Do You Need Motorcycle Insurance?

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years

UPDATED: Jun 21, 2021

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What You Should Know

  • Most insurance companies allow you to purchase a motorcycle policy before earning your license
  • To get a motorcycle license most states will require you to take written and practical exams or additional safety courses
  • Choosing to bundle your insurance policies from the same provider can help you save on costs

Perhaps you’re a new motorcycle owner or someone returning to ride after years of absence. You may be wondering, “Do you have to get motorcycle insurance?” 

Knowing how to get a motorcycle license is one thing, but insurance is a whole new game. In many ways, motorcycle insurance requirements are similar to automotive insurance. One immediate commonality is that most states require motorcyclists to carry an active insurance policy.

Unless you live in Florida, Montana, or Washington, yes, you must be insured to operate a motorcycle legally.1 

The other 47 states require different levels of coverage for motorcyclists, however. Depending on where you live, the mandatory specifics of your insurance policy—from minimum liability to additional protections—will vary.

Do I Need Insurance to Purchase a Motorcycle?

If you have yet to purchase a motorcycle but can’t rid yourself of daydreams of the open road, a common question is whether or not you must have a policy in place before going on your first ride. Most insurance companies will allow you to purchase motorcycle insurance coverage before earning your license or endorsement.

The answer depends on whether or not you have financed your purchase. If you intend to pay out of pocket, a motorcycle insurance policy won’t be necessary to purchase from individual sellers. Depending on state laws, a dealership may ask that you demonstrate proof of insurance.

If you intend to source additional financing for your purchase, your lender will require minimum liability coverage and possibly additional insurance to protect their investment.2 As with auto values and insurance, motorcycles gradually depreciate over the years, and insurance costs will drop.

Prepare to Spend More on Insurance for Supersports

Sportbikes, or “Supersports,” are one type of motorcycle that is more suited to a particular usage and marketed to specific demographics. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) defines this bike classification as “built on racing platforms but modified for the highway and sold to consumers.”3 Advertising for sportbikes promotes their speed, performance, and style to younger riders.

The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) identified sport bikes as the type of motorcycle with the highest fatality and accident rates. While new and younger riders should expect higher insurance rates as with a car, providers intentionally set policies for sports bikes as more costly due to more expensive claims and an increased chance of theft.3

How to Get a Motorcycle License or Endorsement

Motorcycle licenses are specific to two-wheel-only riders. For already licensed drivers, your state will likely add a “motorcycle endorsement” to your existing license. Some states, such as Alaska and Georgia, require a separate license. 

Motorcycle licenses and endorsements are typically referred to as “Class M.”4

Permits, License Exams, Registration, & Insurance

Most states require written and practical exams similar to earning a driver’s license, issuing permits to learn how to ride a motorcycle legally. Some states require additional safety courses. Your state likely enforces restrictions on motorcyclist learning permits, such as daylight operation only or no passengers.

As you will be learning on public roads, insurance is required in 47 states to accrue the necessary amount of practice hours on a motorcycle to earn your license or endorsement.5 Once you have obtained a learner’s permit, contact your insurance provider to ensure you have your state’s required coverage to work towards your license.

As with any car or truck, legally operating a motorcycle requires a license (or state-required alternative), registration, and (except for three states) insurance that meets minimum liability levels. To legally and safely operate your motorcycle with coverage to protect yourself and others, plan to tackle your state’s requirements together.

Other Two-Wheeled Vehicles

If you own a scooter or moped and want to know if you need motorcycle insurance or another type of coverage, contact your state’s DMV to request more information. Different states may or may not require specific insurance, licenses, or endorsements. 

For example, South Carolina differentiates between motorcycles and mopeds with “Class M” and “Class G,” respectively.

Do I Need Insurance Outside of Summers?

If you live in the northern states or only intend to ride your motorcycle for limited portions of the year, ask your policy provider about “lay-up” insurance. This type of coverage temporarily ceases all policy protections other than comprehensive coverage if damage occurs in storage.  Suspending some of your coverage is an easy way to save some money while still protecting your motorcycle.

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How Much Does Motorcycle Insurance Cost?

Now that you know whether or not motorcycle insurance coverage is required in your state, you might be asking yourself, “How much is motorcycle insurance?” The answer is as varied as each state’s minimum liability requirements—and for a reason.

State Minimum Liability Requirements for Insurance

In the states where motorcycle insurance is required, there are set minimums for liability coverage in at-fault incidents. “At fault” refers to the motor vehicle operator responsible for a collision or accident. Minimum motorcycle liability insurance doesn’t cover your personal medical or repair costs but the medical and repair bills for any person or property you might harm.

An insurer often writes liability coverage amounts in the format of “X/Y/Z.” For example, Arizona’s requirement is 15/30/10,” which means that motorcyclists in the Grand Canyon State must hold an active policy that insures them for:1

  • $15,000 for bodily injury to a singular person
  • $30,000 for bodily injury to multiple people (divided amongst the injured parties)
  • $10,000 for damage to any property

Your state’s DMV or your insurance provider can provide the most current information on specific insurance minimums and additional coverage requirements.

Average Annual Cost of Motorcycle Insurance Premiums

A state’s minimum liability requirements heavily contribute to its premium averages. An insurance company sets its policy rates according to how much they pay on submitted claims. If a state’s minimum liability is comparatively high, an insurer’s payments (and, therefore, the premiums paid by policyholders) will rise accordingly.

In addition to your state’s minimum liability requirement, the following factors can affect the cost of your motorcycle insurance:

  • Your age
  • Your driving history
  • Optional coverage additions
  • Your motorcycle model’s value
  • The number of miles traveled
  • Riding season (depending on your location)
  • Motorcycle storage

Additional Insurance: Requirements & Options

“What types of insurance do I need?” is probably a more pertinent question for most riders than, “Do you need motorcycle insurance?” Minimum liability coverage meets your state’s legal requirements but may still leave motorcyclists (and their passengers) at risk should an accident or collision occur.

Ask your insurance provider about the different optional coverages they offer. Some states may make certain types of coverage a requirement, whereas others leave it up to the rider’s discretion.

Options for expanding your insurance policy include:6

  • Collision coverage (e.g., coverage for any damage to your motorcycle in an accident)
  • Comprehensive coverage (e.g., non-accident or collision damage, such as theft, vandalism, or fires)
  • Additional medical coverage for motorcyclists and passengers
  • Coverage for specific parts used in repairs (e.g., OEM, aftermarket)
  • Total loss (e.g., new or similar replacement for a totaled motorcycle)
  • Roadside Assistance and trip interruption (e.g., towing, lodging, and meal costs incurred from a breakdown)

Additional Medical Coverage – Motorcyclists & Passengers

State-required minimum medical liability insurance may not protect motorcyclists or their passengers. Liability insurance covers the injured parties or damaged properties whenever you are at fault for an accident. It does not cover the medical, repair, or replacement bills you may incur.

Ask your insurance provider about additional coverage to assist with your (and passengers’) potential medical payments. Personal Injury Protection (PIP), or “no fault insurance,” will help cover your healthcare expenses following a motorcycle accident. PIP is primarily available in “no fault states,” which require automotive and motorcycle insurers to pay for a policyholder’s motorcycle injuries, regardless of causes of motorcycle accidents..

Some states require PIP as minimum coverage. If PIP is an option you’d like to learn about, ask your insurance provider for more information. 80% of motorcycle collisions result in injury or death.7 Additional medical coverage will better safeguard yourself and passengers should an accident occur.

Bundling Your Insurance

Most insurance companies provide a wide variety of policies. Bundling your motorcycle coverage with policies from the same provider should result in savings opportunities. If you have cars, trucks, boats, homeowners, or other insurance policies, ask about the combinations and discounts available to you. 

4AutoInsuranceQuote is Here to Help

Managing your motorcycle policy and auto insurance is a tedious process. Collecting quotes from various providers, listening to hours of smooth jazz while stuck on call-waiting, and determining the best rates or bundles takes a significant amount of time from your time to ride or maintain your motorcycle.

If you’ve been asking yourself, “Do you need motorcycle insurance?” in hopes of skipping these hassles, don’t fret. 4AutoInsuranceQuote provides a simple tool that makes comparison shopping for insurance policies as easy as possible. All you need is your zip code and the answers to a few basic questions about your personal coverage needs.

References:

  1. Motorcycle Legal Foundation. Do You Need Motorcycle Insurance?  https://www.motorcyclelegalfoundation.com/do-you-need-motorcycle-insurance/  
  2. Motorcycle Legal Foundation. Motorcycle Insurance Without a License. https://www.motorcyclelegalfoundation.com/motorcycle-insurance-without-a-license/ 
  3. BikeBound. Sportbike Insurance.  https://www.bikebound.com/motorcycle-insurance/types/sportbike-insurance/
  4. Legal Beagle. What is a Class M License? https://legalbeagle.com/13710193-what-is-a-class-m-license.html 
  5. Legal Beagle. Can You Get Insurance with a Permit? https://legalbeagle.com/13710026-can-you-get-insurance-with-a-permit.html 
  6. Forbes Advisor. Motorcycle Insurance Explained.  https://www.forbes.com/advisor/car-insurance/motorcycle-insurance/ 
  7. NHTSA. A Comprehensive Approach to Motorcycle Safety. https://one.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/motorcycle/safebike/approach.html
  8. Business Insider. The Average Cost of Motorcycle Insurance by Age and by State. https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/average-cost-motorcycle-insurance#average-cost-of-motorcycle-insurance-by-age 
  9. Insurance Information Institute. Background on Motorcycle Crashes. https://www.iii.org/article/background-on-motorcycle-crashes  
  10. Insurance Information Institute. Motorcycle Insurance: Finding the Right Insurance Coverage for Your Bike. https://www.iii.org/article/motorcycle-insurance  
  11. Insurance Journal. Motorcycle Injuries Rise After Helmet Laws Weakened: Study. https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2013/06/05/294382.htm  
  12. MKR LLP. What are the Most Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents? https://www.mkrfirm.com/blog/motorcycle-accidents/5-common-causes-motorcycle-accident/  
  13. Statista. Average Annual Motorcycle Insurance Premium in the United States as of October 2020, by State. https://www.statista.com/statistics/826692/annual-motorbike-insurance-premium-by-state-usa/

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