If you're looking to get a good deal on a used motorcycle, you will need to factor in the bike's mileage. But wait? What's considered high mileage?
Smaller motorcycles like sports bikes are considered to be high mileage at between 20,000 to 30,000 miles. Larger models like cruisers and touring bikes are deemed high mileage at around 50,000 miles.
There's nothing wrong with buying a used bike, loads of people do it, but not if it breaks down after the first month. So keep reading and we'll guide you through what to look out for.
WHAT'S THE AVERAGE ANNUAL MOTORCYCLE MILEAGE?
The average annual mileage of a motorcycle is about 3,000 miles. Of course, this number depends on any given rider's driving habits, but it's still a good frame of reference.
As we'll run through below, the best indicator of a motorcycle's expected lifespan is how much the previous owner has used it. Stats don't always tell the full story.
HOW MANY MILES CAN A MOTORCYCLE LAST?
A motorcycle can last anywhere between 20,000 to 90,000 miles, which is quite a large disparity. That's because this figure rests on a number of factors.
A dirt bike, for example, usually won't last more than 20,000 miles. A well-maintained sports bike can last up to 100,000 miles and beyond (but don't count on it), and some brands of touring motorcycles can go beyond 100,000 miles as well.
Again, this all depends on a few things that we'll run through.
WHAT'S THE BIKE'S SERVICE HISTORY LIKE?
Arguably more important than a motorcycle's mileage is its' service history. A seller should be able to tell you at least some basic information about how the bike has been maintained, and the actual service records would be even better.
These are the most important things to look out for:
Where the bike was stored? Outside or in a garage?
Has the motorcycle been ridden regularly or did it go unused for long stretches of time?
Did it get regular services like oil changes, air filter changes, and cleaning?
The service records for any major or minor items.
YOU MIGHT NEED TO BREAK THE ENGINE IN
A break-in period is required for any new bike's engine. The break-in period of most motorcycles is the first 500-1,000 miles. However, if the bike has had an engine rebuild then it will need to be broken in again as if it was brand new.
Here are some tips for breaking in an engine correctly:
Always try to use the highest gear possible.
Avoid excessive engine speeds while in any given gear.
Try to avoid lugging the motor. Downshift before the motor starts to labour.
During the break-in period, which is the first 500-1,000 miles, don't use more than 3/4 of the throttle.
Try to avoid hard stops, aggressive starts, or any rapid, sudden movements.
HOW WAS THE MOTORCYCLE STORED?
A high-mileage bike can sometimes be better than a low-mileage one that's been sitting in a garage for years. An idle bike can accumulate rust, moisture build-up, and a bunch of other problems.
A well-maintained bike that sits outside is still exposed to the elements. The combination of heat and cold eventually takes its toll on the paint job and the steel may begin to rust.
WHAT TYPE OF MOTORCYCLE IS IT?
The type of motorcycle you buy can tell a story in itself. Is it a learner bike with plenty of bangs and knocks, or was it ridden by a seasoned rider who knew what they were doing?
Consider how long it might last, and whether that matches your individual needs. Sport bikes won't last as long as most cruisers and touring bikes, so you'll need to factor that in when considering whether it has a reasonable mileage.
HOW OFTEN WAS IT RIDDEN?
While the average annual mileage for a bike is 3,000 miles, that doesn't mean shit for your purposes. Find out how often the motorcycle you actually plan tobuywas ridden. Was it used every day for five years or just once a week?
THINK ABOUT THE OWNER
Was the previous owner pushing that baby to the limit every week on the track, or just taking the odd weekend cruise?
The fewer owners the better. The fewer hands a bike has passed through, there's a better chance you'll get an accurate history of the motorcycle. Unreported crashes, maintenance, and other incidents are a lot less likely.
HOW DOES MILEAGE AFFECT MOTORCYCLE VALUE?
The biggest selling point of a used motorcycle is value. How many years can you realistically expect to get out of it? A lower mileage bike that's been well-maintained will get you a lot of bang for your buck.
Bikes that have clocked tens of thousands of miles have a shorter life expectancy, so consider what you're paying in relation to the miles a motorcycle has already accumulated.
It's all relative. If this is your first bike then maybe a cheap, high-mileage motorcycle is the better option. Just be wary not to buy a piece of garbage that won't last the year.
IS THE HIGH-MILEAGE MOTORCYCLE STILL IN GOOD CONDITION?
Before you think about buying any bike, jump on it and take her for a spin. Check that it starts properly and there are no issues with gear shifting or acceleration.
Test how it handles, using both the front and rear brakes. Try to visualise how the motorcycle would feel with long-term use.
There's no reason you can't clock in some decent miles on a higher mileage motorcycle, so long as you take care of it. Here are some things to look out for:
Air filter checks:The air filter is the lungs of a motorcycle, so let it breathe! Make sure it stays clean to keep dirt and dust out of the engine.
Final drive check:The final drive connects power from the engine to the rear wheel. Touring models usually have one, but not every motorcycle necessarily does. Checking the final drive requires tools, so research might be required.
Coolant check:Liquid-cooled engines are especially common in modern bikes. Coolant is used every single time you ride and needs a regular check-up just like oil.
Plenty of people, especially new riders, buy second-hand bikes. It's a great way to get into the game. Just make sure to get your money's worth.
There's nothing necessarily wrong with a higher mileage bike, but not if it's going to break down after the first ten rides. Shop smart and you can find yourself a great deal. There's a huge market for used bikes.
DOES MILEAGE MATTER ON A MOTORCYCLE?
So does mileage matter on a motorcycle? Yes, but it doesn't have to be a deal breaker. If you're looking for a used bike on the cheap, it's going to have at least some mileage.
The key is to be savvy about the bike's condition, history, and model. If it still has plenty to give and the price is right, go for it.
HOW MANY MILES DOES THE AVERAGE MOTORCYCLE RIDER RIDE IN A YEAR?
It's handy to know how many miles the average motorcycle rider ride in a year, which is 3,000 miles. But more importantly, find out how often the previous owner actually rode it.
The average motorcycle mileage is not a reliable indicator of how much the bikeyouwant to buy was ridden. Ask the previous owner about their riding habits, which is the best indicator for the bike's likely condition.
WHAT IS A GOOD MILEAGE RANGE FOR A GOOD MOTORCYCLE?
A good mileage range for a good motorcycle depends on the model. Dirt bikes don't usually last more than 20,000 miles, while sports bikes are considered high mileage at 20,000-30,000 miles.
Cruisers and touring bikes have a lot more life because they operate at a lower rev level. These models should be thought of as having high mileage at about 50,000 miles.