How to lower your motorcycle insurance rates

As we’ve said before, if there’s one issue that gets motorcyclists worked up, it’s insurance costs. Rising insurance costs are one of the biggest obstacles facing new riders, but it’s not just newbies feeling the pinch. In some provinces, even experienced riders are getting slammed with rates that mean their insurance costs as much as a good used bike.

So how can you reduce those rates? Read on:

TAKE RIDER TRAINING. Especially for new riders, this can reduce your insurance by 5-to-15 per cent (find a list of beginner rider training programs here). A new rider can save on premiums by taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) safety course, and some companies won’t even accept a new rider without it. For a newbie, this one’s a no-brainer.

If you’re new to riding and take a recognized safety course, you’ll deserve the break you’ll get in insurance.

This may be less of a factor in provinces that already require beginner riders to take mandatory rider training. It also becomes less of a factor the more riding experience you have – depending on the course, the insurance company will probably not give you even a minor discount for beginner rider training after a few years on the road.

There are several advanced rider training courses available in Canada that may earn you a discount, as well as make you safer and less likely to crash in the future, which is also good for your insurance rating. But don’t count on your insurance company offering a discount for advanced training – call first to see if you will save any money.

DON’T BUY A SPORTBIKE. Riding a fully-faired motorcycle means higher premiums with some insurers. For an example, try the Riders Plus calculator for Kawasaki’s ER-6N naked bike (we were quoted $965 by Intac, $982 by Echelon for a 2010 model) and the Ninja 650 (Intact wanted $1055 for a 2010 model, Echelon wanted the same $982). So, some companies charge more for a sportbike, and some don’t.

This rider probably pays a pretty hefty premium on motorcycle insurance.

Of course, the difference between those quotes isn’t that substantial. So, just for fun, try finding a quote for a 2010 Kawasaki Ninja ZX6 on the Riders Plus calculator. Here’s the message we were given when we tried.

“Unfortunately, your request for an estimated quotation could not be processed. The information provided does not conform to our insurance underwriting guidelines. Please contact our office at 1-877-251-4504 as we may be able to find alternative coverage for you.”

Is this evidence of the much-rumoured insurance blacklist? Maybe not. A TD rep told me he gets a similar error message when he talks to a new rider who wants to insure a sportbike. It’s not because his company refuses to insure those motorcycles, it’s because the cost of insurance is so high (possibly over $10,000), their computer system assumes it’s an error.

But what if you must ride a sportbike, because of your need, need for speed?

Then …

SHOP AROUND. More than anything else, this could be the biggest way to lower your coverage, as companies change their rates and policies all the time. Just because one company gives you the best rate one year does not mean it will be the best rate the next year. Whether you change your motorcycle or change your riding habits (from commuting to pleasure riding, say), if you get a speeding ticket, if you want to add a second bike, if you graduate from university – the littlest things can mean an insurance discount that one provider might offer, and another might not.

Penny-pinching riders will call around every spring to see if they can save a few bucks. Don’t forget to check in with your own insurer every year as well, to make sure you’re already getting all the discounts you can.

Just because you’re not riding doesn’t mean you should cancel insurance.

STAY INSURED. According to our friendly neighbourhood insurance broker:Keep your motorcycle insured even if not in use – continuous insurance pays off. Many insurers only accept experience immediately preceding their quote, (which gives) very little reason to cancel motorcycle insurance in the winter months. Most of your premium is earned by the insurance company during the riding months and you will get very little return of your premium should you cancel in the winter.”

Most online insurance quotes ask how many years of continuous coverage you have. You might save a few bucks by canceling your coverage over the winter, but you’ll likely have to pay more admin fees to set the account up again in the spring, and in the long term, it’ll bite you if you change insurers. It’s probably a good idea to lower your coverage, though: you’ll only need fire and theft if you’re not actually riding.

CHANGE YOUR COVERAGE. Are you paying for coverage you don’t need? You may be able to reduce your bill by cancelling fire/theft coverage, reducing your liability coverage, or cutting something else. This leaves you with less protection in case of a crash or other problem, so this is a move each rider must consider for themselves. Remember, like everything else in life, you get what you pay for. A more expensive policy may also cover protective gear like leathers, a helmet, etc., or even a bike rental and hotel coverage if a road trip is interrupted. This kind of coverage isn’t for everyone, but for some riders, it might provide peace of mind.

SLOW DOWN. A radical thought, for sure, but the reality is that crashes and tickets are a quick way to jack your rates through the roof.

BUY YOUR BIKE IN CASH. If you finance your motorcycle, remember the Golden Rule: He who hath the gold maketh the rules. The finance companies can dictate how much insurance you must carry, and they will want you to carry full coverage to minimize their risk. Of course, buying in cash means you might not be able to afford the newest and most powerful models – not as much fun, but it probably also means lower insurance.

This could be you, still riding but paying lower insurance rates, if you follow our advice.

COMBINE INSURANCE. Many insurance providers offer discounts to customers who combine coverage; having your home insurance and/or car insurance may mean you get a discount when you want to insure a motorcycle.

GROUP DISCOUNTS. Are you a professional engineer, a registered nurse, or a member of some other professional association? It’s possible your insurer may give you a discount as a result. If such a discount is offered, call that company first, then call around the others. Chances are it will be the most competitive quote.

7 thoughts on “How to lower your motorcycle insurance rates”

  1. In a free market society you can do just about anything you like as long as you are willing to pay for the consequences. I live in downtown Toronto. An increasingly high density, high rise society. Post war, suburban lifestyle choices such as vehicle and dog ownership are becoming unsustainable because of their need for increasingly scarce space and their negative environmental impacts.
    I hope I have the adaptability to thrive in this urban environment. The high cost of motorcycle insurance in downtown Toronto is probably a reflection of the costs of adding to the gridlock and pollution my riding causes. I will be selling my motorcycles. I enjoy the progressive sophistication, lifestyle freedom and social services only a high density city can offer.
    The skyrocketing cost of motorcycle insurance is an indication my motorcycle riding has to go the way of Toronto motorcycle dealerships. This year my renewal rate increased 42%! I already enjoy riding my bicycles more. I can start enjoying them the moment I step outside and I don’t have to buy insurance. Now if we could just get all Toronto dog owners to keep their dogs on leashes and show consideration for the people they share recreational trails. Thriving in dense, high rise cities involves ever increasing social skills and a lot of adaptation.

  2. The industry coludes together to make the field unfair at best….. I had returned from living in California for 12 years and went into shock concerning insurance. This incidence involves my car, I went to obtain insurance, got a quote pulled the trigger and got insured. About a month later I got a notice from the insurance company stating that it looked suspicious that I seemed to switch companies every so often. I replied that I continually searched rates, when I found a better rate, I gave the company I was insured with a chance to compete if not I canceled and went with the better rate. The Canadian insurance was horrified and could not understand why I didn’t remain loyal? I said loyalty should not be rewarded by unjustified rate hikes…..etc. To say the least I am no longer using that company!

  3. You can buy and insure a motorcycle with out a motorcycle rated license, but that has a inherent risk, therefore costs $. So a good recommendation is to have proper DL class 1st.

  4. According to Ontario’s Financial Services website, continuous insurance coverage (or lack of) cannot be used to determine your rate group and therefore premium amount. Length of time licensed, accidents, tickets, convictions, etc. are all fair game.

    1. Beg to differ. When I bought the KLR three years ago (in Ontario), because I hadn’t had my own motorcycle on the road for the previous ten years, I was considered a “new rider” even though I put 20,000 – 30,000 km a year on press bikes supplied by the various manufacturers. So for the insurance industry to say it’s advantageous to keep constant coverage – well, what do you expect them to say. “Yep, keep insuring your bike at our outrageous premiums even though you’re not riding it, because if you don’t we’ll increase your premiums when you do start riding again.”

      Geezus, what a f**king racket they’ve got going. How do we start a business, get the government to mandate that everyone has to buy our product and then just make up our own rules as to what we’re going to charge and who we’re going to cover? No wonder everyone hates the pond scum.

      And try to get a six month policy in Ontario. Here in BC, you can get a 12 month, six month, three month or if it’s a second bike, even a one day or weekend’s coverage. How civilized.

      1. I said according to the Financial Services website continuous coverage or lack of cannot be used to determine a rider’s rate group and premium. Supposedly,the Ontario Ministry of Finance oversees the insurance companies. They created and maintain the Financial Services Website with information that is stated to be accurate. We know the insurance agents and brokers all ask if we as motorcyclist have had continuous coverage so they can determine what rate group we will be pigeon holed into and what premium will be extorted from us. Why are the representatives of the insurance business using that information in the manner mentioned if it is explicitly excluded for that purpose?

        The wolves are guarding the sheep. We seem to be in the latter group and don’t know it since no one raises any noise about it. Strangely enough this affects all drivers and motor vehicle policies in Ontario, not just motorcycle policies. This is one area where all vehicle owners are on common ground be it bike, car or truck. I guess sheeple is an accurate term for Ontario residents.

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