You probably love lots of things about your bike: the excitement, the speed and maneuverability, the way it connects you to the road and to other bikers. But part of enjoying it is feeling safe while you’re on it—not just physically, but also financially. When you consider that even the most careful riders can still get into an accident (or have their bike stolen or damaged), the need for good motorcycle insurance is clear. That’s true whether or not it’s required in your state; the risks don’t change just because you cross state lines.
Just like car insurance, the best motorcycle insurance strikes a balance between adequate coverage and affordability. Before you start searching though, it’s essential to understand the precise financial risks posed by riding: the potential cost of damaging your own bike, someone else’s’ property, and the costs involved if you injure someone else. After that, it’s about finding ways to save money and still have the coverage you want from a reputable insurer. As with all insurance, premium amounts will vary from person to person, but my top four picks—Progressive, Safeco, Nationwide, and Foremost—are a great place to start shopping, no matter what kind of bike you own.
The Simple Dollar’s Picks for Best Motorcycle Insurance
I started with a list of 82 carriers and eventually pared down to just four. Each of the top picks combine the qualities most important for good motorcycle insurance: great financial strength, thorough coverage options, many available discounts, and strong claims service. Here they are:
- Best Motorcycle Insurance Overall: Progressive, Safeco, Nationwide
- Best Bare-Bones Coverage: Safeco
- Best for Custom/Vintage Bike Owners: Foremost, Progressive
Motorcycle insurance isn’t required in every state, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it.
Amazingly, five states—Hawaii, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, and Washington—don’t require any motorcycle insurance at all, and several others with no-fault auto insurance laws exclude motorcyclists from the personal injury protection (PIP) coverage that’s required of other drivers (and pays medical bills after an accident). Why? The basic answer is that these states treat motorcycle riding as an “assumption of risk” by the biker, similar to water skiing or rock climbing, and therefore don’t require insurance companies to offer coverage. The thinking goes like this: because you’re knowingly engaging in a “risky” activity, any injury or property damage that results is your sole responsibility. But even in states that treat motorcycle riding just like driving a car (i.e., as a necessary means of transport), the required insurance minimums aren’t that high, and they typically only apply to liability, in case you’re responsible for someone else’s injuries or property damage. No state requires you to insure your own bike against damage caused by an accident or anything else, including theft. The bottom line is that no matter where you live, there’s a good chance your state’s minimum motorcycle insurance coverage won’t be enough. You can check your state’s minimum auto insurance requirements here.
So even though you might be tempted to save a few bucks by purchasing just the bare minimum your state requires, it’s probably a shortsighted move. After all, insurance is about protecting your financial future, and owning a motorcycle carries financial risks. Just so we’re clear on exactly what those risks are, here are the various motorcycle insurance coverage types and their purposes:
- Liability (Bodily Injury and Property Damage): Covers expenses that result from injury to others, damage to their property, or lawsuits they file after an accident. Required in most states.
- Medical Expenses (First Party Coverage): Covers your own medical bills after an accident. Required in some states, optional in others.
- Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist: Covers your medical and property damage costs in the event that the other person is at fault and doesn’t have adequate insurance, or in the case of a hit-and-run. Required in some states, optional in others.
- Collision: Covers repairs to your bike after a collision. Optional in all states.
- Comprehensive: Covers repairs to your bike if it’s damaged by anything other than a collision (such as vandalism or weather damage), or if it’s stolen. Optional in all states.
- Guest Passenger Liability: Covers injuries and property damage to anyone who’s riding on the back of your bike at the time of an accident. Optional coverage sometimes included in standard liability limits.
The best motorcycle insurance companies have four things in common.
Before getting into specific attributes, let me first say that I only considered companies whose motorcycle insurance is available in at least 40 states (since I wanted ones I could recommend to a national audience). I also threw out companies whose policies are actually underwritten by a different company, since this effectively makes them middlemen between you and your coverage. When you’re filing a claim, you shouldn’t have to play a game of telephone to communicate with the people cutting the checks. After those two basics, my research pointed to four other traits of a great motorcycle insurer.
They’re financially sound.
What matters more in insurance than knowing your claims will be paid? Nothing. All four of my top picks earned “A” ratings from A.M. Best (the leading insurance rating agency), making them safe bets to deliver the cash if and when you need it.
They offer all the major coverage types.
Whether or not it’s required in your state, you should still be able to buy all the protection you want for your bike, from extra liability to replacement cost collision coverage. In addition to the categories listed above, there are also “specialty” provisions and endorsements for things like custom gear and original manufacturer parts, but I focused on the big four: liability, uninsured/underinsured motorist, collision, and comprehensive. These address the biggest financial hits you could take as a result of riding your bike.
They have plenty of available discounts.
If you’re a responsible rider who takes care of his bike, pays on time, and is a loyal customer, your insurance company should reward you with a lower premium. After all, you’re reducing your risk of a claim, as well as possibly some overhead costs for the company. I made a checklist of all the discounts I came across and compared each company’s offerings. Here are the ones I looked for:
- Claims-Free: You either avoided accidents altogether, or didn’t ask the insurance company to pay.
- Safety Course: You educated yourself on how to reduce the risk of getting into an accident.
- Motorcycle Association Membership: You belong to an association (such as the Harley Owners Group) whose members take pride in their bikes and are likely more careful with them.
- Bundling: You insure your home, car, boat, or other property with the same insurer.
- Anti-Theft Device: You’ve made it harder for thieves to steal your bike.
- Paid in Full: You pay your entire annual premium at once, saving the company from reminding you when an installment is due.
- Anti-Lock Brakes: You’re reducing the risk of flipping your bike.
- Renewal: You extended your coverage for another year, eliminating the company’s expense in assessing new risk and giving them more business.
They make the claims process easy.
Being involved in an accident, whether or not it’s your fault, is extremely stressful. So is getting your bike stolen, vandalized, or otherwise damaged. That’s why the claims process is so important: it’s when the company really shows you how it’s got your back. However, it’s also one of the hardest things to rate in advance, since you have to wait for an incident in order to file a claim (to do otherwise is insurance fraud). So in the absence of viable hands-on testing, I relied on two sources: my evaluation of how easy each company makes it to submit a claim in the first place (including the options to file online or with a mobile app), and JD Power’s most recent 2015 U.S. Auto Insurance Claims Satisfaction Study, which surveys auto insurance owners on their satisfaction with their respective companies’ claims. Not every company is represented on the JD Power list, so I really only used it as a way to make sure that a company wasn’t loathed by its customers. As it turned out, three of my top four (Nationwide, Progressive, and Safeco) scored better than average. The fourth (Foremost), wasn’t rated, but impressed me enough with its claim-starting process (including a live chat option) that I still feel comfortable recommending it.
Top Picks for Best Motorcycle Insurance
Progressive — Best Overall
Progressive’s standard motorcycle coverage was some of the best I found, which surprised me because it’s such a huge company with multiple lines of insurance. With their collision and comprehensive, you automatically get $3,000 of additional coverage for custom accessories and safety gear. On top of that, Progressive guarantees OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts in all repairs, meaning that your Indian will be repaired with genuine Indian parts, or your Harley with Harley parts. For vintage bike owners, Progressive was also the only company of my top four with an “Agreed Value” option for collision and comprehensive coverage. This is crucial if your bike is a collector’s item that doesn’t follow the normal rules of depreciation; you can insure it for an appraised value that’s agreed on by you and the company.
Progressive’s online quote process was also the only one that actually gives you a quote at the end, rather than following up later with an email or phone call from an agent. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s just a little simpler, which is always a plus when you’re shopping online.
Nationwide — Best Overall
Nationwide got the highest JD Power claims satisfaction score of any of my finalists, which is a pretty great endorsement by itself. They also double Safeco’s automatic allowance for safety equipment replacement to $2,000 on collision coverage, though it doesn’t apply on liability alone like Safeco’s does. The $3,000 custom equipment earmark comes with every comprehensive policy (same as Safeco and Progressive), as well as the option to fix your bike using original parts, although unlike Progressive’s OEM feature, Nationwide’s is only available if your bike is less than 10 years old (and you pay extra for it). Their online quote process also has one slightly annoying aspect: while they advertise that you can “get a quote online,” you actually have to input your information and then wait for a call.
Safeco — Best Bare-Bones Coverage
Along with exemplary coverage options and discounts, Safeco has a few other extras that impressed me. I really like that they include $1,000 for replacement safety equipment—with no deductible—on all their liability coverage. This means that even if you only have your state’s bare-bones liability insurance (and no coverage for yourself or your bike), you’ll still be able to get new safety gear immediately following an accident. Safeco also matches Progressive’s additional $3,000 for custom accessories on any collision/comprehensive coverage, and has a cool perk for Harley owners: full-value replacement for two years on any Harley-Davidson that you purchased new. Their quote process ends with an email, but is still pretty straightforward.
Foremost — Best for Custom/Vintage Bike Owners
Foremost stands out for having the highest automatic coverage for after-market equipment ($3,500) out of any comprehensive/collision policy I saw, making them a great choice for bikes with significant custom additions. That same coverage also includes the highest-dollar safety apparel coverage I found ($1,500), proving Foremost’s commitment to protecting your body as well as your bike. Even though Foremost itself wasn’t ranked in JD Power’s claims survey, its affiliate Farmers was rated on par with Progressive and Safeco (Nationwide barely edged out all three). Foremost also has a nifty live chat option as part of its claims process, a nice perk for those who hate waiting on hold, but still want to have a real-time conversation with a rep.
Seven Things to Know Before You Start Shopping for Motorcycle Insurance
Go with stand-alone motorcycle insurance rather than an endorsement on your existing auto policy.
If you already have car insurance, you might be able to simply add motorcycle coverage as an endorsement or “rider” to your existing policy. But beware: the coverage you get through a rider likely won’t be as thorough, or as customizable, as what you’ll get with a stand-alone motorcycle policy. Making sure you have the exact right coverage is reason enough to go with stand-alone, but it could also save you money vs. an endorsement, because endorsement pricing often doesn’t account for the precise risks you’re insuring against.
Prioritize your coverage according to your needs and budget.
If your state doesn’t require motorcycle insurance of any kind, it’s technically your choice whether or not to buy it. But smart bikers will pony up for protection against their biggest risks. What those are depend largely on how you ride. If you’re a collector who never takes your vintage Triumph off your own property, you probably don’t need liability or uninsured motorist coverage. It would make more sense to buy just collision and comprehensive, probably with some higher limits to accommodate your rare hardware.
However, let’s say you live in a state like Florida, with low auto insurance liability minimums, and you ride your bike everywhere. In this scenario, your risk of being hit by someone with scant liability insurance is much higher, so you’d be smart to purchase underinsured motorist coverage, in case you’re hospitalized by an underinsured driver. In fact, if you only had enough money for either collision or underinsured motorist coverage, you’d be better off with the latter, given that it guards against a greater financial risk.
Older, less powerful bikes are cheaper to insure.
This isn’t a shocker, but the flashiest, highest horsepower motorcycles are also the most expensive to insure. The reasons include higher replacement cost, greater risk of accident, and higher desirability to thieves. So if you care about saving on insurance, it might not be worth purchasing a brand new 172-hp Suzuki Hayabusa (named by Motorcycle.com as the most expensive to insure). And, if you’re thinking of buying a motorcycle just to get from point A to point B, you’ll save by going with an older model and/or smaller engine, too.
Umbrella coverage can be a cost-effective way to increase your motorcycle liability limits.
It’s no fun to think about, but if you cause an accident that leaves someone else hospitalized, they could potentially sue you for much more than the required liability coverage in your state. If you have assets that would be in danger in that scenario, consider buying an umbrella policy on top of your existing motorcycle liability. Why? Because an umbrella policy covers your liability for accidents involving not just your motorcycle, but also your home, auto and boat (if you have one). As a result, it’s cheaper than buying extra coverage expressly for the “dangerous” activity of riding a motorcycle. But it provides the exact same coverage (as long as you don’t use it first for a claim involving your home, car, or boat).
“Umbrella liability is the most bang for your buck out of any insurance coverage out there.”
Independent Insurance Agent, Darr Schackow Insurance
If you’re insuring more than one bike, “stacking” can help you squeeze more value out of your uninsured motorist coverage.
Some (but not all) states allow a practice known as “stacking” when you’re insuring multiple vehicles with uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. If allowed, it’s a smart way to multiply your limits without actually buying any additional insurance. If you have more than one vehicle on your policy and you “stack” your uninsured/underinsured coverage, your limit is multiplied by the number of vehicles. So if you’re an Alabama biker with UM limits of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident, and have two motorcycles on your policy, stacking would increase your limits to $100,000 per person, $200,000 per accident for no additional charge.
About half the states expressly forbid stacking, but even if yours doesn’t, you’ll still need to contact your insurer to make sure they allow it. Insurance company policies on stacking also vary from state to state, so just because Progressive allows it in Pennsylvania doesn’t mean they do in Missouri.
Take a safety course, even if you’re an experienced biker.
Most motorcycle accidents happen within a person’s first month of riding, but even if you’ve been riding for years, it doesn’t mean you can’t improve your skills. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation licenses safety courses nationwide with the goal of “lifelong quality education and training for current and prospective riders”. Not only will a safety course make you more aware on the road (thus decreasing your risk of accident), it will also save you money on your insurance premium.
“An MSF-certified RiderCourse is a golden opportunity for even experienced riders to gain new skills and safety strategies.”
Adjunct Instructor for Motorcycle Safety Foundation, Florida Rider Training Program at State College of Florida
Your credit score matters.
Don’t be surprised when insurance companies ask you for permission to check your credit history when requesting a quote. Most do. Studies have shown that there is a correlation between a low credit score and a greater likelihood of filing a claim. Those with higher credits scores will almost always receive a cheaper insurance quote than those with a low credit score.
Whether or not your state requires you to get motorcycle insurance for your bike, you should protect yourself from the financial risks of riding a motorcycle. The minimum legal coverage is rarely enough to offset real world risks, particularly in states with low minimums where other drivers are more likely to be underinsured. The best motorcycle insurance can be tailored to fit both the bike itself and the risks that come with the way it’s used. Finally, you’re never too old or too experienced to learn how to become a better rider, and taking a safety course is one of the best ways to save money on your insurance premium from one of my top recommendations (Progressive, Safeco, Nationwideand Foremost).