No pillions, say leading motorcycle insurer

Thousands of motorcyclists are being refused motorcycle insurance if they want to carry pillions, MCN has discovered.

One of the biggest motorbike insurance underwriters has decided to refuse cover for a range of bike models unless the rider agrees not to carry passengers. Aviva says policies allowing pillions are being declined for "sports, supersports and off-road-style bikes" but MCN has learnt of models in lower insurance groups also being rejected.

This issue came to light when MCN's senior reporter Steve Farrell was refused a policy for his Kawasaki GPz550 unless he agreed to never carry a pillion. The 65bhp middleweight falls into insurance group eight, nine groups lower than the maximum.

Farrell, who has previously been allowed to carry pillions under an Aviva policy, was told by his broker: "On certain bikes they will no longer give pillion cover."

A spokesman for Aviva, which underwrites one in seven UK bike insurance policies, said "For some sports and high performance bikes, we're not able to quote if you want to have a pillion passenger riding with you. Solo, fine. Pillion passenger on some bikes we would not be able to quote."

He said "some off-road style bikes" were also being rejected for pillion carrying. He would not give more specific details of the models affected.

'Borderline cases'

The GPz550 was rejected due to a "slight level of miscoding which we will be reviewing," he said. "When it came out in the eighties it was rated as a sporty bike at the time. We'll be reviewing some of those borderline cases."

In the past motorcyclists taking out motorcycle insurance have not been asked whether they intend to carry pillions and cover to do so has been automatically granted. But Aviva has classified pillion carrying as a factor which adds claims risk for the underwriter. As a result, riders are now asked whether they intend to carry one when seeking a quote.

Pillion is added risk

Aviva's spokesman said: "Before, we would never ask the question, 'Do you carry a pillion passenger?' Now we have made that a rating factor, because obviously if you are to carry a passenger the likelihood is, if you make a claim, it's going to be considerably higher through personal injury costs."

He said car drivers were not asked whether they intended to carry passengers because "It's assumed, as most cars offer more than one seat, that there will be passengers." Asked why the same assumption was not made of motorcycles, he said: "We have seen increases in the number of pillion claims on sports and supersports bikes and as a result we've seen an increase in bodily injury, so this is based on what we're seeing from a claims experience. It's directly related to an increase in bodily injury claims for pillion passengers on those bikes.

"What we're seeing coming in is an increase in the number of claims on sports and supersports bikes."