Insuring Your Electric Bicycle 101
By: Kimberly Kinchen, contributing writer
When Tim Pembroke turned 70 back in 2011, he decided it was time to stop riding a motorcycle and start riding an electric bicycle. His son Nick worked for Everett, Washington-based McClain Insurance for a decade, so Tim asked Nick about insurance for his new ride.
Nick quickly found that while bicycles are typically covered under standard homeowners, renters or umbrella insurance policies, electric bicycles were typically excluded from coverage under such policies on the basis that they are motorized. Many insurance denials and three or four months later, SafeCo offered to modify a motorcycle policy to cover Tim’s electric bicycle.
SafeCo continues to be one of the prime carriers for electric bicycle insurance, and interest in such insurance has only grown. Nick Pembroke estimates that McClain, which serves Idaho, Oregon and Washington, fielded twice the number of quotes for electric bicycle insurance in 2020 compared to 2019. Across the U.S., other insurers have entered the space in response to the rising popularity of electric bicycles.
Anyone searching for electric bicycle insurance needs to first understand liability.
Liability insurance pays an injured party if you are determined to be at fault for their injuries and other damages — often because you admit fault, your insurer deems you to be at fault or as the result of a lawsuit.
Most standard homeowners and renters insurance policies provide liability protection for incidents that arise from the use of standard bicycles. However, as Pembroke noted, these policies often don’t cover electric bicycles, so if you want to protect your personal assets from risk in the event you are involved in a crash in which someone is hurt, read your insurance policy carefully to see if it will cover damages related to the use of electric bicycles. If it does not, consider liability coverage.
Also be aware that policies vary by state and insurance regulations, which can also affect the minimum and maximum coverage, or limits, available. Some carriers may have stand-alone electric bicycle coverage similar to motorcycle or car insurance policies, while others may offer electric bicycle coverage as an addition to an existing homeowners or renters policy. Finally, some carriers don’t insure all classes of electric bicycles, so be sure you’re clear on which class yours falls under.
Here’s a short, non-exhaustive list of insurers currently offering electric bicycle insurance products:
- Markel Insurance policies cover all three classes of electric bicycles. You can read a sample of their standard electric bicycle policy here.
- SafeCo/Liberty Mutual doesn’t offer details on their site; inquire via an agency that partners with SafeCo.
- State Farm offers electric bicycle insurance in California, and may offer some e-bike coverage with homeowners policies in Missouri and Texas.
- West Bend Mutual
(If your insurance provider isn’t listed here, you may want to contact an agent to see if they offer coverage.)
Lauri Boxer-Macomber is a Maine-based attorney who practices bicycle and pedestrian law at Kelly, Remmel & Zimmerman, and is an independent member of the National Bike Law Network. She, too, reports a notable increase in inquiries about electric bicycles, microbility and electric bicycle insurance at her practice over the last several years. Boxer-Macomber says purchasers should understand that coverage is determined by the contract language in the policy, so they’ll want to take the time to read and understand their policies and endorsements.
Here are key questions she recommends getting answers to:
- Liability: Does the policy you are purchasing cover you if you cause bodily injury, death or damage to another person or their property while you are riding an electric bicycle?
- Uninsured or Underinsured Motorists (UM/UIM): Does the policy provide UM and UIM coverage if you are involved in a crash caused by a motor vehicle operator that lacks adequate insurance to cover your injuries (including collisions, hit and run and no-contact crashes)?
- MedPay: Does the policy provide medical payments coverage if you are involved in a crash caused by a motor vehicle operator, regardless of fault? Boxer-Macomber points out that even if you have health insurance, MedPay might be worthwhile to cover high annual deductibles or copays.
- Theft and property damage: If your electric bicycle is stolen or damaged, will the policy cover full replacement or depreciation cost? If the latter, what formula will be used? Will a deductible apply?
You might also want to ask how coverage applies if you loan out your electric bicycle to a friend, plan to travel out of the state or country often with it, or while renting an electric bicycle from a shop or bikeshare operator. Boxer-Macomber also recommends vetting the insurance carrier via your state’s insurance bureau or insurance commissioner.
Nick Pembroke says he always warns those in the market for electric bicycle insurance to brace themselves for some initial sticker price shock — first-year premiums are likely to be your most expensive insurance, but will drop quickly as your continuous insurance history builds.
A final heads up: insurance for your circumstances might not be available. Like about 20% of my fellow Seattlites (according to the American Community Survey), my household doesn’t own a car, and I never bothered getting a driver license. My electric bicycle is my main form of transportation, so liability and UIM insurance are high priorities for me. But I’m out of luck for now — the electric bicycle policy available in my region currently requires a driver license. That sounds like a good market opportunity for the insurance industry.