Motorcycle Insurance and Anti-Theft Devices

Motorcycle Insurance and Anti-Theft Devices

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In order to make sure that you are fully protected if your motorcycle is stolen, you will need an insurance policy that has comprehensive coverage. Adding this coverage will increase your premiums, however motorcycle insurance companies frequently offer discounts on rates for having anti-theft devices. Not all mechanisms to deter thieves qualify policyholders for lower rates, but they might increase security and reduce the likelihood of an owner having to file an insurance claim for stolen bike.

Motorcycle Theft Insurance

A motorcycle insurance policy with only the minimum amount of coverage required by your state will not pay to replace your bike if it is stolen. To ensure that you are covered for motorbike theft, you will need to purchase comprehensive insurance. Comprehensive coverage will cover the cost or pay out an amount toward a new motorcycle if yours is stolen.

Motorcycle Insurance Discounts and Anti-Theft Devices

Generally, motorcycle insurance companies only offer an anti-theft discount for bikes with tracking or disabling systems installed. The discount is typically about 10% of a premium and, depending on the cost of your motorcycle insurance policy, could translate into meaningful savings. These systems allow a motorcycle owner to use radio frequency or GPS-based tracking to locate their bike after it has been stolen and temporarily disable it, making it impossible to ride. Not every tracking system is equal.

Some carriers will only offer discounts on qualified devices that have been professionally installed, while others only ask whether the motorcycle covered has one. The sophistication of tracking and disabling systems varies. Some locator products can't disable a bike, but they might be able to send email or text message notifications when a motorcycle is being driven without a compatible sensor present. Others can sense when a bike is touched or even when someone is in close vicinity of a motorcycle.

A popular system reviewed and recommended online is one by a company called LoJack, but the company recently discontinued selling its motorcycle tracking system (it still offers systems for other vehicles). LoJack continues to support the systems already installed on bikes. That means as soon as a motorcycle is reported stolen to police, the LoJack system in a bike will still be activated and signal a network of law enforcement. Agencies then use that radio signal—sent to receivers in vehicles and aviation units—to locate the stolen motorcycle. Other tracking systems, such as one sold by Scorpio, use GPS monitoring and have similar features that allow law enforcement agencies to locate a stolen bike.

Some of the differences between tracking device technologies are something motorcycle riders should consider. The disadvantage to GPS tracking systems is that they are more easily disrupted. For example, if a bike is in something like a shipping container, a GPS system might have trouble detecting it. Tracking devices that use radio frequencies have few inhibitors. A tracking systems accessibility by law enforcement agencies is a critical difference between types. Trackers such as the previous LoJack system and those still sold by Scorpio either notify or are accessible by law enforcement. Some systems only sync with a bike owner's Google Maps or other mobile applications, meaning it would be their job to update authorities on any stolen motorcycle's location.

Types of Motorcycle Anti-Theft Devices

Beyond tracking and bike-disabling security systems that can be installed on motorcycles (or a moped or scooter), there are a number of motorcycle theft prevention devices owners should consider. The cost and level of security each provides can vary. Riders might even choose to use a combination of devices to better secure their motorcycle.

Disabling devices: Some owners install disabling devices (often called a "kill" switch) that keep a motorcycle engine from starting or will turn one off under certain conditions. Active disabling devices are a security feature that must be activated remotely. Passive disabling devices active themselves after a motorcycle is running for a certain period but cannot sync with the keys to it. Passive systems limit how far a thief can travel on a motorcycle that is hot-wired.

Vehicle recovery or tracking systems: Motorcycles with vehicle recovery or tracking systems use radio or GPS systems to locate a motorcycle if it is ever stolen. This anti-theft device is the most commonly recognized by insurance companies and they usually offer a discount on policies to riders who own a bike with a professionally installed system. These systems are usually expensive to install. A LoJack Stolen Vehicle recovery System costs $695, although it is a one-time expense. There are no subscription fees for the service.

Bike covers: A motorcycle cover does not replace any security device but it can keep a nice motorcycle from advertising itself to potential thieves. Stolen motorcycles are frequently disassembled and then the parts are sold, so some are more desirable than others. Thieves look for desirable bikes in parking lots and garages from afar or while driving but a motorcycle cover makes this difficult for them. Approaching a motorcycle to remove a cover and identify it is be a major risk to a thief.

Disc locks and U-locks: A U-lock is a lock with an extended U shape bar that can be attached to a motorcycle wheel or used to secure one to something else. Depending on where the lock is applied, U-locks have an advantage over other locks because a thief would have to cut through two parts of it to unsecure it. Disc locks are basically small U-locks designed to fit the holes of a motorcycle disc brake. When used, they render a bike unrideable. Most U-locks and disc locks cost anywhere between $75 and $100.

Chains: There are a number of companies that sell high quality chains that riders use to secure their motorcycle to other objects. One brand frequently recommended is Kryptonite, which sells 14mm thick motorcycle chains for as much as $178. Companies also sell less expensive cables that riders can use to secure their bike to things, but they are thinner than chain links and not as secure.

One method motorcycle riders suggest to save money on a motorcycle chain is to purchase a short boat chain and durable lock separately instead. Chains and key locks designed with boats in mind can be just as secure (18mm thick or more), but finding the appropriate sizes and quality might take time. Beyond the thickness of the chain links, the metal quality and treatment are important security factors. The research and time to find the right chain and lock might not be worth the savings in the end. For those unfamiliar with chains and locks, the investment in a combo designed for motorcycles is probably the best bet.

Audible alarms: Unlike many cars, motorcycles typically do not come with an audible alarm system to protect them. However, there are a number of aftermarket alarm systems riders can install on their bike. A popular alarm system brand is Scorpio, which sells audible alarms that activate when a bike is tilted upright (to ride), struck by anything, or when anyone without a key sensor is in proximity of a motorcycle. Basic audible alarms usually start around $100. Alarms that trigger when anyone is in proximity of a bike can cost more than $350.

Motorcycle Theft Prevention Tips

Insurance companies, riders and former motorcycle thieves have offered valuable advice online regarding protection motorcycles. Much of it is common sense: Don’t leave your motorcycle key with your bike, use anti-theft devices and be smart about where you park it. But some advice needs to be heard, especially by new bike owners.

Advice from Insurance Companies

Any insurance company that offers motorcycle insurance typically also has a page of advice to bike owners on their website. Amongst the general advice they give, Geico suggests buying a plain motorcycle cover without any name brand on it, to avoid tipping any thieves on what might be underneath. The company also suggests that riders who secure their motorcycle with a chain do so through the frame instead of a wheel, which can be removed.

Progressive offers two great tips for riders. Progressive suggests keeping an eye out for cameras no matter where someone parks their motorcycle. Some riders go as far as installing security cameras at their home to monitor their motorcycle, but that doesn’t help whenever the bike is parked anywhere else. A bike owner doesn’t have to own the camera to use any footage that might help locate their bike if it’s stolen. The carrier also suggests riders leave the title for their motorcycle at home and carry their registration and insurance on their person, rather than leave those important documents with their bike.

Advice from Other Bike Owners

There were more than 45,000 reported motorcycle thefts in the U.S., according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). A lot of people have had their motorcycle stolen and shared their mistakes and experiences for the betterment of others. Here are some simple errors people have made and warned others to avoid.

  • If you plan to use a chain and lock to secure your motorcycle, the ones at many retail stores won’t help much. Sometimes even the thickest chains at The Home Depot, Walmart and other stores won’t hold up against motorcycle thieves. Chains generally thinner than 14mm are less expensive but you’re getting what you pay for – inadequate protection.
  • Some riders are outspoken about the best place to park a motorcycle: Right next to the nicest one in a lot or garage. That way, if thieves intend to steal a bike, they are less likely to choose the less desirable motorcycle.

Advice and Affirmation from a Former Motorcycle Thief

There is an insightful man who wrote about having been involved in professional motorcycle theft for more than 10 years. Among his many answers and explanations, here are some of the most valuable insights he gave.

  • Time means everything to thieves. The longer it takes to steal a motorcycle, the more likely they are to be caught. So anything that complicates a potential motorcycle theft will deter thieves or prevent them from successfully stealing a bike.
  • The professional thief, along with others in motorcycle blogs and elsewhere online, suggest using multiple anti-theft devices. The more obstacles a thief must overcome, the longer it will take to steal -- dramatically increasing the risk of getting caught.
  • It doesn’t matter what neighborhood a motorcycle is parked in or if it is on the street or in a lot, thieves will steal it. Owners wrongfully assume a bike is more safe in a gated lot, in a nice area. If anything, the opposite might be true. Thieves seek out motorcycles in those places because they are more likely to be valuable and owners don’t think they need anti-theft devices. Parking garages are perfect places for thieves to go "shopping" for a bike to steal.
  • A proper chain, like the ones described above, goes a long way when used correctly. The professional thief fielding questions said he only knew one thief who owned bolt cutters powerful enough to clip through some motorcycle chains. A pair of cutters of high enough quality to make it through a good motorcycle chain would cost hundreds of dollars new or used.
  • Contrary to what many people think, most motorcycle thieves do now lift bikes into a truck or van and drive away. Professional thieves remove or deactivate any security devices, hot-wire the motorcycle (if they need to) and drive it directly to whoever purchases the stolen bikes from them. The stolen motorcycles are then usually dismantled, rebuilt using parts from various bikes, and sold on the black market. Motorcycle thieves often are part of, or work with, a small organized crime group.

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