Pillion cover on motorbike insurance

Carrying a passenger on a motorbike has insurance implications for both the rider and the pillion. Make sure you've got the right cover on your motorbike insurance.

Amy Smith
Amy Smith
Updated 2 September 2019  | 4 min read

What’s pillion cover?

If you need to carry passengers on the back of your bike, you need to make sure your motorbike insurance includes pillion cover.

Without it, your cover could be void and you could be held personally liable if your passenger’s injured.

Key points

  • Pillion cover is a part of motorbike insurance that covers passengers
  • If pillion cover isn’t included as standard, you can usually add it on for a fee
  • Provisional licence holders cannot carry pillion passengers under any circumstances

How to get pillion cover on your insurance

Pillion cover might be included as standard under your motorbike insurance, but if it isn’t, most insurers will offer cover for an extra cost.

If you’re not sure you're insured to carry passengers, contact your insurer to find out and update your policy before you give anyone a ride.

If you don’t need pillion cover then you could save some money on your policy by leaving it off.

Pillion law

You must have a full motorbike or moped licence for the class of bike you’re riding to legally carry a passenger. Provisional licence holders can’t carry passengers under any circumstances.

Your bike needs to be designed to carry passengers, with a dual seat and rear footrests.

There aren’t any age restrictions placed on the passenger, but they must be able to sit securely astride the seat and their feet must reach the footrests.

It’s also a legal requirement that pillion passengers sit facing forward at all times and both you and the passenger wear helmets that meet UK safety standards. If you’re a Sikh and you wear a turban, you don’t need to wear a helmet.

Riders are responsible for the decision to carry a pillion passenger, which means being legally responsible for the passenger’s safety and behaviour.

If you’re going to be riding with a pillion passenger, you’ll need to have the right insurance to cover this.

Did you know...?

Passengers are not classed as a third party when riding pillion

How are passengers covered?

Pillion passengers have the same right to claim as the main policyholder and can claim up to the policy limits for damage and injuries.

They’re not classed as a third party and aren’t insured in relation to the bike, so a passenger couldn’t claim for damage to the bike.

If you don’t have the correct pillion cover and are involved in an accident with a passenger, your insurer might deem injuries your passenger receives to be third party costs.

As a result, your insurer can reclaim the costs from you as you’d be in breach of their policy terms and liable for any third party damages.

Rider responsibility

The rider is responsible for the behaviour and safety of their passenger, so if a passenger misbehaves and causes an incident, the rider could be blamed and held responsible.

Before starting your journey, let your passenger know what to expect. Make sure:

  • they have appropriate clothing and helmet
  • you show them how to sit comfortably and where to hold on to the bike
  • they know how the bike moves and corners
  • your passenger’s aware that being a pillion isn’t a passive experience - they need to prepare for the road ahead just as much as the rider

It’s also worth reassuring them, especially first-time passengers, that they should speak up if they feel uncomfortable or concerned.

What’s the difference between car and bike passenger cover?

Cars don’t have a separate level of cover for carrying passengers as the impact they make on the handling of the car is minimal, but this isn’t the case for biking.

With a passenger, a motorcyclist will experience the following:

  • More difficulty cornering due to added weight
  • A change to the bike’s centre of gravity
  • Longer braking distances, especially when riding downhill or on wet surfaces
  • Impact on throttle and clutch control
  • Chance of injury from passenger shunting forward if brakes are suddenly applied

Can your bike carry a passenger?

If it’s got rear footrests and a dedicated second seat, then you’re good to go. Some bikes also have grab rails or handles too.

It’s not recommended to carry a passenger on a low-powered motorbike without adjustable suspension as the bike will struggle to cope with the extra forces.

Check the handbook or search for information online to see if your motorbike has a maximum carrying capacity.

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