The Quick Guide to Motorbike Insurance

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By Crispin Bateman
Updated on Monday 4 November 2019

Motorbike going through trees on road

What is the law regarding bike insurance?

It is illegal to own a motorbike in the UK unless it is either insured – meaning it is ready for road use, or registered as off the road though a SORN (Statutory Off-Road Notice). A vehicle registered through a SORN cannot be legally ridden on any public road and should be used only if you are storing your bike with no intention of using it.

If you do intend to ride your bike (and who doesn’t?!), then you will need to be insured.

What are the types of motorbike insurance?

Motorcycle insurance in the UK comes in three basic types:

  • Third-party (TP) – Third party motorbike insurance is the minimum legal level of insurance to ride in the UK. It only covers the costs for other people in any accident and will leave you out-of-pocket if you need to repair or replace your bike. It also doesn’t cover you for theft of your ride.

  • Third-party, fire and theft (TPFT) – Like third-party, but also covers you should your bike be stolen or damaged by fire.

  • Fully comprehensive – This insurance provides all the cover of TPFT but also provides bike insurance for you, giving you a financial cushion to repair your bike or get a new one if it’s a total loss.

It is worth comparing quotes for all three different types of insurance – don’t assume that third-party is always the cheapest.

There are also four relevant classes of motorcycle insurance to consider:

  • Social, domestic and pleasure – This basic class entitles you to use your bike for domestic and fun use. It covers all every day riding, except for regular commutes to work.

  • Commuting – Not surprisingly, the next class is ‘commuting’, encompassing everything in social, domestic and pleasure and also making sure you are covered for a regular drive to work. Note that commuting covers you for a single regular place of work and does not provide insurance should you be using your bike for work purposes.

  • Business use – If you use your bike for travel as part of your job – visiting clients or travelling to training courses for example. It does not cover you for using your bike as part of your business, however.

  • Courier or delivery – This final class of insurance covers you for using your motorbike as an integral component to your work – as a delivery driver, for example.

It is imperative that you have the right class of insurance to meet your needs – failure to do so can lead to you finding yourself uninsured at the point of an accident, and that can lead to expensive penalties, and points on your license at the least, with the potential of a criminal prosecution in some cases. You may feel that you can save a little by skimping on your insurance, but it is never the right thing to do – be honest with your level of cover and avoid the potential for major problems later on.

How do I get cheap motorcycle insurance?

  • Determine what you need – make sure that you are getting the right insurance level for you, from the level of cover, to understanding what optional extras you really need and what you can do without. Consider:

    • Mileage – don’t just base your bike mileage on your annual car mileage as it is likely to be substantially lower. Make an accurate estimate and save considerably.

    • Additional helmet and clothing cover – not always standard, if you need this then be sure to check for it.

    • Pillion cover – if you are always going to bike alone, then cut on this extra, but don’t offer a lift without it!

  • Do everything you can to make your bike secure – theft is one of the greatest threats to bike ownership and the cause of high premiums. If you can, make sure your bike is stored inside (and be sure to tell your insurer), and if it must be left outside, invest in the finest motorcycle security.

  • Shop around – making a well-researched motorbike insurance comparison can help save the pounds.

  • Consider raising your excess – by increasing voluntary excess (the amount you will pay before calling on the insurance company to make up the difference), you can drive your premiums down. Make a sensible decision here – be sure that you can afford the excess and that it makes sense for you and then go for the highest value you can afford.

  • Don’t get too big a bike! – this may be an impossible choice if your bike is already sitting proudly on the drive in the sunlight ready for the ride, but if you haven’t yet bought your motorcycle, then consider the insurance implications when making a purchase. Large cc engines and impressive sporting statistics may wow your friends, but they are likely to have your bank account cringing.

What is the average cost of motorcycle insurance?

Like many things, this becomes an impossible thing to estimate. The factors that insurance companies consider include:

  • Your age
  • Your experience (years since holding license)
  • Any no-claims bonus
  • The class of motorbike
  • Your insurance needs (level of cover)
  • Where you store your bike (security)
  • How it is secured overnight
  • Your annual mileage
  • Your postcode (some areas suffer from greater levels of motorcycle theft)
  • Your occupation
  • Any previous motoring convictions or points on your license

While many of these factors (such as age and experience) cannot be changed, it is worth examining those areas where you can have an influence and do what you can to work to a more favourable outcome.

Can I ride another bike on my insurance?

Some fully comprehensive insurance does cover you to ride other motorcycles, but that is becoming rarer and is now usually optional (and should be an option that most choose to ignore when trying to save on their insurance).

If you do have a need to ride another motorbike other than your primary vehicle, then consider temporary insurance – this type of insurance can be set up in minutes and allows you to have temporary cover from a few hours to a few months.

If you have a second or third motorbike that you use regularly, then you will need to get each insured. Multiple insurance policies tied together will save you money, so mention this when applying for your primary insurance to get a discount.

What is the best insurance for motorcycles?

Finding the best insurance for your motorcycle depends entirely on your specific needs and your personal situation, with factors including:

  • The level of cover required

  • The type of motorbike you drive

  • How often you use your motorcycle

  • What you use the motorcycle for

It's crucial to shop around and get as many motorbike insurance quotes as possible before committing to a policy, as you may find that the cost of cover fluctuates massively between each provider and policy. 

For more information, see our other guides to motor insurance in the UK, covering everything from moped cover to black box van insurance

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