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Insurance for your motorcycle

Before you get your motor running and get out on the highway, make sure you have the right motorcycle insurance coverage.

Forty-nine states require bikers to buy liability motorcycle insurance (all except Florida), according to Leah Knapp, spokesperson for Progressive. She says there are a dozen states that require some form of personal injury protection for motorcyclists but most states don't require motorcyclists to have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

motorcycle insurance

To find out more about state requirements, read the state insurance requirements for motorcycle insurance.

If you took out a loan to pay for your motorcycle, your lender might require comprehensive and collision coverage, as well. You might consider medical payments coverage, especially if you don't have health insurance. Medical payments will cover the costs of treating you and any passenger on your motorcycle, even if the accident is your fault.

If you've added custom parts, you'll need to purchase extra coverage to have them fully insured.

Keeping costs low

Insuring motorcycles can be pricey because of the high risk they pose.

Knapp points to specific coverages that cost more: "Uninsured motorist coverage is more expensive for a motorcycle than a car," she says. "That's because if a car is hit by an uninsured driver, the occupants are protected by a steel cage. If a motorcyclist is in an accident with an uninsured driver, injuries can be quite extensive or, worse, permanent. For those same reasons, medical payments coverage is also more expensive for a motorcycle than a car."

According to the National Highway Safety Administration, the fatality rate of motorcyclists is 6 times the rate of passenger car occupants. Also, in 2007, 103,000 motorcyclists were injured in accidents — 15,000 more than the year before. The top causes of fatalities and injuries to riders was alcohol use (27 percent with a blood alcohol concentration over 0.08 percent) and speeding (36 percent).

Most major car insurance companies offer motorcycle coverage.

"Motorcycles can be insured as either an endorsement on an existing policy or a stand-alone," says Knapp. "Stand-alone policies are a better way to go because endorsements to an auto policy generally don't offer the specific coverages that motorcyclists tell us they want and need. Endorsements don't always give insurance companies enough information to set accurate prices and that can limit their ability to offer competitive pricing."

Also, when motorcycles are insured on stand-alone policies, extras can be added like custom parts, safety-riding apparel and extended coverage for custom-made motorcycles.

Insurance pricing looks at the model of motorcycle, climate (meaning where in the country you will be driving it primarily) and your driving record.

Even though there is increased risk with motorcycles, costs can be offset if you don't ride your bike year-round.

"A motorcycle is driven less throughout the year than a car," explains Knapp. "Even in warm climates, the vast majority of motorcycles are considered "optional" transportation, not primary. Motorcyclists are found to be less "at fault" in accidents than car drivers."

Jeanne Salvatore of the Insurance Information Institute offers these tips for reducing the cost of motorcycle insurance.

Insure it part-time

Some motorcycle fanatics drive their bikes year-round, but many bikers let their wheels hibernate for at least three months. There's no need to fully insure your cycle if it's stored for an extended period of time. Many insurers offer seasonal policies that cover your bike for six- to nine-month periods.

Take a motorcycle-safety course

Some states require these courses before they'll issue a motorcycle license. Even in states that don't, you can count on a 10 to 15 percent insurance discount for completing one. Check with your insurance company before you sign up; some insurers recognize only certain programs. If you've been riding for a while, you might be able to get a discount for brushing up on your riding skills.

Increase deductibles

A deductible is the amount of money you have to pay before coverage kicks in. The higher the deductible, the lower your premiums. Make sure you can afford to absorb the cost of the deductible you choose.

Double up

If you've got more than one bike, or if you live with someone else who rides, you can usually get a multiple-vehicle discount. Likewise, there are likely extra savings if you insure your motorcycle and home with the same company.

Install an antitheft device

If you've got a nice bike, or if you financed your bike, chances are you've taken out comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive coverage protects against theft, fire and other damages not caused by an accident. Some insurers offer a discount on comprehensive coverage if you have an antitheft device such as Lojack.

Maintain a good driving record

Insurance companies use your driving history to help determine rates. How you drive a car usually indicates how you'll ride a motorcycle. If you've only recently obtained a driver's license, you might want to wait a year or two before getting a motorcycle. Provided you stay out of trouble, your insurance rates will be lower once you're an "experienced" driver.

Also, maintaining a "claims-free" status, paying your premium on time and having no accidents or violations will help.

 Ride with "brothers and sisters"

Membership in a motorcycle club, such as the American Motorcycle Association, BMW Motorcycle Owners of America, Harley Owners Group, Retreads and Triumph International Owners Club, can also shave some bucks off the insurance premium.

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