Motorcycles Vs Cars – Which Is Cheaper to Buy and Maintain?

Motorcycles Vs Cars – Which Is Cheaper to Buy and Maintain?

Are motorcycles cheaper than cars? This is a question that may pop up if you’re planning to get your very first vehicle.

In general, two-wheel vehicles are cheaper to buy and maintain both in the short and long run, with a few exceptions of course. In today’s post, we will break down the most important costs associated with owning and maintaining either a motorcycle or a car. This should help you decide which is the more economical option.

So, keep on reading to find out which vehicle best suits your budget.

Are Motorcycles Cheaper Than Cars? Comparing Upfront Cost

car and motorcycle with ocean view

When it comes to upfront costs, are motorcycles cheaper than cars? That‘s what we want to find out. When shopping for a motorcycle or a car, you have hundreds of options. To give you a general idea of how much you have to pay, let’s break them down per type. 

Motorcycles

The motorcycle market is wide-spreading with models that range from touring to urban scooters, and offroad machines. What you settle for depends mostly on your height, physical fitness, riding experience, budget, and where you plan to ride the two-wheeler.

The following is our breakdown of the price range for different types of motorcycles.

Cruisers

cruiser motorcycle along the beach

These motorcycles are typically longer and lower than most standard bikes. They’ve got a low seat position that’s ideal for short riders. But their leaned-back forks and rider posture are best suited for experienced people. They range in price from approximately $4,000 to $25,000.

Touring

These machines are purposefully made for long-distance riding. They have unique features for long-distance riding like weather-protected luggage storage, security alarms, large windscreens, navigation systems, and very comfortable seats. 

These are heavy motorcycles, which are best suited for experienced riders. The price range is around $8,000 to $44,000.

Sportbikes

ducati sport bike parked

If you are after performance, these are the two-wheeled vehicles to look out for. They come fully equipped with potent engines, high-performance tires, and nimble handling. They have aerodynamic sculpting with top-end acceleration. These bikes are a good choice for experienced riders. 

They typically cost around $4,500 to $40,000.

Dirt Bikes

If offroading is what you are after, then you would want to get a dirt bike. They have a tall seat, aggressive tires, and lots of suspension travel for soaking up ruts and bumps with ease. Dirt bike riding can be a good starting point for an inexperienced rider. You can buy one for as low as $900, and the price can go as high as $12,000.

Dual Sport Bikes

These motorcycles are uniquely made for on and off-road riding. They are loaded with a blend of dirt bike and street bike features. They are suitable for commuting on weekdays and trail riding on weekends. They are a good choice for beginner riders. They range in price from about $4,500 to $25,000.

Scooters

These are the smallest motorcycles on the market, which are suitable for urban riding and commuting. Some models are powerful enough for highway traffic. 

Price ranges from $2,000 to $7,000.

Cars

There are many car options and sizes to choose from. Here is our detailed upfront cost breakdown:

Small Cars

small white car parked on the street

These are compact cars ranging from 100 cu ft to 109 cu ft for the combined cargo and passenger volume. They are typically 161 to 187 inches long. The price of small cars can go from $23,000 to $70,000+, depending on the make and model. Luxury cars are even more expensive.

Midsize Cars

These are intermediate cars, which are highly popular because of their size. They range in size from about 110 to 120 cubic feet of combined cargo and passenger space. Their length can reach approximately 197 inches. These will cost you around $23,000 to $80,000.

Large Cars

black car parked on street

These are full-size cars, which are typically larger than midsize cars. They normally have a combined cargo and passenger space that is equal to or greater than 120 cubic feet. Large cars range in price from $30,000 to $80,000+, depending on the make and model.

Verdict

This breakdown clearly shows that it is much cheaper to get a motorcycle than it is to get the most affordable car on the market. But keep in mind that some high-end motorcycles cost more than most inexpensive cars.

Fuel Efficiency & Cost

Fuel consumption and efficiency are now a major concern among motorists. Although cars are the most popular choice of transportation, more and more people have been considering motorcycles to cope with rising fuel prices.

Motorcycle

motorcycle traveling along the road

You can expect to get up to 56.7 miles per gallon (mpg) with a typical motorcycle. But the thing is, fuel efficiency varies greatly, depending on the type of gearbox your motorcycle uses. 

The following table should give you an idea of what you can expect with different gears.

Type of Gearbox

Expected MPG

Semic automatic

86.9

Automatic

76.4

Continuously variable

78.9

Direct shift

63.3

Manual

53.2

So, if the cost of fuel is approximately $3.771 per gallon, then the average cost of fuel per mile for a motorcycle would be $0.0665.

Cars

white car on a sandy road

You can expect an average of 24.9 mpg from a new car, which is a significant improvement compared to the 17 mpg average a few decades ago. 

The fuel efficiency of cars, however, depends on the make and model of the car. The Chevrolet Spark, for example, boasts a combined highway and city 33 mpg, while the Shelby Mustang has a combined mpg of 14.

So, if the cost of fuel is around $3.771 per gallon, then the average cost of fuel per mile for a car would be $0.1514.

Verdict

As far as raw miles per gallon are concerned, motorcycles appear to have an advantage over most cars. In terms of cost for efficiency, the difference is seen in their cost. A motorcycle with an MSRP of approx. 4,000 could give you 61 mpg. A car with an MSRP of around $15,000 could give you 33 mpg.

Cost of Insurance

In terms of severe accidents, a motorcycle’s risk is usually higher. But this doesn’t mean that its insurance is going to be higher than cars. This is so because there are many cars on the road and cars carry more passengers and have lots of customizations.

Motorcycle Insurance Cost

The average cost of insurance for a motorcycle is about $700. This cost depends on a number of factors, such as the type of motorcycle, your age, your zip code, and the type of coverage you select. 

Your history of traffic violations and accidents in a span of five years could lower or increase the cost of insurance per year. If you’re buying coverage for a dirt bike, this is how much it will cost you

Car Insurance Cost

The average insurance cost for cars is approx. $1,680 per year. Minimum average costs range from one state to another. But there are at least a dozen factors that determine auto insurance premiums. Some of the factors include your zip code, your driving record, and the type of car being insured. So, the premium may be less or more.

Verdict

When compared to cars, motorcycles are way cheaper to insure annually. 

Maintenance Cost

Both of these vehicles need regular maintenance to maintain peak performance. But how do they compare in maintenance cost? Let’s find out.

Motorcycles

Two-wheelers need maintenance after every 5,000 to 20,000 miles. This, of course, depends on the type of two-wheeler you’ve got. 

On average, you should expect to spend about $1,000 annually. The cost of a valve adjustment, however, could range from around $800 to $1,500. 

High-end models with aftermarket parts may be more expensive to maintain compared to entry-level motorcycles. Regular maintenance also helps to determine how many miles a motorcycle can last. You should also read our post on how many miles a motorcycle can last to know more about the expected mileage from your bike. 

Cars

Most cars on the road may need maintenance after every 12,000 miles or once a year. But this could change depending on your driving habits. How expensive or cheap the car is to maintain also depends on the car brand. But on average, you should expect to spend around $1,200 on maintenance.

Verdict

Most motorcycles are cheaper to maintain than cars with an exception of a few high-end models.

Gear Cost

What about the gear cost?

Motorcycles

You can’t ride a motorcycle without the gear. Motorcycle gear is a must-have in most states, which means additional costs. 

You would need approximately $250 for a DOT-approved helmet, $250 for a pair of riding pants, $600 for a decent quality jacket, $200 for heavy-duty riding boots, and $50 for high-quality gloves. On average, you need around $1,350 for gears.

Cars

No gear is needed to drive a brand new car. You may get a pair of leather gloves and night driving glasses, which is mainly personal preference. 

Verdict

You don’t have to worry about gear costs when getting a brand new car. But you will definitely need to spend on motorcycle gear. Also find out more about turbocharging a motorcycle

Tax

You should also be concerned about tax when comparing these two vehicles.

Motorcycles

The tax of a motorcycle usually depends on the engine size. The cost tends to be lower for small engine sizes under 150cc and higher for large engines over 600cc per year.

Cars

The tax of a car, on the other hand, depends on its CO2 emissions. The more emissions your car produces the higher the tax. The tax of a car is always higher than a motorcycle’s.

Verdict

The cost of tax for motorcycles is lower. 

So, Are Motorcycles Cheaper Than Cars?

The overall cost of owning and operating a motorcycle is cheaper. Not to mention that is much easier to own a motorcycle with a smaller budget. Whether you prefer a car or a motorcycle, it is always a good idea to compare all the associated costs and not just the upfront cost.

joshua mattie

Joshua D. Mattie

My motorbike addiction began with 50cc at 5 years old. I rode motocross as a teenager & into my 20's when I worked as a mechanic. This helped me to see the light—sportbikes & cruisers became a passion. Now I'm building BikersRights to be the #1 resource for everything on 2 wheels!

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