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The Bike Insurance Minefield

I needed to change one of the bikes on my policy the other day as it was up for renewal, so sorted that out and just as I was about to hand over the debit card details, I asked the guy if he could just run a quick double check to make sure that I was still covered for instructor use.

Long pause followed by “I’ll have to ask my supervisor”. He clicks off, then another long pause, this time with music.

After several minutes, back he comes to tell me the supervisor is going to have to check further up the line and this will take some time, so he’ll call back.

“No problem” I say, as it’s early afternoon and I don’t have to ride the bike again till the following day, and after all, how long does insurance take to sort out?.

Yes, I know I left the renewal to the last moment, but I’d spent the previous couple of days in bed with a bad cold.

As promised, a short while later I get a call back to say it’s been referred to the underwriters, they’ll try to get back to me before five pm. Oh dear, this isn’t looking good.

Phone duly goes at 5, to report they haven’t had an answer and the underwriters have now gone home for the day, but they reassure me as I need the bike tomorrow, it’s the very first thing they’ll be chasing in the morning.

Next morning bang on 9:15, I call up, and they’re still awaiting an answer. I make a second and very apologetic call to the trainee and cancel the training. As it happens, I’m still feeling bloody rough, so head back to bed.

At 10, the phone goes off – they just have one small question to ask then can give a definitive answer. I duly provide the information and go back to bed for the rest of the morning.

No call by 5pm and next day is Saturday, so I abandon attempts to find out what’s happening till Monday morning.

Monday morning comes around and I’m on the blower again mid-morning. I get the guy who’s been handling the case since Thursday on the line again. Several back and forth calls later, he apologises for the lack of progress, and promises to chase up the underwriters.

At this point I decide to hedge my bets and start making a few other calls to likely insurance brokers. As usual, the “I’m a motorcycle instructor” line causes the pre-prepared selling blub to stutter to a halt, followed rapidly by a referal to a supervisor and lift music, and finally some minutes later an apologetic “I’m sorry, we don’t cover instructors”. Click…. brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Comic relief at this point was provided by one broker’s representative who seemed to think I’d have the trainee driving the bike whilst I sat on the back with dual controls and started to direct me to talk to their car instructor people. Another suggested I typed “motorcycle instructor insurance” into Google. I apologised for laughing.

Anyway, some two hours worth of phone calls later, I actually had a quote from someone willing to cover me, interestingly with the underwriters I’m currently with.

Nearly double the renewal premium though, and with compulsory breakdown cover. Eh? “Can’t I get rid of that? First I don’t want it, second it makes your policy very expensive, and in the third case it’s probably no use because although I don’t know who your recovery is with the RAC and AA won’t pick up bike instructors.” “No, we only sell the policy with it.” “Sorry, we can’t sell the policy without the breakdown cover, but we’ll give you a free pair of crash bungs to compensate.” Well, I’ll keep a note, but I’m not about to rush out to the bank just yet.

Around 3pm, I get back to the original brokers. Still no reply. He explains my question is in a queue with others awaiting a reply from the underwriter’s expert. Can they call back? Yes, I’m ok to take a call later that afternoon.

Finally, half an hour or so later, I get a call. Sorted!

After all that palaver, it seems I’m covered.

What appears to have happened is something that will no doubt occur to many of us. My original policy was taken out with one broker some 12 years ago, who had all the information on file, but who sold up and had their business taken over by a second broker three or four years back.

At the time of the changeover, the second broker simply presented their paperwork at renewal time to say they had taken over the account, sent me a statement for me to sign saying “no material changes” which there hadn’t been, so they duly issued me with a new insurance certificate when I returned it with cheque.

All went swimmingly for the next couple of years, right up to the point where I asked “could you just double check I’m covered for use as an instructor?”

As far as I can work out, the specific business use declaration had gone missing from the underwriter’s records, presumably somewhere in the translation between the two brokers; I wanted use of the bike for motorcycle instruction, not simply “to and from place of work in connection with policy holder’s business”.

Fortunately the new broker had a clear copy of what cover had been provided previously which they sent back to the underwriter. So after an extremely inconvenient pause, it was sorted out.

There is an obvious point to make about why on earth the simple question of “do you cover my job of motorcycle instructor” brings the entire insurance industry to its knees.

It’s not exactly as if it’s a new occupation, since the DSA have required new riders to take training on the roads since CBT was introduced in 1992.

Nor is it down to the “increased risk” of being a professional rider. One broker would have been happy to quote if I was a courier or fast food delivery person, but not as an instructor.

One broker did say I didn’t need it and tried to sell me an ordinary policy, saying that I was covered under the training school’s policy. That would be technically correct if I trained through an Approved Training Body (ATB) but of course, as an independant advanced instructor I’m not so covered.

Incidentally, if you are an instructor reading this you should be aware that many ATBs only offer third party insurance to their instructors, which is decidedly dodgy if you happen to ride an expensive bike for work – which is one reason I had my own policy back in 95/96 before I got involved with running Survival Skills courses!

As a side note, whilst I was hunting around I tried several websites, and spent quite a lot of time filling in online forms, including one of the “compare the market” style sites which then referred me to a whole series of “best quotes”.

Following the best offers up, one of the things that quickly became obvious was that some fairly unwarrentable assumptions get made and not all the detail is swapped correctly. For instance, I got one quote which would have been quite attractive had it covered intructor use (needless to say it didn’t!), until I looked at the fine print.

They’d “assumed” my maximum annual mileage would be a less than staggering 3,000 miles (I wish! My tyre bill would be peanuts!) and that I wouldn’t ever carry a passenger (wrong there too).

But neither of those restrictions were in the least obvious until I checked the detail of the proposal with the “EDIT” button that took you backwards.

The worrying thing was that in searching for the “best deal” I specifically selected a much higher annual mileage AND passenger cover. I might not have thought to check the broker site having input it into the “compare” site, had it not been for the fact that as getting instructor cover is so bloody difficult, I was reading every last bit of small print to see what was and wasn’t covered.

So, two things to think about:

If your broker sells up and you get a renewal from a new broker, it’s probably wise not just to accept the renewal but to check all the details of the policy.

If you use a “Compare the market” style site, you MUST double check ALL the details, not just rely on what you’ve already typed in to be correctly transferred to the individual broker’s proposal form.

Oh… and by Saturday evening I thought I was dying – the cold turned out to be a bronchial infection. So I’m now on the antibiotics and off the bike for a few days whilst I recover.

Finally, lots of thanks to Dan and Dan at Masterquote for helping me out.

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