Car bike racks are absolutely amazing when it comes to bikes transportation outside of your car.
However, you have to bear in mind that installed bike racks might have legal consequences. The first that comes to my mind is that car bike racks can affect car insurance validity.
It means that in case you get in a car accident with bike racks installed your car insurance can get void under some circumstances. You definitely don’t want it to happen.
Jumping forward, car bike racks are absolutely legal and you can get a car with bike racks mounted insured. It must be done in the right way though.
In short, my ultimate advice comes down to this:
- In case you already have your car insured and you buy and install bike racks after. Always properly notify your insurer about even minor changes (including bike racks). It is definitely better to do it before you install anything on your car. Even though car bike racks are not deemed to be a modification following common sense, many insurance providers include a tricky clause that deems anything you do with your car as a modification, which may cost you your insurance to get void.
- If you don’t have your car insured yet, then everything becomes very straightforward. Simply let the insurance company know that you have (or are about to have) bike racks installed so that it will be included in the insurance coverage. Chances are high that you will be directly asked whether you have or not any modifications/changes. Simply don’t forget to mention bike racks mounted or your plans to do it in the future.
Is a car bike rack a modification?
There are different bike rack types that are getting installed in very different ways. As a result, bike rack type will affect whether it is deemed to be a modification from the legal perspective.
Moreover, there is no unity across the board, and different insurance companies can have different policies. Therefore, the main factor which affects whether a particular bike rack is a modification or not is the policy of a particular insurance company.
In general, anything that is permanently installed is a modification (for example, hitch receivers). Anything that is temporarily installed (for example, roof racks) is an accessory.
Is a roof bike rack a modification? A roof rack system includes roof racks or crossbars plus bike racks themselves. Both can be easily detached in a matter of a few minutes. So they are definitely not permanent. However, an insurance provider can consider it being a modification anyway. So you need to notify the company even if common sense tells us it is not a modification.
Is a hitch bike rack a modification? A hitch rack system includes a trailer hitch plus a hitch rack itself. An installed trailer hitch is getting installed on your car permanently so it is for sure a modification. A hitch bike rack is not permanent, can be easily removed. As a result, you definitely have to contact your insurance company speaking about hitch racks.
Is a trunk-mount bike rack a modification? A trunk-mount bike rack is the least permanent bike rack system. It only consists of a bike rack itself, which can be easily removed from your car. However, as I have mentioned earlier, the insurance provider can have a very different perspective. So to speak, don’t take your chances and simply notify the company anyway.
Does a car bike rack affect insurance validity?
Even though most car bike racks are not permanent by their nature, insurance companies basically always deem any changes to be a modification anyway (it is true in all countries: US, UK, Canada, Australia).
They also include in their policies a clause that states that car owners must notify about any modifications made. Otherwise, the insurance gets void.
As a result, does not matter which bike rack type you have, does not matter if it is permanent or not, does not matter if it does not make any sense. You have to let the insurance company know about any changes you make to your car.
Does a roof bike rack affect insurance validity? Yes, most insurance companies make it clear in their policies that all changes must be approved by the insurance company.
Does a hitch bike rack affect insurance validity? Yes, since this bike rack type involves a trailer hitch to be installed (which is a permanent modification), you need to get approval from the insurance company.
Does a trunk-mount bike rack affect insurance validity? Yes, most insurance companies deem any changes as a modification. As a result, you have to notify the insurance provider.
Are bike racks (including bikes) covered by car insurance in case of a road accident?
There are different approaches to this issue depending on a particular state:
- In some states (for example, in Michigan) any damage to your bike racks and bikes on it is not covered since these elements are not permanently affixed to the car. To get it covered you would a separate insurance policy for your racks and bikes,
- In other states, you can expect any damage to your bike racks or bikes on it caused by a road accident to be completely covered so that you won’t need a separate insurance policy.
Are bike racks covered by car insurance in case of theft?
No, standard car insurance does not cover theft of car bike racks, which is quite unsurprising.
You can buy a separate insurance policy for the bike racks. It might be a smart thing to do if theft is a concern in your area.
Are bikes on car racks covered by car insurance in case of theft?
No, standard car insurance does not cover theft of bikes put on bike racks.
You can buy a separate insurance policy for your bikes.
The bottom line is that car bike racks can indeed get you in trouble. If you failed to notify your insurance company, in most cases, it will cause your car insurance policy to get void. Why? Because the majority of insurance providers clearly require car owners to notify about any changes to the car.
As a result, even it might seem a very minor change (for example, trunk-mount racks installation), be sure that your insurance company has approved it.