Motorcycle Insurance and Helmet Use

Find the Cheapest Insurance Quotes in Your Area

Currently Insured?

Wearing a helmet while riding does not directly impact an individual’s motorcycle insurance rates. However, helmets reduce the severity of motorcycle injuries and might prevent a rider from having to file a claim that will cost them more later. Pools of motorcycle riders also matter. Research shows that in states where riders are required to wear a helmet have lower insurance claim losses, which likely means lower rates. Only 19 states in the U.S. have universal motorcycle helmet laws that require all riders to wear one.

Impact Helmet Use Has On Motorcycle Insurance Rates

Whether an individual owns or wears a motorcycle helmet does not impact their current motorcycle insurance rates. Motorcycle insurance policies do not include a factor -- a data point used to price an insurance policy -- related to helmet use. When gathering a motorcycle insurance quote online, carriers do not ask if you own or wear a helmet.

How wearing a helmet can save you money

Wearing a helmet won’t reduce the cost of your motorcycle insurance premiums but it might inhibit the cost of your premium from rising. A helmet will protect a rider and mitigate the cost or prevent them from having to file a claim due to injury.

Riders have to purchase motorcycle insurance every year and if you’ve filed a claim, it is possible the cost of your premium will go up. Whether it increases and by how much can depend on the severity of the claim (or claims) you file. A helmet won’t keep someone from stealing a motorcycle or impact a comprehensive coverage claim, for example. But it might reduce the extent of your injuries and medical bills, and in turn reduce how much insurers might raise your rates if you renew.

Why the pool of helmet-wearing riders matters

Helmet use across a population of riders has an impact on motorcycle insurance rates. In 2012, Michigan went from a state with a universal helmet law to only requiring riders age 20 and younger to wear one. As a result, medical payments claim severity for motorcyclists in Michigan increased 22% in 2012, according to a 2013 study by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI).

The increased severity of claims also contributed to an unexpected 50% increase in overall medical payments claim costs in Michigan. This could have been attributed to an increased frequency of claims in 2012. Claim frequency also increased in the surrounding control states (Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin). But severity and overall losses in the control states actually decreased in 2012, despite the increase in frequency.

Regardless of the cause, an increase in the cost of claims for any coverage within any line of insurance can mean increased rates from carriers. This is especially true for motorcycle insurance and higher losses due to a change in law that clearly affected a risk environment.

The same study noted that helmet use reduces the likelihood of crash fatality by 37% and riders involved in a crash without a helmet are 3x more likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commision (NHTSC).

Remember, too, that states each have their own motorcycle and auto insurance bodily injury and property damage liability insurance requirements. 

Motorcycle Helmet State Laws

There are 28 states with laws that require only some motorcycle riders to wear a helmet – usually any rider under a certain age. Out of those 28 states, 19 have universal motorcycle helmets laws that require all riders to wear one. The District of Columbia also requires all riders to wear a helmet. The same laws often apply to other two-wheeled vehicles as well, such as mopeds and scooters.

States with universal helmet laws might have cheaper medical-related claim costs but that savings likely has minimal or no impact on riders. Riders are not choosing which state to live in based on where they can save on motorcycle insurance. Whatever savings exists is a nice perk to those who happen to live in a state with universal helmet laws.

StateRiders Required To Have Helmets
All Riders
Alaska 17 and younger
Arizona 17 and younger
Arkansas 20 and younger
California All Riders
Colorado 17 and younger and passengers 17 and younger
Connecticut 17 and younger
Delaware 18 and younger
District of Columbia All Riders
Florida 20 and younger
Georgia All Riders
Hawaii 17 and younger
Idaho 17 and younger
Illinois No law
Indiana 17 and younger
Iowa No law
Kansas 17 and younger
Kentucky 20 and younger
Louisiana All Riders
Maine 17 and younger
Maryland All Riders
Massachusetts All Riders
Michigan 20 and younger
Minnesota 17 and younger
Mississippi All Riders
Missouri All Riders
Montana 17 and younger
Nebraska All Riders
Nevada All Riders
New Hampshire No law
New Jersey All Riders
New Mexico 17 and younger
New York All Riders
North Carolina All Riders
North Dakota 17 and younger
Ohio 17 and younger
Oklahoma 17 and younger
Oregon All Riders
Pennsylvania 20 and younger
Rhode Island 20 and younger
South Carolina 20 and younger
South Dakota 17 and younger
Tennessee All Riders
Texas 20 and younger
Utah 17 and younger
Vermont All Riders
Virginia All Riders
Washington All Riders
West Virginia All Riders
Wisconsin 17 and younger
Wyoming 17 and younger

Source: Insurance institute for Highway Safety; Highway Loss Data Institute 

Helmet Upkeep and Advice

Wearing a helmet protects riders and can help reduce the cost of or eliminate the need to file an injury related insurance claim. Helmets are the most important protective gear a rider can wear, according to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. No matter how safe or experienced a rider is, the reality is that half of all motorcycle deaths involve only one motorcycle and no other vehicle.

For those reasons, protecting your helmet itself is important. Most motorcycle insurance policies have optional accessory coverage, which would cover the cost of a helmet. This optional coverage is definitely worth considering, since helmets typically cost hundreds of dollars and other motorcycle gear can be equally as expensive.

Like motorcycles, helmets also require some upkeep to maintain their effectiveness. Below is advice any motorcycle rider can use regarding helmets.

Helmets should be replaced every five years

The Snell Memorial Foundation, which has researched helmets for motorcycles and other vehicles since 1957, issues quality standards abided by helmet manufacturers. It also makes recommendations, such as replacing a helmet every five years.

Glues, resins and other materials used to make helmets, as well as natural hair oils and cosmetics, can cause them to deteriorate. Those things coupled with the natural wear and tear on a helmet can impact its performance after about five years.

Generally, dropping a helmet on the ground will not affect it. They are technically one-use items and must be replaced after suffering a trauma, but falling a few feet from the ground shouldn’t ruin it. An exception Snell lists on their website would be if a helmet fell off the back of a motorcycle while it was traveling very fast. This impact might be cause to get a new one. 

A good fit is crucial

Having a helmet that fits appropriately is as important as having a high quality helmet, according to Snell. A helmet that fits should be snug around a riders entire head. There are many different sizes and styles of helmets so the organizations recommends shopping for one like you would a shoe. You can buy helmets online, but it is best to try them on in person. 

Comments and Questions