California Motorcycle Insurance

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More motorcycles are registered in California than in any other state–nearly 800,000!  Of course, if you want to ride in the Golden State, you must have insurance.  California requires all registered vehicles to have insurance, and all machines with an engine that produces more than two gross horsepower must be registered.

Additionally, California is a ”no fault” state, making riders responsible for their own injuries, lost wages, or death. Without the appropriate coverage, you could lose everything you have worked hard for after an accident. To help you understand California’s motorcycle insurance issues, let’s look at how the state defines a motorcycle for law enforcement and insurance purposes, some of the required equipment to make your bike street legal, as well as the coverage levels and types you may need.

California Motorcycle Insurance

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California Motorcycle Insurance Minimums

Minimum coverage limits is governed by a number of statutes. The sum total of those statutes is that owners must carry a liability policy with the following coverage amounts:

  • $15,000 for death or bodily injury to one person;
  • $30,000 for death or bodily injury to two or more persons; and
  • $5,000 for damage or destruction of property.

As you can see from the minimum limits, there are going to be costs leftover after basic insurance pays its limit. All damages above those caps will be your personal responsibility.

Additional Coverage Options and Recommendations

  • Collision: this protection covers your bike in an accident under nearly every circumstance. It may or may not include uninsured/under-insured coverage. If it doesn’t be sure to add it on.
  • Uninsured Motorist: with 14.7 percent of the drivers on California’s roads uninsured, you can see why uninsured motorist coverage is necessary. This coverage makes sure you and your bike are protected against an uninsured “cage” driver.
  • Comprehensive: this protection covers items like fire, wind, water, theft, and vandalism.
  • Bodily Injury: this protection covers certain costs if you injure or kill someone in an at-fault accident. Even though California is a no-fault state, you may want this coverage because it covers your passenger.
  • Medical Payment: this covers items such as prescription drug payments; dental care; medical co-payments and deductibles from other health coverage policies; home nursing care, or funeral expenses for you.

Custom Motorcycle Insurance for California Riders

If you ride a custom motorcycle, or a heavily-modified one, you may need to carry special coverage to protect your time and investment. Custom Parts and Equipment Coverage (CPE) and/or Additional Parts and Equipment Coverage (ACPE).

Custom parts and equipment coverage (CPE) covers just that:  permanent custom parts and equipment not installed at the factory. Additional parts and equipment coverage (ACPE) comes in if you have a pre-determined value invested in custom parts, typically $1,000 or more. Often, it’s ACPE is part of your CPE coverage.

California Motorcycle Coverage

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How California Defines “Motorcycle”

What constitutes a motorcycle may seem obvious, but every state defines them slightly differently. In California, a motorcycle is defined as:

“Any motor vehicle with a seat or saddle, no more than three wheels, and has an engine displacement of 150 cc or larger.”

Two or three-wheel vehicles that fall below these requirements are considered to be a motor-driven cycles or mopeds. A ride is a moped only if it produces 2 gross horsepower or less.

California Street-Legal Motorcycle Requirements

If you ride a bobber, cafe racer, or other custom motorcycle, you’ll need to keep in mind what components are required to be street-legal, and the limits of certain modifications like handlebar height and aftermarket exhaust.  The same goes for rider safety equipment such as eye protection, helmet, etc.

  • Eye protection is not required.
  • Helmets are required. Details about which helmets are allowed can be found by reading California Vehicle Code Section 27803.
  • Handlebar height must not be more than six inches above the rider’s shoulder height when sitting astride the seat.’
  • Mirrors: only one is required.
  • Turn Signals are required.
  • Passenger Seat/Footrest are both required if carrying a passenger.
  • Headlights are required for all motorcycles built after 1977, as is daytime headlight use required.
  • Mufflers are required. California Vehicle Code requires no exhaust systems shall be equipped with cutout or bypasses, as per Section 27150, Adequate Muffler Required.  Sound levels maximums are as follows:

    ”Maximum allowable A-weighted sound levels based on measurements taken at a distance of 50 ft from center lane of travel: 1) Pre-1970…92dba 2) After 1969, and before 1973…88dba 3) After 1972, and before 1975…86dba 4) After 1974, and before 1986…83dba 5) After 1985…80dba.”

  • Safety Inspection: required and is randomly done.

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