Bikers With Tats May Pay Less, Says Progressive

By Daniel Hays

NU Online News Service, March 10, 2:33 p.m. EST?A motorcycle insurer studying its customers said its data shows bikers with heavy high-powered Harley Davidson’s have more tattoos than owners of lighter aerodynamic sport bikes, but pay a lot less for insurance.[@@]

These and other differences emerged after Progressive, the Mayfield Village, Ohio-based auto insurer, rolled out an online survey it conducted

Rick Stern, a motorcycle product manager for Progressive, which bills itself as the largest provider of motorcycle coverage, explained the research to get under clients’ skin. “Motorcycle insurance is a very specialized product and you never know what bit of information may lead to the next insurance innovation,” he said.

According to the company, the policy cost for a married 25-year old male Mayfield resident, including medical payments, comprehensive, collision bodily injury, property damage, guest passenger liability and uninsured/underinsured motorist protection, would vary considerably depending on the type of machine he rides.

Riding a 2004 model 1450 cc Harley Davidson FX Springer Softail, the biker would pay $1,487 in yearly premium, compared with $2,799 for a 2004 model 750 cc Suzuki Katana 750.

Survey demographics aside, the ink used to print the price on a motorcycle’s bill of sale is what counts in underwriting– not what’s traced on the owner’s flesh, according to Progressive Product Manager Jim Curtis.

“By and large the largest driver is the cost of the bike,” he said, noting that more expensive Harley’s have a better loss history.

Mr. Curtis explained that “the sport bike has had more historical risk than a Harley Davidson, “A lot of it is driven by comprehensive and collision [data]. When we have to settle a physical damage claim on a sport bike its more expensive.”

He said when a rider runs into something and damages his or her machine, there is generally more costly damage with a sport bike because their fairing sections in front of the handle bars surrounding the headlight, “are all one piece and they are made of plastic.” Scratch a fairing on a sport bike and a larger portion of the bike needs to be replaced, Mr. Curtis said.

The Progressive survey, which did not go into prices, found Harley motorcyclists are more likely to have body art such as tattoos and piercings–52 percent versus 40 percent for sport bikers.

Riders of the big “hog” bikes are also much more into clothing or art displaying the Harley brand name, the survey found– 93 percent versus 30 percent for the sport bikers.

Harley fans, the survey discovered, also appear to include the highest proportion of motorized gourmets–32 percent plan rides around where they will eat versus 23 percent for sport bikers. In choosing a dining spot, sport bikers favored fast food restaurants–18 percent versus 6 percent for Harley owners.

The Harley crowd was found much more likely to pick restaurants with the nicest looking waitresses or waiters–11 percent versus 3 percent.

When it comes to why they ride, 6 percent of the sport bikers said they do it for speed compared to less than one percent of the Harley crowd.

When it comes to waving at fellow motorcyclists, Harley riders are nearly twice as likely to acknowledge other riders by pointing two fingers down– 29 percent versus 16 percent.

Harley rider Robert M. Bryant, the president and chief executive officer of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, explained the two finger signal, “That’s the Harley wave. I do that too. Otherwise, they think you’re riding an import.”

Mr. Bryant said he has no tattoos, but does own Harley paraphernalia and when it comes to figuring ride destinations restaurants are not on his mind. “I plan for weather and climate.”

Progressive gave the following percentages for other survey findings:

? Daydream at work about motorcycling–69 percent

? Do charity rides?67 percent of Harley owners.

? Eighteen percent call in sick at least once a year to go riding.