Buying a motorcycle is a huge deal. And like most other major purchases, the total cost will add up to much more than the sticker price of the new bike itself. You have to factor in dealer fees, delivery fees, sales tax, title transfers, riding gear, and more.
One more expense you’ll have to plan for: motorcycle insurance. Not only is it the law in California, but it will help give you piece of mind when you are exploring all of the wonderful riding spots that the state has to offer. Here are ten important pieces of information regarding motorcycle insurance in California.
1. Your standard auto insurance policy does NOT cover your motorcycle.
Do you already have an insurance policy on your car, truck, van, or SUV? Great. One problem: it’s irrelevant when it comes to your motorcycle.
California law requires you to purchase liability insurance that’s tailored specifically to your motorcycle. So if you are pulled over by a police officer and you get asked for your proof of insurance, handing over your car insurance card won’t do you any good.
2. The minimum levels of insurance for your motorcycle are the same as those for your car.
Like most other states, California mandates that you purchase a minimum amount of coverage for your motorcycle. How much? The short version is 15/30/5.
Those numbers mean that your motorcycle insurance policy must cover at least $15,000 for bodily injury incurred by another person, $30,000 for bodily injury to others involved in the accident, and $5,000 for property damage caused by a collision. While you can certainly buy insurance with higher levels of coverage, those are the smallest amounts of money you must have on your policy in the event you are at fault in an accident.
3. Your liability insurance does NOT cover any costs that YOU incur in a collision that was your fault.
As the name implies, liability insurance only covers monetary damages for which you are liable in an accident. They do nothing to offset any medical costs or bike damage that you incur.
That’s why it’s wise to consider purchasing a collision and/or comprehensive insurance policy for your motorcycle. Collision coverage will pay for any repairs or replacement costs for your bike damages suffered in a collision, after you meet your deductible and up to the limits of your policy. Comprehensive coverage does the same thing in non-collision scenarios – for instance, if your bike is stolen, vandalized, or damaged in a storm.
4. Uninsured/Underinsured coverage is a smart investment.
If you can afford it, you might want to also purchase an uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) insurance policy for your motorcycle. This protects you financially in the event you are involved in a collision that is the fault of someone who does not have (or who has inadequate) insurance.
Ideally, another driver’s liability insurance will cover your bike repairs, medical costs, and related expenses if that driver is at fault. But too many California drivers choose to drive without the mandatory insurance (about 4.1 million of them in 2012, in fact), which would mean you would have to cover those costs yourself. A UM/UIM policy allows you to be reimbursed for those costs by your own insurance provider in the event you are victimized in a crash caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist.
5. You are required by law to carry proof of insurance when riding your motorcycle.
Yes, it can sometimes be a hassle to bring your insurance information with you every time you ride your motorcycle. But if you are busted without insurance, you can be slapped with a fine of between $100 and $200 (or up to $500 for repeat offenses).
Of course, there aren’t many places on a bike where you can stow those documents. The best solution is to keep your insurance card in something that you always take while riding, like your wallet, gear bag, or helmet.
6. Your motorcycle can be impounded if you are caught riding without insurance.
That’s a little-known provision of California law: in addition to levying fines, police officers have the right to impound your motorcycle if they catch you riding without insurance. Then you’ll be forced to pay additional fees to retrieve your bike from the impound lot, not to mention dealing with all of the time and hassle involved with getting your ride back.
Oh, and the authorities won’t release your motorcycle until you do in fact obtain the required insurance for it. And since impound lots charge daily fees, you’ll wind up paying more money depending on how long it takes you to secure a policy.
7. If you are hurt in a crash and you don’t have motorcycle insurance, you cannot recover non-economic damages.
Twenty years ago, Californians passed Proposition 213 in an effort to crack down on uninsured motorists. The law states that if you are involved in an accident (regardless of fault) and you do not have the mandatory liability insurance, you are barred from collecting non-economic damages. These include pain and suffering, disability or disfigurement, and loss of consortium (i.e., the ability to have or enjoy sex).
Proposition 213 affects all of the state’s motorists no matter what type of vehicle they drive. But since motorcyclists are five times more likely to get hurt in an accident than occupants of four-wheeled vehicles, the law underscores the need for motorcycle owners to acquire liability insurance.
8. Standard motorcycle insurance policies do not cover modified bikes.
Lots of motorcycle enthusiasts like to modify or “trick out” their bikes. That’s all well and good – but those modifications won’t be covered by your regular motorcycle insurance policy.
This includes aftermarket performance parts and optional augmentations made after the bike was purchased. The good news is that you can purchase additional coverage for your modified motorcycle. The insurance company may require receipts to verify the value of the modifications.
9. You don’t need to obtain motorcycle insurance for a “dirt bike.”
If you only plan on riding your motorcycle “off road,” then you are not legally bound to purchase and maintain liability insurance. California law doesn’t mandate insurance for what it calls “off-highway vehicles” like four-wheelers, dune buggies, and dirt bikes.
However, it is arguably a good idea to purchase insurance for your motorcycle even if you do keep it off of the streets and highways. Coverage is available to protect your dirt bike from theft, vandalism, or damage in a collision.
10. There are many ways to earn a discount on your motorcycle insurance coverage.
As with passenger vehicles, there are steps you can take to minimize the amount of money you spend on motorcycle insurance. These include completing a motorcycle safety course and investing in anti-theft devices for your bike.
Additionally, you can select a higher deductible, pay for six months’ or a year’s worth of coverage up front, and/or bundle your policy with your car, home, or life insurance. Most insurers will give you a price break on your motorcycle policy if you take advantage of these options.
Here’s one last tip about motorcycle insurance in California: AIS Insurance has helped thousands of Golden State motorcyclists find the perfect coverage to suit their needs and their wallet. So before you purchase that new bike and head out on the open road, give AIS a call today for a free quote.
The information in this article was obtained from various sources. This content is offered for educational purposes only and does not represent contractual agreements, nor is it intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. The definitions, terms and coverage in a given policy may be different than those suggested here and such policy will be governed by the language contained therein. No warranty or appropriateness for a specific purpose is expressed or implied.