Getting a Great Deal on a Motorcycle Plus Our List of the Cheapest Beginner Motorcycles You Can Buy
Once that motorcycle bug hits you, it can be hard to shake. Many people don’t have a few thousand dollars of disposable income to just drop on a brand new toy on a whim. That means research, getting creative, and figuring out how to get the best bang for your buck. This guide should give you some good ideas to follow when buying a cheap and reliable bike.
Bargain Motorcycles Don’t Win Beauty Contests
The first thing you have to wrap your mind around is that you aren’t going to get the prettiest bike out there. Something like an MV Agusta Brutale or a new Ducati are going to be thousands of dollars more than you want to spend. Chances are you will drop your new motorcycle at least once in the process of learning. Do you want to drop the motorcycle equivalent of a Ferrari? Or would you rather drop a beater Toyota that is built like a tank anyway?
Now that you realize you’re bike won’t be winning any beauty contest, that doesn’t necessarily mean your bike will be ugly. There are lots of amazing and cheap motorcycles that are sexy as hell, especially if you add a few mods. Just like a mother with a baby, your bike will become beautiful to you, even if the rest of the world thinks it’s an ugly duckling.
Getting a Great Deal on a Motorcycle
By the time you read this article it may be a few years old (I’m typing it in early 2017). So the bike I recommend may not be the best deal anymore, so instead I’m going to give you the rules I use to buy bikes at a cheap price. Almost every motorcycle I’ve purchased I’ve gotten a great deal with, and I didn’t have to do any hard negotiating or scummy sales techniques. My first bike I purchased for $1,800, and I sold it less than a year later for $2,500.
Here are the rules when you want to buy an inexpensive and reliable motorcycle.
Rule #1: Don’t Buy a Motorcycle More Than 10 years old
I love old muscle cars. They are a blast to look at and to hear the engines rumble, but anyone that owns one will tell you that they fall apart. That’s just what happens when you buy a car that is half a century old. The same thing can be said for motorcycles.
There are some sexy looking cafe racers based on bikes from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. They are great projects, but they aren’t the most reliable (or the safest) motorcycles to ride unless you put in a lot of work and money. That is why the first rule is to limit your motorcycle search to bikes that were made in the last decade.
That’s 10 years of bikes. Yes, bikes that are 15, 20, or 25 years old may be cheaper, but with that decrease in prices comes a lot of potential problems. Cables start to rust, rubber gaskets crack and leak, weather begins to rust parts, and electrical systems can lose connections. Not fun.
I think 8-10 year old bikes are in the sweet spot of price and reliability. They don’t have a lot of the problems older bikes have yet, and they have also depreciated enough to put them in a great price range. Even 600-1000cc motorcycles (the more expensive ones) are only $3,000-5,000 when they are around ten years old.
Rule #2: Buy Unpopular Motorcycles or Really Popular Motorcycles
Another way to get a screaming deal is to pick bikes that were either really popular (and therefore there are a ton of them in the market), or to choose unpopular bikes that no one really knows about. Both sides of the spectrum have the potential of cheap motorcycles.
The SV650 wasn’t terribly popular when it first came out, but eventually that workhorse of a bike became much more desirable when people saw what it could do. You can find early SV650’s extremely cheap. A 2004 SV650 can be found for $2,575 according to Kelly Blue Book. That is the retail price, meaning that you should be able to get it even a little bit cheaper with private party sale. The 2004 GS500F (not a very popular bike) is only $2,175.
Rule #3: Buy Used Motorcycles To Get a Deal
I’ve purchased every motorcycle I’ve had used. It’s much cheaper and you have more room to negotiate than you do with a dealer. Of course there are some downsides, one of them being that there are no guarantees or warranties. This is particularly an issue if you aren’t mechanically inclined and you have no idea if a motorcycle has something wrong with it. The best way to remedy this is to bring a friend who is either a mechanic or wrenches on their own bike to look at the bike you are thinking of buying.
My first motorcycle I bought for about $1,800, and I sold it less than a year later for about $2,300 (if my memory serves). I actually MADE money on my first bike. Over the years I developed my own method for buying used motorcycles that I call the “Deal-Magnet” method. It doesn’t involve tense negotiation or being a jerk to buyers. It’s really simple and everyone leaves happy.
Rule #4: Look for Motorcycles With Under 40,000 Miles
Motorcycles are different than cars when it comes to judging mileage. A car with 50,000 miles is practically brand new still, but for a motorcycle that is roughly the equivalent of 150,000 miles! Think of it like human years and dog years. This is because motorcycles are ridden harder than cars, the engines aren’t as overbuilt, and quite honestly most motorcycles are totaled by riders before they reach that many miles.
(Note: There is an exception to this and that comes to touring bikes which regularly have many more miles than that)
A 10 year old bike could have anything from between 5,000 and 30,000 miles and still be a good buy. Anything more than that and you run risks. My well taken care of 2001 Kawasaki Ninja 600 had a catastrophic engine failure at around 45,000 miles. After talking with a mechanic, there was no outside circumstances that caused it that he could see, it’s just one of those things that happen.
That all being said, I also know of one rider in California who has a late 90’s Kawasaki Ninja 250 with over 100,000 miles on it with no problems. Having a bike with lower mileage doesn’t guarantee no mechanical issues, but it does lower the chance of you running into them which saves you money in the long run.
Rule #5: Don’t Buy Totaled or Salvage Motorcycles
You will find cheap motorcycles on the used market that have been totaled by insurance agencies then purchased back by the owner or a third party. They come with a salvage title. These bikes are often times 1/2 the price of what they should be, and there is a reason for that. They are a gamble. They could be perfectly mechanically sound to ride, or maybe they have a crack in the frame that could cause a failure of vital components. There is no way to know. It’s best to avoid them and insist that the motorcycle comes with a ‘clean title’.
The Best and Cheapest Beginner Motorcycle to Buy for 2017
So now that you have the rules to buy by, what are the best bikes to buy right now if you are interested in saving money? Based on a variety of factors, I think these are some of the best beginner motorcycles that you can find that are also some of the cheapest bikes to buy outright.
- 2004 Honda Nighthawk 250 – $1,250
- 2004 Suzuki SV650 – $2,575
- 2005 – Suzuki DRZ-400 $2,850
- 2008 Kawasaki Ninja 250 – $2,280
- 2005 – Kawasaki Ninja 500 – $2,350
- 2005 Kawasaki Vulcan 500 – $2,215
- 2005 Yamaha TW200 – $1,830
- 2005 Yamaha V-star 650 Classic – $2,965
- 2006 Honda Rebel 250 – $1,880
- Suzuki GS500F – $2,175
These are all the Kelly Blue Book prices for my particular zipcode (Idaho) at this time (early 2017). These prices may vary depending on where you are. Use these prices as a guide and a starting place for negotiations. Depending on your circumstances you maybe be able to get some of these bikes for even cheaper than the prices I listed.
Don’t forget: Save money for Motorcycle Gear and Training!
Now that you have a starting point for a motorcycle to buy, it’s incredibly important to save money for gear. Motorcycle gear is what keeps your skin on your body, your brain in place, and your bones in one piece.
Of course a motorcycle and gear are useless without the proper training. I always recommend people get in person instruction on how to ride. There are courses offered by MSF, Harley Davidson, and STARS depending on where you live. Often those training courses cost between $100-200 and last a weekend. The skills you learn in them though will last a lifetime and set you up for a safe and healthy motorcycle career. What I learned about target fixation in my MSF course has literally saved my life on more than one occasion.
Other Starter Motorcycle Articles:
Best And Cheapest Beginner Motorcycle To Buy
Best Starter Motorcycles In 2015
Best Starter Motorcycles In 2016 And 2017
Guide – Inexpensive Motorcycle Gear
The 5 Pieces Of Gear You Need To Ride A Motorcycle
Ultimate Guide To Motorcycle Gloves
Ultimate Guide To Motorcycle Helmets