Standard motorcycle insurance policies include bodily injury and property damage liability insurance, which riders are required to have in most states. In addition, there is a long list of optional coverages, such as comprehensive and collision insurance, that are available for riders to purchase. Which motorcycle insurance coverages 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 in that the policy offers you 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 multibike policy and often receive a discount from your insurer.
On the other hand, if you ride another bike, 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 bodily injury to others or property damage a motorcycle rider might cause to a third party while operating their vehicle. Bodily injury and property damage liability does not cover you (the rider) or the motorcycle itself. If you’re involved in a collision, a third party will typically file a liability claim against your insurance company for whatever damages you're believed to be responsible for. Therefore, 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 and property damage, respectively. 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 an insurance company will pay out 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, or rider.
For example, consider a motorcycle insurance policy that has bodily injury liability (often shortened to BI or BIL) coverage up to $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. That means if a motorcyclist injures two people in an accident, they would each be covered up to $25,000 and the rider would still be under the limit of the policy. If a rider with the same limits injured three people, their policy would only pay up to $50,000 for the accident no matter the amount each individual injured person claimed.
A claim limit for personal property liability applies to each individual accident. For example, if a motorcyclist crashed into the side of a car and damaged 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 drives into a fence and caused enough damage that it needed 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 $25,000 in BI protection and $50,000 per accident might only have about a $10,000 limit for property liability insurance.
Guest Passenger Liability Coverage
When it comes to bodily injury and property damage liability coverage, the only major difference between motorcycle and auto insurance is that some motorcycle policies include an additional coverage: guest passenger liability insurance. Guest passenger liability insurance provides protection for any passenger who is injured on your motorcycle.
In some states, motorcycle liability insurance policies are required to include guest passenger liability coverage, which protects anyone riding on the back of a driver’s motorcycle. But motorcycle insurance companies that don’t already include guest passenger liability still usually offer it as an optional coverage. Having separate protection for anyone who might be a passenger on your bike is good idea, especially if you frequently ride with others.
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 driving legally. You cannot file this form yourself, an insurer has to do it on your behalf in order 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 as compared to auto insurance policies. However, there’s a wide 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 damages 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 crashed into a bush or were 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 to purchase personal injury protection (PIP). It’s similar to medical payments coverage but can cover a wider variety of costs due to injury, such as lost wages, funeral costs and child care expenses.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance
While it’s not generally required, motorcyclists can also add uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (sometimes shortened to UM/UIM) 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 was beyond the limits of their policy, this picks up wherever 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 was not adequately insured. However, UM/UIM coverage offered by some insurance policies does not include personal property damage. You would have to opt in to uninsured/underinsured motorist property damage coverage as well.
Full Coverage Motorcycle Insurance: Collision and Comprehensive
Full coverage motorcycle insurance generally refers to a policy that includes both 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 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 an aggregate price of the identical bike for sale across thousands of dealerships in the U.S., rather than a claim limit that is a specific dollar amount.
Comprehensive motorcycle insurance covers the cost to repair or replace your motorcycle in the event nearly anything other than a collision occurs. For example, if your bike was damaged in a fire or storm, vandalized, or stolen, those things would fall under comprehensive coverage. This coverage is 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 factory or standard parts. Any additional parts, features, paint jobs, graphics or other additional equipment will probably not be covered by your motorcycle insurer unless you’ve added specific coverage for it. Coverage for those types of upgrades, if available, would typically require a special policy or endorsement.
Total Loss Coverage for Motorcycles
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 toward its replacement, minus your deductible. This could mean a substantial difference in the amount an insurance company pays out for a crash because new motorcycles significantly decrease in value the moment once they are driven off a lot.
Total loss coverage might only be available for the first few years of a vehicle’s life, since insurance companies won’t replace bikes that are worth considerably less as they age. However, this can be a particularly valuable coverage if you’ve just purchased a new motorcycle.
Motorcycle Repair Insurance
Motorcycle repair insurance, also called mechanical breakdown insurance, is an optional coverage that pays for certain covered repairs to your bike. It’s similar to an extended warranty in that you pay a premium and, should your motorcycle need a repair, such as fixing its engine or transmission, the policy covers fixes made at your repair shop. Depending on the policy, you may need to pay a deductible per visit.
Carried Contents and Personal Belongings Coverage
Contents and personal belongings coverage applies to any of your possessions that you carry with you while riding your bike. With this coverage, items such as your tools and motorcycle gear, cell phone and other possessions that you carry with you would be covered if they’re lost, damaged or stolen. For example, if a motorcyclist has a backpack with clothes or other valuables that get lost or stolen, they 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 a motorcycle and be considered lost, which would be covered.
Roadside Assistance and Towing Insurance
Roadside assistance and towing insurance are optional coverages for motorbike insurance policies and can be added in exchange 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 also usually cover battery failure, flat tires, or mechanical or electrical breakdown and include free delivery of water, oil or fuel. Riders considering this optional coverage should make sure they 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 are often used to cover a variety of motor vehicles other than just motorcycles. In some cases, states require that these vehicles are insured in order to be legally driven, 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 motorcycle insurance policies in order to be legally driven.
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 liability coverage required, the same optional motorcycle insurance 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 other than a third wheel. Motorcycles with sidecars are also similar in that they can be covered with a traditional motorcycle insurance policy. Trike owners can get the same coverages available any motorcycle owner when they purchase coverage.
All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) can also be covered under most motorcycle insurance policies. Many ATV owners forgo buying a motorcycle insurance policy, because, unlike scooters or trikes, ATV owners are often not required to have one. However, most state-owned parks that allow visitors to ride ATVs require insurance, and we recommend having a policy in case your ATV is damaged or a rider is injured.
What Does Motorcycle Insurance Not Cover?
Depending on your motorcycle insurance policy, certain uses of your motorcycle may not be covered. In these situations, you may be able to extend your policy’s coverage through a rider or endorsement, or you might have to purchase a separate policy.
- Track Days & 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 these situations are covered. Otherwise, we recommend you purchase 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 motorcycle insurance policy may not cover you while on the job. You should consider a commercial vehicle insurance policy if you regularly use your bike for work, outside of commuting.