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Sometimes buying a cheap motorcycle is just a better option than a used car. You might look at a used Ford Focus and think, “I wonder if this cash is better spent elsewhere.” If you’re in that situation or want to add some spice to your life, buying a cheap, budget-friendly motorcycle might serve you well. To that end, I once spent $3,000 cash on a cheap Harley-Davidson instead of buying a used car; here’s how it went.

Which is the cheapest Harley-Davidson?

Aside from scouring online marketplaces for basket case failed projects, the cheapest (reliable) Harley-Davidson you’ll find is a used Sportster. Specifically, the Evolution (Evo) motor generation of Sportster will yield the greatest rewards. Post-1986 models got the more reliable 883 and 1200 cubic-centimeter (cc) Evo powerplants. Better yet, Kelley Blue Book (KBB) says that you can buy a 2004 1200cc example with fuel injection and rubber-mounting for under $4,000. 

Consider a cheap Harley-Davidson like the Evolution generation motorcycle from the budget-friendly Sportster family.
A Harley-Davidson Sportster | Harley-Davidson

Is buying a budget-friendly motorcycle worth it?

I was a young U.S. Marine fresh back from my second deployment when I decided I needed a reliable car in addition to my project build. At first, I found a well-used 2005 Ford Focus hatchback, which is excellent if a bit lackluster. So, in my genius, I thought, “perhaps a motorcycle would be a more joyful means of transportation.” As silly as it sounds, what happened next ignited a burning passion for riding that I’ll likely never lose. 

I found a 2002 Harley-Davidson XL1200C with a Mikuni carburetor and a Hooker two-into-one exhaust system in a town east of San Diego. It belonged to an older man whose wife requested that he sell the motorcycle. After I handed him $3,000 cash, I had my budget-friendly motorcycle and a fuel-efficient, fun way to get around. For used car money, I had a new lifestyle. 

Should you buy a cheap Harley-Davidson?

Of course, I did my due diligence before buying my budget-friendly motorcycle. First, I took a motorcycle safety course with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), culminating in an “M” endorsement on my license. In addition to professional instruction, it can save you money on insurance. Next, I brought a motorcycle-wise friend with me for an inspection and test ride. 

If you can manage, a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) is a wise decision for shoppers. Still, if a PPI isn’t possible, check the bike out thoroughly. That means inspecting the tires, chain/belt, frame, clutch, and every other component. Remember, motorcycles are much more dangerous when improperly maintained.  

Should you buy a budget-friendly motorcycle instead of a used car?

If you live in a warmer climate and want the most fun in your commute, a motorcycle is difficult to top. However, you should invest in a helmet and protective riding gear. Also, you’ll need to choose a bike that fits your needs and budget. For instance, a used Kawasaki Vulcan with saddlebags can be a cheap, efficient means of transportation that you can use for some grocery shopping. Shop smart, ride safe, and have fun!

Scroll down to the following article to read more about fun vehicles!


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