California, often referred to as the “Golden State,” is a paradise for motorcycle enthusiasts, boasting an array of breathtaking landscapes from the Pacific coastline to the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges and the Mojave Desert.
As a motorcycle owner in California, it’s important to be aware of all insurance requirements before hitting the state’s scenic highways and byways.
These requirements were created to protect motorcyclists and other parties involved in accidents or collisions by ensuring financial responsibility for damages and injuries.
California Motorcycle Insurance Requirements
To comply with California’s motorcycle insurance requirements, your policy must include the following coverage limits:
$15,000 bodily injury liability per person
$30,000 bodily injury liability per accident
$5,000 property damage liability per accident
This coverage is commonly referred to as a 15/30/5 plan.
However, you may consider purchasing additional coverage for extra protection and peace of mind.
Motorcycle insurance requirements in California are overseen by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the California Department of Insurance.
For updated information about motorcycle insurance requirements in CA, consult these sources.
Motorcycles & Two-Wheeled Vehicles Defined in California
In California, motorcycles and other two-wheeled vehicles are legally defined as follows:
- Motorcycle: A motor vehicle with a seat or saddle for the rider, designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground, and excludes tractors and motorized bicycles.
- Motor-driven cycle: A motorcycle with a motor that displaces less than 150 cubic centimeters.
- Motorized bicycle (moped): A two-wheeled vehicle equipped with a motor that has a maximum piston displacement of 50 cubic centimeters or less, is incapable of speeds greater than 30 miles per hour on level ground, and meets specific equipment requirements.
These definitions are provided by the California Vehicle Code, Division 1 – Words and Phrases Defined, Section 400-402.
Small vehicles in California & insurance
Below are some smaller, non-car vehicles that require insurance in California.
- Motorcycles: All motorcycles, including those with three wheels or more, must have liability insurance coverage in California.
- All-terrain vehicles (ATVs): Insurance is required for any ATV operated on public lands in California, and additional coverage may be necessary depending on the specific use or location.
- Utility vehicles (UTVs): Insurance coverage is necessary for UTVs operated on public roads or lands in California.
- Golf carts: Golf carts require insurance coverage if they are driven on public roads or lands in California.
According to the California Vehicle Code, Division 7 – Financial Responsibility Laws, Chapter 1 – Compulsory Financial Responsibility, all motorcycles and certain off-road vehicles operated on public roads or lands in California must have liability insurance coverage.
Keep in mind that insurance requirements and coverage options may differ based on the type of vehicle and state laws.
Common California Motorcycle Laws
Included below are some common laws to understand while operating a motorcycle in the state of California.
- Lane splitting: In California, lane splitting, or riding between lanes of traffic, is legal under certain circumstances and guidelines.
- Helmet use: California law requires all motorcycle riders and passengers to wear a helmet while riding. The helmet must meet specific safety standards set by the Department of Transportation.
- Exhaust: California law prohibits the use of modified or altered exhaust systems that increase noise levels beyond certain decibel limits.
- Eyewear: Riders are required to wear protective eyewear in California unless their motorcycle has a windshield.
- Handlebars: Handlebars cannot be higher than six inches above the rider’s shoulder height when seated on the motorcycle.
- Passenger: A passenger can only ride on a motorcycle if the bike is equipped with a designated passenger seat and footrest.
- Mirrors & lighting: Motorcycles must be equipped with at least one rearview mirror and have proper lighting, including brake lights, tail lights, and turn signals.
- Turn signals: California law requires motorcycles to have functioning turn signals.
- Headlights: Motorcycles must have at least one working headlight, which must be used during daytime and nighttime hours.
- Seat & footrest: All motorcycles must have a seat for the rider, as well as a footrest.
- Endorsement: To legally operate a motorcycle in California, you must have a Class M motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license.
Additional Insurance for Motorcyclists in CA
If you’re a motorcyclist in California, you may want to consider additional insurance beyond the state’s minimum requirements.
- Collision Coverage: This type of coverage can help cover the cost of repairs or replacement if your motorcycle is damaged or totaled in an accident.
- Comprehensive Coverage: This type of coverage can help cover the cost of repairs or replacement if your motorcycle is stolen or damaged by factors such as weather, fire, or vandalism.
- Uninsured & Underinsured Motorist Coverage: This coverage can help protect you if you’re involved in an accident with a driver who doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance to cover the damages.
- Medical Payments Coverage: This coverage can help cover medical expenses for you or your passengers in the event of an accident.
- Roadside Assistance Coverage: This coverage can provide assistance if your motorcycle breaks down while you’re on the road, including services such as towing, fuel delivery, and battery jump-starts.
- Custom Parts and Equipment Coverage: If you have customized your motorcycle with aftermarket parts or accessories, this coverage can help cover the cost of repairs or replacement if they are damaged or stolen.
Proof of Insurance & Penalties
In California, all motorists, including motorcyclists, are required to carry proof of insurance while operating their vehicle.
This proof of insurance should be presented when requested by a law enforcement officer during a traffic stop or after an accident.
Penalties for failing to provide proof of insurance can include:
- First Offense: Fine of $100 to $200, plus additional penalty assessments.
- Second Offense: Fine of $200 to $500, plus additional penalty assessments.
In addition to the penalties for failing to provide proof of insurance, motorcyclists who are involved in an accident without insurance coverage may face significant financial and legal consequences.
FAQs: Motorcycle Insurance in California
Below are some frequently asked questions about motorcycle insurance in California.
Is lane splitting legal in California?
Yes, lane splitting is legal in California under certain circumstances and guidelines.
Riders should follow safe and prudent practices when lane splitting and be aware of surrounding traffic.
Are helmets required while riding?
Yes, all motorcycle riders and passengers are required by California law to wear a helmet that meets specific safety standards set by the Department of Transportation.
Do I need a special license or endorsement to ride a motorcycle in California?
Yes, you need a Class M motorcycle endorsement on your California driver’s license to legally operate a motorcycle in the state.
You can obtain a Class M endorsement by passing a written test and either completing a motorcycle training course or passing a skills test.
Can I get discounts on my motorcycle insurance policy in California?
Many insurance companies offer discounts on motorcycle insurance policies for various reasons, such as completing a motorcycle safety course, being a member of a motorcycle club or organization, having multiple policies with the same company, or maintaining a good driving record.
If I store my motorcycle during the certain months, do I still need insurance?
Although you may not be riding your motorcycle during certain months, it’s still a good idea to maintain comprehensive coverage, which protects your motorcycle against theft, fire, or other types of damage that can occur while in storage.
How can I reduce my motorcycle insurance premium in California?
Some ways to lower your motorcycle insurance premium include maintaining a clean driving record, taking a motorcycle safety course, choosing a higher deductible, and shopping around for the best insurance rates.
Are scooters and mopeds subject to the same insurance requirements as motorcycles in California?
In California, mopeds and scooters with a motor that displaces less than 150 cubic centimeters are subject to different insurance requirements.
However, it’s always a good idea to have insurance coverage to protect yourself and others on the road.
Check with your insurance provider for specific details and requirements based on your vehicle.
What if I ride my motorcycle without insurance?
It is illegal to operate a motorcycle without sufficient insurance in California.
Should you operate a motorcycle without insurance – you could end up with fines, suspension of license, motorcycle impoundment, and other legal consequences.
What influences the cost of motorcycle insurance in CA?
Common variables that influence the cost of motorcycle insurance in California include:
- Age & sex
- Driving history
- Type of motorcycle operated
- Location (within CA)
- Frequency of riding
Generally speaking, young riders who live in cities with a lot of other vehicles tend to have the highest insurance rates.
Getting a good deal on motorcycle insurance in California
If your goal is to get a great deal on motorcycle insurance in California, it is always smart to do your own research and compare quotes from multiple insurers.
This website has an in-built tool that makes it easy to get quotes from the leading providers in your specific location.
To use the tool, simply enter your Zip Code – and click “Start!”… next you can determine the type of coverage you want and view the costs.