Want to save money? Don't buy a motorcycle

With gas prices at the level they are, many of you might be considering buying a motorcycle to save a bit of money. While it's true that you can get enough performance to crush even the fastest super cars, while getting Toyota Prius gas mileage, the true cost of motorcycle ownership might startle you.

First start with yourself. As a motorcyclist, at the very least, you're going to need a helmet, jacket, gloves and boots. Don't think that's necessary? Look at yourself in the mirror. Look at how squishy you are. The fact that you're 80% water means you're essentially a water balloon. We all know what happens to them. Not convinced? Well try this: strip down naked, run as fast as you can down the road, and throw yourself on the ground. Hurts, doesn't it? All that road rash will sting for a few days (or months if it's at motorcycle speed). Figure on spending around $600 for a decent mid-level protective gear set.

As far as the bikes themselves are concerned, motorcycles require replacement maintenance parts far more frequently than cars do. Neglecting maintenance on your motorcycle is like being a professional sky-diver and forgetting to take care of your parachute, or forgetting to feed your 6000 pound pet tiger, who sleeps in your bed.

While a car usually needs new tires every 30-50 thousand miles, most sporting motorcycles will wear out their tires in around six thousand miles, with ten thousand miles as an extreme before the belts are showing. Name brand tires will normally cost you $300 or more installed, or roughly $.05 per mile.

The drive-chain which connects the transmission to the rear wheel, lasts around 15 thousand miles. The sprockets should be changed when the chain is replaced since the sprockets wear with the chain. The cost of a good name-brand chain and equal quality sprockets will be in the neighborhood of $250, or roughly $.017 per mile.

Changing the oil in a motorcycle is important because the oil in most motorcycles lubricates not only the engine, but the transmission and the clutch as well. Because the oil gets smashed up in the transmission and because it collects clutch matter as well as engine debris, changing the oil is done quite often. Two thousand miles is the normal interval for most motorcyclists. This comes at a cost of $50 or so, or roughly $.025 per mile.

The engine on your motorcycle will probably need to have its valves adjusted every 15 thousand miles or so. The average cost is $300 to get it done at the dealer. Hopefully you can do this yourself in an afternoon. If not, you will have to add a cost per mile of $.02.

The total price is $.11 per mile of just absolute basic maintenance. Taking a trip to Miami from Tampa? a 600 mile round trip will cost you $66 in maintenance alone. Fancy a two day, 1000 mile trip to the Grand Canyon? That will cost you $110 in maintenance alone.

Most sporting motorcycles these days are so mind blowingly fast that if you twist the throttle, it'll take your brain a while to catch up to the speed. By the time your brain does, you're already in a completely different zip code. A motorcycle truly is a two wheeled teleportation machine that can achieve MPG in the high 30's, but you will pay for it my friends, one way or another you will.

Comments

Forget motorcycles. I want to know more about the 6000 lb. tiger. But seriously, what is the comparable cost for an automobile like the Prius when you factor in the same costs of maintenance? Interesting article.
I'm not disputing the authors points, but there are other motorcycles besides a sport bike. Standard or cruiser motorcycles are still fast enough to thrill and/or kill, but are are not nearly as hard on equipment and get much better MPG as well. They also tend to make better commuter bikes as well. If you live in an area with a long riding season, getting 50 MPG on a 5~6k motorcycle beats driving a hybrid in my book any day.
I completely agree with you. This article is pretty biased towards stereotypical ideas on bikes...it doesn't seem to reflect any REAL knowledge, just regurgitated information from other websites.
I've owned sport-tourers and cruisers over the 18 years I've been riding. In the last 8, I've kept spreadsheets on both my bikes and my cars. Over the 8 years of data (including gas, oil, tires, maintenance, option add-ons, insurance, etc) my bikes have averaged 6.4 cents per mile. The most economical car I've ever owned, a Toyota Camry with a 4-cylinder engine, averaged 13.3 cents per mile. Sport bikes are expensive; yet so are sports cars, and not everyone has one of those. If I targeted only Corvettes and Ferraris, you can bet my per-mile cost would be out of sight, particularly for the Ferrari which are notorious maintainence queens. Yes, the gear costs money, and $600 is about right. It's the price of being more protected, which to me is far more important than mere economic considerations. Cost per mile varies with the bike, and also with the cost of gas. The more miles you ride, the lower your average cost. But in putting down some 258,000 miles of motorcycle riding in nearly two decades, I know for a fact what's cheaper to run.
20 years riding, no accidents. Bikes are more dangerous, but no different than a large Hummer or truck riding over your Prius. Economically a bike makes sense in the right environment. Its all up to you. All joking aside a co-worker of mine was killed by a truck two years ago at a stoplight in a Honda insight, Truck drove right over him. Rest in peace Dave! If you ride a bike, you probably like the feel of it and the freedom - something that wasn't mentioned in the article but has made dedicated riders out of millions. There are also those who ride bikes, and then there are bikers. Its a lifestyle, not just an economic choice. I ride to work every day unless there is snow; and I own a car. For me its a choice and its cheaper to ride the bike than the car if that's your concern. Just make sure yo buy the right bike.
To SOME extent this article is true. However, this article is highly biased to the stereotypical ideas of motorcycle ownership. True, if one buys gear from a dealer they WILL spend more. However, when I became a motorcyclist a year ago, I purchased my boots, protective jacket, and full faced modular helmet for under $200.00 at leatherup.com. If you find gloves that are 100% genuine leather, and are comfortable, they'll work (you don't have to buy motorcycle gloves). As far as motorcycles go in general, this article is HIGHLY biased towards the stereotypical "people-who-have-never-ridden" or those who deem motorcycle riding too dangerous to be worth it. Obviously it is crucial for someone to do their homework and select the bike that fits their style and budget and ability the best. I would not suggest a novice rider to buy a 1200cc sports bike but I would suggest someone to buy a bike that is safe for their ability. Changing oil is not expensive. Motorcycle oil can be purchased at Advanced Auto at around $10.99 (Mobil oil btw) and changing it yourself is easier than in a car. As far as chain driven bikes go, if you check your bike daily (which all should) you'll see if the chain is dry or wet. If it's dry, DON'T RIDE! Lubing your chain isn't difficult and can be done at home with a manual. I understand there ARE idiots out there who will either: A) believe the nonsense in the above article or B) Be one of those people who give riding a bad name by purchasing a bike too big for their ability, not wearing the right gear, not taking care of their bike, and consequently get hurt or die. All in all, the above article does have some truths but I would NOT advise someone to take its advice completely. Do your homework, network with other bikers and find what suits you best.
You're right, of course, but I wonder: why do motorcycle engines need so much maintenance? The valves in my car don't need to be readjusted that often. Is there a reason motorcycle engines are so picky?
Motorcycle engines are smaller, and use smaller components than car engines. If you compare the size of the Goldwing's 1.8 liter engine to the 2.0 liter plant under the hood of a Dodge Neon, you can see the difference in size. Adding to that, the engines are pretty much exposed to the elements all the time. Some bikes have radiators, many do not. So the ability of the engine to withstand heat is contingent on the bike's ability to move. Think about it. If your're sitting in traffic on an air-cooled bike, the engine is running, increasing the heat which has no place to go. That's really, really hard on the mechanicals. One of the reasons riders want to have the freedom to split lanes in heavy traffic is tied directly to this heat abatement issue. Plus, the way they're ridden has a lot to do with how well they survive. Weight is a big consideration in a motorcycle engine. Thus, a lot of the kinds of things (like hydraulic valves) don't make their way into the bike's engines, especially the sport bikes, because weight means losing horsepower. And finally, most riders store the bike during the winter months, which means that from late October until mid-April, the bike is sitting in a garage somewhere (or outside in the snow) while the oil slowly drips off the engine. Long layoffs like this are also very bad for an engine. Hope this helps!
Motorcycle types are different from each other just as car types are. A Corvette Z06 is going to cost more to operate than a Dodge Neon. I've kept spreadsheets on my cars and my bikes for the last 20 years. Even adding in all the maintenance and repairs, the bikes still managed costs of between six cents and 11 cents per mile, depending on the price of gas over the years. My cars range from thirteen cents per mile for a 4-cylinder Camry (during a time when gas was a killer $1.34 per gallon) to my wife's current 4-banger Sonata, which averages between fifteen and seventeen cents per mile. Not all bikes require valve adjustments. Some come equipped with hydraulic valves. Not all bikes use drive chains. Mine have all been drive-shafted, which requires the final drive fluid to be changed out every 20k miles. The one exception is my current ride, a 2006 Vulcan 900, which still carries the original drive belt (and still has never needed an adjustment). The bikes I've owned were powered by engines ranging from 750 to 1100 cc's and I always achieved mid-40 to mid-50 mpg, depending on things like speed, aggressiveness, and not having to ride directly into a 50-knot wind. Sport bikes get low mileage because they're generally driven fast. Baggers (full-size touring bikes) get low mileage because they have large motors and they're between 800 and 950 pounds. Those bikes in the middle, whether cruisers, sport-tourers or dual-sports, will, if driven responsibly, do much better with the gas. Sport bikes require tires with soft compound rubber. Consequently, they'll burn through sets pretty rapidly. But by using your comsumer savvy, you can find tires made out of harder compounds that will last longer. I have used Metzelers for most of the 20 years I've ridden and I get consistently 15k out of front tires and 10k out of the rears. A friend of mine who uses Dunlop 205's on his Ducati, is lucky to get 2,000 miles out of his. The point about gear is well-taken. However, most folks only replace or upgrade their gear, especially brain buckets, every 5 years or so. My last set of chaps lasted me almost 8 years. You have to make the decision as to why you want to ride. If you're looking to reduce the cost of commuting and running errands, you will choose something in the mid-size (600 - 1000 cc) either a cruiser, naked standard, or sport-tourer. If you won't be happy unless you've crossed three midwestern states on a given day, you'll get a full-bagger, pay 25 to 30 large, and burn premium gas. If, on the other had, your only desire is to induce eye-ball squishing g-forces and to race around like a mad squid, ignoring traffic, bad asphalt, and deer, then of course you'll get a sport bike and get about 30 mpg. And replace the chain. And the sprockets. And get the valve adjustments. And a couple of years, when you've ridden the thing into the ground, donate it to the scrap yard because nobody -- and I mean nobody with a brain ever buys a used sport bike from a young buck. Like Indiana Jones, you must..."choose wisely."
This accurate is fairly accurate except for oil changes. You do NOT need to change your oil every 2K for a bike.....unless you feel to waste time/money and have OCD. Every 3K is more than enough. I change mine every 5K miles with synthetic on my CBR.....been riding it 5 years and still runs like new. Most manuals recommend 5K mile intervals as well. So, I don't know where the oil change info is coming from. But yeah if you're looking to save money, you're better off with a cheap import car then a bike IMO.
I agree it depends on what kind of motorcycle or scooter your getting. In examples a scooter such as a 150cc honda pcx would only cost 8 dollars australian per tank and the tank size is 5.9 litres and it has saved my wife 1500,00-1000,00 dollars worth of travel costs on transport per year, on a pcx which includes insurance, rego, maintenance, parts etc per year costs between 750,00-1000,00 inc of petrol also with a travel distance of 12,000 km per year in total. Per week on petrol as mentioned above is 8 dollars on avg per week, that is with a travel distance of 200km per week. So basically each individual has there own choices when it comes to buying, my choices cheaper then catching public transport and spending upto 2500,00 a year in transport fees when I can spend up to 1000,00 dollars per year on everything listed above.