Is Your Motorcycle Properly Insured? Check Before Hitting the Open Road

It’s been thirty-seven years since Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper showed a generation of Americans that a motorcycle and the open road was the highest form of freedom. And although that generation may find itself with graying temples, its members are no less in love with their bikes now than they were then.

In fact, in the past twenty years owning a motorcycle has grown in popularity. Motorcycle registrations have risen from about 3.8 million in 1994 to nearly 5.4 million in 2003. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation estimates that the average annual motorcycle mileage rose from 2,478 in 1998 to 3,050 in 2003.

It seems that the demographic group most likely to be doing the riding are the Baby Boomers. In a study conducted in the year 2000 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Baby Boomers make up a greater portion of motorcycle riders as well as a greater proportion of the fatalities in motorcycle accidents. In 1998, when 43.7 percent of owners were over 40, older riders for the first time made up the majority of those killed in motorcycle crashes.

These sobering statistics clearly point out the need to be adequately insured. This can be tricky because of the differences in state insurance requirements. Most states do mandate liability coverage. This covers bodily injury and property damage caused to other people involved in an accident. Your motorcycle, however, is not covered. Some liability policies include Guest Passenger Liability, which covers a passenger injured on the motorcycle. State law and your insurance carrier determine if this provision is included in a liability policy.

There are other types of coverage although they are optional in most states. They include:

  1. Collision – covers the book value of your motorcycle before it was damaged in a collision with another vehicle or object. Your carrier pays for the amount of damages, minus your deductible.
  2. Comprehensive coverage – pays for damages caused by events such as fire, theft or vandalism. Your insurance company will pay for damages, minus your deductible, up to the book value of the motorcycle.
  3. Uninsured Motorist – pays for medical treatment, lost wages and other damages if an uninsured driver hits you. If your coverage includes property damage, then your bike is also covered.
  4. Underinsured Motorist – pays for the same expenses as Uninsured Motorist coverage but it only applies if the other party has lower coverage limits than you do and the damages are greater than the other party’s limits.

It’s important to note that most comprehensive and collision coverages will only cover the factory standard parts on your bike. If you customize it by adding any additional accessories, you will need to buy additional equipment coverage.

Ask your carrier if it offers a premium discount if you graduate from a rider-training course such as the one conducted by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. Maintaining a good driving record with no violations may also help reduce your premiums. Similar to auto insurance, the type, style, age of the motorcycle, number of miles you drive a year and where you store your bike may also affect your premium rates.

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