For some, a motorcycle is a dream purchase. Knowing what you want out of a bike and how to get the best deal can make sure you choose a great ride. You’ll also want to know what kinds of bad deals and scams to look out for.
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There are a lot of options on the market for motorcycles! The following points are important to consider before deciding which bike to settle on.
Generally, the larger the engine the more you’ll pay in insurance. Most bikes driven in city areas have an engine displacement of 450cc or under. A larger engine generates enough power to easily exceed city speed limits and requires greater skill to drive. Such engines typically have a displacement of 600cc or more and may be used for off-road driving or dirt track racing. Bikes used for professional track racing can have an engine displacement of 1000cc – 1200cc.
It’s worth remembering, however, that both the weight of a motorcycle and the weight of its load (people and cargo) will affect the power it produces. A 350 lb. bike with a large engine driven by a 200 lb. driver may not be able to reach the speed of a 250 lb. bike with a somewhat smaller engine driven by a more lightweight driver.
The average driver who isn’t planning on racing and will use their motorcycle in city areas would do well with a bike in the 125cc – 250cc range. If you’re planning on using your bike for commuting and/or highway driving, you might want a bike with an engine capacity of at least 250cc – 400cc, depending on the size/weight of the bike and the size/weight of the driver.
Always remember to consider the collective weight of a motorcycle and its load along with engine displacement (CCs) to get a more accurate picture of how powerfully your vehicle will perform.
The more cylinders the engine of a bike has, the more high-powered the bike will be. But due to control issues and the effect that different types of roads have on a bike’s performance, sometimes an engine with fewer cylinders is preferred. Engines with 1 cylinder are usually preferred for dirt track riding. Bikes with up to 8 cylinder engines exist, but are rare and are used for more advanced, professional-level riding. Most bikes you’ll encounter have 1-4 cylinder engines, although commuter bikes will probably only have 1-2 cylinder engines.
Fit and size
It’s easy to focus on the power output or style of a motorcycle and forget that it needs to fit well too. You need to be able to stabilize your motorcycle with both feet or you might lose your balance, so never buy a bike that’s so high up, you have to strain to touch the ground with your toes. The height of a motorcycle can range anywhere from 605 mm (23.8 in) to 939 mm (37.0 in).
The safest height is whatever height will allow you to sit comfortably on the bike with both feet flat on the ground, although some bikers may feel comfortable going a bit higher.
Cruisers tend to have lower seats due to the engine’s placement in front of the rider, while sportbikes tend to have higher seats that allow riders to lean more deeply into turns.
The shape of the saddle (seat) is also important. A narrow saddle will allow you to extend your leg further and also makes it easier to touch the ground because there is less surface area for your legs to straddle. On the other hand, sportbikes often come with wider saddles that allow riders to more easily straddle the multi-cylinder engines beneath their seats. But this also makes it harder to touch the ground, because there is a larger surface area over which riders must extend their legs.
The shape of the saddle should always be considered along with the height of the bike. Both are necessary for determining which type of motorcycle will fit you safely and comfortably.
Remember, too, that you should be able to comfortably reach the controls with your hands without displacing the balance of your feet on the ground. Revzilla has a great ergonomics simulator tool that lets you select a type of motorcycle and plug in your height and the length of your legs to see how you would fit that motorcycle. (Tip: you can easily determine your leg length by checking the inseam of your pants, which is the length from the inner seam of the bottom of one pant leg up to the point where it meets the other pant leg.)
Types of usage
Standard As the name of these bikes suggest, standard motorcycles have a simple, classic design and can be used for different purposes. There is nothing specialized about the design or parts of these bikes, and the height will suit just about anybody. With their practicality and visual appeal, these bikes are great for both beginners and advanced drivers alike.
Cruisers Also called, “choppers,” you usually sit in – not on – a cruiser because of how low its seat is positioned. These bikes are made for cruising around town and are good for local travel, day trips, or even weekend jaunts (with a little luggage). Harley Davidson is probably the most well-known brand for cruising bikes.
Sports bikes Sports bikes are made for speed and tight handling, having light-weight frames built for easy side-to-side movement. Riders are positioned on a higher seat and lean forward, which prevents them from scraping the ground when they lean deeply into turns. Sports bikes are powerful enough for just about every type of use, even (to a limited degree) weekend touring.
Touring Touring bikes are made for long journeys, with comfortable seating and lots of storage for luggage. The engines of these bikes are large enough to perform well on highways (usually at least 250cc), and the body is designed to provide some protection from wind and weather conditions. Sport touring bikes are also available that have higher seats and better storage than typical sports bikes, allowing you to enjoy the advantages of having a sporty and durable ride.
Dual Sport/Dual Purpose/Adventure Sport These bikes are designed for all-purpose enjoyment, having features for motoring around the city as well as riding off the beaten path. The suspension can handle a rougher ride, and the seat is often a little higher off the ground for easier navigation of back roads. Storage can be limited, however, extra bags can be added to accommodate a weekend getaway. These bikes aren’t the most powerful on the market, but they’re well built for enjoying a wide variety of experiences.
Scooters, mopeds and off-road bikes are also types of motor vehicles you may be interested in buying. Scooters and mopeds are great, cost-effective options for riding across short distances or commuting locally. Off-road bikes are made with high suspension and tall seats for navigating through rough terrain and foliage. These bikes often lack turning signals and lights, so they won’t be suitable for ordinary, city driving.
When buying a motorcycle, insurance is a bigger cost than it might be with other vehicles. That’s because insurance companies consider motorcycles to be more dangerous. However, some of the more expensive models may actually come with lower insurance costs than others and might be less expensive in the long run.
Third-party liability Coverage for accidentally damaging someone else’s property, injuring them or causing their death.
Accident benefits, also called “no-fault benefits” Helps pay for your medical and rehabilitation expenses even if you caused the accident.
Uninsured automobile coverage Covers you if you’re in an accident with an unidentified vehicle or an uninsured vehicle.
Direct compensation coverage (only required in some provinces) Covers damage to your vehicle and certain types of property in your car if you collide with another insured vehicle and you are not fully at fault for the accident.
Additional coverage is available for an added cost. The cost of coverage will vary depending on a variety of factors including where you live as well as your age, driving history, the make and model of your bike, whether you will be carrying passengers and how you plan to use your bike (i.e. commuting to work or school, touring on long distance trips etc.). Factors that can raise your premium include racking up a lot of kilometres, being a young or less-experienced rider and driving a more powerful bike.
You may be able to get your insurance premium lowered if you take a recognized rider training course, which usually costs $250-$550 depending on the type of course that you take.
Ontario is generally one of the more expensive provinces in which to insure a vehicle due to the dense population, the high rate of accidents and the high rate of insurance fraud. Yearly premiums for motorcycles often start at $1200-$1500 and can run well over $3,000.
Insurance costs are comparatively less expensive in some of the maritime provinces including New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. Both public and private insurance are available in some provinces, while others only allow public insurance. Quebec requires motorcyclists to have both public and private coverage, because public coverage only covers part of the insurance that riders are required by law to have.
Once you have an idea of how much the bike you’re eyeing is going to cost with insurance, look into your financing options. Unless you need a motorcycle as fast as possible, it’s worth taking some time to compare outside lending options rather than just going with offers from your dealership.
Depending on the lender, you might want to apply for the loan before you go to a seller. With reliable knowledge on how much you have to spend, you may be able to negotiate better terms with your seller. However, some sellers allow you to apply for financing directly through their dealership so you can take select your ride and pay for it all at once.
Not all dealerships or motorcycle sellers offer the same bike at the same price. Here are some tips for finding a competitive price:
Get quotes from multiple sellers and compare them. You may be able to leverage a good deal with one seller to negotiate a better deal with another seller. This tactic can be even more effective for comparing deals between sellers who are located near each other as they will likely be looking for ways to prevent you from giving your business to the competition.
Don’t make any quick decisions! A trustworthy seller will respect your right to carefully consider a purchase. After all, a motorcycle isn’t a small purchase so you should be able to take your time to find a deal that you like.
Look at the fine print of your loan agreement before signing. Sometimes, “special offers” from dealerships may actually turn out to be more expensive than simply buying a bike at regular price. This may be because a fantastic introductory rate reverts to a high-interest rate after a certain time period, or because you’re expected to make a large balloon payment towards the end of your financing period. Calculate how much interest you’ll be paying regularly as well as over the whole course of your loan to decide which deal lets you save more in the end.
Check online vehicle marketplaces. Sites like autoTrader.ca can help you easily compare deals between sellers in your area. This makes it easy to see if there are any out-of-town deals that might save you enough money to make it worth an extra drive to pick up the bike.
Check out powersports vehicle valuation sites. If you’re buying a used motorcycle, go on a powersports vehicle valuation site like Canada’s BlueBookTrader.com to find out the estimated value of the bike you’re interested in. This will help you sort between good and bad deals to make sure you end up paying a fair price for what you’re getting.
Read customer reviews. See what others have to say about the seller you’re thinking of dealing with. Make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate outfit and that your seller has a reliable sales history.
Even if you have the exact bike you want picked out, seeing it in person can change everything. Try sitting on a couple of vehicles to make sure you’re happy with the seat height and handle bars. And don’t be afraid to ask questions about it.
Unlike when you buy a car, motorcycle dealerships don’t usually let you take bikes off the lot for a test drive. Instead, many manufacturers hold demo events in specific locations at specific times to let riders try out bikes and look over the different models that are available.
Such events might also have displays of gear and accessories so you can get a complete look at all the options associated with owning a motorcycle. Go to manufacturers’ websites or phone manufacturers directly to find out if an event is being held near you any time soon. Registration is usually required, so plan ahead.
Alternatively, if you’re buying from a private seller, ask if they’re willing to let you take the bike for a run.
Once you find a good deal, don’t be afraid to negotiate. It helps to arm yourself with the facts by citing prices offered by other dealerships or by referring to the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). Sometimes you can get the ticket price lowered.
Getting pre-approval for a loan from an outside lender can help you get quotes from competing dealers, who are assured by your pre-approval that you are able to pay for a bike and who don’t want you taking your business elsewhere.
This step can vary depending on where you’re buying the bike and what type of financing you have — it might also involve applying for, or signing, loan documents if your financing through a dealer. When finalizing a financing agreement or loan, you will likely need to provide the following:
Proof of income. This can include your most recent pay stubs showing year-to-date earnings or Notices of Assessment from the last couple of years. Self-employed people will want to provide Notices of Assessment for at least the past 2 years (maybe more), bank statements showing regular deposits for the past 3-6 months and/or letters from clients confirming long-term work arrangements at specified pay rates.
Proof of residence. Often this can be in the form of a utility bill, phone bill or bank statement with your name and address on it. A copy of your rental or lease agreement may also be acceptable.
Personal Identification. A valid, non-expired driver’s license, motorcycle license or passport is often acceptable. A provincial ID card may also be acceptable. Generally, you should have enough ID to verify your name, picture, signature and address.
Vehicle information. Lenders will need to record information about the motorcycle you’re buying including its make, model, year, purchase price, mileage, purchase/ownership history (if you’re buying used) and other details. If you’re financing directly through a dealership, this information will already be provided. But if you’re getting a loan from an outside lender, you will need your dealership to give you this information so that you can pass it on to the lender. Check with your lender first to see what details are needed to process your application.
Note that lenders will have to perform a hard pull on your credit to check your credit history and approve you for a loan. Such credit checks will temporarily decrease your credit score, so you shouldn’t apply for too many loans at once. Also, read the terms carefully and make sure you understand what you’re signing on for. Pay attention to any special notes indicating additional fees or penalties. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Before you drive off on your new bike, have the salesperson show you how all the essential features work. Ask how to turn the blinkers off and on and how to use any special features like traction control. It could save you time calling customer service and help you have a smooth ride home.
After that, all that’s left to do is enjoy your new ride!
Compare motorcycle loans
Representative example: Anton buys a Harley
Anton, a B.C. resident, has his eye on a 2020 Harley Davidson Softail Deluxe priced at $25,000.00. After making a 15% down payment of $3,750.00, Anton applies for dealership financing to cover the remaining cost of the bike. Thanks to his solid credit history, he is approved for a loan to cover the outstanding amount plus 12% GST/PST ($21,250.00 + $3,000.00). Along with the cost of his loan, Anton also pays approximately $50.00 to register his motorcycle with the ICBC (Insurance Corporation of British Columbia).
Cost of new vehicle
$21,250.00 total purchase price ($25,000.00 less $3,750.00 down payment)
Auto loan (term loan)
Interest rate (APR)
4.00% origination fee ($970.00) $0.00 application fee (waived by dealership)
$400.75 monthly or $184.76 biweekly
Total loan cost
$28,854.00 with monthly payments or $28,822.56 with biweekly payments
*The information in this example, including rates, fees and terms, is provided as a representative transaction. The actual cost of the product may vary depending on the retailer, the product specs and other factors.
Costs to keep in mind
The cost of the actual motorcycle isn’t the only cost you need to consider.
Insurance. We mentioned this before but it’s worth repeating: Motorcycle insurance is expensive. Compare different quotes to find the cheapest rates.
Maintenance. Depending on how much you ride your bike, you’ll have to pay to keep it in shape. This can be as little as around $10 to $20 a month but can get much higher if you have to replace tires.
Gear. Helmets, jackets, pants, boots, mounts, rain gear — this can all add up to . Some people actually end up spending more on gear than the motorcycle.
Licensing and safety/training courses. Each province/territory has its own rules regarding driver licenses and insurance, so check to see if you’re required to own a license before buying a bike. Do not plant to drive off the lot with your new bike without being a valid license-holder; you can always have some who holds a valid license drive your motorcycle off the lot for you. Motorcycle riding courses and safety training courses can cost around $250 – $550 (potentially more), but prices may vary depending on the type of course that you take. Taking such a course could potentially lower your insurance premium, however, so it may be well worth the buy. Make sure the course you take is recognized by your provincial licensing department or you may not get an insurance discount.
Tax and registration costs. When your seller cites a price, verify if they’re including sales tax and vehicle registration costs. These vary from province to province and influence how much you need to borrow.
For most people, buying any sort of vehicle can be a big financial commitment — including a motorcycle. When it comes to buying your own motorcycle, there are a few things that you need to take into consideration.
Buy new or used. You need to look at your finances and work out whether buying new or used is more suitable to your budget. If it’s your first bike, a second-hand motorcycle may make more sense as you can see how much you really like it.
Model and price. Compare the price of the model you want at multiple lenders and work out your finances to see if you can fit it into your budget.
Safety. Bringing the bike to mechanic you trust before you start riding. If you buy a second-hand motorcycle from a private seller, you’ll generally be taking a greater risk than if you bought it brand new and fully checked from a dealer.
Your experience level. Make sure you get a bike that’s going to compliment your skill level — a bike with too much power will undoubtedly be overwhelming for a new rider.
Type of riding. Determine what kind of bike you want: standard, cruiser, sport, touring, dual-sport, off-road, scooter, moped etc. This helps narrow down your search.
Accessories. Make sure you factor in the cost of the accessories you’ll need when riding your bike. Items like a helmet, jacket, gloves, rain and weather gear, boots and eyewear can get expensive, so shop around to find the best deal.
Above all else, don’t rush into any decisions. If you don’t do your research, you could end up making a costly, or even a dangerous, mistake.
Putting time upfront can give you peace of mind when you’re buying your motorcycle. It also cuts the risk and issues that could arise from buying a defective or unsafe bike. Remember to compare different loan options such as dealer financing, outside lending services and getting a personal loan if you’re considering financing to find the best deal on the market.
Stacie Hurst is an editor at Finder, specializing in loans, banking products and money transfers. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Writing, and she completed one year of law school in the United States before deciding to pursue a career in the publishing industry. When not working, she can usually be found messing around with games, photography or floral arrangements in memory of her former days as a flower shop assistant.
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