Motor scooters are an increasingly popular form of transportation in the US. A lot people choose to ride scooters because public transportation can be inconvenient and driving a car can be expensive. With fuel-efficiency ratings typically between 60 and 80 mpg, scooters offer a good way to save money on gas. Many scooter fans say that riding a scooter easier and more comfortable than riding a bicycle or motorcycle, while still being enjoyable to ride and small enough to park almost anywhere. Just don’t forget about scooter insurance.
Whatever your reasons for choosing to ride a scooter, it is important to protect yourself and your investment with good insurance coverage. Fortunately, just like most scooters, scooter insurance is affordable and relatively simple. This article will cover some scooter insurance basics to get you on your way to finding the right personal insurance policy.
What Is A Scooter?
The word “scooter” can mean different things to different people. This article is intended to provide useful information on the topic of insurance for motor scooters such as those made by Vespa, Honda, and Kymco. If you are looking for insurance for a kid’s Razor scooter or a Rascal mobility scooter, this probably won’t be the most useful article for you.
Wikipedia defines the motor scooter as “a motorcycle with step-through frame and a platform for the operator’s feet.” Under that definition, a scooter is simply a type of motorcycle with a certain design features, but not a distinct category of vehicle. However, many people distinguish scooters as a separate type of vehicle because they are slower, less powerful, and easier for beginners to ride than motorcycles. The line can be blurred because sometimes what appears to a normal get-around-town scooter is actually capable of traveling at highway speeds with an engine more powerful than some motorcycles. Regardless of your scooter’s appearance, what really matters is how your state views your scooter.
How Do States Regulate Scooter Riders?
If you own or are thinking of buying a motor scooter, you need to find out how your state treats scooters in terms of drivers’ licenses, registrations, inspections, and insurance. There is potential for confusion because scooters share some characteristics with both motorcycles and mopeds. According to Wikipedia:
Most jurisdictions do not differentiate between scooters and motorcycles. For all legal purposes in the United States of America, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends using the term motorcycle for all of these vehicles. However, while NHTSA excludes the term motor scooter from legal definition, it proceeds, in the same document, to give detailed instructions on how to import a small motor scooter.
Your state may consider all motor scooters to be legally the same as a motorcycle, but sometimes the situation is not that cut and dry. Depending on the state, the same make and model scooter might be treated as a moped, a motor scooter, or a motorcycle.
Texas provides a good example of a state’s nuanced regulation of scooters. The Texas Department of Public Safety says that a “scooter is not a legal vehicle classification so it will need to be registered as either a moped or motorcycle and you will be required to have a class M license.” So if you ride a Vespa in Texas, you need to find out whether the state would say you are riding a moped or a motorcycle. Texas defines mopeds using this three-part test:
cannot attain a speed more than 30 miles per hour,
has a piston displacement of 50 cc (cubic centimeters) or less and
does not require the operator to shift gears.
If your scooter does not meet all three of the above criteria, it will be treated as a motorcycle under Texas law. Importantly, even though Texas might say your scooter is a moped, Texas still requires moped riders to have proof of insurance, registration, and inspections among other things.
Many other states have similar tests to categorize scooter-like vehicles based on engine size, top speed, and type of transmission. The best way to find out your state’s rules for a particular scooter model is to contact the relevant state agency or visit your local DMV office. It doesn’t matter what your state calls your scooter (“moped” or “motorcycle”): you need to get some form of insurance if you are riding a scooter on public roads.
What Kind Of Insurance Coverage Should I Buy For My Scooter?
It is always a good idea to buy adequate insurance to protect yourself from the financial risks that come with being a scooter rider. Many of the household names in insurance offer very affordable insurance for scooters. This section will discuss some recommended types of coverage.
Liability For Injuries and Property Damage
Anytime you ride a scooter, there is a risk of being involved in an accident either by yourself or with other people and vehicles. You may be sued after a scooter accident – and if you are found liable you will have to pay for the injuries and damage that you caused to others. A good liability insurance policy will help pay for your legal defense costs and the potential settlement to the accident victims.
Some form of liability insurance or proof of financial responsibility is required for motor vehicles on the road in any state. These requirements are in place because it is in the public’s interest to make sure that all drivers would be able to pay for at least some of the damage and/or injuries that they might cause in the event of an accident.
Some states allow you to ride a scooter without liability insurance if you go through a formal process of proving that you have enough money set aside to pay for the potential costs of an accident (“proof of financial responsibility”). However, most people choose to purchase liability insurance because it is simpler, doesn’t require setting aside a huge chunk of money, and it means you’ll have an insurance company to help with the expenses and figurative headaches that arise after an accident.
If you are at fault for an accident on your scooter and cause damage to someone else’s property and/or injury to another person, you will be liable for the property repair and medical costs associated with the accident.
Proper liability insurance will help pay up to the dollar amount limits contained in your liability coverage. For instance, California drivers are required to have the following minimum liability insurance coverage:
$15,000 for one person’s injuries/death
$30,000 for the total costs of injuries/death if more than one person was injured or died
$5,000 for damage to property
If you are deemed liable for an accident in which two other people were hurt with medical bills of $10,000 and $14,000, and you caused $4,000 of damage to the other person’s car, the costs would be fully covered if you had a liability policy with the limits listed above. Unfortunately, there are a lot of accidents that cause injuries and damage resulting in costs well in excess of state minimum requirements. Because of the risk of serious and expensive accidents, many people choose to have liability insurance with limits set well above the legal requirements.
Importantly, your liability coverage won’t pay for your own injuries or property damage – it will only pay for what happened to the other people involved in the accident. There are other types of insurance coverage that are aimed at helping you pay for the damage to your property and your own injuries.
Collision and Comprehensive
Collision coverage will help you pay to repair or replace your scooter if it is damaged in a collision with another vehicle or if you hit a stationary object (e.g. mailbox). If you have Collision coverage, your insurer should help pay for your repairs regardless of who is at fault in the accident.
Collisions aren’t the only way that your scooter can be damaged. Bad things can also happen to your scooter even when you aren’t riding it. This is where Comprehensive coverage comes in handy. Depending on your specific policy, Comprehensive coverage can provide a level of protection against risks such as scooter theft, vandalism, and damage due to fire or flooding among other things.
Most Comprehensive insurance includes limited coverage for custom parts and equipment on your scooter. If you’ve spent a significant amount of money customizing your scooter (i.e. a thousand dollars or more) then you should consider purchasing Custom Parts and Equipment coverage. This coverage should reimburse you for the cost of your accessories and custom parts if your scooter is ever damaged or stolen.
Because many scooter riders live in urban areas with dense traffic and increased risk of scooter damage, they should seriously consider the advantages of purchasing Collision and Comprehensive coverage. However, it is important to consider the cost of these coverages in relation to the value of your scooter. Most policies also include a deductible that must be paid out of pocket by the insured person before the insurance company will kick in its share.
Underinsured and Uninsured Motorists
As discussed above, everyone driving a motor vehicle on the road is supposed to have liability insurance (or proof of financial responsibility in some states). Unfortunately, some irresponsible people break these minimum liability insurance laws. These people are called “uninsured motorists.”
Just like insured motorists, uninsured motorists occasionally get in accidents and hurt other people. Imagine you are riding your scooter responsibly when suddenly an uninsured motorist hits you, injures you, and wrecks your scooter. The uninsured motorist may be liable for your injuries and the damage to your scooter, but because he doesn’t have liability coverage you could be facing some large medical bills on your own.
You might have to fight a drawn out legal battle to get the uninsured person to pay for your expenses, and you might not even be able to collect anything from them in the end. People who don’t pay for minimum liability insurance sometimes don’t have extra assets lying around to pay for accident victim’s bills. This situation is less than ideal but it is all too common. Fortunately, you can minimize the cost and hassle of dealing with this type of situation by purchasing an insurance policy that includes Uninsured Motorist coverage.
As the name suggests, this Uninsured Motorist coverage is intended to help pay your medical and/or scooter repair bills (depending on the policy) that are caused by someone who was driving without insurance. A few states actually require motorcycle and possibly scooter riders to have Uninsured Motorist coverage. Check your state’s relevant agency to find out if this applies to you.
Underinsured Motorist coverage may pay for your injuries and damages if you are hit by a driver who has liability insurance but not enough coverage to pay for your expenses. The legal minimums for liability coverage may be enough for a small accident, but anything more serious will probably bring expenses beyond the legal minimums. Because a lot of drivers only carry the legal minimum, you should consider getting yourself additional protection through Underinsured Motorist coverage.
You might not be able to avoid a collision with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, but with the right insurance policy you can avoid the financial costs that would otherwise accompany these collisions.
If you are injured in a scooter collision with another vehicle, Medical Payments insurance can help cover the injury-related expenses even if you are at fault. Unlike liability insurance, Medical Payments insurance covers your own costs, and not the other driver’s costs. Some Medical Payments policies also cover your passenger if you have someone riding on the back of your scooter.
Many people buy Medical Payments coverage as a kind of supplement to their existing health insurance coverage. This is because good Medical Payments insurance may cover a few out-of-pocket expenses that health insurance probably won’t cover.
Medical Payments insurance may cover co-payments, prescription drugs, dental care, and other expenses that are typically not paid for by health insurance. Additionally, health insurance often comes with a large deductible (multiple thousands of dollars) that you would ordinarily have to pay out-of-pocket after being injured in an accident. Some Medical Payments policies will pay your health insurance deductible for you.
Some states have a no-fault auto insurance system, in which all drivers are required to carry something called Personal Injury Protection, which is essentially the same as Medical Payments insurance. Instead of suing each other over who was at fault in an accident, the no-fault system aims to have each injured person’s Personal Injury Protection or Medical Payments coverage pay for that person’s own medical-related expenses. You should check with your DMV to see if scooter riders are required to carry this type of insurance in your state.
Finding The Right Scooter Coverage
When you are shopping for scooter insurance, you need to consider a number of factors. As a baseline, you need to know the amount and type of insurance are you legally required to carry as a scooter rider. Next, you should figure out how much you are willing and able to pay to insure against risks beyond the bare minimum. Scooter insurance is typically much cheaper than car insurance and, given the risks associated with scooters, it is advisable to purchase additional coverage such as Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage.
As with most types of insurance, the pricing of scooter insurance will involve a balance between deductibles and premiums. If you want a lower annual premium, you will have to pay a higher out-of-pocket deductible in the event of a claim. If you want a lower deductible, then the premium will be higher.
Make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Verify that the policies you are comparing include the same types of coverage and limits. Also check customer satisfaction reviews to find an insurer that is helpful and easy to work with in the event of a claim. Ask potential insurers about available discounts. Some scooter insurers will offer discounts if you take a driver safety test, have a good driving record, or if you have multiple policies with the same company.
Scooters are fun, cost-effective, and convenient for getting around town. With the right insurance, you can enjoy all the benefits of your scooter while knowing that you are financially protected against the risks the come with these benefits.
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