Making the swap
Credit: wallygrom /

Costs of Owning a Motorcycle

Motorcycle enthusiasts often cite the fuel economy of their two-wheel transportation as a reason to leave your car in the garage and switch to a motorcycle for your "daily driver." Is their logic sound? Well, maybe... but probably not.

Let's look at the most basic calculations first. We'll assume that your current vehicle's average fuel economy is 20 MPG and that the motorcycle you're considering has an average fuel economy of 60 MPG. Let's also assume that the average price of gasoline is $3.30 per gallon. On the basis of gasoline costs alone, switching to a motorcycle will save you 11 cents per mile. Sounds pretty good so far, right?

Unless you got rid of your car entirely, which isn't a good option for most people, you had to shell out for the motorcycle - say, an outlay of $7500 for a used bike (including TTL). How many miles will you have to ride to offset that original cost? Divide $7500 by $0.11 to get that number: in this case, about 68,200 miles is your "recovery mileage." Even if you commute by motorcycle every day for a year (240 days or so), a fifty-mile daily round trip would require almost six years until you've recovered the initial cost of the motorcycle.

How Much Do You Save?

Cost Recovery Mileage for different scenarios

  Ave. Gas/gal.  

  Car MPG     Bike MPG     Bike Cost     Recovery Mileage  
$3.30 20 60 $7,500 68,200
$4.00 20 60 $7,500 56,250
$3.30 15 60 $7,500 45,500
$3.30 20 60 $12,000 109,090

Fill 'er Up!

Getting Gas
Credit: El Caganer /

A motorcyclist fills his ride.

How Much Do You Really Save?

If gas gets more expensive, recovery mileage goes down: for the original fuel economy with an average price of $4.00 (heaven forbid!), the recovery mileage is 56,250 miles. A bigger differential in car and motorcycle mileage would also reduce the recovery mileage. If your car only gets 15 MPG and everything else stays the same, the recovery mileage would drop to about 45,500 miles. On the other hand, you say you want a more expensive bike? the recovery factor goes up, too: say you bought a new bike for $12,000 and (using those original fuel economy numbers) the recovery mileage goes up to more than 109,000 miles. 

There are other factors to include: the cost of maintenance on your car will decrease, but now you need to pay maintenance on the motorcycle as well. The cost of insurance on the car falls, but the added cost of registering and insuring the motorcycle will almost certainly be more than the reduction in the car's insurance costs. There are plenty of other factors to consider as well: licensing of the new motorcycle, additional cost of tattoos and a leather halter top for the old lady, etc. Avid bikers will argue that the joy of riding is worth any additional expense. That may all be true, but before you consider buying a motorcycle just to save on fuel costs, be certain to factor in all the costs instead of just focusing on how much gasoline you'll be saving.