By the time a rider is old enough to consider licensing a motorcycle for street use, she should be mature enough to realize that humans make mistakes, and motorcyclists count themselves among the ranks of humans. Consequently, the need for motorcyclists to make sure they can pay for any damage they may cause to other vehicles should be fairly obvious. Even though bikes are smaller than cars or trucks, they can still put some pretty big hurt on the other vehicles in the right (or is that the wrong?) circumstances. With that in mind, almost all states require that the registered owner of a motorcycle carry some form of proof of financial responsibility. In most states – even those that don’t require proof of financial responsibility to register a motorcycle – the primary means of protecting oneself is liability insurance.

Motorcycle Insurance Basics

While many states do offer alternate means of covering your financial responsibility for use of your motorcycle on public highways, the easiest (and most likely cheapest) is through an insurance policy from a company registered to do business in your state. Some states do offer pools which allow people who insurance companies won’t cover, usually because of excessive tickets, accidents, or DUIs. Other states allow for riders to leave a deposit in the form of cash or securities in a state office as collateral. We all hate paying insurance companies for a service we hope we never have to use, but how many of us have a spare $50,0000-$60,000 lying around to have the state hold for us so that we can go ride?

Honda CB500X action

No matter what you ride, from the most expensive bike to the least, you need proof of financial responsibility.

More than the Minimum

We need to note, however, that the amount of insurance coverage states require is the minimum level of coverage and will not cover all possible scenarios. Hospital bills are expensive, and for example, the $15,000 of injury coverage required for a single person won’t last long if they end up in the hospital for even a night. Additionally, with the price of the average car well above the $10,000 minimum property damage required by many states, one human error could have huge financial consequences for you if you’re not covered sufficiently. So, if you’ve got assets to protect, like a house or a storage unit full of gold bullion, you’d be smart to buy coverage for more than the minimum amount required by your state.

Some states also require Uninsured Motorist coverage to cover you should you be involved in an accident with a driver who has no insurance or not enough to cover your medical expenses. Since motorcyclists are more vulnerable in the case of physical conflict between motor vehicles, UM might be a good thing to carry, particularly if your medical insurance isn’t terribly comprehensive.

Mechanics Of Insurance

Full Throttle Coverage

Up until now, we’ve only been considering insurance for when you’re at fault (Well, except for the UM coverage.). What about for those of us who owe money on our motorcycles, or to put it another way, what about those of us who ride a motorcycle that the bank co-owns? Insurance is there to protect us from ourselves and others in this case. Naturally, the banks want us to carry Comprehensive and Collision insurance when we ride their motorcycle. These two policies cover your bike in two similar yet different ways. Comprehensive handles a stolen bike or one that is damaged or lost in other non-riding situations. Collision pays to fix your bike in an accident, regardless of the fallible human who caused the mishap. Your lien-holder will determine the value of the insurance you’re required to carry.

Uninsured And Underinsured Motorist Coverage

However, there are many instances of when you’d want to carry Comprehensive and Collision on your motorcycle – even if it’s paid for. First, a rare or valuable motorcycle would be a good example, or a heavily customized motorcycle would be another, unless you want to get reimbursed for just the cost of the stock bike – and none of the blood and treasure required to make it the one-of-a-kind motorcycle you wanted. Just make sure the stated value in the policy is enough to cover your bike.

FJ1300 over the edge

Insurance can cover you from the unexpected to the absurd.

Then there are the convenience insurance policies that you may want to add. Embarking on a yearlong, continent-encompassing tour? You might want to pop for a roadside assistance package, so a locksmith can come retrieve the bike keys from your locked saddlebag 1,200 miles from the spare key you have at home.

Comprehensive Collision Coverage

Every year, as your policy renews, take the time to talk to your insurance agent to see if there have been any relevant changes in the state requirements for your insurance – or in your needs. You could end up saving on your monthly payments or getting coverage you didn’t realize you needed. You might also consider getting a quote from a different company to see if it offers a lower price for identical coverage or improved coverage at a similar price.

Harley crash

After this happens, insurance can help you get you and your bike street worthy again.

Paying the bill will still be an unpleasant experience, but should things go pear-shaped, you’ll be glad you’ve got insurance to get you back on two wheels as soon as possible.

Motorcycle Insurance Requirements by State*
State Requirement Minimum
Requirements
(single injury/all injuries/
property damage)
Specifics
Alabama Proof of Financial Responsibility $25,000
$50,000
$25,000
Liability insurance or Motor Vehicle Cash Bond/Certificate of Cash Bond
Alaska Liability Insurance $50,000
$100,000
$25,000
Arizona Proof of Financial Responsibility $15,000
$30,000
$10,000
Liability insurance or self-insurance for owners of 10 vehicles or more
Arkansas Liability Insurance $25,000
$50,000
$25,000
California Liability Insurance $15,000
$30,000
$5,000
Colorado Proof of Financial Responsibility $25,000
$50,000
$15,000
Liability insurance or self-insurance for owners of multiple vehicles
Connecticut Liability Insurance $20,000
$40,000
$10,000
Delaware Liability Insurance $15,000
$30,000
$10,000
Florida Proof of Financial Responsibility $10,000
$20,000
$10,000
Proof of liability insurance or post surety bond with state-licensed company/deposit cash or securities with Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Self-insurance certificate from Bureau of Financial Responsibility
Georgia Proof of Financial Responsibility $25,000
$50,000
$15,000
Licensed liability insurance vendor or self-insure through Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner
Hawaii Liability Insurance $20,000
$40,000
$10,000
Idaho Proof of Financial Responsibility $25,000
$50,000
$15,000
Liability insurance, surety bond from authorized broker, cash deposit with State Treasurer, self-insurance (25 vehicles or more)
Illinois Liability Insurance $25,000
$50,000
$20,000
Indiana Proof of Financial Responsibility $25,000
$50,000
$10,000
Liability insurance, deposit with State Treasurer, trust fund, bond with surety company
Iowa Proof of Financial Responsibility $20,000
$40,000
$15,000
Liability insurance or must be able to “acceptable forms of financial responsibility following an accident.”
Kansas Liability Insurance /
Self-Insurance
$25,000
$50,000
$10,000
Insurance identification card or state certificate of self-insurance
Kentucky Liability Insurance $25,000
$50,000
$10,000
Louisiana Liability Insurance $15,000
$30,000
$25,000
Maine Liability Insurance $50,000
$100,000
$25,000
Liability with unisured motorists and medical insurance requred Riders unable to get insurance can take part in Maine Automobile Insurance Plan
Maryland Liability Insurance $30,000
$60,000
$15,000
Massachusetts Liability Insurance $20,000
$40,000
$5,000
Michigan Liability Insurance $20,000
$40,000
$10,000
Bodily injury and property damage required
Minnesota Liability Insurance $30,000
$60,000
$10,000
Mississippi Liability Insurance $25,000
$50,000
$25,000
Missouri Proof of Financial Responsibility $25,000
$50,000
$10,000
Liability insurance, $60,000 bond or real estate bond with Department of Revenue, cash/securities deposit, self-insure (companies/religious organizations)
Montana Proof of Financial Responsibility $25,000
$50,000
$10,000
Liability insurance, surety bond with state licensed broker, $55,000 cash deposit deposit with State Tresurer, self-insure (25+ vehicles registered in owner’s name)
Nebraska Proof of Financial Responsibility $25,000
$50,000
$25,000
Liability insurance, surety bond with state licensed broker, real estate bond with at least two licensed sureties, $75,000 cash deposit deposit with State Tresurer, self-insure (26+ vehicles registered in owner’s name)
Nevada Proof of Financial Responsibility $15,000
$30,000
$10,000
Liability insurance or self-insurance (10+ vehicles registered in owner’s name)
New Hampshire None (initially) $25,000
$50,000
$25,000
Liability insurance may be required after accident, DUI conviction, multiple reckless driving convictions, traffic violation triggering review
New Jersey Liability Insurance $15,000
$30,000
$5,000
New Mexico Proof of Financial Responsibility $25,000
$50,000
$10,000
Liability insurance or $60,000 cash or surety bond with State Treasurer
New York Liability Insurance $25,000
$50,000
$10,000
Liability insurance must also include $50,000 for a single and $100,000 for multiple fatalities
North Carolina Liability Insurance $30,000
$60,000
$25,000
North Dakota Liability Insurance $25,000
$50,000
$25,000
Ohio Proof of Financial Responsibility $25,000
$50,000
$25,000
Liability insruance or $30,000 bond from registered surety company, state Certificate of proof of financial responsibility (for $30,000 cash or government bonds held by State Treasurer, state issued $60,000 real estate bond, state approved self-insufance 26+ vehicles registered in person’s name)
Oklahoma Proof of Financial Responsibility $25,000
$50,000
$25,000
Liability insurance, Oklahoma Assigned Risk Auto Plan, $75,000 cash tendered to Department of Public Safety, bond from licensed surety company
Oregon Liability Insurance $25,000
$50,000
$20,000
Liability insurance must also include Uninsured Motorist Coverage of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident
Pennsylvania Proof of Financial Responsibility $15,000
$30,000
$5,000
Liability insurance or self-insurance through $50,000 security collateral registered with the state
Rhode Island Liability Insurance $25,000
$50,000
$25,000
South Carolina Liability Insurance $25,000
$50,000
$25,000
Uninsured Motorist Coverage also required to same minimal levels
South Dakota Liability Insurance $25,000
$50,000
$25,000
Tennessee Proof of Financial Responsibility $25,000
$50,000
$15,000
Liability insurance or cash/bond deposit with Department of Safery
Texas Proof of Financial Responsibility $30,000
$60,000
$25,000
Liability insurance, $55,000 cash/bond deposit with county comptroller or county judge, real estate surety bond , or self-insure (25+ vehicles registered in owner’s name)
Utah Liability Insurance $25,000
$65,000
$15,000
Vermont Proof of Financial Responsibility $25,000
$50,000
$10,000
Liability insurance, surety bond, self-insured for $115,000
Virginia Liability Insurance $25,000
$50,000
$20,000
Allows for Uninsured Motor Vehicle fee for registration, though owner is liable for any accident costs
Washington None $25,000
$50,000
$10,000 (recommended)
Recommends liability insurance or $60,000 deposit with State Treasurer or $60,000 surety bond
Washington DC Liability Insurance $25,000
$50,000
$10,000
Uninsured Motorist Coverage of $25,000, $50,000, $5,000 required
West Virginia Liability Insurance $20,000
$40,000
$10,000
Wisconsin Proof of Financial Responsibility $25,000
$50,000
$10,000
Liability insurance, bond with insurance company, $60,000 cash deposit with Wisconsin DOT
Wyoming Proof of Financial Responsibility $25,000
$50,000
$20,000
Liability insurance, bond with insurance company, cash deposit State Treasurer

*Source: DMV.org

  • Mattie

    Not to rain on anyone’s parade here, but if you have health insurance coverage there’s no need to pay for additional health coverage on your motorcycle.

    Most people actually buy more insurance than they “need”, not the other way around as this article suggests.

    • SteveSweetz

      Yeah I ended up with a broken finger in a crash and my motorcycle insurance said they would not cover medical costs specifically because I already had personal medical insurance.

      —-

      Here’s another tip: Keep receipts for all of your gear (and/or always buy online where from a site where you can lookup past invoices). Some insurance companies will pay out for ruined safety equipment in a crash as long as you can prove what you paid for it.

      I use Progressive and they really did right by me in that crash. Paid out KBB value for the bike (which is more than I paid for it – it was a cheap, used bike) plus reimbursed for all of my gear.

      My premium did nearly double for my next bike versus what it would have been without the crash on my record, but that’s what I get for crashing (lowsided – it was my fault).

    • Eric

      Not always, some employer paid health insurance policies exclude motorcycle accident hospitalization:

      http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com/Rights/Resources/Coverage_Denied.aspx

  • notfishing

    Here in California insurance is a little bit different.

    For my newly licensed son to insure an 03 Aprilia Scooter 25,000/50,000 his insurance was:

    PL & PD: $196.00 per year

    Uninsured Motorist: $ 298.00 per year

    The reason we have uninsured motorist? Sad to say I’ve collect on it in most accidents.

    Los Angeles has a 40% hit and run rate. So much for the “mandatory insurance” law.