03 November 2015

An insider’s guide to buying bike insurance


Our MD Dave Bowcock has been in the bike insurance business for longer than he cares to remember. But remember he does, here using his extensive experience to offer an insider’s view on how best to buy motorcycle insurance.

Insurance is not a glamorous business. As a kid you want to be train driver, a footballer, a pop star, not an insurance executive.  Then there’s the product itself. The phrase “necessary evil” is often bandied about when referring to bike insurance or any of the other protections which are compulsory in law.

So here I am, working in an industry labelled as dull selling a product most people seemingly only grudgingly buy! I do have my uses though, such as sharing with you a few tips to help you find the most appropriate and cost-effective motorcycle insurance.

Evil or not, we all have to resign ourselves to that necessity – but not to getting a bad deal. So I thought I’d pen a few words on how to best buy bike insurance, to help you get the cover you want and need, at a decent price.

Before picking up the phone or tapping in your details have a good think about yourself and your bike. How do ride it? Where do you ride it? When do you ride it? Where do you keep it?. This can help you define the cover you need and spot ways of minimising your premium. So, for example, if you’re not thrashing your bike daily it might be that you qualify for a limited mileage policy; fewer miles can mean fewer £££s. If you’re a member of an owners club as well as being able to share your passion with likeminded bikers, you can also earn you a generous premium discount. We at Principal will offer you up to 10% off.

If you’re an enthusiast think about the kind of protection you want, what outcome you’d be looking for should you need make a claim. In the case of a loss or write-off, insurance policies typically settle on the basis of a vehicle’s standard list price, less depreciation. That may suit the many but if you own a classic bike or custom motorcycle it probably won’t. Look out for policies that offer you ‘agreed value’. This does what it says on the tin, giving you the opportunity to agree with your insurer what your individual bike is worth by providing documentary and photographic evidence of its condition, history, restoration or creation.

BMW R32 vintage motorcycle

If you own a classic or vintage motorcycle you might want to secure salvage retention rights.

You might too want to consider securing salvage retention rights (which are available if your bike satisfies underwriting criteria) so that should your insurer deem your bike a write-off you have the opportunity to buy it back. This allows you to retain those precious and scarce parts which you may have previously sourced through countless hours scouring auto-jumbles and auction sites.

Is what you need the same as what you’re being offered?

Ponder as well whether you need cover like motorcycle legal protection and breakdown and accident assistance. Some brokers and insurers automatically bundle these in with your bike insurance which means if you already have cover (perhaps through a bank account) or don’t want it, you’re paying for something you don’t need. We decided against bundling in the UK for precisely this reason, instead giving people the option to pick and choose from a range of additional cover options which as well as the above include excess protection, keycare, helmets, leathers and personal accident. That way you pay only for what you need or want.

Whilst we’re on the subject of your excess, if you’re to pay more towards the cost of any claim you may later make, then you an insurer might, in return for you accepting a greater financial risk, agree to a lower premium. Just bear in mind that even a small-off could end up hitting your bank balance that much harder.

You need consider the level of core cover you need from the possible options available:

  • Third party only means your bike won’t covered for theft, accident damage or fire claims –
  • Third party fire and theft (self-explanatory).
  • Fully comprehensive which means not only are other road users and their vehicles protected but you and yours too.

I’d argue that it’s always worth getting a quote for fully comp because again underwriters rules vary and, quirkily, third party only might not be the cheapest bike insurance on offer.

Are you experienced?

They say that “there’s no substitute for experience” and that certainly rings true in the insurance industry where the number of years of claims-free riding is a key factor in calculating the cost of cover.  No-claims discount (sometimes called a no-claims bonus) structures vary according to the insurer but all operate to the same principle. Discounts are tiered, with a percentage deduction afforded for each year you don’t claim, typically up to a five year maximum. The discounts can be well worthwhile as if you max out you can, depending on the underwriter, claim up to 75% off with Principal.

Maximum no claims discount on bike insurance

Experience can earn you a no claims discount of up to 75% with Principal.

Allied to experience is proof of prowess. Progression from CBT and the full bike licence to an advanced riding qualification is also looked upon benignly by bike insurers. There are a number of courses you might enrol on to earn perhaps 10% even 15% off your bike insurance bill. These include the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) advanced riders scheme, a similar offering from the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and the government-backed Enhanced Rider Scheme (click here for more details, including training providers near you).

Fitting insurance-approved security can also help you get cheaper bike insurance, with top kit such as the Datatag electronic security system, a decent alarm, immobiliser, ground anchor or heavy duty lock. One or a combination of these might trim as much as 10% off your premium. If you are able to keep your bike garaged then that’ll also earn you brownie points, or you might even find it’s a necessity, depending on what you ride and where you live, you might find it’s a necessity. That’s because at least one of the major insurers insists on garaging certain types of bike if you live in certain areas of the country. Insurer definitions of what being garaged means can also vary so if you’re in doubt explain the facility you have (garage, shed, lock-up..) so there can be no confusion when you’re getting your bike insurance quote.

Manchester call centre jobsCould talk be cheap?

In the age of digital convenience where everything seems to be only a click away, you might find it odd that I would recommend that many of you pick up the ‘phone and have a chat to an old fashioned human being. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place in this world for price comparison and quote-and-buy websites (we offer this very facility ourselves) but if your bike is in any way non-standard, then you might get a better deal by making a call. I’m talking here primarily about classic, modified and custom bikes, trikes whose quirks and foibles may defeat the tick-box terseness of web forms.

Finally if, as many of you I’m sure do, you own not just a bike, singular, but bikes plural or a bike plus a car or van then consider multi-bike or multi-vehicle insurance. The key to the savings that might be made are obvious; insurers understand you cannot ride or drive two vehicles simultaneously so, as your risk isn’t doubled neither is the combined premium. Whilst multi-vehicle insurance makes life easier for you – one renewal date, one set of paperwork, one premium – it is more complicated to quote on so you’ll find the likes of us offering you the all-important numbers only when you call, not online.

  • To get our best rates on modern, classic, multi-bike, trike or custom bike insurance, call us on 0330 024 0087. Our Manchester offices are open weekdays 8am-6.30pm and Saturdays 9am-1pm. Our staff will also be pleased to explain the terms, conditions and criteria relevant to owners club, advanced riding and security discounts and salvage retention rights underwriting criteria.
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