Unless you live in a place that is warm – or at least above freezing temperatures – throughout the year, motorcycle season is coming to an end.
Many states have already seen their first frost and consistent colder temperatures are quickly approaching. Once snow and ice are a real possibility, it's time to store your motorcycle for the winter, both for your own safety and to prolong the life of your ride (for more winter preparation advice, see our 5 Winter Home Insurance Tips Everyone Should Know).
However, many motorcycle owners are left with a question regarding their insurance. If the bike is in storage during the winter – which could last four to six months – do you really need to keep full coverage for it? Can you do away with the insurance completely? What are your legal insurance obligations for a vehicle not in use?
It's easy to find fairly specific directions for storing your bike during off-season, but these are typically mechanical preparations that affect the motorcycle itself. None of these guides help a motorcycle owner understand the legalities and insurance issues involved in winter storage. In part, this is because it's more of a personal choice than a scientific one. But just because it's a personal choice doesn't mean policyholders can't use some guidance. This article will go over your basic options for insuring your motorcycle while it's stored away.
Full Coverage Insurance
First, look at the option of maintaining your full coverage insurance on your motorcycle throughout the entire year. This option is often worked into full coverage policies by providing a less expensive premium to accommodate the months your motorcycle will be off the road. In fact, despite its high risks, many motorcycle owners will tell you that a motorcycle is among the least expensive vehicles to insure, which may be due in part to these premium adjustments (to learn more about what influences your vehicle insurance premiums, see The Top 5 Factors That Affect Your Auto Insurance Premiums). Insurance companies may prefer this arrangement, since losing their customer during the winter months creates a higher likelihood of that customer not coming back.
Another benefit to this type of coverage is that if the winter is especially warm or the snow and ice thaw earlier than expected, you will still be able to ride your motorcycle.
If, however, you are with an insurance company that does not give you this option, the higher premiums you pay might make it worthwhile to drop your full coverage during the winter and choose another option.
If you don't want to keep full coverage throughout the year but want to avoid switching to liability only, you may be able to find a comfortable temporary option for the winter.
Any carrier or broker that offers motorcycle insurance knows the need for storage in the colder months. Many of them will offer storage policies. These will often provide a defined window of coverage – typically between October 1st and April 1st (but some variation is possible). Within that window, you pay a significantly lower premium while your vehicle is off the road.
The problem with this type of coverage is that it limits your time to ride your motorcycle. The weather is unpredictable, and if it stays warm late into the year or gets warmer earlier in the season, you will be forced to keep your motorcycle in storage until your full coverage kicks back in.
The final option is to drop your coverage to liability only. That means it will cover you in case you're involved in an accident that causes bodily harm of property damage, but any damage to your bike won't be covered. This is only a true option if your motorcycle is paid in full and 100% owned by you with no financing. If that is the case, you may choose to drop your coverage to liability to save some money.
With this option, you can still ride your motorcycle once the weather breaks, no matter what time of year. You may even choose, once you start riding again, to switch back to full coverage without any issues or penalties. However, if you forget to switch your policy back to full coverage, and an accident occurs, you will only have coverage for injuries to the third party.
Having some type of insurance in force is absolutely necessary to keep your motorcycle legal, whether it's sitting in storage or driving down the street. But as we have just seen, there are options to suit different situations and personal preferences. With the right kind of policy, you will be able to avoid paying too much to cover a motorcycle you're not riding, while still keeping it insured.