How to ensure you have the right motorcycle insurance
In most countries around the world, including the UK, you are legally required to take out valid insurance on your motorcycle before you ride it on a public road. Motorcycle insurance is a significant expense, but the penalties for not taking it out are severe; in the UK, you'll be fined up to £300 and have at least six penalty points on your licence, and in addition police have the power to seize and even destroy a bike if it has been ridden without insurance.
A necessary annual running expense, then, and one that you should most definitely budget for each year.
So how do you get motorcycle insurance, and what are you getting for your money?
How motorcycle insurance works
What does motorcycle insurance cover? In its simplest terms, insurance provides financial protection if your bike is part of an accident that damages another bike and/or another person. Such insurance is commonly known as 'third party insurance'. If you want a little additional cover, then 'third party, fire and theft insurance' offers third party cover plus some financial protection if your bike is stolen or catches fire. There's another type of insurance, called 'comprehensive', which additionally provides a contribution towards the repair bill for making your bike roadworthy again.
Whichever of these types of insurance you choose, you'll pay the insurer an amount of money, called a 'premium', and in return they provide a level of insurance cover for you for an agreed duration, which is usually a year.
Once you have insurance in place, if you have an accident, and you cause damage to another bike, then your third party insurance should (normally) make a payment towards paying for the damage. If you cause damage to your own bike, then your comprehensive insurance should (normally) make a payment towards getting it back on the road.
The 'normallys' are there, because there are certain circumstances that would invalidate your insurance contract. If you did the damage deliberately, for example. Or if you were breaking a serious law when you had your accident, such as dangerous riding, riding without an MOT, or riding without a helmet. All these things could invalidate your insurance, which makes such behaviour and actions an even more expensive mistake
Factors that increase the cost of insurance
Many factors affect the cost of insurance but there are four main ones; your age, the type of motorcycle you want to insure, where you store your bike when you're not riding it, and your previous record as a rider. Generally speaking, if you're young, or have a large or fast motorcycle, or keep it in public view overnight, or have made any previous insurance claims, then these are factors that you might reasonably expect would increase your insurance premium.
How you could lower the cost of insurance
One of the easiest things you can do to lower the cost of your motorcycle insurance premium is, simply, shop around. Different insurance providers often have significantly different pricing strategies, but they don't necessarily make that information public. So as a customer you just have to shop around, ask for a few quotes, and then you're free to choose whichever seems the best motorcycle insurance for your own particular needs.
Optional extras for motorcycle insurance
You may wish to add to the amount of cover you get when you take out motorcycle insurance, although doing so will normally increase your premium. An insurance company might offer the following optional extras; personal accident cover (to pay for certain emergency medical costs in case you injure yourself), helmet & leathers cover (to replace damaged clothing after an accident), legal expenses cover (to help pay for legal expenses if they're required after an accident), pillion passenger cover (required if you want to carry a passenger) and bike hire cover (to help pay for hiring a replacement bike if yours is out of action after an accident).
Some insurance companies offer promotional deals that may occasionally include some of the above cover as standard. (That's one more reason to shop around!)
When don't you need insurance?
If you own a bike, but don't wish to ride it for any reason then you can contact the DVLA and declare it as being 'off the road' by sending them a form known as Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). You don't need motorcycle insurance during this time but, of course, you're not legally allowed to ride your bike on a public road for as long as the SORN is active.
In the UK, as with most other countries, insurance is a legal requirement with severe penalties, so from that point of view it's every bit as essential as, say, buying a helmet.
And, just like protective equipment, it's an outlay that might seem unnecessary and expensive...
...until you really need it, that is.