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Motor Vehicle Insurance in the United States

A 1998 - 1999 Snapshot with Emphasis on
Motorcycle Coverage

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1. Report No.
DOT HS 809 494
2. Government Accession No.
3. Recipient's Catalog No.
4. Title and Subtitle

Motor Vehicle Insurance in the United States: A 1998-1999
Snapshot with Emphasis on Motorcycle Coverage

5. Report Date

March 2003

6. Performing Organization Code

7. Author(s)

Ted R. Miller and Bruce A. Lawrence

8. Performing Organization Report No.

9. Performing Organization Name and Address

Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation
Calverton Office Park
11710 Beltsville Drive, Suite 300
Calverton, Maryland 20705-3102

10. Work Unit No. (TRAIS)
11. Contract or Grant No.


12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Office of Program Development and Delivery
Safety Countermeasures Division
400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20590

13. Type of Report and Period Covered
14. Sponsoring Agency Code
15. Supplementary Notes

Joey W. Syner served as the NHTSA Contracting Officer's Technical Representative for this project.

16. Abstract

Motor vehicle insurance information is critical to understanding highway crash costs and who pays them. To address this need, PIRE obtained unpublished data from six insurers that specialize in motorcycle insurance, along with parallel data from the nation's five largest motor vehicle insurers.

Both insured motorcycles and other private passenger vehicles experienced $35.50 in crash-related claims per thousand miles traveled in 1998-1999. Motorcycles, however, typically insure against fewer risks than autos. If they were as broadly insured as autos, their claims costs per mile would have been almost 1.6 times average auto claims costs. Average property damage losses per claim were 65 percent larger for motorcycles than for other private passenger vehicles. Compared to other private passenger vehicles, motorcycles also had worse loss experience on theft, vandalism, and other non-crash risks. Per thousand miles traveled, insurance coverage cost $87 for a motorcycle but just $61 for other private passenger vehicles. In aggregate, pricing for motorcycle coverage was commensurate with loss experience. Liability coverage, however, might have been overpriced and property damage coverage underpriced. Profits on motorcycle liability coverage offset losses on property damage coverage.

Among insured motorcycles with coverage details known for 1999, 14 percent had 750-1000 cc engines, 43 percent had larger engines, and 43 percent had smaller ones. The number of claims per policy, claim severity, losses per policy, and premiums all rose with engine size. Among motorcycles with large engines, sportbikes had especially bad loss records, experiencing losses per policy 1.5 to 2 times those of other motorcycles with large engines.

This project yielded data that will enhance future NHTSA crash costing. These data are much different than those NHTSA collected in 1988. Increasing computerization and an improved data collection strategy make them more detailed, on point, and precise.

17. Key Words


18. Distribution Statement

Document is available through the
National Technical Information Service
Springfield, VA 22161

19. Security Classif. (of this report)
20. Security Classif. (of this page)
21. No. of Pages
22. Price