Moving to the greater Seattle area from a rural town in the Midwest meant getting used to changes. One of them was the increased traffic of a higher-population center. Even in a smaller ‘suburb’ of Seattle, traffic often slows to a crawl during the early morning rush hour or mid-afternoon commute, and that’s just on the highway.
Our RAV4 doesn’t have the fuel efficiency of a compact car, but it’s a compact SUV which gets up to 24 mpg in the city, so it hardly classifies as a gas-guzzler. Still, we’ve recently started considering whether we’d like to get a second vehicle for my husband’s commute, and a motorcycle (a common mode of transportation in Seattle) has crossed our minds. A thirty minute city commute on a motorcycle could potentially save us quite a bit in fuel expenses plus wear and tear on our vehicle. After a preliminary look, here are a few of the pros and cons we will have to consider in deciding if a motorbike is truly cost effective in our situation.
This represents the largest savings when comparing a lower-end bike to a used car. Used bikes can run under $2,000, while average prices fall in between that and $3,500 including plates and licensing. A vehicle this cheap would be more than a few years old and probably lack the fuel-efficiency and safety improvements of newer models. From this perspective, purchasing a motorcycle as a second vehicle would initially cost less than a used car.
Predictably, most motorcycles beat average cars on fuel efficiency. On the affordable end of Autobytel’s top ten list of the most fuel-efficient coupes and compact cars are the 2015 Chevrolet Cruze and the Toyota Prius C, which promise from 27 to 53 city miles per gallon, respectively. In contrast, the lowest-end motorcycles get 30 city mpg, but average 50 to triple digit city and highway mileage. Here also, motorcycles appear to be a better financial decision than a second vehicle.
This is where it gets interesting. One consumer requested an insurance quote for an average motorcycle versus a modest car, and was shocked to find that the motorcycle, at less than half the value, would cost over twice as much to insure. The most obvious reason for this is that bikes are given a much higher risk rating than cars. Fewer safety protections alongside higher accident rates and injury or fatality statistics all play into this.
Of course, it really all depends on which type of coverage you’re required and choose to carry, which safety features your bike has, and what year and model it is. Your rates will skyrocket if you’re required to carry comprehensive collision coverage. On the other hand, if you are able to drop the coverage levels on your car because you’re driving it less, the two may even out.
Repair and Maintenance Costs
Here is another category where a bike could come up short. While many individual parts are cheaper, they may need to be replaced more frequently. This is especially the case with tires, which have a maximum 11,000 mile road life versus a car tire’s maximum 50,000. As for other parts, if you can find a cheap dealer, and are mechanically inclined, motorcycles are easier to repair than cars.
A protective jacket, helmet, and other accessories can run up to $2,000 on top of other expenses if you don’t shirk on quality. Considering this could be nearly the value of your bike, it’s best to consider it a part of the purchase price. Cars use accessories, as well, but don’t require as much specialized equipment and safety gear.
There’s still plenty of research to do, but these categories reveal a fair debate about whether a motorcycle would be our best overall investment for a second vehicle. Which would you choose: motorcycle or car?