Why Insuring A Classic Motorcycle Is Different Than Other Bikes

Insurance policies for classic, vintage or antique motorcycles are essentially the same as those for any other bike. The policies offer the same standard protections -- bodily injury and personal property liability -- as well a number of optional coverages. When it comes to policies, the only significant difference between new and classic motorcycle insurance is the price and whether a vintage bike qualifies as a custom one.

Classic, vintage or antique motorcycles are defined a number of ways, but generally, they are bikes at least 25 years old and look the way they were intended to when first manufactured or built.

They also need insurance like any other motorcycle. Most states in the U.S. require any motorcycle ridden on public highways and roads to have standard coverage (bodily injury and personal property liability). The age or value of a motorcycle have little to do with its potential to harm others so these coverages are relatively the same across those two factors.

Optional protections, such as medical payments or uninsured/underinsured coverages are also popular with motorcycle riders. But, again, these coverages are largely dependent on the rider and where they live, not their motorcycle itself. Whether you own a 1953 Indian Chief or a brand new 2016 Yamaha, these coverages will likely be similar. 

Collision and comprehensive coverages are where custom motorcycle insurance can get a little complicated. Collision covers the cost to repair or replace a bike (minus a policyholder’s deductibles) if it is damaged in a crash. Comprehensive covers almost everything else, including loss due to theft.

Since most classic motorcycles are factory-built, they are easy for insurance companies to value using the Kelley Blue Book or the NADA Motorcycle Appraisal Guide. The companies then cross check those values with ones declared by bike owners and if it falls within an agreed upon range, they issue them a policy. The majority of classic motorcycles fall into this category and aren’t any more or less expensive than some brand new models.

However, some antique motorcycles might have greatly appreciated in value or qualify as a custom bike, both which typically have repair and replacement costs drastically higher than factory-built motorcycles. 

In the case of a classic motorcycle that has appreciated in value, an owner might need to seek out a specialty insurer. They also will likely have to provide some form of verification of their motorcycles worth, such as proof of an appraisal. Vintage bike owners that find themselves in this situation probably own a limited edition motorcycle.

A custom motorcycle that has been largely rebuilt with fabricated parts might still qualify as a “classic” but the modifications might also classify it as a custom motorcycle in the eyes of an insurance company. This could have major ramifications on the cost to insure a bike because the cost and labor associated with and customization – whether is a simple paint job or the entire frame – could be very high. 

To be sure a classic motorcycle owner is adequately insured, it’s wise to speak to multiple agents from different companies regarding the value of their motorcycle.

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