Buying a Budget-Friendly Motorcycle Can Ignite a Fiery Passion for Riding

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!

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