Publish Date: January 2016
For some motorcycle riders, three wheels are even better than two. But before you hit the road on three wheels, you'll likely want to put certain protections in place. Whether you opt for a converted motorcycle, a factory-built three-wheeler, or an autocycle, insurance may help protect you and your vehicle.
There are a variety of three-wheeled vehicles that may be used on the roads. Some three-wheeled motorcycles, known as trikes, are built from ordinary motorcycles using conversion kits. Factory-built three-wheeled motorcycles are also being designed by manufacturers. These vehicles may have one wheel in front and two in the back, or the opposite, sometimes referred to as a "reverse trike."
Even if they have three wheels, however, trikes and three-wheeled motorcycles are still treated as motorcycles by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a Federal authority responsible for motor vehicle safety.
The NHTSA considers any motor vehicle with a seat or saddle and no more than three wheels to be a motorcycle. As a result, insurers generally issue motorcycle insurance to cover three-wheeled motorcycles and converted trikes.
Meanwhile, an autocycle is a type of three-wheeled vehicle that shares some features with cars, according to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA). For example, autocycles typically have a steering wheel, and the operator sits in a seat similar to a car seat. In some autocycles, a passenger may be able to sit beside the driver. Some autocycles are open-air vehicles, like a motorcycle; others have an enclosed cabin, like a car.
Like trikes and three-wheeled motorcycles, the NHTSA treats an autocycle as a motorcycle. Insurers typically issue motorcycle insurance policies for open-air autocycles. However, in some states, enclosed autocycles may be covered by insurers under an auto insurance policy. An insurance agent can help you determine which type of coverage is appropriate for your vehicle.
The National Conference of State Legislatures explains that some states recognize autocycles as a distinct kind of vehicle -- neither a motorcycle nor a car. As a result, laws may vary by state about what kind of training or license is needed to drive an autocycle, and whether the driver and any passengers are required to wear a helmet. Review the laws in your area to make sure you meet the state's requirements.
The Insurance Information Institute (III) explains that insurers may offer motorcycle insurance either as a stand-alone policy, or as an endorsement or rider to an auto insurance policy.
The III says that in most states, motorcycle riders must have liability insurance, which may help protect you if you're found at fault for an accident that results in injuries to another person or damage to someone else's property. Depending on your state's laws, you may therefore be required to have liability insurance for your three-wheeled vehicle.
Other types of coverage typically offered by motorcycle insurance include:
- Collision coverage, which may help protect the covered vehicle in the event that it’s damaged in a collision with a vehicle or object
- Comprehensive coverage, which may help protect the three-wheeled vehicle against risks such as fire and theft
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, which may help help provide protection if you're hit by another driver who is uninsured or whose coverage limits won't cover the damages. This type of coverage may help pay for your resulting medical expenses, damage to your vehicle, or both.
In some cases, a motorcycle that has been converted to a trike may need additional coverage to help protect after-market custom modifications. There are several other types of coverage that may be available as part of a motorcycle insurance policy. Read your policy or contact your agent to determine what kinds of coverage your policy provides.
Choosing the protections that are right for you and your vehicle can give you peace of mind, just in case the unexpected occurs. With coverage for your three-wheeled vehicle in place, you can then focus on enjoying your travels on the open road.