally more expensive to insure a customized motorcycle so any savings on the cost of premiums might be significant.
When speaking to agents and gathering quotes for your custom bike, make sure to inquire about discounts you might be eligible for. An expensive, custom motorcycle does not preclude an owner from discounts for having multiple policies or using anti-theft devices. Depending on the carrier, discounts could be as high as 30% or more off of a regular premium.