Get the right coverage for your ride
Motorcycles are fast, powerful and agile machines, but they’re also more exposed than cars. While millions ride safely without incident, accidents happen, and they tend to be more serious. That’s why it is important to get a robust amount of motorcycle insurance coverage before you ride.
Standard motorcycle insurance is like auto insurance. However, as a motorcyclist, you are at additional risk for injuries and damage to your bike, and so you shouldn’t skimp on coverage.
What is motorcycle insurance?
Motorcycle insurance is available for any type of bike that can be legally on the road, including street bikes, cruisers, touring bikes, choppers and sport bikes. Some insurance companies also insure scooters and Mopeds.
Motorcycle insurance provides the same three basic types of coverage as auto insurance:
- “Liability” will cover damages in an accident you cause. This can include medical expenses to injured parties or damaged property.
- “Collision” covers the damage to your motorcycle if you collide with another vehicle or hit a guardrail.
- “Comprehensive” covers damage that is out of your control, such as if your bike is damaged in a storm, vandalized, stolen, or you collide with a deer or other animal.
Tip: When liability, collision and comprehensive motorcycle insurance are bundled together, it is often sold as “full” coverage. However, the term “full coverage” can be misleading because many full coverage policies don’t include other essential types of insurance that motorcycle riders should seriously consider, such as carrying a robust amount of liability insurance or uninsured/underinsured coverage in case you get hit by someone who can’t cover your damage and injuries. Call your AAA insurance agent and go over the policy carefully to ensure you have all the essential coverage you need.
Minimum liability insurance is mandatory!
In Washington, you are required to obtain coverage of $25,000 for injuries or death to another person; $50,000 for injuries or death to all other people; and $10,000 for damage to another person’s property. Idaho has the same liability requirements for injuries and deaths but requires $15,000 in minimum property damage liability.
Is the minimum liability enough?
It is wise to increase your liability coverage as much as possible. Remember that the primary role of insurance is to protect yourself against catastrophic financial loss. If you seriously injure another person in a motorcycle accident, your insurance company will likely pay your claim immediately, but the payout may be quickly exhausted—it won’t cover all costs. You could be faced with a significant judgement for additional damages to cover medical expenses, rehabilitation, etc.
Consider increasing the liability coverage to the maximum available. Once you hit the maximum limit, you can often tie your motorcycle insurance to an umbrella policy that can provide $1 million or more in liability coverage.
Tip: One advantage to an umbrella policy is that your insurance company will often represent you in any legal proceeding if you have been sued to recover medical or other damages. If you have a minimal level of liability insurance, the insurance company will likely pay the claim, but you will have to hire someone to represent you and cover any judgement out of pocket in a legal proceeding.
What doesn’t motorcycle insurance cover?
Motorcycle insurance won’t cover mechanical failures caused by age, and wear and tear. Also, most insurers will not cover the bike while on a racetrack, in timed races or racing events. Likewise, your motorcycle likely won’t be covered if it is being used for work outside of normal commuting.
What if my bike is totaled?
If your bike gets totaled in an accident you won’t likely get the full sales value back in the claim. Basic policies will pay back “the actual cash value,” which will account for the bike’s depreciation—the value of the bike on the day of the accident. Some policies, however, will pay an “agreed value.” These policies would tend to pay out a higher amount in a total loss claim than “actual cash value” policies.
You can also buy “total loss coverage” that will pay out the full replacement value of the bike. So, if you total a bike that was bought for $20,000, you will receive a check for $20,000, even though the bike’s actual resale value has depreciated to $15,000. Total loss coverage and “agreed value” policies will cost more.
As with auto insurance, a lot of useful coverage is often excluded from standard motorcycle policies. Think of a standard policy as a basic plan.
Here are some common add-ons that almost every motorcyclist should consider:
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage will pay to repair damage and cover medical expenses if you are hit by a driver who doesn’t have insurance or enough insurance to cover your damages. Note that uninsured/underinsured coverage tends to be more expensive for motorcycles than cars, because a motorcycle rider is at a higher risk for injuries, and motorcycles are more likely to be totaled in accidents. According to 2020 federal transportation data, for example, motorcyclists were four times more likely to be injured in an accident than cars for the same miles traveled.
- Medical payments coverage will pay for your injuries or a passenger’s medical bills if they get injured. Often this coverage can be used to supplement your medical coverage to cover co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses for doctor’s visits and rehabilitation.
- Accessories coverage will insure all the added “tricked out” items on your bike and safety gear.
- Carried contents coverage will insure any items that are carried with you on the bike, such as laptops, camera equipment, hunting and fishing gear, etc.
Tip: AAA Washington memberships pair well with insurance policies. As a AAA Plus or Premium member, you can add RV coverage for an additional cost to provide roadside assistance for your motorcycle along with motor homes, campers and boat trailers.
Should I cancel my motorcycle insurance in the winter?
It is not a good idea to cancel your policy, even if you’re planning to park your bike all winter inside your garage. If you cancel coverage, you won’t be protected for theft, fires, vandalism and cold weather damage. Plus, if you cancel, you may lose the locked-in price for your policy, and it may cost more to get the same coverage.
Tip: Many insurance companies will allow you to adjust your motorcycle policy to account for inactive winter months. For example, you can raise your deductibles and lower your coverage limits on collision and lower your liability limits. Note, though, that if your motorcycle insurance is tied to an umbrella policy, you will have to keep a maximum level of liability insurance throughout the year.
How much is motorcycle insurance?
The average cost of motorcycle insurance is roughly $750 annually in Washington and nationwide. However, as with auto insurance, the cost will vary depending on your driving record, road experience, claims history, where you live, the bike’s replacement value, the size of your deductible (in other words, how much you agree to pay out of pocket in a claim) and the amount of insurance (or coverage limits) that you buy.
Tip: It is possible to get discounts by bundling your motorcycle insurance with other policies, like home and car insurance, as well as paying your policy in full rather than in installments and taking a safety course. Insurance companies will also offer discounts for motorcycle riders with three years or more of riding experience and clean records.
If you own a bike, you need motorcycle insurance to legally drive in Washington and Idaho. But, given the added risks that motorcyclists face on the road, it is also wise to get a robust policy that protects you, your passengers, your bike and other drivers on the road. Also, don’t forget to call your AAA insurance agent at least once a year to review your policy and get the right coverage for your ride.
—Written by AAA Washington staff
—Top photo: sergey/AdobeStock