Buying your first motorcycle can be an overwhelming experience and you can get lost in all the different options and opinions. But knowing what to look for and how much to spend on your first motorcycle will make things much easier.
Your first motorcycle should cost around $1,500 to $3,000 if you’re buying a used bike, or between $4,000 and $7,000 for a new bike. This will largely depend on your own budget. You should also factor in a further $1,500 to $2,000 for other costs such as insurance and safety gear.
There are a lot of factors to consider when buying your first motorcycle, all of which can drastically affect the cost. We’ll go into more detail about each one below and explain the key things to look out for when buying your first motorcycle.
How Much Money Should Your First Motorcycle Cost?
There is no absolute answer to how much you should spend on your first motorcycle, but there are some guidelines you can follow to help you. The most important thing is getting the right bike for you, and that will vary for each person.
A Rough Guide
Your first motorcycle should cost between $1,500 – $3,000 for a used bike or $4,000 – $7,000 for a new bike. There are exceptions to the rule, and everybody has a different budget to play with. You should also consider the cost of insurance and safety gear, as this will drive up your overall outlay quite a lot.
The first thing you should think about is your budget. Within this, you need to account for the maintenance and insurance of the bike as well. Knowing where you stand financially before you start looking gives you an immediate idea of what you can spend on your first motorcycle.
Motorcycle prices vary across manufacturers, model ranges, types of bikes, and a whole host of other variants. So, it can be difficult to narrow down what a good price is for your first bike. But by having a budget in mind before you start, it’ll keep you focused, and you’ll not be tempted by everything in the showroom.
Different Types Of Bike
Not all motorcycles are best suited for your first bike. You may think you know what you want, but when you come to actually ride your motorcycle that might change. There are so many different types of motorcycles, each with their own subculture and each holds its own appeal on an individual basis.
When you’re buying your first motorcycle, you need something that you don’t need to worry about too much. You want something fairly basic with neutral ergonomics, and one that if you do take a spill won’t require you to get another job to cover the repair costs. You really need to be concentrating on the ride instead of the bike itself.
Getting Out There
You would be hard pressed to find a biker who has or only ever had one bike. Your first motorcycle’s purpose is to get you out riding, and not to last you a lifetime. After that the world of motorcycles opens up and you might find yourself with a racing bike and a custom cruiser in your garage, with a dirt bike on the back of your truck. But your first one just needs to get you riding.
Enter into the experience of buying your first motorcycle with an open mind about the style and how you’ll look riding it, as your first bike won’t necessarily be your forever bike. Focus more on other factors, like how it’ll actually ride and other more important aspects of the bike itself.
4 Factors To Consider When Buying Your First Motorcycle
Comfort is probably the most important factor to consider when buying your first motorcycle, but not necessarily the one you first think about. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How comfortable are you on the bike?
- Do you feel like you can control it?
- Is it too heavy for slow maneuvers or pushing around the driveway?
- Can you get both feet flat on the ground?
- Are you in a comfortable seating position, with easy access to all the controls?
- Does it instill confidence or fear?
You may have dreamt of riding the dark, moody, beastly MT-10, for example. But the fact is, it’s super heavy and quite tall, so maybe its little brother, Yamaha’s MT-03, would be more suitable. It’s from the same line with similar styling, but is much lighter, lower and more affordable. Thus, your dream bike might not be the ideal starting point simply because it’s too big and heavy.
Your Height And Weight
If you’re quite tall, you’ll want a motorcycle with a taller seat-height, and you’ll want to sit on the bike to make sure you don’t feel cramped. If you’re on the short side, a lower seat height is the right choice so you can reach the ground more easily and check the handlebars are within easy and comfortable reach.
If you’re tense on the bike, from being cramped or from struggling to reach the controls, fatigue will kick in quickly and become a distraction, which is obviously bad from a safety standpoint. Further to this, it’ll also just ruin your enjoyment.
Even the smallest displacement bikes can be heavy so make sure you can move the bike around and ensure it feels manageable. If you’re struggling to get the bike off the side stand, maybe that one isn’t for you. Alternatively, if you try something like a Honda CRF300L and feel it’s a bit flimsy and too light, you might need something a bit heavier to instill full confidence over the road.
Riding schools will teach you to ride on bikes like the ever-popular Suzuki SV 650 because they have neutral ergonomics. You’ll be in an upright seating position, which is very natural, and your handlebars will be in a comfortable position where you’re not stretched or too close to them, and the same with the footpegs.
The position also makes for great visibility and a good range of movement. The entire purpose of these ergonomics is for comfort and the added bonus is it boosts your riding confidence because you’re not distracted by anything, leaving you free to focus on the road.
Power is the most controversial aspect people face when buying their first bike. You’ll hear the following:
“Don’t buy anything less than 600cc”
“1000cc is way too powerful”
“Why would you bother with a 350cc?”
All riders have their own experience that causes them to give their opinion, and all manufacturers have their own agenda to sell their bikes, and reality is there is no right or wrong when it comes to a bike’s power. Your confidence and comfort levels are more important than the size of your bike’s engine.
With that said, a Yamaha R1 is a road rocket and has a throttle that is very unforgiving as the power delivery is massive, so perhaps it’s not a suitable bike for nervous novices. On the flipside a 250cc lightweight machine might not be best for a tall, heavy set rider as you could find the suspension bottoming out, or no power when you need it riding uphill or for overtaking.
Don’t Feel Pressured
Don’t be pressured by outside sources – or your own ego – into getting the biggest bike your budget allows, as you don’t need a massive motorcycle to have fun. In fact, the smaller displacement bikes are often more fun. Chasing the top end on a small cc bike for many riders is more thrilling than riding a big cc bike that they never see the full potential of.
If you want to know what small bikes can do, read The Motorcycle Diaries. The book tells the story of Che Guevara riding his single cylinder 1939 Norton 500cc, which delivered just 14 horsepower, through South America.
It’s worth noting that some manufacturers will market one of their models at new riders, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are actually fit for purpose for everyone, they are more just great entry level models for that brand specifically.
The Indian Scout Sixty for example is marketed as Indian’s entry level bike, but the Scout Sixty is still a 1000cc V-twin with 78 horsepower priced at around $9,000. It’s really heavy and powerful, which doesn’t automatically rule it out for new riders. But the weight is something to consider, as is the power and the price.
It’s Not All About The CCs
Another point is that the displacement isn’t the only thing that matters. The Indian Scout Sixty and the Yamaha R1 are both 1000cc bikes. One is made for winning races and one is aimed at new riders, the R1 puts out 199 horsepower vs the Scout’s 78 horsepower.
Thus, it’s important to do your research and try out the bike if you can. Make a mental note of the engine’s power of course, but once again it’s more comfortable to note how comfortable you are on the bike.
3. New vs Used
The New vs Used debate for your first motorcycle is a tricky one, and it’ll ultimately come down to your budget and personal preference.
The benefits of a new motorcycle:
- Dealer/manufacturer warranties
- Unlikely to have any mechanical issues and in theory should be reliable
- Service schedules with the dealer means your servicing is taken care of
- Different finance options will usually be available
- Parts and accessories are usually more readily available
The downside to getting a new bike:
- If you write it off or even drop it, you’ll likely be more upset than if you bought a used bike
- New bikes are usually much more expensive
There are some awesome motorcycles out there aimed at new riders that are more reasonably priced, and some that are more expensive, so budget will definitely come into play at this point.
Some great first bikes that are usually priced on the low end include:
- Yamaha YZF-R3
- Kawasaki Z400
- Honda Rebel 300 or Rebel 500
- Honda CB300R
If you have a bigger budget, you could look at:
- Suzuki SV 650
- Harley Davidson Iron 883
- Triumph Street Twin
But if you would prefer to go down the used route, they come with their own advantages too.
Benefits of used bikes for your first motorcycle:
- If you buy from a dealer, they will usually include some form of warranty
- Cheaper than new bikes
- You usually won’t have to worry constantly about damaging it, as it’s not brand new
- You can pick up low mileage used bikes that are as good as new, while saving a fortune
- You can learn about maintenance and repairs if you have a bike that needs some work (we wouldn’t necessarily recommend buying a fixer upper as a first motorcycle, but a little basic maintenance like air filter change, and chain adjustment is a good learning curve)
Downsides to buying a used bike:
- Depending on your mechanical knowledge, you could end up buying a bike that needs work beyond your capabilities, or one that you spend more time working on than riding
- It’s true that you get what you pay for, and it might not last you very long if you buy too cheap!
For example, there are multiple used Triumph Bonneville’s on the used market priced between $3,000 – $4,000, most of which are in immaculate condition. But there are also some cheaper Bonnie’s on the market for about $2,500.
For a first purchase, the extra $500 or so is well worth it. It could be the difference between a bike that’s good for 10,000 miles and one that will barely get you home before needing a full engine rebuild.
Too Good To Be True
It may not be that dramatic, but if it looks and feels too good to be true, then it probably is, so don’t risk it. You want to ride, not start a new career as a mechanic!
The used market is flooded with great first motorcycles. You’ll likely be able to pick one of the bikes above that’s only a few years old, with low mileage, for $2,000 less than the latest model.
It’s worth looking around, and this is especially true for those looking for bikes like a Harley Sportster. Having been in production for 64 years, there are hundreds of them around. Picking up an approved used model from your local Harley Davidson dealer will save you some money for the same bike. You also have the reassurance that a Harley technician has serviced the bike to a high standard.
You should also think about manufacturers when choosing your first bike, as this will have a massive impact on the price. Japanese manufacturers such as Kawasaki and Honda are, as a loose rule, cheaper than the competition from the Americans and British.
They tend to have model ranges that cater for every rider. Europe and Asia usually want smaller displacement machines, as the roads are more suited to them among other things, and so this is great for buying your first motorcycle as they are more affordable.
Parts for Japanese bikes are also widely available for new and used bikes, so you never usually need to go without something you need for long when you have a Japanese motorcycle.
The big American giants of Harley Davidson and Indian Motorcycle are also pretty good shouts for your first bike, especially on the used market.
They become more affordable on the used market, and parts are also widely available and affordable. There are also many non-affiliated companies that make parts and accessories for Harley and Indian, they are of great quality but don’t carry the cost associated with the official parts from the dealer.
Triumph would also be an acceptable manufacturer to look at, and within a reasonable price point with accessible parts. The US is the biggest market for the British marque, but expect to pay more than their American/Japanese counterparts.
It’s generally advised to avoid bikes from Ducati for your first motorcycle. They are expensive to buy, and parts are often expensive, sometimes having to be imported from Italy. This is because there aren’t many third-party companies manufacturing parts for Ducati bikes.
Other Costs To Think About
Motorcycling is expensive. Aside from the initial outlay for the bike, there are other things you need to factor into your budget like insurance, maintenance costs and your safety kit. You should budget around $1,500 – $2,000 for these costs.
Insurance costs will go down after your first year riding, so while it may feel steep to start with, don’t worry as it will eventually go down. This definitely requires shopping around for the best rates, as prices vary a lot between providers.
Maintenance costs can be kept under control if you keep on top of the general maintenance yourself. It’s really that simple. If you look after the bike, you’ll spend less to keep it up and running.
Invest in quality reputable safety gear. Textiles, leathers, and Kevlar jeans are all things to invest in. Advancement in safety kit over the last decade means you don’t need to look like Robocop or the Michelin Man when riding your bike and still be safe.
Overall, spend the biggest part of your budget for kit on a helmet. The importance of a good helmet can’t be overstated. Try loads on at a shop and pick the one that fits best. It doesn’t need to be the most expensive, as if the cheapest fits best, then go for that. You won’t regret it, so protect your head.
Choosing your first motorcycle can be an exciting but overwhelming experience. Knowing what you should be looking for and how much to spend can make it much easier to pick the right bike for you. Consider your budget first, and then focus on getting something that is going to be comfortable. Your first bike probably won’t last forever, so focus less on looks and more on comfort and rideability.