Should you let someone borrow your motorcycle?

Rider tossing up the keys to motorcycle
Rider tossing up the keys to motorcycle
Biker Bill
Freelance writer and motorcycle enthusiast
February 20, 2024

As motorcycle riders, we know things can and will go wrong. From the get-go, it’s important to consider the human element as you weigh the risks and rewards of letting someone borrow your bike.

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What to know before letting someone ride your motorcycle

In order to make an informed decision about letting someone ride your motorcycle—whether it’s a close friend or a prospective buyer—you’ll need to consider several critical issues. Here’s a series of considerations to weigh before you agree to let someone take your bike out for a spin.

Your motorcycle insurance coverages

Start with a clear understanding of your motorcycle insurance coverages. Most motorcycle insurance policies include the following coverages:

  • Bodily injury liability can help cover costs if you’re at fault in an accident where the other party is injured. Guest passenger liability coverage is typically included in this coverage, which would help cover similar costs if your passenger is injured.

  • Property damage liability can help cover repairs to someone else’s property—including their vehicle—if you’re at fault in an accident that results in damage.

  • Collision can help pay for repairs if your motorcycle is damaged after colliding with another vehicle or other stationary object in a covered accident. It applies regardless of fault.

  • Comprehensive can help pay for repairs to your bike if it’s damaged by something other than a collision, including vandalism, theft, hitting an animal, and weather events like hailstorms.

Each state’s required coverages and minimum limits vary. Before letting someone borrow your motorcycle, you’ll want to review your insurance policy to ensure you meet your state’s motorcycle insurance requirements.

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Permission to ride

Anyone who is regularly riding your bike needs to be listed on your policy. But for an occasional lend-out with your permission, the rider is typically covered under your motorcycle insurance policy. But always check with your provider if you have any questions about coverage—including any exceptions that could limit the amount or types of coverage that can help protect you, your bike, and the other rider.

If you’re concerned about responsibility in the event of an accident, you may want to put your permission in writing.

Motorcycle licenses

Has the other driver fulfilled the requirements to legally operate a motorcycle in your state? An unlicensed rider may be unaware of state-specific laws, and they could end up with a steep ticket if they are pulled over or involved in an accident.

The other rider’s motorcycle insurance

If the other person currently owns and insures a motorcycle, their insurance may afford some additional protection if something happens while borrowing your motorcycle.

The other rider’s experience

It’s important to also consider the prospective rider’s motorcycle riding experience. You need to know whether they’re a veteran motorcycle rider or someone with no experience. If the other person is a beginner rider or wants to try it before investing in a new hobby, the best thing to do is steer them to a Motorcycle Safety Foundation rider education course. There, they can get a taste for motorcycling and the training they need—without putting themselves or your motorcycle at risk.

If you ride with your friend on a regular basis and are comfortable with their skill level and riding style, these concerns probably aren’t an issue, and you’re ready to consider other risks.

What type of bike does the other person ride?

Another factor to consider is the type of bike the other rider owns and rides on a regular basis. There’s a big difference between a 350cc beginner bike and a sport bike. Is the motorcycle a good match for their skill level and riding style?

Where are they planning to ride?

You should know where the prospective rider intends to take your bike. It’s worth considering both the risks of riding in different environments and the rider’s skill set. A powerful sport bike on a twisty mountain road may be a hazardous temptation for an inexperienced rider.

At the other extreme are the risks involved in commuting and urban environments. Even a wide-open interstate can prove challenging to a rider who is used to poking around back country roads.

Accidents and injury risks

Accidents are an uncomfortable but necessary consideration when you let someone ride your motorcycle. What would you do if they cause or are the victim of a crash? Do some soul-searching and have a frank conversation. You take on risks every time you get on your bike, but the feeling of responsibility changes when another person is involved.

Helmets and riding gear

One of the best motorcycle riding mottos to live by is “all the gear, all the time.” There is simply no way of predicting when you may need the protection of good riding gear and a helmet. Each state also has different legal standards regarding helmets. Know the law and always place safety before style.

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Selling your motorcycle

The other common situation where you would let someone else drive your bike is when you’re trying to sell your motorcycle. Consider the topics below before meeting up with potential buyers.

Allowing test rides on your bike.

Treat a prospective buyer like anyone else you’d let ride your bike. Make sure you vet the rider’s experience level, license status, insurance coverage, and safety awareness before they begin a test ride. Agreeing on a test route or time frame is also a good idea.

Also consider what happens if the test driver causes a multi-vehicle accident. To help ensure your motorcycle insurance coverages apply if the rider is involved in an accident, formally provide written permission—listing the rider by name—before they begin their test ride.

Prevent motorcycle theft

Letting a prospective purchaser ride off on your motorcycle for a “test“ can result in your motorcycle being stolen. Instead of allowing a test ride, consider bringing the motorcycle to a local independent motorcycle shop and meeting the prospective buyer there. A qualified mechanic—especially one who’s an experienced rider—can test ride and inspect the motorcycle on the buyer’s behalf. Plus, by meeting in public, away from where you keep the motorcycle, you reduce your risk of theft.

Deposits and collateral

Before letting a potential buyer head off on a test drive, it’s important to agree on collateral. Typically, a physical item of value, like the keys to their car or motorcycle, in addition to a deposit on the sale price of your bike is sufficient. It may be helpful to negotiate the collateral terms before meeting in person.

Adding riders to your insurance policy

If you have a close friend you expect to ride your motorcycle on a regular basis, speak with your insurance company about adding that person to your policy. Not only can this extend the types and amount of protection that apply when they ride your motorcycle—compared to just written or verbal permission—it can also make the process simpler if you're involved in a claim following a covered accident. If a regular rider who is not listed on the policy gets in an accident, their claim may be denied.

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*Data accuracy is subject to this article's publication date.