What Does Motorcycle Insurance Cover?

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Standard motorcycle insurance policies include bodily injury and property damage liability insurance, which motorcycle riders are required to have in most states. In addition, there are several optional coverages available, such as comprehensive and collision insurance, or coverage for a bike trailer.

Which motorcycle insurance coverage you should purchase will depend on your bike and its value, whether you want coverage for your own injuries if involved in an accident and how much protection you want for your belongings.

How does motorcycle insurance work?

Motorcycle insurance is similar to car insurance, providing you with financial protection for injuries or damages incurred while driving your vehicle. A typical motorcycle insurance policy includes liability insurance, which pays for any damages you cause to others, but it can also include coverage for your own bike and injuries. If you have more than one motorcycle, you can purchase a multi-bike policy and often receive a discount from your insurer.

On the other hand, when you ride a bike other than your own, such as while traveling or when borrowing one from a friend, your motorcycle insurance may not cover you fully. Typically, your liability insurance will follow you and act as either primary or secondary coverage if you're involved in an accident. However, if you have any questions about what your policy will cover when on another bike, you should check with your insurer.

Motorcycle liability insurance

In most states, motorcycle riders are required by law to carry two forms of liability insurance: bodily injury and property damage liability coverage. Like the names suggest, these cover any injuries to others or damage to their vehicle. Bodily injury and property damage liability do not cover you (the rider) or the motorcycle you're riding.

If you're involved in a collision, a third party will typically file a liability claim against your insurance company for whatever damages are believed to be your responsibility. Because of this, liability insurance is sometimes referred to as third-party insurance.

Every motorcycle insurance policy limits the amount of money it will pay out to others for bodily injury or property damage. The limits are frequently shown with slashes between them — for example, $25,000/$50,000/$10,000. The first number is the claim limit, or maximum dollar amount, per injured person that an insurance company will pay after a crash. The second number is the claim limit per accident. The third number is the claim limit a policy will pay to another party for any property damaged by the policyholder.

For example, consider a motorcycle insurance policy that has bodily injury liability (often shortened to BI or BIL) coverage of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. That means if a motorcyclist injures two people in an accident, each of those two people would be covered for up to $25,000, and the motorcycle rider would still be under the limit of the policy. If that rider injures three people, the policy would only pay up to $50,000 for the accident, no matter how much each individual injured person claims.

A claim limit for personal property liability applies to each accident. For example, if a motorcyclist crashes into the side of a car and damages it, this would cover the cost of those repairs, up to whatever limit the rider chose. Property damage liability insurance doesn't just cover damage to other vehicles, either. If a motorcyclist were to drive into a fence and cause enough damage that the fence needs to be repaired or replaced, that would be covered, too, up to the coverage limit.

The claim limit for personal property is typically much less than the two limits for bodily injury claims. A policy with BI protection of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident might only have about $10,000 of property liability insurance.

Guest passenger liability coverage

When it comes to bodily injury and property damage liability coverage, the major difference between motorcycle and auto insurance is that some motorcycle policies include additional coverage: guest passenger liability insurance. This coverage provides protection for any passenger injured while riding on the back of your motorcycle.

In some states, motorcycle liability insurance policies are required to include guest passenger liability coverage. But motorcycle insurers that don't already include guest passenger liability usually offer it as an optional coverage. Separate protection for anyone who might be a passenger on your bike is a good idea, especially if you frequently have others riding with you.

SR-22 and FR-44 insurance for motorcycles

If you've committed certain motor vehicle violations, such as receiving a DUI, you may be required to file an SR-22 or FR-44 certificate of financial responsibility before you can drive legally. You cannot file this form yourself. Instead, an insurer has to do it on your behalf to prove you've purchased the state-required amount of coverage from the company.

Not all insurers offer SR-22 or FR-44 motorcycle insurance, so you may have to request quotes from multiple motorcycle insurance companies to find coverage, as these forms indicate you're a higher-risk rider.

Optional types of motorcycle insurance coverage

Liability-only motorcycle insurance policies are often relatively inexpensive compared with auto insurance policies. However, there are a variety of additional coverages that you may want to consider adding, as motorcycle liability insurance doesn't provide financial protection for your own injuries or damage to your bike in an accident.

Medical payments and personal injury protection (PIP)

Medical payments coverage is a form of motorcycle insurance that covers the cost of medical bills for you (the rider) in the event you're injured on your motorcycle, similar to health insurance. It covers the rider, regardless of who is at fault for an accident. That means whether you crash into a bush or are struck by another vehicle, your medical bills would be covered, up to the limit of the policy. Medical payments coverage is optional, and motorcyclists can choose from a range of claim limits.

In some states, motorcycle riders have the option of purchasing PIP insurance. It's similar to medical payments coverage but can cover a wide variety of costs due to injury, such as lost wages, funeral costs and childcare expenses.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist

While uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (sometimes shortened to UM/UIM) is not generally required, motorcyclists can add it to their motorcycle insurance policies. It covers injuries to you as a rider, as well as damages to your bike caused by another driver who is inadequately insured. Whether the driver doesn't have any liability insurance or the cost of your damages is beyond the limits of their policy, this will pick up where their coverage leaves off.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage usually pays for medical bills, lost wages and other damages a policyholder might incur if the other party involved is not adequately insured. However, UM/UIM coverage in some insurance policies does not include personal property damage. You would have to opt in to uninsured/underinsured motorist property damage coverage as well.

Collision and comprehensive

Full coverage motorcycle insurance generally refers to a policy that includes liability insurance as well as comprehensive and collision insurance for your bike. Comprehensive and collision insurance are different from property liability insurance, in that they cover your own damages if you're involved in an accident or your bike is damaged. These policies are not required but are typically worth the cost if your bike is relatively new or would be expensive to repair.

In the event your motorcycle is involved in an accident — with another vehicle or an object — collision coverage pays for the cost to repair or replace your motorcycle, minus your deductible. It usually covers up to the Kelley Blue Book value of the motorcycle, which is determined by the price of identical bikes for sale across thousands of dealerships in the US, rather than a claim limit that is a specific dollar amount.

Comprehensive motorcycle insurance covers repair or replacement costs for your motorcycle in the event of nearly anything other than a collision. For example, if your bike is damaged in a fire or storm, vandalized or stolen, those things would fall under comprehensive coverage. It's valuable even when you're not riding the bike, so we recommend maintaining comprehensive coverage even when storing your motorcycle.

Remember that collision and comprehensive coverages usually only pay for the cost of standard parts. Any additional paint job, parts, features, graphics or other added equipment will probably not be covered by your motorcycle insurer unless you've added specific coverage for it. Those types of upgrades, if available, would typically require a special policy or endorsement.

Total loss

Some insurance carriers offer total loss coverage, which is similar to gap insurance, for motorcycles that are totaled in a crash. No matter the book value of the bike, the insurer will pay the suggested retail value of a replacement, minus your deductible. This could mean a substantial difference in the amount an insurance company will pay out for a crash, since new motorcycles significantly decrease in value the moment they are driven off the lot.

Total loss coverage might only be available for the first few years of a vehicle's life, because insurance companies won't replace bikes that are worth considerably less as they age. However, this coverage can be particularly valuable if you've just purchased a new motorcycle.

Motorcycle repair

Motorcycle repair insurance, also called mechanical breakdown insurance, is an optional coverage that pays for certain repairs to your bike. It's similar to an extended warranty in that you pay a premium and, should your motorcycle need a covered repair — such as for an engine or transmission issue — the policy will pay for your repair shop to fix it. Depending on the policy, you may need to pay a deductible per visit.

Carried contents and personal belongings

Contents and personal belongings coverage applies to possessions that you carry with you while riding your bike, such as your tools, motorcycle gear, cell phone and other items. They would be covered if they were lost, damaged or stolen.

For example, if a motorcyclist has a backpack with clothes or other valuables that is lost or stolen, it would be covered. Contents and personal belongings don't necessarily have to be stolen or damaged in a crash to qualify for a claim. They might accidentally fall off the motorcycle and be considered lost, which would also be covered.

Roadside assistance and towing

Roadside assistance and towing insurance are optional coverages for motorcycle insurance policies and can be added for a higher premium. Roadside assistance programs often will tow a motorcycle to the nearest shop, either free of charge or at a discounted rate. They usually also cover battery failure, flat tires and mechanical or electrical breakdowns and include free delivery of water, oil and fuel. If you are considering this optional coverage, you should make sure you don't already have these benefits by any other means, such as a AAA membership.

Other vehicles covered by motorcycle insurance policies

Motorcycle insurance policies can be used to cover a variety of vehicles other than motorcycles. In some cases, states require these vehicles to be insured in order to be driven legally, so we recommend referring to your local laws and considering coverage to protect your vehicle — whether it's required or not.

Mopeds and scooters

Mopeds and scooters are similar in performance and usage to motorcycles, and some states require them to be covered under a motorcycle insurance policy to be driven legally.

Most states require moped and scooter owners, like motorcycle owners, to have some level of bodily injury and property damage liability insurance. In addition to required liability coverage, the same optional motorcycle coverages are often available to moped and scooter drivers. Medical payments, uninsured/underinsured motorist, collision and comprehensive are all coverages moped and scooter drivers can typically purchase.

Trikes and motorcycles with sidecars

Three-wheeled motorcycles, often called trikes, are usually covered under motorcycle insurance policies, as they're similar to a traditional motorcycle but with a third wheel. Trike owners can purchase the same coverages available to motorcycle owners.

Motorcycles with sidecars can also be covered by a traditional motorcycle insurance policy.

ATVs

All-terrain vehicles can be covered under most motorcycle insurance policies. Many ATV owners forgo motorcycle insurance, because an insurance policy is often not required for ATVs, unlike scooters and trikes. However, most state-owned parks that allow ATVs require insurance, and we recommend having a policy regardless, in case your ATV is damaged or a rider is injured.

What does motorcycle insurance not cover?

Depending on your policy, certain uses of your motorcycle may not be covered. In these situations, you may be able to extend your policy's coverage through an insurance rider or endorsement, or you might have to purchase a separate policy.

  • Track days and competition: Some motorcycle insurance policies cover track days, but this isn't always the case. If you intend to ride your motorcycle on the track or competitively, you should first ask your insurer if the situation is covered. Otherwise, we recommend purchasing temporary coverage that will keep you and your bike protected financially while riding on a course.
  • Commercial use of your motorcycle: If you're a courier or otherwise use your motorcycle for business purposes, your individual policy may not cover you while on the job. Consider a commercial vehicle insurance policy if you regularly use your bike for work, outside of commuting.

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