How Much Should I Spend On My First Motorcycle?

You hear all kinds of stories from riders when they talk about their first motorcycle, everything from leasing their dream bike to getting a sub $1000 basket case and fixing it up. Two very different ends of the spectrum, which can make it confusing and or difficult for a new rider to know which one is best.

That’s why I wrote this post to help clear up the confusion and get you headed in the right direction. So, how much should you spend on your first motorcycle? For your first motorcycle, it’s best to spend around $3000-5000 on a used motorcycle. At this price it’s easy to find a mechanically sound and reliable motorcycle, one that has already depreciated in value. Which means when you go to sell it, you will probably get close to what you paid for it.

Generally that is the easiest and most straightforward solution, but there are ways to spend a lot less and still get a great motorcycle to learn on. If you want to know all about it, continue reading.

How much should I spend on my first motorcycle?

The quick answer is you should spend just enough money that allows you to get a good, reliable and mechanically sound motorcycle. It also has to be a motorcycle that you are not afraid to drop or cause damage to.

If this means a $1000 basket case, that’s cool. If for you that is a $15k new sport bike, enjoy. The important part is to get something that won’t be a bother to you, financially or emotionally if you accidentally damage it.

With that being said, let’s go over what I believe are the two best options for new motorcycle riders. The first being a really cheap fixer upper and the other just buying a used motorcycle from a dealership.

Getting A Cheap Fixer Upper.

If your budget is stretched and money is tight, you can save a lot of money by buying an older “fixer upper”. These are dime a dozen on Cycletrader and Craigslist, so you can afford to be picky about what condition the motorcycle is in and how much work is needed to get it up and running again.

If you can find one that is just in need of a quick engine service, a good cleaning and maybe a new set of tires then that’s perfect. Try to stay away from complete wrecks that need full engine or transmission rebuilds. Unless you are 100% sure that you have the skills and time to complete the job.

Craigslist is littered with people’s “project” bikes that were started but never got finished for one reason or another, don’t become one of these people.

Your goal is to get something that you can quickly and easily fix up and get on the road, so you have something to learn on.

A good thing about fixing up a cheap motorcycle is, it will allow you to learn how to properly work on your motorcycle and maintain it. This will save you tons of money for years down the road and is a great skill to have.

Just make sure you get a service manual for your motorcycle and follow it exactly. If you have a friend or family member who knows a bit about engines you can also ask them to help teach you a thing or two.

I would recommend you think about doing this during the winter, just because it will be a lot easier on you and you won’t feel like you are in a hurry to finish it before the season ends.

I know for me it would drive me nuts to come out every day during the riding season and see my motorcycle sitting there in bits and pieces not able to be ridden.

For some people this might even make them cut corners or neglect a job, just to get it done sooner. Doing it in the winter will prevent this and give you something fun to do over those long, cold months.

Then when spring rolls around you’ll have a motorcycle fully serviced and ready to go for the season.

The cost for a good fixer upper will probably cost you anywhere from nothing to $1500. If you are lucky you can find a free motorcycle in need of some work that someone is just looking to get out of the garage, but expect to pay around $1000-1500 for a good starter motorcycle.

In order to do the work you are going to need a place to work, a basic set of tools and the service manual for the motorcycle.

It’s hard to put an exact amount for tools, all my tools have been bought over many years bit by bit. I’ve probably spent close to $1500 on tools over the years, but you don’t need to spend that kind of money.

You should be able to get by and do most of the work with a good basic set of tools, something costing you around $200 or so. Then if a job needs a specific tool, just buy it as you need it. That way you don’t spend hundreds of dollars on sets and tools that you are never going to use.

So the total cost is going to be around $1700 for a fixer upper motorcycle. Plus any spare parts you are going to need to replace on the bike. Even if you do a ton of work, I can’t imagine you spending more than $500-1000 for parts.

If you end up spending more than that, then you picked the wrong motorcycle. So all in you should be looking at max around $2700 plus any tools.

Buy A Used Already Running Motorcycle.

If the idea of busting your knuckles and wrenching on a motorcycle doesn’t appeal to you. Then your only option is to pay a bit more for a used motorcycle that is already running and good to go.

While this is going to cost you a little bit more, the upside is that you are going to get a motorcycle that is ready to go. Just hop on and ride, no need to wait months while you fix it up.

You can lower this amount a bit by buying from a private seller, but this has its own problems. Mainly if something goes wrong with the motorcycle shortly after you buy it.

It will be much harder to get your money back if the seller cheated you or sold you a lemon. If you find a motorcycle you like at a dealership, you can look to see if there are cheaper ones offered by private sellers, but be careful of hidden problems and cheats.

With that being said, you should look to spend around $5000 for a good used motorcycle from a dealership. If they try to convince you or sucker you into a more expensive or even a new motorcycle, don’t fall for it!

Dealerships will try and say anything to upsell you, “lease this new ninja for $9000, we’ll buy it back after one year for almost what you paid” type stuff.

Next thing you know you are signing a lease and walking out the door with a $9000 ninja 350 and a new jacket. Remember you are only looking to buy a motorcycle that will get you through your learning period of a year or two max.

The last thing you want is to be stuck with a motorcycle you are not happy with for the next 5 years while you pay off a lease. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with that motorcycle, it’s just not a good idea to do this. Stick to the plan.

TLDR; Look to spend around $1700 + $1000 for parts for a fixer upper and around $3500 to $5000 for a decent ready to ride, used motorcycle from a dealer or private seller

On top of that you are going to need to register the motorcycle and get some sort of insurance. While some states don’t require insurance, it’s a good idea to get some sort of basic liability insurance even if the law doesn’t require it.

The exact amount this will cost will depend on the type of motorcycle, how big the engine is and where you live. You’re going to have to shop around to find out how much this is going to cost.

You are also going to want to budget some money so you can take a good motorcycle safety course. This is going to cost you around $250-350 for something like the “MSF Basic Rider Course”.

Don’t skip this just to save a nickel. It’s worth every penny and will give you a good solid foundation needed to safely ride a motorcycle.

Another thing you are going to need to budget for is gear. Gear is not cheap, to get a full set of gear: helmet, jacket, pants, boots and gloves. You are going to want to budget around $1500 or so.

How Can I save up to buy my first motorcycle?

There are a few ways you can save up to buy your first motorcycle. I actually wrote a whole in depth article all about the different tips and tricks you can use to help you scrape together cash quicker so you get you that first motorcycle. Check out the link below to learn all about it.

What is the best motorcycle for a beginner?

The best motorcycle for a beginner is going to be the one that he/she can easily and comfortably control. This means a motorcycle that isn’t too tall or too heavy or too powerful.

There is a great tool to check a particular motorcycle’s ergonomics for your height, you can use it to help narrow down motorcycles you are interested in so you don’t waste your time driving somewhere only to find it’s too tall or small for you. Check it out below.

When looking for your first motorcycle, I would recommend you stay away from anything bigger than a 600cc or max a 650cc engine.

As a new rider you really don’t need any more power than that, even experienced riders would be fine with a 600cc engine. A 600cc motorcycle is fast, it will leave most sports cars eating it’s dust.

Also, you need to remember, your first motorcycle is just that, your first motorcycle. It’s not something you are married to. It only needs to get through the first year or two.

So try to find something that you are excited and happy to see everyday in the driveway but not something that is going to break your heart if something happens to it.

I hope you enjoyed this article, if you have any questions drop me a message here. Until next time, happy riding!

Jordan Baker

Hi, I’m Jordan. I’ve been riding motorcycles for a few years now(9+ years). Along the way I’ve learned a bunch, made mistakes and picked up a thing or two. I’ve also spent countless hours practicing and working on improving my skills, something I try to do a few times a week. That’s why I made this website. So I can share my love for riding and everything I’ve learned over the years. Hopefully you’ll stick around and check out a few articles.

Recent Content