A practical guide for understanding motorcycle insurance

A motorcycle rider drives his bike down the road.

Not much compares to hitting the open road on a motorcycle. But the freedom and rush of traveling on two wheels comes with an inherent added risk, therefore, proper motorcycle insurance coverage is a necessity for riders.

What does motorcycle insurance cover?

Much like car insurance, most states require liability insurance for motorcycles as a minimum to be legal. But purchasing additional coverage, such as collision and comprehensive as well as medical payments, can protect riders in the event of a costly, or even fatal accident. It can also provide coverage for events other than crashes. Here are six types of coverage that most insurance companies offer for motorcycle insurance.

1. Bodily injury liability: one of the coverage requirements by most states, bodily injury liability, covers expenses for any injuries suffered by another driver and any of their passengers in an at-fault accident. This coverage also kicks in for any legal expenses in the event you are sued. The minimum coverage needed varies by state. Additionally, it may be wise to consider purchasing higher limits beyond the state minimum. In a motorcycle insurance policy, the limits may appear in this format: 25/50/10. The first two numbers represent bodily injury limits. In this example, the policy would cover $25,000 in bodily injury expenses per person and $50,000 in bodily injury coverage per motor vehicle. Liability insurance does not have a deductible.

2. Property damage liability: this coverage represents the final number ($10,000) in the previous example and protects you in the event you damage another person’s property, such as another driver’s car or a fence or sign, in an at-fault accident. Just like bodily injury liability, this also covers legal expenses, and there is no deductible involved.

3. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage: protects you from damages and injuries sustained in an accident caused by another at-fault driver that either doesn’t have any insurance or doesn’t have adequate insurance coverage to pay for the not-at-fault driver’s expenses. This coverage is required in some states, so you should check with your insurance company before making a final decision on your policy.

4. Collision coverage: works just like it does with car insurance. If the motorcycle is damaged in an accident, the insurance company covers the costs of the policyholder’s repairs, less the deductible. So if you have $2,000 worth of damage with a $500 deductible, you’ll be responsible for the first $500, and then the insurance company will cover the additional $1,500 of damage.

5. Comprehensive coverage: offers protection against theft, vandalism and any damage to the motorcycle caused by something other than an accident, such as fire, flood, hail, etc. The insurance company pays for repairs or replacement costs, less the deductible.

6. Medical payments/personal injury protection: covers you for any injuries you or your passengers sustain in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. Medical payments would cover such expenses as an ambulance ride, x-rays and other medical expenses. Personal injury protection (PIP) provides more coverage than medical payments, extending to such costs as lost wages and death benefits. PIP is used in some states and serves as a replacement for medical payment coverage in those instances.

When riding, always make sure to wear proper clothing and motorcycle safety gear, including helmets and jackets, for protection. If you need storage, consider buying a motorcycle backpack.

Additional motorcycle insurance coverage options

Beyond these six basic coverage options, motorcycle riders can choose from a host of additional coverages that they can add to their policy. Each insurance company has its own set of coverages to choose from, so be sure to research and ask the company or agent what they offer.

Total loss coverage. There isn’t much worse than purchasing a brand-new bike only to have it damaged or stolen shortly thereafter. Buying a new motorcycle is an expensive investment, and in the event the unimaginable happens, having additional coverage is the best way for you to ensure you receive payment for the appropriate value of your bike. This coverage varies by name and terms depending on the insurance company, but is generally offered for newer model bikes.

Special equipment. For riders who have made custom enhancements on their bikes, this coverage adds more protection for the added value of the motorcycle. This coverage would be best if permanent equipment has been added to the bike that isn’t considered factory standard. While comprehensive and collision provide coverage to fix or replace a bike, it’s typically only for the price of standard parts. So think of this add-on like purchasing a rider or endorsement for expensive jewelry on your homeowners insurance.

Roadside assistance. No one wants to be stuck on the side of the road with a broken-down bike. Many carriers offer roadside assistance coverage that provides coverage in the event a motorcycle is out of gas, has a flat tire, needs a tow or for any other failures that may require quick assistance to get a bike back on the road.

Trip interruption. Sometimes motorcycle joy rides can take you far from home. In the event your motorcycle breaks down or is involved in an accident in this situation, this coverage helps pay for your lodging, transportation and food. While the distance from home can vary by policy, trip interruption usually kicks in for incidents occurring more than 100 miles from home.

To see which motorcycle insurance companies consumers say are the best in your area, visit Clearsurance's motorcycle insurance company rankings page.

The content on this site is offered only as a public service to the web community and does not constitute solicitation or provision of legal advice. This site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an insurance company or an attorney licensed or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. You should always consult a suitably qualified attorney regarding any specific legal problem or matter. The comments and opinions expressed on this site are of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the insurance company or any individual attorney.

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