Economically Speaking, is a Motorcycle the Preferred Choice?

Tue, Mar 1, 2011

Financial Advice

You can save A LOT of money by riding a motorcycle instead of a car. For example, If you’re choosing between, say, a 2011 Kawasaki KLR 650 motorcycle (MSRP $5,999, over 60 mpg) and a 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class automobile (MSRP $110,400, mpg – 11 city/17 highway), a computer algorithm is not required to determine which option is cheaper. If saving money is the object, get the Kawasaki! However, in most situations, it’s not as simple as comparing the prices and mpg’s of motorcycles and cars. For example, you should also keep in mind that motorcycles are typically more expensive to maintain.

Let’s take a look at some important factors to consider and comparisons to make when deciding between a car and a motorcycle:

Car and Motorcycle Prices

Both motorcycles and cars have wide price ranges. The National Automobile Dealers Association reports that the average price of a new car in the United States in 2010 was about $28,400. According to the Wallstreet Journal, in 2007 the average price of a motorcycle was $12,304. So on average, a motorcycle is less than half the price of a car.

Miles Per Gallon

It depends on the car and the motorcycle, but on average a motorcycle gets substantially better gas mileage than a car. According to U.S. government statistics, in 2010 the average new passenger car got 33.7 miles per gallon. And automobile drivers report an average of 22.4 miles per gallon. On the other hand, Allstate Insurance reports that the average motorcycle rider reports fuel consumption of just over 56 miles per gallon. Some motorcycles can even get over 100 miles per gallon!

Motorcycle Insurance Cost

There are many factors to consider when comparing the cost of automobile insurance to motorcycle insurance. Motorcycle insurance is typically less expensive than automobile insurance if the motorcycle is not a high-end type. Liability insurance for a motorcycle costs between $100 and $400 per year. Obviously, the premium will increase if additional coverage such as collision or comprehensive is added.

Motorcycle Expenses

Here are some additional expenses associated with purchasing and riding a motorcycle:

  • $1500 for the basics equipment: jacket, helmet, boots, pants, and gloves.
  • $1,000 for rain gear.
  • Training courses cost about $200 dollars.
  • Motorcycle tires last for only a quarter of the miles of automobile tires, and yet they cost twice as much.
  • Maintenance needs come up more frequently for motorcycles than for cars

Total Cost of Driving a Car

In 2009, the average total cost per mile of driving a car was 56.6 cents. The average total cost per year (assuming 15,000 miles on the road) was $8,487. These numbers are based on driving in stop and go conditions and include fixed costs like a driver’s license, insurance, taxes, registration, finance charges, and depreciation. (Source: American Automobile Association).

Total Cost of Driving a Motorcycle

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find current statistics on this. Lets look at the real cost of owning a motorcycle from the experience of a knowledgeable motorcycle rider on his cross-country trip:

  • New 2006 Kawasaki KLR650: $4800
  • Taxes and fees: $800
  • Licensing in the state of Illinois: $100
  • New helmet, pair of gloves, and a Aerostich Roadcrafter suit: $1,000
  • Waterproof soft luggage: $150
  • Liability and comprehensive insurance: $400
  • Metric tools and an air pump: $200
  • Fuel for over 13,000 miles in 2006, with an average fuel price of $2.50 per gallon per 53 miles ridden: $613
  • Routine maintenance — including the motorcycles first service and a new tire: $600
  • MSF’s Guide to Motorcycle Excellence: $15

The cost of riding a lightweight fuel-efficient, easy to service $4800 motorcycle for one year was $8678. Take out the cost of the motorcycle and the cost was $3,878. Add $960 for depreciation and your total is $4838.

Cost Comparison: Car Versus Motorcycle

It’s difficult to compare the cost because of all the variables. However as shown earlier, the average total cost per year for a car was $8,487 and the average for a motorcycle from one “study” with a depreciation adjustment was $4838. This comparison gives you a rough idea of the cost savings.

Some experts suggest that a motorcycle can sometimes pay for itself in gas savings. Other experts suggest riding a motorcycle can save people 25% to 75% over driving a car. No matter how you look at it, motorcycles are more economical than cars. However, the safety factor needs to be thoroughly considered when making a decision.

Brady Daniels, a member of the Motorcycle Insurance Quote team, writes feature articles about a variety of topics related to motorcycles.

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One Response to “Economically Speaking, is a Motorcycle the Preferred Choice?”

  1. James Says:

    i find that riding a motorcycle is effectively 1/3 the cost of a even driving a used vehicle. adding in over time the reduced amount of maintenance and cheaper cost of parts, and less labor. the cost keeps coming down.


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