Whether you are a senior who has dreamed forever of getting on a motorcycle and feeling the wind in your hair or a road warrior who is just getting up in years, motorcycle insurance is one thing you should not be without.
Two factors drive this fact: as we age, an incident can have a greater impact on our more fragile bodies, and it could destroy our financial plans for retirement. Motorcycle insurance is there to protect us in both cases.
Motorcycle insurance providers work much the same as auto insurance providers do. In fact, many of the top motorcycle insurance companies are direct or indirect offshoots of the major auto insurers. Selecting an insurance carrier entails doing some preliminary research online and through knowledgeable riders and agents so you can understand what is important – and what is not – based on your specific needs and wants.
Then, it entails identifying a series of potential companies and contacting them through their websites, by phone or in person. [You want to include your existing automobile insurer in your search, but you do not want to limit your search to that.] Once you have gathered data and obtained quotes, you want to run comparisons until you find the motorcycle insurance policy that provides the perfect balance between affordability and adequate coverage.
Motorcycle insurance is a requirement in most states, so getting on the road without it could result in possible fines, or worse. More important, however, is the degree of risk you would take, whether your state requires having insurance or not. The financial risks alone include the cost of damaging or destroying your motorcycle through an accident or theft; hurting someone else or damaging someone else’s property. The liability could be devastating. And then there is the risk to you.
Having adequate motorcycle insurance:
- Protects the investment you made in your motorcycle, whether to repair it or replace it in case of accident or theft
- Protects your financial future against lawsuits by others whose person or property you may have injured or damaged
- Protects you against other riders who are uninsured or underinsured in cases that are not your fault;
Provides additional medical coverage where needed
Provides general peace of mind, knowing you are acting within the law and as a responsible rider
Most people come to buying motorcycle insurance from their lifelong experience with buying automobile insurance. Common areas do include your concern about the price of premiums, available discounts, the quality of customer service, types of Standard coverage (Liability, Comprehensive, Collision and Medical) and add-on areas of coverage. (Some of those add-ons are more specific to motorcycles, such as protection of your bike’s transport trailer, custom equipment, additional passengers, personal belongings and high-value customization.)
However, where the criteria differ for deciding on a motorcycle insurance carrier is with the inclusion of accessories such as apparel and helmets in coverage; whether (and how) vintage, custom or high-value bikes are covered; and how emergency expenses are handled in case of accident or breakdown.
Seniors share all the basics of decision-making with anyone else buying motorcycle insurance, regardless of age. However, there are two additional areas they should explore with each insurance option: its age-friendliness and its health-related value.
Age friendliness means how convenient and easy a service is in adapting to your changing needs as you get older. In the case of motorcycle insurance, this includes:
- if you can interact with the company in whatever way works for you (online, by phone or in person)
- how available, effective and supportive its customer service is
- how easy the bill-paying and claims-processing procedures are
- how intuitive and easy-to-navigate the company’s website is
- whether the company offers a smartphone app
- how knowledgeable its representatives are of how aging might affect your motorcycle-riding experience
- how your age might work for or against you in the pricing of premiums.
Health-related value reflects how a service might change in value as a person’s health declines. In the case of motorcycle insurance, the predominant factor is the physical condition of the rider. (For starters, can you pick up your fallen bike or hold it up as it is falling over?) Besides strength, other factors are reaction time, vision, endurance and orthopedic issues.
As your health declines and as you weaken, your ability (or even your desire) to spend time on a motorcycle may also decrease. You may change the type of bike you ride as your physical stamina, balance and reflexes waver: from faster, heavier bikes to cruisers, then to 3-wheeler trikes, added sidecars and scooters. Your insurance carrier should be able to shift its coverage in step with you until you decide to stop riding.
Actual fees – or policy premiums – will vary greatly from person to person based on factors that insurers will weigh, using their own secret algorithm. These include age of the driver(s), accident history on motorcycles as well as in automobiles, vehicle make/model/age, frequency of use, any seasonality of use/non-use, where you live, how you store your bike, your highest level of education and insurance credit scores, among other things.
A senior should look for as much coverage as is affordable and justifiable by the bike itself and how it will be used. In any case, the state minimum legal coverage is rarely enough, often just requiring Liability coverage to protect others from you. Basic coverage should include:
- Liability (Property Damage and Bodily Injury) covers expenses to others where you are at fault, as well as lawsuits that might be filed against you. Check into Guest Passenger Liability to be sure your policy includes passengers riding with you who might sustain injuries or losses.
- Collision covers repairs to your bike after an accident.
- Comprehensive covers repairs to your bike caused by anything other than a collision, such as theft, fire, weather damage or vandalism.
Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist covers the cost of your property and medical damage if the other person is at fault and either has no insurance or flees the scene.
- Medical Expense covers your own medical care resulting from an accident, regardless who is at fault.
These are other areas of coverage seniors should consider:
- Roadside Assistance covers towing to the nearest repair facility when you break down, plus roadside labor costs. Transport trailers are at times also covered.
- Customized Equipment and Accessories covers loss or damage to what you may have done to upgrade your bike, as well as what you wear and carry with you. (Such coverage may also be called High-Value Customization.)
- Vintage or Custom Bike covers certain bikes at a value that reflects what makes them special, often at a pre-determined, mutually agreed value.
- Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Parts Replacement means a part made by the manufacturer of your bike will be replaced with the same thing, not with a generic part.
- Trip Interruption covers lodging, alternative transport and food in case an accident or breakdown cuts your trip short.
- Total Loss covers the replacement of your bike, based on a determined formula or pre-established value.
How much risk you take depends on the cost of what insurance providers propose for the coverage that you feel you would want. Because the cost is so influenced by your particular personal criteria, obtaining at least three quotes is the best way to understand your options.
Discounts also play a major role in determining the cost of your motorcycle insurance policy, and you will want to explore every possible discount offered by each insurer. Some offer a few, and others offer a long list. That list can include mature rider, safe driver, pay in full, pay on time, automatic bill-pay, homeowner, married (in states where that rate reduction is allowed), anti-theft, anti-lock brakes, completion of safety courses, multi-policy/vehicle (bundling, where it makes sense), motorcycle license/endorsement, motorcycle association membership, switching from another carrier and diminishing deductibles.
The most important evaluation criteria in buying motorcycle insurance include the price of annual premiums, available discounts, the quality of the experience with the company (customer service, bill paying and claims processing), the basic coverage offered and the add-on coverage offered.
Price: It goes without saying that whatever motorcycle insurance you select must be affordable. It must also reflect the value you place on your motorcycle and the risk – or lack of risk – you are willing to take regarding physical and financial loss. As mentioned under Common Fees, many personal factors and behaviors affect the premium calculated by a potential insurer. Also, the premium will change with the basic and add-on coverage areas you select for your insurance package, as well as the discounts offered by an insurer for which you qualify.
Discounts: The number of discounts offered will vary with each insurer: some offer very few and some offer a lot. Neither case should be considered good or bad, as the discounts need to be weighed against how high or low that insurer has priced the total package you selected. As seniors tend to be less reckless than younger, faster riders, insurers will factor this into their original quote. However, although very few companies offer what they call a ‘mature rider’ discount, you should check to be certain you are getting the greatest possible discount for your maturity.
Customer service: Customer service should be assessed based on the overall expected experience, not just the hours a company is available for contact and the various means of contact (online, by phone or in person). That experience reflects:
- Friendliness and ease of use of the company’s website
- Ease with which complete decision-making information is made available
- Simplicity of bill paying; the transparency and support offered during the claims-processing procedure
- Willingness of the company to offer insurance that fulfills your particular needs today and in the future.
The quality of customer service is especially important to seniors, particularly as they age and decline in health.
Basic coverage: While the five basic coverage areas (Liability, Collision, Comprehensive, etc.) are available from all credible insurers, what is included within each one will vary. It will be important to be sure you are getting the exact coverage that is important to you, and not assume that all Comprehensive coverage is the same. Detail is important.
Add-on coverage: Here is where companies can shine or fall short, as this is where you can tailor your insurance policy to your personal needs and wants. However, what one company calls an add-on, another company may include in its basic coverage. Again, detail counts. The maximum limits on different add-ons can also affect how appealing they might be.
Nothing would be worse than to purchase motorcycle insurance from a company, pay premiums for a time, have an incident and then discover that the company is too shaky to have the funds to cover your claim. Before choosing an insurer, be certain to check ratings such as A.M. Best, which is the leading insurance rating agency. That rating should be at least an A.
An insurer’s claims-processing procedure is difficult to assess before you actually need it, but you want to know it will not add even more stress at a time when you have had an accident or have had your beloved bike stolen. One option is to look to a neutral organization such as JD Power and its U.S. Auto Insurance Claims Satisfaction Study. If your insurer is listed in that study for its auto claims, you can assume that the company will handle its motorcycle claim similarly.
However, that does not mean you necessarily want to bundle your motorcycle insurance as an endorsement or ‘rider’ on your existing auto insurance policy. On the one hand, you may get a better price by having your home, boat, car or motorcycle all with one company. (Having a long-standing relationship with the company could be a positive as well.) On the other, the policy rider may not be as thorough or customizable as a standalone motorcycle insurance policy, and you may find yourself at risk at the worst possible time: when you need your insurance.