Basic Third Party Only (TPO) motorcycle insurance policies provide coverage for damage to other vehicles, which riders are required to have in the UK. In addition, riders can upgrade to include Fire & Theft coverage or Comprehensive insurance, plus there are many optional coverages, such as Helmets & Leathers, Roadside Assistance, etc. available for riders to purchase.
Deciding which motorcycle insurance coverages you should purchase will depend upon factors such as the value of your bike, whether you want coverage for damage to or loss of your bike (e.g., due to crash, fire, theft), etc. and may impact the cost you pay for motorcycle insurance, which is typically the biggest annual cost of owning a motorcycle.
- How Does Motorcycle Insurance Work?
- Types of Motorcycle Insurance
- Optional Extra Motorcycle Insurance Coverage
How Motorcycle Insurance Works
Similar to car insurance, motorcycle insurance can provide financial protection for injuries or damages incurred while riding your bike. At a minimum, motorcycle insurance includes third party liability coverage, which pays for damage you cause to others. Motorcycle insurance can also include coverage for your own bike and injuries. If you have more than one motorcycle, multibike policies are quite common in the market and can secure you a discount from your insurer.
Typically, only Comprehensive insurance policies cover the policyholder to ride other bikes, and not all comprehensive policies offer this cover. In the case where you are covered to ride other bikes, coverage is typically limited to a third party basis only (even if you have a Comprehensive policy for your own bike), which provides you the minimum cover to ride a bike legally. Some insurance companies such as motorcycle-specialist Bennetts include cover for riding other bikes across their policies; however, coverage is still limited to a third party basis only.
Types of Motorcycle Insurance
Third Party liability-only motorcycle insurance policies are often relatively inexpensive to buy. However, you may want to consider adding some additional cover, since basic Third Party Only (TPO) motorcycle liability insurance does not provide financial protection for your own injuries or damage to or loss of your bike. If you intend to ever carry a passenger, you may need to buy extra Pillion passenger cover—many plans do not cover passengers as standard.
Third Party Liability Motorcycle Insurance
Third Party coverage is the minimum motorcycle insurance required by law to ride on UK roads. TPO plans cover injury to other people and/or damage to other vehicles. If your bike is involved in an accident, TPO insurance will cover damage to another vehicle or injury to another person—but there's no cover for damage to you or your bike.
Third Party, Fire and Theft Motorcycle Insurance
Third Party, Fire and Theft (TPFT) plans include Third Party cover (discussed above) PLUS the cost to repair or replace your motorbike if it's stolen or damaged by fire. Note, TPFT will normally cover up to the market value of your bike if it is stolen. However, not all TPFT plans will cover repairs due to damage during attempted theft or if you bike is stolen but recovered damaged.
Full Coverage Comprehensive Motorcycle Insurance
The highest level of cover, Comprehensive plans include TPFT features PLUS protection against damage to your own bike (and possibly for your own injuries, depending on the plan). Comprehensive motorcycle insurance covers the cost to repair or replace your motorcycle in many events, from collision to other damage. For example, if your bike was damaged in a fire or storm, vandalized, or stolen, those things would fall under comprehensive coverage. This coverage is valuable even when you’re not riding the bike, so we recommend maintaining comprehensive coverage even when storing your motorcycle.
|Comprehensive||Third party fire & theft||Third party only|
|Damage to your motorcycle (except that caused by fire & theft) up to its market value.||Covered||Not covered||Not covered|
|Damage or loss by fire or theft up to its market value.||Covered||Covered||Not covered|
|Legal liability for damage to other people’s property.||Covered||Covered||Covered|
Optional Motorcycle Insurance Coverage
There are a number of extra motorcycle insurance coverages that you can opt to add to many motorcycle insurance plans for an additional premium, if they are not included already. These extras include cover for your passengers (who are typically not protected under third party liability on motorcycle plans), roadside assistance and breakdown cover, reimbursement for your personal gear (i.e., helmet & protective clothing) if damaged in an accident, etc.
Helmet and Leathers
Your helmet, protective clothing, gloves and boots can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to replace in the event they're damaged in an accident. Buying extra Helmet & Leathers cover can provide financial compensation if they're damaged in an accident and you need to buy new. Helmet & Leathers policies will have a maximum limit against which you can claim (e.g., you can claim up to £1,500 on the Bennetts' Helmet & Leathers policy, which costs £48 a year).
While it’s not generally required, a motorcyclist can also add legal expenses coverage to their motorcycle insurance policy. It may cover injuries to you as a rider, as well as damage to your bike following a no-fault claim (e.g., a crash caused by another driver who is inadequately insured). If the at-fault driver is uninsured and doesn’t have any liability insurance, this can kick in to protect you. This coverage will pay legal expenses (typically up to £100,000) for the attempt to recover your uninsured losses following a non-fault claim.
Legal expenses coverage usually pays for medical fees, lost wages and other damages a policyholder might incur if the other party involved was not adequately insured; and also damage to your bike, your personal property (e.g., your leathers and helmet), towing and vehicle hire.
Personal Accident cover can be added to a motorcycle policy to provide financial protection in the event you're seriously injured in an accident involving your bike. This cover will typically pay out up to around £15,000 for a wide range of injuries, but this varies from plan to plan. For instance, Devitts includes the following list of events as claimable if they're a direct result of your accident:
- Loss of limb, sight, speech, jaw or hearing
- Partial disability
- Inability to gain any employment
- Damage to clothing when bodily injury occurs
Roadside Assistance and Breakdown Cover
Roadside assistance and recovery are optional coverages for motorbike insurance policies and can often be added in exchange for a higher premium. In some cases, roadside assistance is included for free, without you having to pay an extra premium for it. Roadside assistance programmes will often try to repair a bike roadside or, if that's not possible, they'll recover and take your bike to a shop for repairs. They also usually cover battery failure, flat tires, or mechanical or electrical breakdown and free delivery of water, oil or fuel. Riders considering this optional coverage should compare prices before adding it onto a motorcycle insurance package, as sometimes roadside assistance can be purchased for cheaper when bought independently.
If you travel around the country for business or pleasure or intend to ride in Europe, then look for national or European recovery coverage (as opposed to local only) as part of your breakdown cover, in order to deliver your bike back home or to a suitable repair shop if it's not able to be repaired roadside. Along with this, onward travel may be important for travels further from home, to provide you with a replacement motorbike or other reasonable onward travel expenses should a quick roadside repair not be possible.
Pillion Passenger Cover
To carry a passenger on your motorcycle, you must be insured to do so. Most motorcycle insurance policies these days do not include pillion passengers on standard cover—you must specifically request this coverage and you're likely to pay a higher premium for it. It's worth noting that pillion passengers are generally not considered "third parties" and are therefore not covered by Third Party coverage.
In addition to possessing the proper pillion insurance coverage, to legally carry a passenger on a motorcycle you must also have a full motorbike licence for the class of bike you're riding. Those with a provisional licence are never permitted to carry pillion passengers. In addition, passengers are only permitted on bikes designed to carry a passenger (with a dual seat and suitable rear footrests).
Travelling Abroad to Europe
To legally ride your motorcycle abroad, you must have the minimum insurance required in the countries you visit. Most motorcycle insurance policies extend the minimum compulsory cover to include travel in the EU and some other countries such as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Andorra and Serbia. However, policies don't always provide the same level of protection when driving abroad as you have while in the UK. Cover abroad is typically limited to a fixed number of days, which may range from 8 days up to 180 days. In some cases you can pay to extend the amount of time you're covered abroad to accommodate longer trips, so long as your visit to other countries is temporary—but you may have to pay an additional premium for this.
Some countries require that you carry a Green Card as proof of minimum insurance. Responsibility for issuing Green Cards is given to national organisations (e.g., the MIB in the UK). For efficiency, the MIB delegates the responsibility for issuing Green Cards to insurers by allowing them to print and issue their own cards. So if you need a Green Card, contact your insurer.
If you're planning to drive your motorcycle outside of the UK, it is always a good idea to read the small print of your policy wording document and also to contact your insurance company, as some insurers require notification of foreign travel.