Electric bikes have a lot in common with cars, certainly more than regular bicycles do. They’re expensive, usually more complex with mechanical, electrical and computer driven systems and they tend to travel faster and for greater distances at a time. A bike shop owner once told me that they estimate ebikes are used at a rate of 10x traditional unpowered bicycles (which could mean frequency and distance), and this shop did service both regular and ebikes so I feel like they have a good perspective.
For all of these reasons, the question of insurance comes up. In fact, it was brought up right here in the community forums when a user laid down $4K for a new ride and wanted to know how to protect it. This inspired me to dig a bit deeper into the history of electric bike insurance. It turns out, bicycle insurance has been around since the early 80’s in Europe. One of the pioneering companies, ENRA Insurance in the Netherlands, is still around today. Back in America, on February 20th, 2012, a company called Spoke Insurance was launched in California and in September of that same year Velosurance was launched in Florida. It appears that in recent years Spoke Insurance has transitioned away from the business but Velosurance is still at it and appears to be expanding.
In most cases, homeowner or renter’s insurance will not cover e-bikes for theft, damage, or liability because the bike has a motor. And usually auto insurance companies won’t offer ebike insurance because they are not required to be registered and riders do not need to be licensed. It’s part of what makes electric bikes appealing and economical but also tough to insure.
So bicycle insurance and electric bike insurance do exist and these services are designed to provide coverage between auto, home and renters insurance where there are gaps and fine print exclusions. This list of ten questions is designed to help you test and poke holes in your traditional policies and determine whether you really need bicycle specific insurance:
- What is the maximum value that your ebike is insured for?
- Will your electric bike value be depreciated each year, if so by how much?
- Is your electric bike covered for riding in organized events or races? Not sure if there even are ebike races but this is relevant for non-ebikes in triathlons and stuff.
- Is your electric bike still covered if it’s being transported and something happens? Specifically, if you’re carrying it on a car rack and it falls off or if you check it for a flight or have it shipped and it gets damaged.
- If you’re traveling and take your ebike along, will it still be insured away from home? (this one is especially important if you use your bike for RV travel, boating or take vacations which is popular for folding electric bikes).
- What is the deductible on your bike and how much will you get from insurance if it’s stolen?
- Is your electric bike still covered if it’s lent to a friend? (great question because so many people let their friends test ride their ebikes if they’re considering buying one or just curious about the technology).
- Are bike accessories like upgraded wheels, GPS units, racks, bags and lights that are attached to the ebike covered too? Is the battery and LCD computer console covered (since these can be removed on most ebikes).
- This one’s most relevant to higher end racing ebikes but what if just the wheels are stolen? Often these are transported separately in wheel bags which may be susceptible to theft.
Aside from damage or theft of the bike itself, I was most interested in what happens if I accidentally collided with someone and cause bodily injury. Also, what if the bike tips over and damages someone’s fancy car or a window display at a shop? There are some pretty affordable add-ons to bicycle insurance that can help you deal with situations like this and I had the chance to speak with the CEO and co-founder of Velosurance about how they work in a conversation below. The video Interview about Electric Bike Insurance is just below:
So, in summary: Velosurance partnered with Markel Insurance to form a strategic alliance making electric bike insurance available across the US. Spoke Insurance also offered bicycle insurance plans and they both offered coverage for crash or damage to frame and wheel set, accident or failure of frame or wheelset, total loss by theft, theft of spare parts, liability to others, road side assistance, replacement bike rental but now Spoke Insurance has moved along so the main choice appears to be Velosurance. If you know of any other companies offering insurance for ebikes please share in the comments below and I’ll update this article as time permits! The image below shows some of the coverage areas offered for e-bike insurance:
These are some pretty cool services in my opinion! The option for roadside assistance is nice if your bike breaks down; it’s like having AAA but for your bike. Note that most of these insurance products only cover ebikes that adhere to US regulation, that being less than or equal to 750 watt motors and 20 mile per hour top speeds in throttle mode and up to 28 mph in pedal assist mode as a “speed pedelec”. Some of the details may evolve as states adjust their position on ebikes as California did in late 2015 to specify ebike Classes. Just below is a chart put together by Velosurance comparing their product to traditional home owner’s insurance and renter’s insurance. It’s anectdotal to the “ten questions” list above. Some of the policies start at just $100 a year which is amazing to me and $25K in liability can be as low as $40 to add on.
Check out the different insurance options and share your thoughts in the comments here or back at the forum. This space will surely continue to evolve but the basic knowledge that it even exists is a huge step in protecting your asset, your savings and your health. Also check out this neat electric bike light with built in camera (like a dash cam for a bike) designed to help you deal with situations that might come up when commuting on an ebike. Something like this might come in handy when filing a claim.