There are a lot of joys associated with riding a motorcycle that can’t really compare to anything else. But if caught in the wrong situation, you’ll want to make sure you have the right coverage to ensure your physical and financial health.
Motorcycle insurance is often misunderstood. It’s something that can be frustrating to deal with and many wonder if it’s even necessary to have in the first place.
Can I ride a motorcycle without insurance? In most states in the U.S., it is illegal to ride a motorcycle without insurance. Most states recognize that motorcycle accidents are expensive. Since motorcyclists are more susceptible to injury, insurance is required in the more likely event an accident does happen to help protect you financially.
I have insured over twelve motorcycles in the last few years and have been in an accident since then. I have seen firsthand how motorcycle insurance works, why it’s required by law, and how it can protect you in the case of a crash. This article will explain everything I’ve learned about motorcycle insurance.
The Laws Of Having Motorcycle Insurance
Motorcycles themselves are not dangerous machines. It’s how people ride them that makes them dangerous. Because of their lack of protection such as seat belts, air bags, and rolls bars, motorcyclists are more likely to become injured compared to other vehicles.
According to the NHTSA, motorcyclists are almost five times more likely to be injured compared to passenger car occupants. There are a lot of reasons that go behind the fact that motorcycles are involved in more accidents, but the main point is that motorcyclists are not immune to crashes.
It is illegal in most states in the U.S. to not have motorcycle insurance and therefore motorcyclists cannot ride on roads without it. The only three states that do not require motorcycle insurance is Florida, Montana, and Washington. But that doesn’t mean residents from these states shouldn’t buy insurance.
Like auto insurance, motorcyclists are required to have at least liability insurance coverage on their policy. This is the most basic and least expensive coverage you can get on a motorcycle. Liability insurance means that if you cause an accident that injures someone else and/or their property, your insurance will kick in and pay for those damages so you don’t have to.
Liability does not cover your personal injuries, but having liability insurance does protect you when you cause harm to another party. And people are less likely to sue you if you have liability insurance.
You’ll see figures like 25/65/15 when picking out and obtaining an insurance policy. This specific figure means your policy will cover a max of $25,000 worth of bodily injuries per person with a max of $65,000 of bodily injury per accident and a $15,000 maximum coverage of damages per accident.
Each state is different with how much they minimally require in liability insurance. You are always welcome to increase your liability coverage which is actually a smart idea because accidents can get pretty expensive very quickly.
But you don’t have to just stop with liability insurance. You can also add on options such as PIP, or personal injury protection, which covers your medical expenses whether or not you caused the accident. There’s also comprehensive insurance which will cover the cost of fixing or replacing your motorcycle. Uninsured/underinsured is also important to have in case someone else causes you to get in an accident and they don’t have the insurance to cover the cost of your damages.
The Consequences Of Not Having Insurance
Unfortunately, there are many consequences that come along with not having motorcycle insurance if you own and ride a motorcycle. First, let’s discuss what happens if you’re caught not having insurance in a state that requires it.
It is possible for a police officer to run your plate numbers through their data base that can tell whether or not your motorcycle has insurance. So reckless driving isn’t what can get you caught. A policeman has a right to pull you over if their data base indicates you don’t have insurance.
Once you are pulled over, there are several things that could happen depending on the police officer, the laws of the state you live in, and the extent of your previous violations.
Most everyone will get a ticket if they get pulled over without motorcycle insurance. The amount of these tickets can range anywhere between $100-$5,000. That’s considered a hefty fine; you’d be paying less in insurance premiums in a year than you would paying one of those tickets.
The police officer also has a right to suspend your motorcycle license. The amount of time your license is suspended depends on the officer as well as specific laws in the state you live in. You’ll likely need to pay some fees to get your license active again and some states may require you to take some sort of safety course to get it back.
It’s also a possibility for your motorcycle to get impounded and/or towed at your expense if you are caught without motorcycle insurance. Again, you’ll be faced with further fees of having to get a motorcycle back if you wish to ever see it again.
Taking your motorcycle away is the law’s defensive way of protecting other drivers around you. Though this isn’t as likely to happen, police officers have every jurisdiction to do so. Consider yourself very lucky if this doesn’t happen to you if you get pulled over without insurance.
These consequences concerning the law are only applicable to those who live in states that require motorcycle insurance. Now let’s talk about the financial consequences you could face not having motorcycle insurance on your motorcycle. These consequences apply to every single person who own and ride a motorcycle whether or not their state requires insurance.
The purpose for insurance is to help you out in case you’re in some sort of accident. There are millions of scenarios and types of accidents that could happen while on a motorcycle, so having that insurance will save you a lot of frustration and financial mayhem.
If you do not have insurance, you are held 100% liable for damages you caused to others in an accident, meaning you will have to pay their medical expenses and fix their vehicles straight out of your pocket.
If you don’t have the funds to pay for their expenses, the other party has a right to sue you. They can put a lien against your house, savings, or any other large asset you may have. Ultimately, you can go bankrupt.
That’s without mentioning any medical expenses you personally may have during an accident you caused. A lot of people don’t understand that if you are in some sort of vehicle accident, especially ones that you’ve caused, medical insurance sometimes won’t pay for your expenses.
I personally had to learn this one the hard way after I was involved in an accident. So aside from other damages you have to pay for others, you have to pay for your own injuries (which you’ll likely have if you’re riding a motorcycle).
Let’s give you an example. A motorcyclist is riding down a residential road going 30 MPH. He didn’t notice a stop sign and ended up running it. Crossing traffic didn’t have a stop sign, so a car comes and smashes into the back of his motorcycle and the car ends up running into a power pole.
The back end of his motorcycle is badly damaged and the motorcyclist ended up with several scratches, bruises, and a broken rib. Inside the car who hit him was the driver and another passenger. The front bumper and hood on their car is badly damaged from the power pole and the passenger ended up breaking their wrist from the collision.
It would seem that the car who hit the motorcyclist would be at fault. In actuality, the motorcyclist is at fault because he ran the stop sign. In this scenario, the motorcyclist is held liable for all damages caused. The fixes for the damages to the car will be about $10,000, the medical bills for both passengers will likely be around $30,000, and replacing the power pole will be at least $5,000.
That’s $45,000 for the other party’s injuries and damages that the motorcyclist will have to pay out of pocket because he didn’t have insurance. Plus he has his own medical bills and damages to his motorcycle to pay for. And that’s if the passengers in the car don’t claim pain and suffering (emotional distress, missed work, etc.) which could be thousands of dollars more.
Having at least the minimum coverage of liability that states require would have covered most, if not all, of the damages this motorcyclist caused. He would have only needed to worry about his own injuries. Not having motorcycle insurance just got really expensive for this motorcyclist.
How Much Insurance Costs For A Motorcycle
Now that we’ve covered the fact that in most places it is illegal to not have motorcycle insurance (and unwise), you’ll probably be asking how much motorcycle insurance is if you don’t have it already.
The cost of motorcycle insurance depends on a lot of factors such as the type of motorcycle you have, what kind of coverage you want, and your driving record.
For example, the minimum liability coverage will be your cheapest option. If you are on a budget, this is the type of insurance you should get (and it’s required). I paid $300 a year for liability insurance for my motorcycle which was $25 a month. That was very affordable.
The average cost of motorcycle insurance in the U.S. is about $519 a year, or about $43 for the monthly premium. To learn more about what factors affect the cost of your motorcycle insurance, see my other article here.
How To Bring Down Costs Of Insurance
As helpful as motorcycle insurance can be, it can also be a hardship for some paying the monthly premium. Luckily there are a few ways you can bring down the cost of your insurance that will still keep you covered and safe on the roads.
Though this is an obvious suggestion, I can’t go without saying that having a good driving record tremendously helps with your insurance rates. Getting several tickets, a DUI, or causing an accident of some sort will make your insurance rates go up significantly because you’ve shown insurance companies that you’re not a reliable rider and are a higher risk for them.
If you get a ticket while out riding, there are ways to keep it from staining your record such as getting a deferral or contesting the ticket if you feel the ticket was wrongfully given to you.
Taking a motorcycle safety course is an excellent way to bring down the cost of your insurance. A motorcycle safety course is a class that lasts about 1-3 days and teaches motorcyclists some important safety principles. You must pass a written and riding test to get credit for it and a lot of insurance companies favor that. Contact your insurance company to see if they reward their clients by taking this course.
Comprehensive insurance for motorcycles can be quite expensive. Comprehensive insurance is one of the highest levels of insurance you can get with vehicles because it covers a wider range of injuries and damages involved in an accident for the the at-fault party and the victims. Because motorcycles are considered to be more risky, comprehensive is more expensive.
Though I would always recommend getting the most coverage you can possibly get on your motorcycle, sometimes that’s just not possible. If this is the case for you, getting good liability as well as uninsured/underinsured should keep you well covered and is usually cheaper than comprehensive. Liability will cover damages to other parties and uninsured/underinsured with ensure you are covered if someone else causes your accident and they don’t have insurance.
Common Mistakes Motorcyclists Make
There are a few common mistakes people make when it comes to riding a motorcycle and the insurance associated with it. The thought behind these scenarios often slip through the cracks but can have big consequences if they’re left ignored.
A lot of people wait too long to get insurance on a motorcycle after they buy it. Insurance should be placed on the motorcycle immediately after purchasing and before you pull it out of the parking lot. For all you know, you could get in an accident as you’re pulling out and have zero coverage. Contact your insurance agency the second you hand over the cash to buy the motorcycle.
Many also forget that they need insurance when they obtain a permit while learning how to ride a motorcycle. Not only is it dangerous to have a permit without insurance, it’s also illegal.
If you are selling your motorcycle, you’ll need to keep your insurance on it until it is officially sold. This is especially true if you are willing to let potential buyers take your bike for a test run before they actually buy it (which is recommended if you want to sell your motorcycle).
Insurance goes with the vehicle and not the rider so you can’t assume the test rider’s insurance will cover damages they may cause while taking your motorcycle out for a spin. For more information about letting potential buyers ride your motorcycle, see my other article here.