Have you ever planned a vacation to a beautiful destination and wish you could bring your motorcycle with you? Have you ever wanted to test ride a motorcycle for an entire day but dealers aren’t even willing to let you take it around the block? Are you planning on visiting the United States and want to see the country on two wheels? Renting a motorcycle could be your solution.
In this post I’ll talk about how to rent a motorcycle and everything that’s involved in doing so. I’ll try to answer all your questions like, what’s required to rent, how much does it cost, insurance, safety, where to rent and anything else in between.
Requirements for Renting
Renting a motorcycle is similar to renting a car meaning that they don’t let just anyone jump in and drive off; you have to meet certain requirements. The most obvious requirement is a driver’s license and a credit card. Like car rental companies, motorcycle rentals require that you carry a valid driver’s license with an M1 rating, or motorcycle rating, that is recognized in the state you reside. Unfortunately, a learner’s permit won’t cut it and will not be accepted by any rental company.
If you are from a country outside the US, any motorcycle license that is recognized in your home country will be valid when renting. However, if your license is written in a language other than english, you should consider getting an IDP (international driver’s permit). This will eliminate any confusion or language barriers in the case of an accident or any encounter with law enforcement.
Most motorcycle rental companies will have age limits and you must be at least 21 years old to rent. Some companies have raised this to 25 years old. Often, if you are younger than 21, you can rent a scooter, moped, or other small engine vehicle as long as you are over 18. The reason for this is to ensure that the renter has at least a few years of riding experience or maturity.
The minimum insurance coverage for motorcycle rentals is liability insurance with a minimum amount of coverage and this may vary depending on the state in which you are renting. It is required by law. However, your own liability insurance that you have at home for your own motorcycle does not meet this requirement. Rental insurance is different and separate. Basic liability insurance is usually provided by the rental company and is included in the daily cost. This liability insurance will cover you if you cause an accident that results in injury or property damage to someone else.
While liability insurance is the minimum amount of coverage required, there is always a way to increase your coverage if you want. Some companies will charge a daily rate for supplemental liability insurance. This will increase the amount of coverage in the case of an accident. For example, if the basic liability insurance covers up to $15,000, then the supplemental insurance will cover up to $30,000, or $50,000 depending on which plan you choose.
Comprehensive insurance is also an add-on cost charged on a daily basis. This type of coverage will be in addition to the liability insurance and will cover you in the case of theft or damage to the motorcycle. For example, if the motorcycle turns up missing when you walk out of your hotel, this insurance will cover the cost of that theft. If the motorcycle is damaged by something other than your negligence; i.e. hit by a car, knocked over by someone, dented from a flying golf ball, smashed headlight from an angry, jealous bar patron after you hit on his girl, those damages will be covered by the comprehensive insurance.
Often you can bump up your insurance coverage again to include loss or damage to your personal property. With this upgrade, you will be covered if someone breaks into your saddlebags or luggage and steels your personal belongings.
Be aware that with any type of insurance coverage, there may be a deductible of anywhere from $500 to $5,000. So, even if the damage is covered, or even if the theft of the motorcycle is covered, you will be responsible for paying the deductible.
It’s extremely important to read the fine print when dealing with insurance coverage. And, if you’re not on a super tight budget, it may very well be worth the cost to get the full coverage available so you can rent and ride without worrying about any of that. Paying a little extra per day would be better than buying the company a new motorcycle. Consider it based on the deductible amount, how long you’re renting, where you’re riding (although anything can happen anywhere).
How Much Does it Cost?
The cost of renting a motorcycle will vary depending on what type of motorcycle you rent. Smaller bikes tend to be cheaper while the big bore bikes and fully loaded cruisers will cost more. But, in general you can expect to pay at least $125 per day for a small bike, and up to $300 or more for a big touring motorcycle. Select the bike that not only fits your budget, but fits your riding ability. Some rental companies will offer discounts for military or law enforcement or if you are a member of an auto club such as AAA. And if you’re an old fart, over 55 or 60, they may have senior discounts. Check with the company to see if any apply to you.
Security deposits are often required and are placed on a credit card when you rent the motorcycle. If all goes well, the security deposit bill be refunded to you after the bike is returned. Depending on what kind of insurance coverage you choose, the security deposit can be as much as $5,000 and that amount MUST be available on the credit card used for the deposit. So, if they charge $3,000 for your deposit, but your card limit is only $2500, that card won’t be valid. So, be ready to have that credit available at the time of renting.
Another common cost that people don’t always consider is the cancellation fee and late charges. Cancellation fees can be anywhere from 30% to 60% of the rental cost and some companies require cancellations 30 days in advance. So, cancel within a month of your trip or else you could be paying hundreds of dollars for not renting the motorcycle. This policy will be different for each rental company so before renting, make sure you understand it completely.
Late fees are another cost that can surprise the renter. Most rentals are made on a 24 hour basis and if you rent a bike for 2 days, you will likely be required to return it at the end of the second day. In addition, you may have to return the bike during business hours so this may limit your return time. Always make sure you not only understand how many days your renting, but ask the company exactly what day and time the late fees will begin to incur. You’ll want to know this because late fees can be as expensive as $25 per hour. Yes, per hour.
One last fee that some people don’t always expect is a surcharge. This is an extra daily charge if the motorcycle is rented during a special event such as a motorcycle rally or gathering. This is similar to what hotels do on holiday weekends, they increase the rates when they know their product is in high demand. So, if you’re renting to go to Sturgis, be ready for a surcharge.
When you rent a motorcycle the rental company is required to provide you with the motorcycle and one helmet. Of course, you can always use your own helmet if you prefer, but if you don’t have one, they are required to provide it. Also, even though some stated in the US do not have helmet laws, you may still be required to wear a helmet while operating the rental motorcycle, this is for insurance purposes. If you require a second helmet for a passenger, the rental company should have them available for a reasonable daily fee, like $10.
Rental companies may also have riding gear, jackets, pants, leathers and possibly gloves or boots that you can rent for a daily fee. The availability of these items will vary with each company. It’s also a good idea to ask if they recommend any local roads or routes that are fun on the motorcycle and they may provide route maps of nearby roads, so it’s a good idea to inquire about that.
The rental company should also provide you with an orientation of the motorcycle you’re renting. It’s important that you are familiar with the location of things like, the gas tank (don’t laugh, sometimes it’s under the seat), turn signals, horn, ignition, kill switch, fuel switch if it has one, etc. It’s important that you feel confident and comfortable on the bike before you ride off, so, even if it’s not a required part of the inspection, take the motorcycle for a quick spin around the parking lot or block before you leave and ask questions if you have them.
Limits and Restrictions
Each rental company will have its own set of restrictions and limitations so it’s important to read the rental agreement to understand exactly what they are. Here are some restrictions you can expect.
If you’re renting within the United States you will likely be required to stay within the US border. You will not be allowed to ride into Mexico or Canada unless you have made special arrangements with the rental company to do so.
You will likely be restricted to riding on certain roads depending on what kind of motorcycle you rent. For instance, if you rent a street bike, you will not be allowed to ride that bike on unpaved roads, fire roads, gravel roads, on sand or on any unauthorized road. Again, it’s up to the rental company to determine exactly what this means. Often, any supplemental insurance that you purchase will be void if you ride in a restricted area.
Also be aware of any mileage limits. Often you can purchase a rental plan that includes unlimited mileage, but make sure you are aware of any limitations before you sign the rental agreement. Some companies may go as far as to have you file a basic itinerary, but this may not be too common.
What’s Expected of You, the Renter?
You, as a renter, are expected to properly maintain the motorcycle while it is in your possession. While a good motorcycle rental company will make sure the bike is maintained and ready to go when you rent it, you are responsible for keeping it fueled up, keeping the chain lubed if you ride more than 1,000 miles, keeping the tires at optimal pressure, checking the oil level and other fluid levels daily before you ride. These are topics that should be covered in your orientation so there is no confusion regarding your responsibility and how to do these simple maintenance tasks.
You are also expected to follow traffic laws for each state in which you ride. This includes speed limits, parking, curb colors, cross walks, pedestrian right-of-way, left hand turn lanes, and those pesky left turn green lights where you have to wait for oncoming traffic. Whatever the rules are, you’re expected to know and follow them.
On a side note, lane splitting is legal in only one state: California. Also on a side note, if you are visiting from outside the US, make sure you are familiar with how to pump gas in the states. It’s easy to get confused with different types of fuel such as diesel or ethanol.
If you are interested in renting a three-wheeled motorcycle such as a trike, Can-Am Spyder, or a Polaris SlingShot, you will run into different requirements as far as licensing goes. But, the good new is, that in some states, you may not need a motorcycle license at all.
To ride a basic trike style motorcycle, such as the Harley Davidson Freewheeler or Tri-Glide you will need a motorcycle license, or a 3-Wheel vehicle license in most states, if not all of them. If you have a motorcycle license, you’re good to go. If you don’t, then you will need a 3-Wheel license. You won’t be able to rent one with a basic automobile driver’s license.
Riding a Can-Am Spyder requires the same licensing as above, unless you’re in California. In the state of California it is legal to ride a Spyder type vehicle with only a basic automobile driver’s license. It is the only state that allows this (as of 2018).
The Polaris SlingShot has much more lenient requirements, probably because the vehicle closely resembles a car rather than a motorcycle and is controlled with a steering wheel instead of handle bars. Therefore, to drive the SlingShot, you only need a basic automobile driver’s license in most states. But, the states of Montana, Wisconsin, Maine, New York, and Massachusetts require that you have your motorcycle license to drive one.
Not all motorcycle rental companies will rent 3-wheeled vehicles and you may have to seek out a dealership to inquire about rentals. In any case, you will likely be required to wear the same safety equipment as when riding a motorcycle, such as a helmet and proper riding gear.
Peer-to-Peer Motorcycle Rental
There is a new way to rent motorcycles that is gaining more popularity and that’s peer-to-peer motorcycle rentals. Think Air B-n-B for your bike. Companies such as twistedroad.com or riders-share.com provide platforms where people can list their own motorcycles for rent. You, as the renter, can search for an available bike in your area, communicate with the owner and make the rental arrangements.
There are several benefits to this type of ride sharing, or motorcycle sharing. First of all, the rental prices are much lower than rental companies and they are set by the owner of the motorcycle. Second, you will likely have a much wider variety of motorcycles to choose from and you may even be able to rent a vintage bike or custom motorcycle.
Payments and insurance are provided by the rental platform which takes that hassle out of the equation. Keep in mind that companies like riders-share.com will have stricter requirements than a basic rental company. For instance, renters must be at least 25 years old, have a minimum of 3 year’s riding experience, and renters must meet a list of criteria regarding traffic violations, DUI records and felony charges. So, if you consider renting from a peer-to-peer company, be sure to read their rental policies to make sure you meet those important criteria.
Can I Rent a Motorcycle for a Track Day?
If you’re interested in riding a motorcycle on the race track, (which by the way is one of the funnest things you could ever do as a rider) and you need to rent a motorcycle, you will have to rent from a company that provides motorcycle specifically for the track. I can’t imagine any average motorcycle rental company that would allow you to ride one of their rentals on a race track due to the risk of crashing.
Track Day Providers are companies that purchase use of a race track for the day to allow amateur riders to learn how to ride the track and how to race their bikes. The organizers offer coaching, instruction, emergency medical services, mechanical services, and everything else to allow you, the average rider, the rip around the track on your motorcycle as fast as you can (for a price). Often these companies will provide motorcycles for rent. These bikes are specifically set up to be safe on the track. They are stripped down, safety wired, and have no lights or rear view mirrors.
These rentals will often come with extras, not just the bikes. The rental package may come with a set of race tires, tire warmers, pit services as well as coaching and instruction. So, if you want to do a track day, but don’t want to ride your own motorcycle, a rental through one of the companies might be the way to go.
How far in advance should I book a motorcycle rental? This will depend greatly on the rental company that you choose, but keep in mind that it would be best to make a reservation several months in advance especially if you are riding in a popular location or for a rally or event. But, if you get a wild hair, there’s always a chance of last minute availability, but that would be hit or miss.
What if I get in an accident while renting a motorcycle? If you’re in an accident, follow the normal procedures in getting medical or emergency assistance if someone is injured. You will likely be required to notify the rental company as soon as you are able. Most rental companies will provide you with an emergency phone number to call for assistance in the case of an accident.
What if my rented motorcycle breaks down? Most motorcycle rental companies will provide a phone number for road-side assistance. Some rental companies will have special insurance for vacation interruptions. In these cases, depending on the coverage, the rental company may pay for your transportation or lodging. In the case of peer-to-peer rentals, you must notify the owner of the motorcycle immediately if the motorcycle breaks down or if you are involved in a traffic accident.