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As the summer approaches, some start dreaming about riding a


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down the highway with the warm wind whipping through their hair. But riding can get expensive -- from the motorcycle itself to the chrome add-ons.

Then, there's the insurance bill.

Insurance requirements vary from state to state and premiums can be affected by a variety of risk factors, including age, location, speeding-ticket record and the motorcycle's horsepower.

A mid-range policy for customers in their mid-40s who are married and own property could be anywhere from $250 to $700 a year, according to Rick Stern, motorcycle product manager at


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, the largest U.S. motorcycle insurer. However, "if you're a 21-year-old buying a sports bike, you're going to be paying a lot more," he adds.

The formula goes something like this: Your bill will be cheaper the older you are, the better your record, the longer you've been riding, the less flashy and speedy your bike and the less expensive and risky it is to cover damages in your area.

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"The insurer is looking to price the policy to reflect the risk," says Mike Barry of the Insurance Information Institute.

Still, there are steps you can take to lower the premium.

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Here are some tips to make sure you get the discounts available while adequately protecting your prize possession:

1. Responsibility counts. If your driving record - whether motorcycle or auto - is free of accidents, tickets and other infractions, you're likely to get a lower rate. Progressive, for instance, offers a 5% discount for those renewing policies who did not post a claim during the most recent term.

Most insurance companies also offer incentives for completing a safety course. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Web site offers a searchable


of course locations near you. Riders under 25 or those who have a less-than-stellar record stand to benefit most from these discounts.

3. Storing your bike in a garage or installing an anti-theft system can protect your asset and cut down your insurance bill. Not all companies offer these discounts, but it's worth asking.

4. Sometimes, the more vehicles under one policy, the better. If you already own a car, your insurer might offer discounts for covering the motorcycle as well.


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offers 10% discounts for insuring more than one motorcycle or transferring to Geico from another insurer, as well as a 5% discount for those who also insure a car with Geico. Still, shop around for the best rates and coverage before locking yourself into a plan.

5. Cheapest is not always best. For instance, liability insurance - which covers damages to another driver, but not yourself - is cheaper, but becomes even more of a liability with motorcycles than with autos. A low-speed accident that would cause minor injuries and physical damage in a car can inflict serious harm on a motorcycle. If you're at fault and don't have comprehensive coverage, you could be left out in the cold.

Extra insurance is also a good idea if you've got thousands of dollars worth of aftermarket parts, like chrome covers, leather saddlebags, mirrors and expensive tires, especially if you live in an area with a high risk of theft.

6. Seasons can offer discounts, but make sure it's worth the risk. Many insurers offer "layaway" programs that allow customers to put the bike away for the winter months. Accident-related insurance is suspended, but customers retain coverage for things like theft, vandalism and fire. Still, if there's a chance you might want to take a ride on an unexpectedly warm Saturday afternoon in January, it might not be worth the risk.

Progressive stopped offering these layaway plans - which save about $10 to $40 per year - because of how often customers would get into road skirmishes during layaway months. Others would waver back and forth between wanting coverage on nice winter days, then canceling it a few days later when the icy chill crept back.