By Maurice Gertski
IF you try to ride a motorbike on the public road without insurance sooner or later you will end up on one of the 'Fastest Ever Police Chase' TV programmes or find yourself either wrapped around a tree or in jail for your efforts. By comparison, buying insurance for your bike is attractive and by following these simple tips, you can reduce the cost to a minimum.
Use a reputable broker
You wouldn't buy a new £20,000 Rolex watch from a hoody-clad, knife-totting kid on a street corner (or you might but just don't expect it to be real or anything less than the temperature of hell) and you shouldn't buy insurance from just anyone either. Insurance brokers tend to be good in specialist areas, so the big car broker is not necessarily the best choice for your bike or home insurance.
Motorcycle insurance tends to be quite specialist in nature as it is a niche market with only around 1.6million bikes in the UK compared to 30+million cars. You should do your homework reading the specialist press such as Motor Cycle News (MCN), Fast Bikes, Bike Magazine etc, or search on-line for motorcycle brokers and then select a minimum of two brokers you like the look of. That means you have a good chance of speaking to someone who understands your bike and will have access to schemes and rates from underwriters specifically for motorcycle business.
A word of caution on price comparison sites
There are plenty of price comparison sites around which promise to drive the cost of your insurance policy down – Money Supermarket, Go Compare, Confused etc. They certainly do help reduce the cost of insurance as most of the major players are fighting for business on the same platform. Where these price comparison sites do not perform so well is actually advising you on the sort of policy that's best for you or your motorcycle. Would comprehensive be cheaper and more suitable than third party fire and theft? The point is you cannot ask the price comparison site for any advice, that's where motorcycle specialist brokers have the edge. Compare it to buying a new house, would you buy one without a survey? You might and then when it subsides into the sea you'll be praying your insurance will cover it...the point is you shouldn't buy insurance without talking with an expert either.
Web price versus phone price
The web price is not always the lowest – and that is true for the price comparison sites as well. Big brokers operate using delegated authority and schemes provided by the big underwriters. Using general information obtained online and by the price comparison sites allows them to print screen-rates but if you phone a broker then they can ask further lifestyle questions and that may help them to reduce the cost of the policy. This is a golden rule – call the broker, don't just go with the on-line price. You can't tell a website that you have a private army of ex-SAS soldiers guarding your motorbike with their lives 24x7 in a nuclear bunker but if you tell a broker it may help to reduce the theft risk (well, maybe this is a tad extreme, but it illustrates the point nicely).
Play the brokers off against each other
By having a minimum of two brokers to compare your needs, then you will have a much better chance of getting a lower price. A broker's dream is to know the price its competition has set because then it will decide whether to compete and beat it or not. With two specialist motorcycle brokers going for the same customer you will have the best chance possible. Call the big broker first for a keen price. Then call the small broker who can do a deal. If it wants the business it can reduce the price on the phone and you can rest assured you have pushed the envelope. By checking the premium from a big broker first you will give the smaller broker the opportunity to do the best deal for you, if it can possibly be done - it will reduce your cost of insurance and you'll enjoy doing it as well.
Move to a nice postcode
There is no getting away from location. If you live in Beirut then the cost of your insurance is likely to be more than Wisteria Lane. Putting that into British terms, anything inner-city tends to be more expensive than in the country.
Got a garage?
Lots of people have garages and fill them full of rubbish that they don't feel they can live without and then periodically – every two or three years – they throw the rubbish out to create more space to store newer rubbish they cannot throw out. What a terrible waste of what the garage was intended for and in terms of lowering your bike insurance, this is a key tool. Out of sight is out of mind and away from the opportunist thief. Better than that, bikes can be lifted into vans so anything that takes them away from the street, pavement or driveway is a winner with insurers. It also means your garage can help you save money, there's a nice thought.
Many motorcycles come with built in security as standard and these will be taken into consideration by brokers and insurers. If you have additional security devices then you should tell the broker about them when asking for a price for your insurance. Generally, if you have a Thatcham approved alarm, immobilizer, ground anchor or lock, then you can attract further discounts. Tracker and Smartwater are two more deterrents for thieves. It stands to reason the more secure you make your bike the less chance there is it will be stolen and therefore your insurance will reflect this. Extra security will give peace of mind for you as well.
Mileage and use
There is a reason couriers will pay more for their insurance than casual weekend riders and it's all down to use and mileage. If you do 4000-miles a year for pleasure then it will generally cost less than insuring 100,000-miles a year for work. It's simple maths, there is less chance of anything bad happening in the lower numbers than the higher, although the expertise of the every-day rider will be taken into consideration as well. Using your bike as a work-horse will tend to increase the policy cost as well, although commuting should be encouraged to reduce time on the road and pressure on parking spaces.
No claims bonus
The longer you have held an insurance policy without making a claim the better when it comes to policy price. If you have five-years no claims and everything else is equal, you should pay less for your insurance than someone with zero no claims.
Type of bike
Depending on the bike you choose, your insurance will cost more or less. The latest £20,000 Ducati will cost more to insure than a standard Suzuki Bandit. For a start the Ducati will cost more to fix, repair or replace if it suffers a misfortune. Secondly, because it is sold in smaller numbers there are fewer of them and that makes them rare and therefore more expensive to source for spare parts etc. Obviously, owning the Ducati has other benefits but just don't expect it to be in the lower end of the insurance cost scale.
You can generally look at any bike capacity and ascertain that the bigger the engine and the higher the price tag the more the insurance will cost. Although, with scooters and mopeds, the reverse can be true because this class of bike has such a high claim rate with theft or accidents because they tend to be urban based, easy to steal and ridden by youngsters. Check the bike insurance rating with most new bikes and you'll have the best idea – the lower the number the better using the Norwich Union (soon to be Aviva) scale.
Your personal details
If you are over 25-30-years of age that helps a lot – the theory is you have developed a sense of proportion that you were lacking when younger and have more road experience, so are less likely to have an accident or do something stupid such as leave your bike with the engine running while you nip into the chippie in the middle of Brixton estate.
Being married with children also implies that you have a good reason to live and therefore will take precautions when riding. A good job is a similar indicator although some professions should be avoided if possible – motorcycle journalist for example.
Tell the truth
Whether it is about any modifications to your bike, claims or your annual mileage, you should always tell the truth. If you don't then in the event of a claim you may be refused and left high and dry – and if you are refused insurance because of lying then the trouble has only started and the costs will soar if you can find someone to cover you. This may not strike pounds off your premium right away but is the best policy for the long term to keep the cost down and insurance live.
Maurice Gertski is an expert in motorbike insurance and is dedicated to helping people lower their insurance premiums. Call Westhill Insurance to speak to specialists in motorbike insurance.