$5000 First Motorcycle: Is It Better to Buy New or Used?

Whether you choose to lease or outright buy your first motorcycle, it’s understandably a big moment in any rider’s life. But there’s a lot that has to happen before you snag those keys. Besides getting proper training, you need to get some motorcycle safety gear. And, of course, you need to figure out which bike you want to buy. Or, as is often the case, which bike you can afford to buy. Thus, as with cars, there’s an age-old question: should you buy a new or a used motorcycle?

Going new with your first motorcycle has its benefits, but so does buying used

New and used Ducati and Triumph motorcycles and Piaggio scooters in front of a London dealer
New and used Ducati and Triumph motorcycles and Piaggio scooters in front of a London dealer | Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If you’re buying your first motorcycle, getting a brand-new bike makes a certain amount of sense. Firstly, affordable bikes like the Honda CB300R aren’t bare-bones machines anymore. ABS is now a common sight even on manufacturer’s entry-level models, as are things like LED lighting and LCD screens. And speaking of the CB300R, it comes standard with an inverted fork, something that was once reserved for high-end sportbikes.

In addition, going new rather than used for your first motorcycle also means you get a warranty. That’s comforting for many new riders, who might not feel confident in their wrenching abilities. Plus, being a bike’s first owner means there’s no chance of some hidden flaw, deferred maintenance issue, or other gremlin poking its head out. Case in point, my Triumph Street Triple R’s front chain slider.

However, don’t immediately discard the idea of buying a used motorcycle as your first bike. For one, used bikes are noticeably cheaper than their new counterparts. And in many cases, trawling the used market nets you a wider variety of bikes than if you’d stuck to new machines. I can personally attest to this because my Street Triple R cost less than $5000. Meanwhile, a new Trident 660 starts at $8195.

Also, while used motorcycles might have underlying faults, they’re often simpler than new ones. So, while they likely have fewer safety features, they also have fewer potential electronic failure points. But that doesn’t mean you can’t score a depreciated machine with features like fully-adjustable suspension. And some dealers do offer warranties for their used motorcycles, Popular Science notes.

What kind of new and used beginner motorcycles are available for $5000 or less?

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Just like the used car market, the used motorcycle market “is booming” right now, RideApart reports. That’s partially due to coronavirus-related supply chain issues affecting new bike production. But it’s also because, well, people want bikes right now, especially adventure, dirt, and other off-road-capable models. As a result, it’s difficult to consistently say which used models are available for $5000 or less at all times.

However, generally speaking, there are a few common beginner-friendly sights around used lots:

A black-and-green 2022 Kawasaki Z400 ABS
2022 Kawasaki Z400 ABS | Kawasaki

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On the new front, new buyers have plenty of choices when it comes to their first motorcycles:

It’s worth noting, though, that the same bikes listed in the ‘new’ section can also often be bought used for less money.

New or used, don’t rush into buying your first bike

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Setting a budget for your first motorcycle is important, but it’s not the only thing you need to consider, Motorcyclist says. You also need to know what kind of riding you plan to do. For example, if you’re into long highway rides and/or live somewhere with few corners, get a cruiser or a standard, not a sportbike.

But more importantly, be honest with your capabilities as a rider and a mechanic. If you’re fresh out of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic Rider Course, stick with something smaller for your first motorcycle. An Iron 883 Sportster might be OK, RevZilla muses, but not something like an Electra Glide. And if you have neither the maintenance budget nor the wrenching skills to justify owning an exotic bike, don’t buy one.

Finally, test-riding the average motorcycle is arguably more vital than test-driving the average car. You absolutely have to feel confident that you can control the bike you’re riding. And if you don’t, even if it’s a bargain, get off and walk away. It’s not worth your safety.

So, if you only have $5000 to spend on your first motorcycle, should you buy new or used? In short, it depends. If you’re fine with a smaller-capacity bike and want the peace of mind of a warranty and new safety tech, go new. But if you want something bigger and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, a used motorcycle can make a fine first steed.

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