As riders, we have to do a few things to legally enjoy our time out on the road. First, good karma, accident statistics, and our desire to ride without fear of Officer John Law dictate that we get a motorcycle license. Really, there’s no excuse not to have the correct endorsement. Second, the vast majority of states require a minimum amount of insurance (or some other kind of demonstrable financial responsibility) in order to operate a motorcycle legally on the street.
Even if you live in one of the four states (Florida, Montana, New Hampshire (sort of), and Washington) that don’t explicitly require proof of financial responsibility, do you really want to risk your property or the financial stability of your family by riding without insurance? The liability requirements vary from state-to-state and only deal with your responsibility for the expenses of others’ property and injuries caused by your actions. Remember liability insurance only covers the other folks involved in your at-fault accident. If you want to cover the cost to repair your bike, you’ll need more comprehensive coverage.
In the past, we’ve written about the various forms of insurance and how to figure out what types you want or need. If you’re not sure about your level of understanding in the various forms of insurance, take a quick hop over to our sister site, Motorcycle-Insurance.net, which contains all of the informational articles written for MO in one easy-to-digest place. Don’t worry, this article will still be here waiting for you when you get back.
The Major Players
Even if you haven’t been looking for motorcycle insurance recently, you’re probably already familiar with the primary national providers of motorcycle insurance in the US. How can we say this? Well, watch any motorcycle-focused TV, and these companies are out there during the commercial breaks. Motorcyclists are an important market for insurance providers. They’re competing for our hard-earned dollars.
The internet has made it easier for riders to take advantage of competitive shopping. If you don’t watch any motorcycle TV shows (shudder), you can always pop over to MO’s insurance buyer’s guide to find where to go to get quotes for your bike. You’ll need your bike’s VIN, but otherwise, you should be able to fill out the forms easily. (You won’t even have time to set your DVR to record anything with motorcycle in the description, while waiting for the quotes to be returned to you, but you should do it anyway. You’ll thank us.)
Since comparison shopping is so easy in the internet age, insurance providers are having to find ways to capture, if not the hearts of riders, then the dollars. Sponsorship of motorcycling events or race teams is always a good way to get attention. Additionally, producing motorcycle-specific advertisements and not shuffling motorcycles to the back corner of the consumer website.
As motorcycle-specific social media posts and pages become more common, in addition to new media approaches through smartphone apps, we thought it would be a good opportunity to take a look at the national insurance providers to see who “gets” motorcyclists.
We have to be honest, an Allstate press release was the genesis of this article. The release claimed: “Quite frankly, when it comes to motorcycle insurance & helping keep riders riding safely, no one else out there is doing anything like what Allstate is doing.” This piqued our interests in an “oh, really” kinda way, and so, we set out to see what Allstate is actually doing for motorcyclists and to check if it is more than the other companies.
Just from the release, alone, we see that Allstate has some interesting outreach techniques. First, on their motorcycle-oriented Facebook page, you’ll find all the usual social media attempts to connect to customers. However, there is one big area – actually, a Facebook app – the Rider Risk Map that stands out. This is a crowd-sourced, interactive map that shows intersections and roadways that may be of special concern to motorcyclists. While the map covers all of North America, the entries are mostly from the US, with a smattering in Canada – with one all the way up in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The user-submitted flags vary in usefulness. As with any crowd-sourced project, people have to do a little work to make the tool worth using. The process involves searching for a location/address via the Google Maps interface and dropping a pin. Then users are given the opportunity to make comments and even submit photos. Google also inserts Street View photos if available. Armchair traveling around the country, you will find many good warnings, but unfortunately, quite a few are nothing more than a dropped pin with no explanation. If there is no Street View photo, the pin has limited usefulness. If Allstate remains committed, the value of the app will increase over time, but it really needs a dedicated user base like the one that has made the Waze App so successful.
If you look closely at the map, you’ll also see yellow caution signs and blue motorcycle icons. The caution signs mark places where Allstate installed roadsigns to warn of dangerous intersections for riders. These are part of Allstate’s federally-recognized O.N.E. Program which places the signs to increase driver awareness of motorcycles. The bike icons denote the 11 rallies that the Allstate Rider Protection Zone will be traveling to during the year in an effort inform and educate riders about safe motorcycling (and sell insurance policies, natch). Allstate also has annual sweepstakes with custom bikes as the grand prize, like a Rick Fairless Victory 8-Ball for 2014. This year’s list included Americade, Daytona Bike Week, and Sturgis.
Next, the Allstate Rider News website offers a wealth of educational and entertaining articles by industry “Moto Experts,” a few of whom you may be familiar: Fred Rau, Vicki Sanfelipo, Bill Gade, Arlen Ness, and Rick Fairless. (An online motorcycle magazine featuring quality names from inside the industry. Who would have thought of that?) The depth of information covered in the Rider News tips the scale as a bit heftier than your typical blog or social media corporate presence.
Allstate also offers an Android and iOS app to record ride routes, find cheap gas, and give a portable maintenance log. Unfortunately, the Good Ride App is marred by bugginess that makes it less successful than the company’s other efforts.
Of the four insurance companies in this article, Foremost is probably the one that readers are least familiar with. Unlike the other three insurance providers, Foremost is predominantly a specialty insurance company, covering more obscure or specialized products. For example, Foremost developed the first insurance policy created specifically for travel trailers. Although a member of the Farmers Insurance Group, Foremost remains smaller and more focused in its offerings than other, bigger companies. Still, Foremost is the motorcycle insurance provider that AARP chose for its members’ motorcycle insurance needs.
While Foremost’s website fills the checkboxes of what a company needs as an online presence (online quotes, Facebook page, etc.), the scale of the offerings is significantly smaller than the the bigger players. Because of its smaller size, Foremost’s approach to marketing itself is, not surprisingly, unique. Foremost has chosen to sponsor a superbike racer for the past several years rather than sponsoring rallies or other big events. If hanging in with the AMA Superbike series during the tough years under DMG’s stewardship doesn’t demonstrate an affinity for motorcycling, we don’t know what does. However, the support doesn’t stop with just sponsoring privateer racer, Larry Pegram. The company also stands behind Pegram’s reality show Superbike Family. Lest you think that cruisers are being left out of the shuffle, Foremost’s YouTube channel offers a series of videos titled Bill and Jack’s Adventures, featuring Sturgis and other biker gatherings.
GEICO is another one of the major players in the motorcycle insurance market. With clever commercials, like the one above, the company has definitely made a splash when it comes to brand familiarity. GEICO has the requisite website with quotes and some motorcycle-specific information which reads much like you would expect an insurance company’s motorcycle page to read – the information is there, but it’s not terribly inspiring. What is inspiring about GEICO, however, is its sponsorship of motorcycle events and races. The company is listed on the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally website as one of the event’s main sponsors. Just a couple weeks ago, the American Motorcyclist Association
announced that GEICO was “a Platinum Sponsor for the 2014 American Honda AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.”
When it comes to racing, GEICO has been particularly involved in the sport. As the title sponsor of the GEICO Motorcycle Superbike Shootout, a series designed to address the dearth of professional American motorcycle roadracing events west of the Mississippi during the death throes of the DMG control of AMA Superbike in 2014, GEICO made sure that western racing fans were able to see some national-caliber racing on their side of the country. GEICO Powersports has been involved in AMA racing for many years and sponsored the 2014 GEICO Suzuki AMA racing team which featured 2014 AMA Daytona Sportbike Champion Martin Cardenas. The company isn’t just involved in racing on pavement. The company also joined forces with Honda to form the GEICO Honda motocross team.
As the largest motorcycle insurer in the US, perhaps it is fitting that Progressive’s influence on popular culture is second to none, thanks to its extensive list of commercials featuring Flo the “perky insurance saleswoman.” Almost as important in the minds of motorcyclists is the title sponsorship of the Progressive International Motorcycle Shows visiting 11 cities, starting this weekend in San Mateo, CA and ending in late January in Dallas, TX. Additionally, Progressive plays a sponsorship role with rallies, such as the Laconia Motorcycle Week and has its display area travel the country to other events. These are things that only big dollars and a serious commitment to motorcycling can deliver.
Progressive also makes a powerful statement by providing the branded insurance policies for the 800-lb. gorilla of the motorcycle world: Harley-Davidson. Billed as “insurance designed exclusively for Harley riders,” these policies are underwritten by Progressive, and we’re sure that doesn’t hurt the company’s bottom line a bit.
However, looking at Progressive’s motorcycle section of its website and its Facebook page for outdoor sports, including motorcycles, gives the impression that the other, smaller insurers, comparatively, are working mighty hard to endear themselves to riders and steal away some of Progressive’s market share.
The View from Here
While everyone complains about having to pay for insurance – particularly males of the species with a ticket or three and an open-class sportbike in the garage – having companies of this caliber vying for our insurance dollars is a good thing.
Having the ability to sit on your couch, with the lead up to your favorite racing series playing in the background, and compare insurance rates to make sure you are getting the best deal possible points to the fact that motorcycles are a desirable market for insurers. We’re no longer the redheaded stepchild of the insurance world. They want our money, and they – some more than others – are willing to work for it by supporting the sport that we love.