Tattooed Bikers Pay Less For Coverage

A motorcycle insurer studying its customers said its data shows bikers with heavy, high-powered Harley Davidsons may have more tattoos than owners of lighter, aerodynamic sport bikesbut they pay a lot less for insurance.

These and other differences emerged after Progressivethe Mayfield Village, Ohio-based auto insurerrolled out results of an online survey it conducted.

Rick Stern, a motorcycle product manager for Progressivewhich bills itself as the largest provider of motorcycle coverageexplained the research was launched 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 residentincluding for medical payments, comprehensive coverage, collision bodily injury, property damage, guest passenger liability and uninsured/underinsured motorist protectionwould vary considerably depending on the type of machine he or she rides.

Riding a 2004 model 1450 cc Harley Davidson FX Springer Softail means 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 motorcycles bill of sale is what counts in underwritingnot whats traced on the owners flesh via a tattoo, according to Progressive Product Manager Jim Curtis.

“By and large, the largest [premium] driver is the cost of the bike,” he said, noting that more expensive Harleys have a better loss history.

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

He said that when a rider runs into something and damages his or her machine, there is generally more costly damage with a sport bike because the 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 explained.

The Progressive survey, which did not go into prices, found Harley motorcyclists are more likely to have body art such as tattoos and piercings52 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 gourmets32 percent plan rides around where they will eat, versus 23 percent for sport bikers.

In choosing a dining spot, sport bikers favored fast-food restaurants18 percent versus 6 percent for Harley owners. The Harley crowd was found much more likely to pick restaurants with the nicest looking waitresses or waiters11 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 1 percent of the Harley crowd.

And when it comes to waving at fellow motorcyclists, Harley riders are nearly twice as likely to acknowledge other riders by pointing two fingers down29 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: “Thats the Harley wave. I do that, too. Otherwise, they think youre 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,” he said.

Progressive gave the following percentages for other survey findings:

Those who daydream at work about motorcycling69 percent.

Those who take part in charity rides67 percent of Harley owners.

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


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, March 17, 2005. Copyright 2005 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.