What to look out for when buying motorbike insurance
When you’re buying motorbike insurance, you need to start by checking what level of cover you need.
Look out for these three basic levels of cover when comparing motorbike insurance to find a cheap deal:
Third Party Only:
This covers the costs of other road users - scratch someone’s car and your insurance pays out.
But wreck your bike, and the bill’s all yours. This is the bare minimum level of cover required by law.
Third Party, Fire, and Theft:
Covers you for third party property damage, plus fire damage and the theft of your bike.
But it still doesn’t cover you for damage to your bike, or for the loss of things like your helmet - no joke when new helmets start around £60 and you can’t legally ride your bike without one.
Both TPO and TPFT insurance provide no cover for things like breakdown, medical and legal fees.
Comprehensive insurance covers your bike as well as third parties.
Some covers everything - damage to your riding gear, your bike, and everything else you could think of, including medical and legal expenses and a replacement bike while yours gets fixed.
You do need to have insurance, even if your bike is off the road, unless it’s under a Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN) - it’s against the law to keep a bike without insurance, not just to ride one.
Read more: ways to save money on your motorbike insurance.
What do you use your bike for?
Insurers need to know how you use your bike.
Using it for work isn’t the same as using it for commuting. If you use your bike for work - as a courier, for instance - you have to tell your insurer. Not doing so could invalidate your insurance.
Insurance companies will break down bike use into four categories:
Social, domestic and pleasure
If you use your bike just for fun -not for the daily commute, and not for any business purpose - this one is you.
If you ride your bike to one regular place of employment, plus any leisure use, you come under this category.
If you use your bike to travel to more than one place of work - even if it’s for a training course as a one-off - your category changes to business use and you need to inform your insurer or risk invalidating your insurance.
If you’re self-employed or a manager and you ride your bike to the bank with company funds to deposit, or you travel to meet clients, you’re a business user.
Courier and delivery
Obviously this covers couriers, delivery riders and so on.
But some insurers will see you as a courier even if you’re a salesman and you don’t have the goods you’re selling on your bike.
The way you use your bike, and your job, will both affect your premium.
Insurers take your occupation into account when they do risk calculations, and very few will cover courier and delivery riders because of the risks associated.
Covering pillion passengers
Check any policies you’re considering carefully to see if you’re covered for pillion passengers (a secondary passenger).
Some policies cover this, others regard it as an add-on and charge extra for it.
The trend is for it to be an optional extra, so figure out if you need it and factor the extra cost in when you compare policies.
If you have pillion passengers for work - if you give a friend a lift to work, for instance - the picture doesn’t change much.
Cover for riding other bikes
This isn’t always included in every policy.
Some policies will include it, others will view it as an optional extra and make an additional charge.
If you’re not insured to ride someone else’s bike, it’s illegal - and financially risky.
So if you’re planning to hop on your friends’ bikes, get insurance that covers you.
Cover for more than one bike
If you own more than one bike, it’s almost always a lot cheaper to insure them both on the same policy.
Many insurers offer substantial discounts for this.
Cover for other riders
If friends are going to be riding your bike, make sure they’re insured.
It might make sense to look for a policy that insures them at your end rather than relying on their insurance.
The extra cost is often quite low - but make sure it’s totally clear whose bike it is.
Otherwise, you run the risk of being accused of ‘fronting’ - where a low-risk user claims to be the main user, to cut the premiums for the real owner of the vehicle.
If 65-year-old parents put themselves as the main users for their 18-year-old son’s bike, they’re fronting - and it’s a crime. (It also invalidates your insurance.)
Cover for specific types of bikes
If you own a classic bike, you’re likely to take extremely good care of it.
That means insurers will want to take good care of you, offering you special packages with lower premiums.
The definition of a classic bike is hazy - bikes aged between 15 and 25 years or more are usually considered classic but it varies by insurer.
To muddy the waters further, some insurers offer ‘modern classic’ categories.
The bottom line is that if you own a 50s Harley or Triumph, you’ll have no trouble finding a classic bike insurance package. If you think your bike’s a classic, look for an insurer who agrees when comparing deals online.
You could slash the cost significantly.
Covering a modified bike
Any changes you make from the manufacturer’s specs are regarded as modifications.
Even if they make your bike safer to ride, you’ll still pay more for them in the form of increased premiums.
It might be tempting to keep quiet about them - but even minor modifications will invalidate your insurance if they aren’t declared to the insurance company. They’ll take any opportunity not to pay out, so don’t give them one: always declare any modifications. (You could find yourself being prosecuted for fraud, too.)
Extras - are they worth it?
Many insurers will bundle additional protections with your insurance as optional extras.
Common options include loss of earnings, legal fees, medical fees and breakdown cover.
While these are sometimes offered by insurers as ‘sweeteners,’ they’re also sometimes money-spinners for the insurance company.
If you’re considering an extra, compare other policies that have that extra as standard, and compare the total cost.
And compare the cost of the additional cover separately too.
Getting a better deal
Your bike insurance premiums are very sensitive to changes in the bike you ride, the job you do, how secure your bike is and your age and riding record.
Obviously there’s not much you can do about your age.
But you can invest in a Thatcham-approved lock and secure marking, both of which make your bike more secure and bring your premiums down.
The most effective way to cut the cost of motorbike insurance is to not use it.
A year when you don’t claim could cut the cost of your premiums by 40%, so if you get into minor scrapes it makes sense to preserve your no-claims and shell out yourself.