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Five Things You Need to Know About Motorcycle Insurance

What’s the least fun thing to spend money on? Insurance. It costs a bunch of money, and then you don’t really get anything for it… until you need it. But then, you really need it. So yes, it’s no fun, but you should have it anyway. Here are some basics if you are new to this very-not-fun, yet very-necessary product.

1. You really, really need it.

If there is a shred of doubt in your mind about insurance, allow me to deploy my large electric fan of middle-aged experience and completely blow it away. Like Xanax, a shotgun or personal lubricant, insurance is one of those things it is far better to have and not need than to need and not have. For one, almost all states require minimum liability coverage just to register your motorcycle. But states require a lot of things, my 25-year-old self might say, however, I require a great deal of beer and burritos, and I have my priorities.

In response, I’d say, Self, the next time you get pulled over or wreck your bike (which happened a lot), you may have your bike impounded, pay a huge fine, will be unable to recover damages regardless of fault (which is the law in California) and a myriad of other horrible things, but the bottom line is don’t get caught without insurance. Just don’t. To which 25-year-old self would say, “What’s a myriad?”

Owie! Owie! Owie!

2. Minimum Liability Coverage isn’t enough.

Liability insurance covers the other guy when you screw up, and the cheapest policies usually offer your state’s minimum required level of coverage. In most states, it’s something like $25,000 of bodily injury coverage per person, $50,000 total per accident (if you hurt more than one person) and $10,000-20,000 of property damage (that’s damage to vehicles, animals, plate-glass storefront windows, lamp posts, billboards, etc.). In California, it’s a laughably tiny $5,000 of property damage. Five grand probably won’t fix a paint chip on most cars these days unless you ship it to Sri Lanka. And $25,000 might pay for homeopathy and some orthopedic shoes, but it won’t cover a lot in the way of real medical care these days.

If you own property, or don’t like owing money for the rest of your life, get more coverage than you think you’ll need. It’s not that much more, and if you own anything valuable – like a home or business – keep in mind that bankruptcy doesn’t protect you from personal-injury lawsuits. Pay the $100 or whatever it is for extra coverage. The only thing worse than paying for insurance is paying someone else’s doctor bills.

3. Motorcycle liability-only coverage is cheap.

If point #2 has you down, don’t despair: motorcycle liability-only coverage is cheap, at least compared to auto insurance. I assume this is because motorcyclists are at-fault less often than cars (at least in multi-vehicle incidents), and how much damage can a 500-pound motorcycle do to a two-ton car and its occupants? My 25-year-old self could usually insure whatever beater he was riding for less than 50 bones a year; nowadays it may be $200 or more for a new rider with a clean record, but that’s still pretty affordable.

Make sure your policy covers water damage! Photo by: Jacob Bridgeman [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

4. Comprehensive and Collision Coverage Aren’t.

Collision insurance covers you when you screw up and hit another vehicle, and pays to fix your bike, or at least pay off what you owe on the loan. Comprehensive pays you when your bike is damaged, destroyed or disappeared by things other than vehicles, like deer, fire, or shady-looking dudes with unmarked vans. It is usually a lot more than liability insurance, because when young men (and women) ride motorcycles, they often wind up crashing them, and it’s frequently their own damn fault.

Insurance companies are run by sentient beings who understand this and price the risk accordingly, which is why the comp/collision coverage on a new open-class sportbike registered to a 20-something may basically cost the same as the bike itself. This is how much faith the insurance company has in your ability to not wreck your bike. You can save dough by buying used or salvage-title sportbikes and keeping liability only. Having an expensive sportbike in your 20s is like kick-boxing while carrying a tray of champagne flutes.

5. Don’t forget to insure your body.

Even if you have health insurance, it may not be enough. You may have high deductibles, and you also may not have disability insurance to compensate for time away from work while you binge-watch Stranger Things with both arms in casts. Medical payments coverage can help with this, and consider uninsured/under-insured coverage as well; there are a lot of uninsured motorists out there, according to the Insurance Information Institute: 13% nationwide. In Florida, it’s 26.7%, because Florida.

Ride safe, but carry insurance. You’ll probably need it.

Gabe Ets-Hokin

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Gabe Ets-Hokin
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