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Beginner’s Guide To Buying Motorcycle Insurance

Group of motorcycle riders on a road

Motorcycles are fun to ride and can be a great way to get from point A to point B. However, if you have not had a motorcycle before, you may be overwhelmed with the process of buying one and getting it insured.

Buying motorcycle insurance is a little different than buying auto or home insurance. Although there are some similarities, there are also some notable differences that you need to be aware of when purchasing your policy.

In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of motorcycle insurance. We’ll also explain how to choose the right insurance for your bike, discuss what you can expect from different types of coverage, and answer some commonly asked questions.

What is motorcycle insurance?

Simply put, motorcycle insurance protects your motorcycle in the event of theft or accident damage, as well as protecting you financially in situations where there’s a loss for which you’re at-fault.  

Most states require all motorcycles to be insured by law. If you don’t have coverage, you could get a fine or even lose your license.

Who needs motorcycle insurance?

Anyone who owns a motorcycle should have insurance on it.

Whether you ride frequently or only occasionally, it’s important to protect yourself and your bike from financial loss due to theft or damage.

How Is Your Motorcycle Insurance Calculated?

Anyone who has a history of riding safely is likely to get a good deal on their motorcycle insurance. A safe driving record will have a positive impact on your insurance rates. There may be other factors as well, like age and gender.

The motorcycle you ride:

Everyone's bike is "priceless," but they don't all cost the same. After all, a collectible isn't worth the same as a piece of junk (no matter how much you love it). 

An older bike with a lot of power that you use often presents a different risk from the highly valued chopper sitting pretty in your garage. 

So, value and power are two significant factors. There are also probably things you love about your bike, so it's good that your insurance company cares about them too.


Premiums can be higher for more expensive bikes simply because they cost more to replace or repair. Although that cost is worth it when it comes to something you love, keep in mind, though, that just because you own an inexpensive bike doesn't mean your premiums will be low since insurance also covers damage you cause to others. Remember that bike (or car, etc.) that you may hit is somebody else's baby.


Motorcycles with larger engines can cost more to insure. If you upgrade your engine to something more substantial, you should inform your insurer. 

You're likely to pay higher premiums, but not reporting the upgrade may invalidate your policy. And, hey, an opportunity to brag.

Where you reside:

Simply put, living in an area with more recorded claims activity and incidents of theft will mean higher premiums.

Your driving record:

An incident where you were not at fault may count as a strike against you. Just a year or more without a claim can make a huge difference. Additionally, completing a qualifying defensive driving course can save you money as well.

Type of coverage:

The more your insurance covers, the more it will cost. So, if the coverage is only for injuries or property damage you or another rider causes to someone else, it will cost less. 

That said, you'll also end up exposing yourself and your bike to risk.

Who else is insured to ride:

If you add someone with less experience to your policy, expect your policy to go up in cost. The “expect your policy to go up” is going to be true most of the time because not only was a rider added, but they have less experience. 

However, if you add a rider with more riding experience, you’re still adding another risk, so you definitely shouldn’t expect the policy premium to go down.

What are motorcycle insurance requirements?

In most states, riding a bike is just like driving a car. So, expect to pay for certain types of insurance, including, in some cases, coverage for accidents involving uninsured or underinsured parties. 

The bank that finances your purchase may also require that you get collision or comprehensive insurance, which you'll appreciate in the event of an unexpected incident.

What are motorcycle insurance coverage options?

Motorcycle insurance isn't one size fits all. The coverage you get depends on how risk-averse you are, your driving record, and how much you're willing to spend. You also have to consider the laws of your state.

Liability coverage:

This insurance covers injury you may cause to the body or property of another up to policy limits. It does not protect you or your motorcycle. 

The insurance may cover your passenger depending on the laws of the state in which you're insured and your particular insurance policy.

Collision coverage:

Collision coverage is the insurance you want to protect your bike if you collide with another object or have an incident avoiding an animal. If your bike is not repairable, your insurance company will determine the value of your vehicle and pay you the determined value of your bike, minus any deductible.

Comprehensive coverage:

Comprehensive insurance covers the loss of your bike that stems from causes other than a collision. This coverage varies by state and policy language and may include fire, theft, or vandalism.

Medical payments (MedPay):

This form of insurance isn't available everywhere. It covers your medical bills only up to whatever limits you have. Injuries to a passenger are not covered under MedPay, they are actually covered under Bodily Injury (assuming the driver was at fault.)* 

However, it does not include lost wages or other costs. This is meant to compensate for otherwise insufficient medical insurance.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage:

This insurance protects you if your incident is with someone who doesn't have insurance or doesn't have enough insurance protection, when that person is at-fault.

These policies cover medical treatment, lost wages, and sometimes even property damage. In some states, these types of coverages can be purchased separately from each other.

Personal injury protection:

Regardless of who's at fault, PIP covers your medical bills, and may cover your passenger's and any injured pedestrian’s medical bills. Depending on the state and the insurance policy language these losses may also be covered under Bodily Injury. While many insurers offer PIP, not all states require the sale of PIP.

What are motorcycle insurance add-on options?

Your coverage doesn't have to only cover your bike. It can include your trip, customization changes you've made to the bike, and roadside assistance. Some of these are considered add-ons when in reality, they're indispensable. Who wants a ruined ride?

Trip interruption options:

Rides can last thousands of miles. For this reason, trip interruption insurance can mean the difference between having and not having a good time. In the event of a mechanical breakdown or a covered Comprehensive or Collision coverage loss, once you're outside of a radius of 100 miles from home, your trip interruption insurance will kick in. 

It will help pay for lodging, transportation, and food while you wait for your motorcycle to be repaired or replaced.

Coverage for custom parts, equipment, and accessories:

This insurance covers parts that installed after the factory manufactured your motorcycle. These customizations may include custom paint, chrome wheel rims, and sidecars

States don't require this coverage, but lenders might. You will want it covered if you put this much love into your bike.

Roadside assistance:

Roadside assistance is the type of insurance most likely to bail you out of a quick jam. Out of gas, flat tires, a tow, or an issue that requires an immediate solution can be covered by roadside assistance.

What motorcycle insurance discounts are available?

You can get discounts for being a good driver and loyal customer. You may also save money by:

What are the payout options if my bike is destroyed or stolen?

In the event of an incident, the agreements you make with your insurance company will determine how you're compensated.

Actual cash value:

The actual cash value is how much your bike is worth in cash, minus depreciation and your deductible. A total loss to your bike may result in payment to you using the actual cash value method.

Frequently asked questions:

If you’re like most people, you probably have many additional questions about motorcycle insurance.

Here are some frequently asked questions about getting your first motorcycle insurance policy.

What kind of coverage should I get?

If you’re buying a motorcycle for the first time, you need to know what insurance coverage you need to protect yourself, your bike, and others on the road.

However, because insurance should be uniquely tailored to each rider’s needs, the best answer is to talk to an agent who can tell you what coverage is right for you.

How much does motorcycle insurance cost?

The cost of your motorcycle insurance policy will vary based on where you live, how old you are, what type of bike you ride, and other factors. 

For example, if you have a clean driving record, have completed safety courses, and take good care of your bike, you will likely be eligible for discounts on your premium.

Do states require motorcycle owners to buy insurance?

Virtually all states require that riders buy the same liability insurance as car owners. In some states, you must also get uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. Lenders may also require proof of insurance coverage.

Can you insure a motorcycle without a license?

If you're going to ride, you’d better have a valid motorcycle license or endorsement. Most states require you have a license or endorsement to ride on most roads and highways. Some insurers, however, cover collectible bikes you do not intend to ride.

Does insurance cover a stolen motorcycle?

Comprehensive coverage may protect you if your bike is stolen, which is another good reason to select that option with your insurance purchase.

Will my motorcycle insurance cover me on another bike?

You'll need to check the specifics of your policy to confirm this coverage, especially if it is insurance coverage for a rental bike. But if it's a bike you own or use but don't have coverage, then you might be out of luck.

The bottom line on getting your first motorcycle insurance policy

Motorcycle insurance may be the law, but it doesn't have to be a drag. It can provide you with both peace of mind and bail you out of a jam. And nothing makes a ride better than having less to worry about. 

And if your trip gets interrupted, don't worry. There's coverage for that too. 

Please review with a Harley-Davidson Insurance Services professional to understand what coverage options are available in your state no matter what kind of bike you ride.

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*Coverage for injuries to passengers does not apply if Guest Passenger coverage has been rejected by the policyholder.