Auto vs. Motorcycle Insurance: Comparing Costs & Riders

Graham Miles Graham Miles 3:24 PM Today Rider with helmet but no jacket on bike next to highway
Via Pexels / Ekaterina Belinskaya

If you’ve been driving for a while but you’re still new to riding, you might assume that motorcycle insurance and car insurance are pretty similar. But in fact, bike insurance is often structured in an entirely different way from car insurance—which results in different premiums and types of coverage offered.

Knowing these differences is critical for new riders; you need to be aware of the potential situations your insurance covers and (perhaps more importantly) the ones it doesn’t. You’ll also want to have an idea of what your insurance will cost—and whether there’s a way to find cheaper, better insurance.

Well, wonder no more! As the saying goes, we’ve got you covered (that’s just an expression, mind you—we’re happy to tell you all about moto insurance below, but you’ll still have to buy your coverage on your own). Let’s dive in.

Motorcyclist riding in challenging conditions with snow near highwayVia Pexels / Gaspar Zaldo

What’s the Purpose of Motorcycle & Auto Insurance?

The first major misconception many riders have is that car insurance and motorcycle insurance serve the same purpose. That’s only true insofar as both kinds exist to provide financial compensation after certain unforeseen incidents.

The kinds of incidents you’re more likely to encounter on a bike, however, differ from those you’ll most likely face as a car or truck owner. And since the whole concept of insurance is based on risk assessment, the coverage for each vehicle type reflects these differences.

We’ll discuss exactly how car and bike insurance are structured differently in the next section—but before we do, it’s vital for you to know why. Or, to put it another way: what kind of trouble are car and bike insurers anticipating their clients could get into when they design policies?

The Purpose of Car Insurance

Since cars offer more protection to drivers than bikes do to riders, basic car insurance tends to focus more on covering potential damage to the vehicle itself and the property it might strike in an accident. And because cars are designed with the capacity to carry groups of people at once, a good deal of available car insurance policies also include some form of coverage for passengers.

The Purpose of Motorcycle Insurance

Because motorcyclists ride solo most of the time and don’t have four walls around them for protection, moto insurance tends to put a greater focus on compensation for injuries sustained during an accident. Many policies also put an added emphasis on protection against theft or vandalism, since motorcycles are more likely to be the targets of these crimes than most four-wheeled vehicles.

Road blurring while motorcyclist rides down highway at speedVia Pexels / Sourav Mishra

How Motorcycle Insurance Differs from Auto Insurance

Minimum car insurance in most US states and Canadian provinces usually consists of some form of third-party liability coverage. This type of coverage protects the policyholder if they are found to be at fault for causing damage to another person or another person’s property.

Motorcyclists must purchase minimum third-party liability insurance as well. However, it tends to be more expensive—especially if you buy through your regular car insurance provider. That’s because motorcyclists are statistically more likely to experience accidents and file claims than car drivers (and over 29 times more likely to die in a crash). That kind of risk makes insurance companies more cautious, and they charge higher premiums as a result.

Additionally, while many drivers can get away with having minimum third-party liability coverage it is highly recommended that motorcyclists purchase additional coverage—including collision coverage, comprehensive coverage, and guest passenger liability insurance.

We’ll go into more detail about those later—but right now, you’re probably wondering how much your insurance company is going to charge you for all those add-ons. Don’t worry; that’s where we’ve got some good news for you.

Insurance agent shaking hands with client after agreeing on policyVia Pexels / Sora Shimazaki

Should You Use the Same Insurance Company for Your Car & Bike?

As it turns out, you don’t have to buy your motorcycle insurance from the same company that provides your car insurance—not even in Canada, where all car insurance is handled through a single government-owned corporation in some provinces. A number of smaller Canadian insurance providers (like Megson Fitzpatrick in British Columbia) actually provide motorcycle insurance at considerably lower rates than the government.

It’s a different story south of the border, however. US drivers are used to shopping around for car insurance. While it’s easy for drivers to find a relatively cheap policy with comprehensive coverage, it isn’t quite as effortless for those of us in the two-wheeled camp.

Most American motorcyclists will be limited to buying coverage through major providers and there are a few motorcycle-specific providers (such as Harley-Davidson), but the best way to save money if you ride in the States is to get strategic about the exact coverage you’re purchasing.

Next, we’ll take a closer look at some of the add-ons we recommend for your motorcycle insurance—and what you need to know about them.

What Motorcycle Insurance Riders & Conditions Should Policyholders Know About?

Not sure what to add to your policy? Here are a few riders we don’t recommend going without (especially for you new riders). Note: these riders may go by different names depending on the provider you choose. Always ask your broker or insurance agent for a detailed description of what each rider covers, and read the fine print!

Collision Coverage

While third-party liability insurance covers the damage you do to other people and their property in an accident, collision coverage will protect your vehicle. Collision coverage tends to cost less if you have a less expensive bike, and may also be cheaper in some places depending on your driving record.

Comprehensive Coverage

Comprehensive coverage insures your vehicle against incidents that happen while you’re not riding—like theft, fire damage, and vandalism. In colder locations, you may also find a cheaper type of coverage for these incidents if they take place while your bike is stored during the winter months (frequently called layup coverage or something similar).

Personal Injury Protection

Because you’re much less protected on a bike than you are in a car, there’s a much better chance you’ll be hurt if you’re involved in an accident. Riders in countries with universal healthcare (Canada, the UK, etc.) won’t have to buy extra coverage in case that happens—but riders in the States will definitely want some form of medical coverage in case the worst should happen and the hospital bills are high.

Guest Passenger Liability

Finally, you’ll want to purchase a rider that offers coverage to any passenger you’re carrying on your bike. This is another place where car insurance is different—it tends to cover your passengers, whereas bike insurance usually assumes you’ll be riding solo and covers you accordingly. Also, note that coverage for your passenger may only apply for accidents where you are found not to be at fault. Talk to the specific provider you’ve chosen to find out whether this will be the case for you.