Things Your Mother Never Told You About Motorcycle Insurance…
by Paul J. Hagen
I know insurance probably isn’t the most interesting topic in the world (especially compared to the riding and care of your motorcycle), but it is a necessity item by law. Maybe if you understood a little bit more about how motorcycle and auto insurance works, you could make more educated buying decisions and get more value for what you pay.
Motorcycle licensing in Minnesota does require that you provide at least the mandatory liability coverages according to state law. That means the minimum liability insurance limits of 30/60/10 for bodily injury and property damage coverages. Beyond those state requirements you have options for uninsured motorists and underinsured motorists coverages, medical payment, guest liability coverage and physical damage coverages for comprehensive and collision.
Some companies automatically provide year round coverages. Others simply provide you with the ability to pick a number of months of lay-up where there is no liability coverage, but comprehensive coverage remains (if requested) to protect the bike in storage.
An insurance policy has two distinct sections–the liability and the physical damage coverages sections.
Liability provides protection for you in occurrences for which you are or may be legally liable. This means you were the negligent party, and, to the extent of the policy limits, the company will pay those amounts on your behalf.
The liability section also includes optional guest passenger liability and uninsured/underinsured motorists. Guest passenger liability provides liability protection for you should your passenger become injured and sue you for your negligence as the driver and/or owner of the motorcycle. Uninsured and underinsured motorists coverage provides bodily injury limits to you, the owner/driver, in the case that the other party or parties to your loss do not have any insurance coverages or they have inadequate limits to satisfy your bodily injuries damages. This is the single most overlooked coverage that you can purchase to protect yourself as a motorcycle driver.
There is a catch here. Normally, you may only purchase limits that match or are less than your bodily injury limits. In other words, to get the kinds of limits that might make sense to protect yourself, you have to be open to purchasing higher initial bodily injury liability limits.
Physical damage coverages relate to damage or an occurrence to your vehicle that you purchase yourself on your policy to protect your motorcycle.
Comprehensive coverage is physical damage to your vehicle other than collision. This physical damage may be the result of fire, theft, vandalism, falling objects, flying missiles or a host of other perils.
Collision is an upset, overturn or collision of your motor vehicle with another object. Animal collision (i.e., a deer) is considered a comprehensive claim.
These policies do not cover losses due to wear and tear, mechanical or electrical breakdown or road hazards, unless they occur while someone steals the vehicle.
Let’s say you are 33 years old, married with a young child. You buy your dream bike, a 1992 Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200. You borrow from your savings and take a small loan at your credit union. You call your auto or home insurance agent, and they give you a quote based on what you want–the cheapest insurance the law and the credit union require. Before you make this “easy” decision based purely on cost, think about it…
Whether it is auto or motorcycle insurance, the state minimum requirements of 30/60/10 probably won’t provide you with adequate liability protection. If the loss is your fault and exceeds the limits, your insurance carrier can take the option of simply paying its policy limits and walking away from defending you in court. Higher liability limits keep the insurance carrier in the fight, because they have to protect their financial position as well as yours.
Also, the minimum limit of $30,000 for bodily injury doesn’t go very far in paying for liability losses. Should the other party receive a higher judgment, they might be able to take your property and/or garnish future wages or income unless you are willing to file bankruptcy to protect yourself financially.
Consider liability limits of 50/100/25 or 100/300/50. At least get a quote for the difference in cost. Also, ask about the cost for uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage. It is not necessarily cheap, maybe $30.00 to $40.00 per year, but at the time of injury or legal entanglement with an opposing party that has no insurance or assets, you will be relieved to be able to go back to your own company and possibly receive those limits as compensation for your injuries.
There are various association discounts and club member discounts available from insurance companies to help reduce costs. Don’t buy the cheapest coverage. Get the least costly coverage you feel you need.
TIPS ON BUYING INSURANCE
- Check the rates before you buy a high performance bike, especially if you are under 25 and not married. The real rates, even for minimum coverage, will surprise you.
- If you have any non-factory items on the bike, there is probably no coverage for those items. Schedule them specifically as additional items, then there will be no argument or unhappiness at claim time.
- Consider and get a quote for higher limits as an option. It can’t hurt and might not cost that much.
- Consider adding uninsured and/or underinsured motorists coverage even if it adds $25.00 to $40.00 to your annual costs.
- Make sure you are getting the maximum discounts available for safety classes, marital status, multi-bike credit and lay-ups for non-usage in winter months.
- You’ll need physical damage coverage for the bike, and different companies are more or less competitive based on whether you need liability or full coverage. If you are not going to turn in a claim for less than $500.00, consider a higher deductible from the beginning.
- Most companies don’t surcharge premiums heavily for a minor ticket, but if you have a major ticket (DWI, leaving the scene of an accident, or another similar offense), call around to make sure you are getting the best price you can. However, please remember, over a period of time, you’ll save the more money and avoid headaches working with a single insurance agent for all your needs.
Paul Hagen has been an agent and an agency owner for many yeard. He is currently associated with the American/Thom Agency in Waconia.