Tony | Edited by Dan
Updated March 2016
Whether you ride a Harley-Davidson or Vespa scooter, motorbike insurance is a legal requirement. However, just because it is compulsory it doesn't have to cost a packet.
Cheap insurance can be hard to find, as many big names steer clear. Yet it's still possible to get scores of quotes in minutes, saving you £100s. Seeking pedal bike cover instead? Use our bicycle insurance guide.
In this guide
Step 1: Getting the right cover
Motorbike insurance rates are set by actuaries, whose job is to calculate risk. Each insurer's price depends on two things; their underwriters' assessment of your particular risk, and then their own pricing model which dictates what customers they want to attract and what they should charge. See the following quick questions for more.
Does my age matter?
The cost of insurance jumps for under-30s, and even more for under-21s. There's not much you can do about your age, but generally, cheaper third party insurance is still worth a look for younger riders.
Remember this only pays for damage to other people's bikes or property, and not your own.
How much does my mileage impact my price?
While many riders don't use their motorbike as their main form of transport, they use their car mileage to estimate the bike mileage. Often, it's far less. As you pay less if you drive less, this mistake can lead to you paying more than you need to.
Should I park my bike in my hallway? Will it lower the cost of cover?
Security is one of the biggest problems for motorbike owners, and less secure bikes are more expensive to insure. Ideally keep it inside the house or, if not, in a locked garage. If you can't do this, some insurers won't cover you for theft.
If it has to stay outside, use an insurer-approved anchor lock or security device. This will help reduce your cost, though they can be expensive.
Does it matter if I have points on my licence?
The more points on your licence, the higher the cost of cover. While speeding points remain on your licence for four years, insurers usually check for convictions during the last five years.
How high should I set my excess?
It's worth considering going for a policy with a higher excess (the amount of any claim you need to pay yourself). Many people will find claiming for less than £500 of damage both increases the future cost of insurance and can invalidate no-claims bonuses, meaning it's not always worth making a claim.
So why pay extra for a lower excess? A few policies will substantially reduce premiums for a £1,000 excess, so try this when getting quotes. The downside of this is if you have a bigger claim you'll have to shell out more, so take this into account.
Does covering helmets and other gear cost extra?
It's unlikely that damage to your riding helmet and specialist clothing will be covered as standard though more and more insurers are giving the option to include these as at an optional extra cost or sometimes for free. Check with your insurers before you buy.
Two of our special deals, Be Wiser currently gives helmet and leathers cover as part of a policy, but do check the limits are sufficent.
Is it cheaper to pay monthly or annually?
Whoever you insure with, you will be given the option to 'pay monthly' but be careful. What usually happens is that you are loaned the annual cost and charges you interest for the privilege.
Occasional promotions are interest-free, but otherwise the interest rates are usually hideous. So either pay it off in full, or if you can't afford it in one go it's actually cheaper to pay with a 0% credit card for spending and make the same repayments to that.
What do I do if I have special circumstances?
If you haven't got normal circumstances - perhaps you've made a claim in the past few years, have a modified bike or expect to ride 100,000s of miles a year - tell your insurer. If you don't and then try to claim, even for an unrelated issue, your whole policy may be invalid.
You should also tell your insurer about any changes. This is crucial as it reduces potential problems in the event of a claim, even if it's just your address. Trying to get insurance after you've had a policy cancelled due to a fraudulent claim is very difficult, very expensive and will follow you for the rest of your life.
A change in circumstances includes moving jobs, as insurers believe this can affect your risk. Scandalously, the unemployed often (though not always) pay higher rates for insurance, so tell your provider if you're out of work.
Tweaking your job description could save you cash and to help, we've built a fun Car Insurance Job Picker tool to show the riskiest jobs and see if small tweaks to your job description could help you save.
How truthful do I have to be when getting a quote?
With insurance, remember - the golden rule is:
If you've read these tips and thought, "it's easy to lie about this", then of course, you're right. Yet lying on your insurance form is fraud. It can lead to your insurance being invalidated and, in the worst case, a criminal prosecution for driving without insurance. Don't do it.
What if my insurer goes bust?
The economic times we live in mean you never know which company might be the next to have problems. Fortunately, insurance providers are covered by the government-backed Financial Services Compensation Scheme, meaning if they go into default, you're protected.
The FSCS will usually try to find another provider to take over your policy, or issue a substitute policy. However, if you have any ongoing claims, or need to make a claim before a new insurer is found, the FSCS should ensure these are covered. For full details, read the insurance section of the Savings Safety guide.
Step 2: Find the best bike quote
As insurance prices depend on an individual's circumstances, there's no single cheapest provider. The key is to use comparison sites to get the most quotes in the shortest amount of time.
If you are a fair-weather rider and only use your bike in lighter, brighter months of extra daylight, also get a quote for temporary insurance.
Compare in the following order
This guide has recently been updated with a new order, and information, but we'd love your feedback on if it works for you, if there's anything you would change, or feel we have missed.
Always double check your results. What to check
Your data is being given to insurers. What insurers may do
Quotes from upto 40 providers
- Getting a quote from Confused took four minutes
- Results are readily available for different levels of cover
- Simple edit option and you're able to view premiums for each cover level by clicking a drop-down
- Voluntary excess defaults to £500
- The box used to opt out of marketing calls is not easy to find
Quotes from 39 providers
The Bike Insurer*
Quotes from over 30 providers
- The GoCompare quotation process took approximately six minutes
- It clearly states, with a tick and cross display, if additional cover is provided, or has been selected
- The process of opting out of marketing calls or literature was clear and easy to find
- Comparing between insurers and including add-ons can be fiddly
Quotes from more than 20 providers
The pick of the rest
A couple of insurers aren't included on comparisons and are worth checking separately for a final push. So if you have a few minutes spare, try Aviva (though you will need to give them a call) and broker Carole Nash*.
Step 3: Check out special policies
For some, jumping on the saddle is a good weather activity. If your bike only comes out when the weather is on the bright side, take a look at cheaper temporary insurance that can just last up to three months.
There are two things to be aware of, though.
You won't build up a no-claims bonus. This will mean you won't be eligible for no-claims discounts in future years.
When not insured, you must get Sorn. Rules came into force in 2011 saying all vehicles must either be insured - even if no one rides them - or you must get a a Sorn (Statutory Off Road Notification). See Gov.uk for how to do this.
The top short-term solution
Bikesure: If you need short-term cover, Bikesure can offer policies from one day up to 3 months at a time. A condition is that the rider must be aged 21 or over.
Get a 'six-wheel' policy
If your bike isn't your only form of transport, and you use a car too, get a quote for a policy that covers both. The only 'six-wheel' policy we've found is from Carole Nash.
Though having both vehicles on one policy may be convenient, check that it's actually worth it. Get a 'six-wheel' quote, then total up individual ones for your bike, using the comparisons above, and your car, using our Cheap Car Insurance guide.
Speak to a broker
Brokers and comparison sites may seem like they're doing a similar job, as each search a number of different insurers. But they're radically different beasts. A good analogy for this is to compare it to searching for the cheapest loaf of bread.
Individual insurers are like bakers, your choice is simply to buy the cheapest loaf that suits.
Brokers are like supermarkets. They stock a range of bakers' loaves and the price charged depends on their relationships with suppliers, while comparison sites keep records of all their prices.
So, with your tastebuds whet, we'll get to the point. To really hone the price to the nth degree, it is worth picking up the phone and calling a broker. Here's a selection: BikeSure, Footman James or search on the British Insurance Brokers Association website for a local broker.
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For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes - join the 10m who get it. Don't miss out
While comparison sites offer a large chunk of the deals available in the market, others are only available directly from insurers or brokers. If any of the providers below are among your cheapest, use the links below to buy instead and take advantage of special deals.
Free helmet and leathers cover and roadside assistance
Insurance broker Be Wiser has a number of incentives to tempt you into signing up. You'll automatically get free helmet and leathers cover (up to £1,000), legal protection service, RAC roadside assistance and personal accident cover (up to £10,000).
Step 5: Grab cashback and haggle
By now you'll know the cheapest available provider. But you may be able to cut the cost even further.
Try cashback websites
Once you know who your cheapest provider is, you need to check there aren't any hidden cashback deals, as these have been as high as £100. If your second or third cheapest quotes weren't too much more expensive see if cashback's available for them too, and find the overall winner.
These sites carry paid links from some retailers and financial services providers. In other words if you click through them and get a product they get paid. They then give you some of this cash which means you get the same product, but a cut of its revenue.
Don't choose based only on cashback, see it as a bonus once you've picked the right cover.
Those new to cashback sites should ensure they read the Top Cashback Sites guide for pros and cons before using them. Otherwise use the Cashback Sites Maximiser tool to find the highest payer for each insurer.
Things you need to know before doing this...
- Never count the cash as yours until it's in your bank account. This cashback is never 100% guaranteed, there can be issues with tracking and allocating the payment, plus many cashback sites are small companies with limited backing, and you've no protection if anything happens to them.
- Withdraw the cashback as soon as you're allowed. Money held in your cashback site account has no protection at all if that company went bust, so always withdraw it as soon as you're eligible.
- Clear your cookies. While it shouldn't be a problem, if you've used comparison sites beforehand, there is a minor risk that the cashback may not track due to cookies - so its good practice to clear those first (read About Cookies).
Haggle on your insurance
The insurance market is very competitive and companies are desperate to retain business. So once you've got your overall cheapest price, get on the phone and try to haggle. There's often price flexibility, but be fully armed with the screenscrapers' cheapest quotes and any available cashback first.
The first port of call should be your existing insurer. If it can beat or even match the best quote it saves the hassle of switching policy. If that doesn't work and you're still in the mood, take it to a broker. For more haggling tips, read the full Haggle On The High Street guide and the top 10 firms to haggle with.
Once you've found the cheapest
Once you've found the cheapest from the screenscrapers, there are two important checks to make:
Double-check the quotes
Click through to the insurance provider's own website to double-check the quotes, as to speed up searches some comparison sites make a few assumptions.
Examine the policy's coverage
Is the policy suitable for you? If you want "pillion cover", is it included? Plus while you're there, it's worth playing with the policy details to see if you can slim the price down. Look at the excess, and if extra security will help to drive the cost down.
Step 6: Remember next year
Providing you drive well and don't have any accidents, your insurance premium should get cheaper after the first year. However, don't automatically stick with the same provider - it may not still be the cheapest.
Apply for cover from your existing insurer as a new customer and its likely you'll be given a better price. This is because insurers, like any company, will happily profit from apathy if they can.
Insurers must send out renewal notifications at least 28 days before renewal. This doesn't leave much time, and you can end up rushing to find a cheaper price.
To avoid being forced to decide quickly, put a warning in your diary six weeks before your renewal date, so there's plenty of time to sort out a new provider. Alternatively use the free Tart Alert, which sends a reminder text or email.
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What insurers may do
Your data is being given to insurers.
Do be aware comparison sites send your details to insurers to get quotes, so there's a slight chance you may get sales calls or emails from the insurers.
It's also worth knowing some insurers carry out a quick credit check when they provide you with a quote, yet this is almost always classed as an 'unrecorded enquiry', meaning it can only be seen by you, and not other lenders.
What to check
They're not always perfect - double-check your results.
Sometimes the details you've entered are not all carried through to the insurer's website. Therefore, once you've got the comparison sites' results, always double-check the quotes and what's included on the provider's own website.
The impact can be most keenly felt by those with non-standard circumstances, when it's even more important to confirm your requirements.
How to complain about your insurance provider
The insurance industry doesn't have the best customer service reputation and while a provider may be good for some, it can be hell for others. Common problems include claims either not being paid out on time or at all, unfair charges, or exclusions being hidden in the small print. It's always worth trying to call your provider first, but if not then use the free tool below.
Free tool if you're having a problem
This tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It's totally free, and offered by a firm called Resolver which we like so much we work with it to help people get complaints justice.
If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver will escalate it to the free Financial Ombudsman Service.
Important: if your issue is about a voucher or incentive that was part of an MSE Blagged deal, then instead just let us know by emailing email@example.com as that's usually quicker.