Next to the thrill of racing around the track on two wheels at speeds that would make your mother fret, motorcycle insurance is a bland topic but it is an essential one. What is also essential is to know some of the quirks that people often aren’t aware about when it comes to motorcycle insurance – some good and some bad.
Before we get into the meat of the article, a disclaimer. Insurance is a complicated product and policies not only vary greatly from company to company, they can also be implemented completely different depending on what country you’re in and even which state or province you reside. As a general rule, insurance is tied to the vehicle in Australia, while in the UK it’s attached to the individual. In the US, insurance is a complicated mess that requires plenty of work to make sure you’re properly covered.
Our advice is therefore to always speak to your insurer directly or if in the market for a new policy, get in touch with an insurance broker. This article does look at motorcycle insurance in a generic way and should not be taken as legal or financial advice for your specific situation.
Some Insurance Policies Let you Ride at the Track
This may sound too good to be true and to a degree it is. Most insurance companies won’t cover your at the track, full stop. However, some will cover you if the purpose of being at the track is for rider training, while others will cover you carte blanche through their standard policy.
In Australia there are many insurance companies that will insure your ride if you undertake advanced courses. QBE will cover the level 1 California Superbike School course which involves a serious amount of track time and may also cover other ‘racier’ types of training that is with an approved and accredited training organisation. InsureMyRide covers a number of advanced courses from TopRider which take place on a track and a number of insurers also cover advanced courses from Stay Upright
If you’re at a track day where there’s no timing or a hint of racing your policy could cover you. Riding a Goldwing would no doubt help convince the insurance company of the non-racing clause.
In the USA, the coverage for taking your to the track bike varies immensely from policy to policy and state to state. State Farm however has an excellent reputation among motorcyclists and they do cover your bike at the track if it is involved at an educational riding event. That’s a phrase open to interpretation but many motorcyclists have reported crashing at track days (not racing) and State Farm has covered them. There are also policies from specialised insurance agencies such as Einhorn in California that do include coverage for track days as long as riders aren’t racing for dollars or points.
In the UK, MCE Insurance amazingly provides free track day cover with all comprehensive insurance policies and covers you provided the event is not timed, is managed to provide an appropriate safety distance between vehicles on the track, authorised stewards and marshalls are employed to supervise the event and there is no element of racing against other motorcycles or against the clock. That said, MCE’s reputation isn’t the greatest out there…
Your Bike Isn’t Covered if Someone Takes it for a Test Ride
Selling your bike and hoping to seal the deal by letting the interested party take it for a quick spin? Think twice – many policies won’t cover you and if you’re in the UK, you have to be certain the person getting on your bike is insured themselves.
Bennetts informed us that if the person who wishes to ride your bike has their own insurance on their own bike, they may be able to ride it on a 3rd party only basis. However, this is something that they would have to check with their own insurer and you’d certainly want proof of their coverage. Sadly, if a new rider who doesn’t currently own a bike comes knocking, there’s no way he or she will be covered and you therefore become personally liable for any damage or injury they cause.
Before letting anyone take your bike for a test ride, ensure that you’re covered if the tester crashes or steals your bike.
In the US it is again a case of individual policy detail. Geico informed us that they won’t cover your bike should it be taken for a test ride. Allstate Insurance is more accommodating and stated that test rides are generally covered under the permissive use terms of the motorcycle policy – that is, what occurs while the motorcycle’s being test-driven is typically covered to policy limits.
Most insurance companies in Australia will cover your bike when if it is being test ridden, as long as the person riding it is permitted by law to do so. That means a LAMS rider who is close to getting his open license can’t take your Hayabusa for a test ride because they’re not legally allowed to and that would mean they and your bike won’t be covered. The only major insurer who specifically mentions test rides in their product disclosure statement is Swann Insurance who state that it may refuse or reduce a claim if your bike is stolen whilst being tested by a prospective buyer.
Some Insurers Base Their Premium on when you got any type of Driving License
The majority of insurers will base your premium on a number of factors but a large determinant of how much you pay for your insurance is how long you’ve had your motorcycle license. Brand new riders obviously will be riskier while riders who have held an appropriate license for 10 years are classed as having a lower risk.
But some companies take a different approach and will calculate your premium on how long you’ve been on the road for – car or bike. That means for people who start riding in later years, your experience on the road driving a car is taken into account. So if you’ve had a car license for 15 years and only your bike license for a single year, the insurer will take into account your complete history. In Australia, NRMA does this which can make a big difference to premiums.
Do your research and see if your policy can be based on your total driving history if you’ve only had your bike license for a short period.
Dori Einhorn from Einhorn Insurance Agency said that, “There are a lot of variables that are considered when determining premium.” They do include the driving experience of the rider but it is only one factor out of many which include if the bike has ABS, the type of bike and the amount of mileage the rider covers on average each year.
Your Gear Can be Covered, Too
Good quality motorcycle gear isn’t cheap and no doubt there’s some riders out there who wear clothing that is worth more than their bike. Yet, many riders overlook getting their gear covered – either for theft or damage – despite the cost involved in replacing it.
Specialist motorcycle insurance companies usually have some level of gear cover in their policies although it may only be enough to cover a fraction of the replacement cost of your jacket, helmet and so on. There’s usually the option to raise it to more realistic levels but even then, some insurance companies don’t offer high coverage levels.
Allstate Insurance will go up to $1,000 for gear and an additional $500 to cover your helmet separately. That seems roughly inline with other providers although it does seem strangely to vary from state to state.
Your lid can save your life, but it perhaps isn’t cheap to replace.
The RAC in the UK will cover up to £750 for your leathers and helmets, but not boots or gloves and you do have to pay extra for it. Bennetts also provides £750 of cover for a small increase in your premium but also includes coverage for your gloves and boots. Carole Nash will do better at £1,000 coverage for an additional £40.99 on your premium each year.
For Australians, Shannons has a fairly generous standard policy of covering things such as helmets (including visor and/or radio communications), gloves, leather jackets and pants, boots and other specific riding gear – up to $3,000 for the rider, $1,500 for a pillion passenger, with a maximum of $1,000 per item if you have an accident or theft claim. InsureMyRide offers up to $5,000 of cover for riding gear, but it’s an optional extra on top of standard policies.
Advanced Rider Training Makes you a Better Rider and can Reduce your Premium
No matter how inexperienced or experienced a rider you are, taking advanced road craft courses will not only make you a better rider, it will help you out there in the concrete and asphalt jungle of suburbia. Insurance companies get that and realise that the better trained you are, the less likely you’ll have an accident and make a claim which saves them money.
Check with your insurance provider as to who they approve for you to undertake advanced courses with. Sometimes these courses will take place on a track, but often they’ll be situated at specialised training facilities and may even involve some riding on public roads.
Advanced training courses can keep you safer and save you money. Just check your insurance company recognises them beforehand.
Most of the time, insurance companies will provide discounts for training courses which are accredited by state bodies or sanctioning motorcycle organisations. According to Jim Klapthor of Allstate Insurance, riders taking part in state-approved safety courses to improve road riding would generally receive a discount on their policy.
For those in the motherland, Bennetts will offer up to 10% off premiums while Bikesure will reduce your policy cost by up to 15% but you need to check directly with them as to what courses they will acknowledge. For our antipodean readers, QBE has a list of approved training providers for each state, as does InsureMyRide. Swann even offers discounts for selected training courses should you take out a policy with them.