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.
We’ve already told you how to buy motorcycle insurance, but how can you reduce those rates?
TAKE RIDER TRAINING. Especially for new riders, this can reduce your insurance by 5-to-15 per cent. 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.
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 Intact, $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.
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?
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.
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 WITH 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.
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.