Should I trade my car for a motorcycle?

I don’t know if I am the only one, but the older I get the more fed up with cars I am becoming. Cars are getting more and more expensive with more and more options I do not want but have to get, which add to the cost. Then there insurance, gas, oil changes etc. I am seriously considering getting rid of a car altogether and getting a motorcycle or motor scooter (Vespa) to get around town. I would then rent a car or take taxis, buses or whatever.

Has anyone done this? What are the benifits, drawbacks, would you advise it. How about the costs in the long run. I look forward to hearing any comments on this.


Rain, Snow… things like that can make the motorcycle option less appealing. There is also a higher risk element because car drivers are notoriously bad when it comes to checking their mirrors before changing lanes. My Father’s first bike ended up wrapped around a telephone pole because of this.

Actually, statistically almost all Motorcycle Accidents are the Motorcycle Operators fault. Things like drinking, speeding, and exceeding skill level are most often to blame. But Blackclaw is right, there is a higher risk.

Simple things like bringing home groceries, trying to eat an ice cream cone, or taking a suit to the cleaners are difficult on a bike. Even bringing home a pizza is almost impossible, Unless of course you have a dresser with a nice big trunk. You’re talking about maybe a scooter or moped though, most of them don’t come with a nice big trunk.

The plus side is much better gas mileage, lower costs for insurance etc… Also, you wouldn’t believe how much easier it is to navigate in heavy traffic. At a stop light for instance with a long-line, you can just go near the front of the line and whip in in front of a Semi-truck without really inconviencing anyone, since a big truck takes off so slow anyway. Some people get excited, most don’t. And when there’s a lane to turn right on red, and someone is stopped there to go straight, you can pass right on by him in that little space on the right, and make your turn. In a traffic jam on the Interstate, Ive cruised right on in between the lanes, carefully, although that probably shouldn’t be recommended. Like I said, some people get uptight, but most don’t, and I’ve done it all over in the country and through Chicago. In fact, alot of people smile and wave as if they wish they had the same option.

Just being on a Motorcycle, to me, makes any trip better. Riding down a Highway or better yet, a country backroad, is extremely therapeutic. Any trip seems shorter and much less of a hassle. All the smells and feels of the area you’re in, like the smell of a corn or mint field, and the shady areas that are cooler, all add to the enjoyment of the ride. These normally go unnoticed in a car.

All these things considered though, there’s no way I would ever completely give up my car. However, for most of the Summer, it’s parked in the driveway and I’m on two wheels.

Good luck with your descision.

If you want to get a motorcycle, think of the cold.
if you dont wanan be cold, you’re gonna have to buy a leather jacket so if you crash you slide. Add the cost of the helmet and the insurance. Insurance is higher for a motorcycle than an 87’ Ford POS.
They warm, stay safe, keep your money.
Stick with the car.

Motorcycles are surprisingly expensive to run.The cost of parts is a thing of wonderment.

The lifetime of said parts can leave much to be desired, a typicla 500cc bike upwards will put a back tyre through in around 8000 miles at best and some bikes like the YZF-R1 can do it in just two or three thousand.
Bikes for the most part are not designed to run with typical car levels of maintenance.

Many bikes struggle to achieve better than 45mpg when it comes to fuel.

On the plus side, it does not have to be like this, decide on what you want out of your machine. I would think that something like a Honda CB500 would be a better option than most scooters, although these are at least very easy to get on with for the inexperienced.

Look at the car you typically drive and look at the running costs, be sure to make a note of depreciation as this is the largest single cost in most cases.
If you are losing like $2000 plus another few thou in insurance maintenance and fuel then taking cabs everywhere and using a small bike for trips around town might very well be cheaper.

I’ve ridden a motorcycle for the last 15 years of my life. I have perhaps 10 hours of driving time behind the wheel of a car. I might be a little biased :slight_smile:

Here are things to consider:

  1. Motorcycles are dangerous. Well, sort of. Someone above said that most motorcycle accidents are the fault of the cyclist. This isn’t true, in my experiance. Motorcyclists consider all accidents the fault of the cyclist. No one else will look out for you; you are completely responsible for keeping yourself safe. If you aren’t willing to accept that, don’t ride a bike.

Now, statistically speaking, a cyclist is 16x more likely to be involved in an injury or fatal accident. You can drastically decrease these odds by 1) never ever ever ever not once riding with alchohol in your system, 2) riding at normal speeds 3) taking the hiway patrol safety class.

  1. There is limited carrying capacity. While this is true, you’d be amazed at what you can carry if you want to. I’ve bungee-corded a 10"mitre saw, a 20 lb turkey, and a chainsaw to the back of my sport bike (admitedly, not all at once). You get really good at carrying stuff.

  2. Maintainance costs.casdave seems to be talking about sport bikes; my yamaha seca II will get 20-30k miles out of its Metzler tires, easily. Valve adjustments every 3k miles started to add up, so I do those myself. I change the oil and lube the chain, and tighten bolts every few weekends (because I’m neurotic, not because I need to) and change the brake pads. It is less expensive to maintain than the pathfinder that my wife drives.

I carry liabilty insurance and uninsured motorist, and pay $150/year in insurance ( that’s about 70 for the liability and 80 for the uninsured). I have never heard of insurance costing more for a bike. At least here in CA, registration is based on the value of the vechicle; renewing my tags was about $70 this year.

Gas milage: well, bikes have been going more for power than for milage lately. The seca gets very bad milage - about 35-40 in the city. The Kawasaki KX 500 gets 90 mpg (that is not a typo) on the highway, but I don’t know what it gets in the city. Sport bikes seem to hover between the 30 and 40 mpg.

Motorcyclist magazine puts out one cost of operation issue a year, where they talk about how much it actually costs to keep various bikes on the road. Extremely interesting reading. Bike magazine does the same thing, but you have to convert from pounds to dollars (and you have to translate english biker slang, which throws me every now and then :slight_smile: ).

The whitelining post is correct, as far as it goes. Note that it takes a while to build up the skills required to do that safely.

You will need a leather jacket ($200), a helmet ($150-$500), gloves ($30) and boots.

Whatever you do, do not run out and buy one of the ultra fast rockets for your first bike. Any motorcyle above 249ccs has more than enough power for a new motorcyclist.

In my not so humble opinion, bikes re much, much cheaper to operate. I am in Los Angeles, and get something like 270 days of ridable weather, can ride in the rain, and am willing to take public transit if I feel the bike is too dangerous an option, and I ride a economy bike. Like I said, I’m biased.

Insurance: Mine costs about $200/year in L.A.

Tires: I get about 20,000 to 30,000 miles on the Bridgestone radials. Some people have to replace their chains and tires much more frequently, but this is a matter of riding style.

Carrying stuff: I have a small (about 9") rack on the back of the bike. It’s amazing what you can carry with a small rack and a couple of bungees. The seat is big enough for two people, so large loads can be carried part on the seat and part on the rack. Combined with a backpack, I can carry all of the groceries I need. Large items such as paper towels or toilet paper can be strapped to the rack. Some people use tank bags. These are soft packs that sit atop the fuel tank. You don’t need a “dresser” or a “cruiser” to carry a nice load.

Mileage: Most of the 60-plus-thousand miles I have on this bike are freeway miles. I get over 50mpg in L.A. traffic.

Getting around: In California, it’s legal to share lanes (i.e., ride between lanes of cars when the traffic is slow). Also, motorcycles are allowed in carpool lanes (I think this is so in most states).

Parking: It’s easy to park a motorcycle almost anywhere. Motorcycles often park free (e.g., at LAX).

Fun: A commute is much more fun when you’re on a bike. Motorcycles have a nice power-to-weight ratio and there’s nothing like rolling open the throttle and getting immediate speed. Sometimes I like to swerve in a clear lane just for the fun of it. Note that I’m talking about a 600cc “standard” class bike here; not a “sportbike”. As modest as it is, it’s still capable of zooming along (at the cost of increased fuel consumption) at 120mph. (I did get a high-speed shimmy at 125 though.)

Okay, what about the downside?

Weather: Motorcycles are not suited to year-round riding in many parts of the country. A rainsuit and warm clothing extends the riding season for many places. I would not like to take a bike out on snow, but rain is easy to deal with if you’re a careful rider. Wearing leather in the rain results in a heavy, dripping, rain-soaked garment. Even if you’ve put water repellent on it, it will get wet.

Safety: If you crash on a bike, you’re much more likely to be injured or killed than if you’re in a car. Since you have only two wheels, a slick spot might send you down where a car will stay upright. (I once ran over a flattened aluminum can in a turn and the rear wheel slid out from under me.) Car drivers do not pay attention to motorcycles. They say “we came out of nowhere”, but the reality is that their scan is not as thorough or as frequent as it should be. You can mitigate drivers’ inattention by being especially aware of your surroundings and of what other drivers are doing. If you ride with the idea that everyone else is a moron and you take steps to avoid them and situations that put you into close proximity to them, you will be much safer.

Maintenance: Some people ride and ride and don’t do much maintenance. Other people get regular oil changes, lubes, chain tightening, tune ups, etc. Motorcycles do require more maintenance than cars but they’ll put up with a surprising amount of their owner’s abuse. But an ill-maintained bike will lose performance much sooner aand more frequently than an ill-maintained car. Also, bad maintenance on a motorcycle is much more a safety issue than it usually is with cars.

Scooters: Some people love them. But I personally don’t like their lack of power and their high centre of gravity. Great mileage though, and they seem simpler than a real motorcycle.

Cars can be very useful. If you have a great deal of groceries to carry, a car may be a better option. If you wear a suit, a car is better. (There are riding suits that fit over your clothes though.) You can’t eat your Big Mac or talk on the cell phone when you’re on a bike. (But I think that you should pay attention to driving when you’re on the road anyway.) If you’re worried about how your hair looks, you’ll have to deal with “helmet head”. Your date or SO might not be keen on the idea of riding on a bike. (I don’t like to ride on the back of a bike. I’d rather be doing the driving.) In California, it’s illegal to have earphones on both ears when you’re on a bike. No listening to the stereo. On the other hand, you can work on your “shower voice”.

You can get a small, economical car (or a big one, for that matter) and use it as your secondary vehicle. I rode my bike all the time until I bought a Porsche. I sold the 911 and bought a Jeep Cherokee. I tend to drive it more than I ride the bike out of sheer laziness. But in the Jeep I have to drive very conservatively (65mph or less) to get 20mpg. I can do 70 or more on the bike and get over 50mpg. My parking situation is that one or the other of the vehicles must be blocked into the parking space. That means I have to play “musical rides” if I want to switch. As I said, I’m just being lazy.

FWIW, I got my first mini-bike when I was six. My first real motorcyle was a new 1973 Yamaha 100 Enduro I got for my 12th birthday (after I’d been riding dad’s '64 Yamaha 80 for a couple of years). That was followed by a 1976 Yamaha 250 Enduro I got in 1977, a well-used 1979 Honda CX-500, and the Yamaha Seca II I got new in 1994. I think the dirt riding I did when I was a kid taught me how to anticipate situations and makes me a better rider on the road.

Motorcycles are unbelievably useful machines. Given their many advantages, it boggles the mind that more people don’t ride. Go out and get a bike. Learn how to ride. (Really learn!) But keep a car on-hand just in case.

Insurance costs are still likely to be less on the motorcycle no matter what the car, especially if you don’t have collision. Mine’s something like 300 a year, and I would be considered a “high-risk” rider due to my age, I presume.

Just call me a depressing old wet blanket (in chorus: She’s a depressing old wet blanket).


I’ve known too many para- and quadraplegics to let this topic pass. Plus, one of our closest friends was riding his motorcycle to work, leather jacket over pin-striped-suit, briefcase and laptop lashed to the rack, when someone didn’t look quite well enough when they pulled out from the kerb. The witnesses said our friend was riding sedately, within the speed limit, and in the correct lane. His widow and son have yet to take any comfort from that.

The problem isn’t the practicalities of cold and wet weather, or of collecting a pizza on the way home. The problem is accidents. We aren’t just talking walking away with a few cuts. We are talking a much higher rate for death, brain damage and paralysis than for car drivers.

If you decide to get a bike, not only should you do a proper learners course, but also a defensive riding course (don’t know what they are called in the US but I figure you’ll be able to find it out) to protect you from the other road users. You’ll need a leather jacket, boots and gloves. And a certified helmet. Full face helmets give better protection against spinal injuries than open face or jetstream types.

Need to know about how a spinal injury really impacts your life? Go to your nearest rehab centre and do a little volunteer work. Or to a major teaching hospital with a spinal unit. Talk to some of the patients - I’ll guarantee there are bike riders there - motorcycle accidents are one of the leading causes of irreversible spinal injury.

(cue chorus: repeat She’s a depressing old wet blanket.)

Re the OP: If all you need to transport is yourself, a scooter is a nimble vehicle around town, weather permitting. They’re (generally speaking) less of a hassle to maintain as well. Add a topbox and you’ll even be able to move some groceries. Rain sucks.

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend a “real” motorcycle for riding in traffic - I know I detest it heartily. The city is a risky environment for two-wheelers, and most bikes aren’t really designed with city riding in mind.

If the economical factors are foremost in your mind, buy an old car. Motorcycles are pretty damn dangerous and should be approached with an “I so want to ride this beast and I’m going to do my friggin’ best to master the skills needed” attitude. Monetary concerns are perhaps not the best motivation.

AKAmame: Good points. I might perhaps add that while motorcycles are certainly more dangerous than cars, they are also more than just a means of transport. A lot of people who ride motorcycles wouldn’t necessarily be driving along the same road in a car, all things being equal. More likely, they’d be out rock climbing or skydiving or performing other more or less dangerous activities - the inherent danger in an activity can be attractive in and of itself. I know it is for me, which probably brands me a fool. (Yup, I climb rocks and have skydived as well).

My bike is not just an overpriced and uncomfortable transportation device to me - it’s the tool needed to get out and exercise and improve some hard-gotten skills. I realize and try to minimize the risks, but the fact that they are there is an integral part of the entire - ehm - I guess passion is the word.

I had a point as I started to write this, but I’m afraid it got bored and left the room.

S. Norman

I just had to say that.

Yes, motorcycles are more dangerous in an accident than a car. I was lucky in that my folks allowed me to start riding very young. Desert trails vary much, and quickly. You might be on a “washboard” one second, and soft sand the next. Rocks jump out of nowhere. Where’d that bend come from? Riding a lightweight dirt bike when you’re young does wonders for honing the reflexes and teaching the rider to think ahead. That’s the key to surviving in traffic: Think ahead.

Car drivers have way too many distractions. Their eating, reading the newspaper, talking on the phone, listening to the stereo, eating… whatever. But the biggest problem is that in the U.S. drivers are not trained very well. They don’t realize that you have to pay attention. There are several collisions every day on the roads I travel to work. I have no doubt that almost all of them could have been avoided if the parties had been paying attention.

People don’t “choose” to drive cars. They do it because that’s what you do. Motorcyclists make a conscious decision to go on two wheels. They are taught that people in cars will try to kill them. Thinking ahead and attention to conditions are drilled into them. But a large number of motorcyclists are “newbies”. Sometimes their attention lapses, and that’s when they get into trouble. Many times they also get in trouble when they become over-confident. As I said, I’m lucky I started riding early. I got to make my mistakes in the dirt, without traffic around. Dirt is more forgiving than asphalt.

As for scooters, I have thoughts on those as well. In California, it’s difficult to get to many places unless you take a freeway. There used to be, and I believe there still are, displacement restrictions for freeway use. I don’t know what they are, but I think you need a bike that will maintain freeway speeds. Most scooters are not designed for freeway use.

I disagree with Spiny Norman that “real” motorcycles are not recommended for riding in traffic. I’d much rather be on a motorcycle, which has a low centre of gravity and a better power-to-weight ratio than scooters, than to be on a scooter in traffic. Many bikes are “flickable”, which is to say that they can be maneuvered quickly and accurately. The tiny wheels and high CG of scooters make them unable to handle as well. Motorcycles are also bigger than scooters. This means they are easier to see. Two-wheelers are often hit by drivers who “didn’t see them”.

I agree with Spiny Norman that monetary concerns are not the best motivation. Motorcycles are certainly more economical than cars. They are much more efficient for most operations too. But for me, the motivation was because they are so much more fun than being in a car. As for his statement that “I so want to ride this beast and I’m going to do my friggin’ best to master the skills needed”, I’d advise you to think “tactically”. That is, be a “fighter pilot”. Think of all of the cars out there as your enemy. They will kill you if they can. “Situational awareness” is paramount. You must always have an “out”. Fortunately motorcycles are small and quick, so “outs” are often plentiful. And remember: When a car moves over for you, give a wave of thanks. It lets the driver know you appreciate his actions and reinforces the behaviour.

FTR, here is a list of my most recent crashes:

  1. While lane sharing, a full-sized pickup driver decided he needed to go from the #3 lane to the #1 lane without pausing in the #2 lane. He was too close for me to stop, and I started to skid before I hit him. I “body checked” his truck, careened across the #1 lane, and came to a stop on the left shoulder. Upright. No damage to the bike. I was wearing a one-piece leather racing suit at the time and the only damage was a slight scuff on the right knee that you can’t even see any more, and a little abrasion on the left knee from hitting the centre divider. The brand-new truck had a big dent in the left front fender.

  2. I took off down an unfamiliar road after a long day shooting a film (i.e., I was tired). The 90º turn surprised me. I went off the road and went down. No damage.

  3. While lane sharing on the freeway, the guy next to me decided to change lanes without looking. (People tend to look in their side-view mirrors instead of actually turning their heads as they were taught in Driver’s Ed.) I didn’t go down, but I did dislodge his bumber with my left shin. I had a bump on my leg for a week.

  4. While making a left turn at a light, my rear wheel hit a flattened aluminum can which I didn’t see. The rear end slid out from under me. I was wearing a denim jacket so I gor a little road rash on my left arm. Moderate damage to the bike (cracked the $500 fairing).

  5. On the freeway at about 80mph, my worn-out chain snapped. It wrapped itself around the hub, causing a momentary skid. Fortunately the swingarm deformed when the wrapped-up chain hit it and the rear wheel continued to turn. I didn’t go down and I was uninjured, but the damage to the bike was substantial. The swingarm needed to be replaced, the rear fender was chewed up (better that than my backside!), and there was a 4cm hole in the the engine (by the front sprocket, not in the “working” part, so it’s just cosmetic). That set me back about $1,200. The smart thing would have been to junk the bike and buy a new one, but this Seca II has substantial sentimental value to me.

So the tally is: One case of inattention by me, one case of unseen debris, one case of riding too fast for the road I was on, and two cases of car drivers not paying attention. In addition there have been a few “close calls”, all of which have been because of homicidal (I mean “inattentive”) car drivers.

Maybe you have the wrong bike? I’ve found that Yamahas are most comfortable for me. The Honda was okay too. But the Suzuki GSXR-750 I rode felt as if I were perched atop a box. As far as the price, there are several inexpensive bikes out there (Yamaha 600cc Seca II, Suzuki 600cc Bandit, Honda 750cc Nighthawk, e.g.) that are very good. Sport bikes are more expensive and you need to find one that “fits your butt”, but they’re not overpriced IMO. Harleys? Well, if you’ve read any of the other motorcycle threads I’ve posted to you’ll know I don’t hold them in high esteem. IMO they are hideously over-priced.

Speaking of price, I have a dilemma. What will my next bike be? A Yamaha R-1? A Yamaha R-6? A Ducati? The R-6 is the cheapest (both in terms of acquisition and insurance). The R-1 and a Duc are in the same performance class, but the Yamaha is faster, more maneuverable, more reliable, has longer maintenance intervals, and is more confortable. On the other hand, the Ducati is… well, a Ducati! The most beautiful engine on a bike today, both visually and aurally. Hmmmm…

That’s inattention to maintenance.

You’re not a depressing old wet blanket, just a little too cautious.

We COULD just all STAY HOME, and never venture out of our front doors to avoid any possibility of an accident on the road. But then, what kind of life would that be.

Also, CHIMAERA, don’t let ‘em fool you about carrying alot of stuff on a bike. The Beverly Hillbillies piled alot of stuff on that old truck of theirs, way up high. But then, they LOOKED like a bunch of hillbillies. I ride a HD Road King, one of the bigger bikes on the road, and believe me, you’re not gonna’ bring groceries home, maybe stuff a little bit in the saddlebag, but you’ll need to go back to the grocery store in the car.
As your ONLY means of transportation, I’d stick to a car. (or as we Biker types call em’, a “cage”)

Spiny Norman, not a fool, just an adrenaline junkie!

Johnny LA:

  • nope, I have exactly the right bike. But let’s face it, if I was just looking for transportation, it’d be overpriced & uncomfortable. As I want soul, lean angles, beauty, performance and sound, I have the perfect bike.
  • Amen, brother. You know you want it. You can (presumably) afford it. You’ll never look back. Come over to the dark side…

Yes, I ride a Duc 748 Bi and by all that’s holy, that bike embodies the Zen of motorcycling. Just don’t ride it in traffic and don’t expect to be able to haul anything on it.

Seriously, though: The R1, the R6, the Ninja 600 or 900 - sweet bikes, all of them. I have a slight crush on the Ninja 900, but let’s be honest: The difference is who’s perched on top. Carl Fogarty could smoke me on a CB500 and I know it.

S. Norman

I beg to differ. With a little practice you can bring home a lot of groceries on a bike. And I don’t have saddlebags.

Large or bulky items like paper towels, toilet paper or laundry soap can be lashed to the rack. Everything else goes into your backpack. Take the backpack into the store empty and use it as your shopping basket. You can rearrange things as necessary to get the best fit. Use the exterior pockets too. The amount of groceries you can carry is limited only by the size of your backpack. (Note: You probably don’t want to use a pack with a frame in it, in case you need to twist in the saddle for some reason.)

Of course, you also need to be reasonable when you shop. Many people load a shopping cart to bursting. I always wonder how they can eat so much food.

Sometimes in life, you still need a car. But most of the time you (well, I) don’t really need one for groceries.

Spiny Norman, you have the right bike for going out and having fun! I’d sell your soul for a Duc. :wink:

Due to my parking situation, I can only have one bike and one car; so my bike has to be more practical. My little Seca II is small enough to get through the heavy L.A. traffic, both on and off the freeway. (A former A-4 Skyhawk driver sat on it and said, “This is a peashooter!” He should know. The wings on an A-4 are about the same size as the tailplanes on an F-14.) It’s fast enough to get me tickets, quick enough to squirt into tight places if needed, and efficient enough to get 50+mpg on my 90-mile r/t commute to work. While not a machine designed for travelling, I’ve ridden it to Lake Havasu (104ºF and in full leathers! Woohoo!), Las Vegas, San Diego and San Francisco. I’d hate to try that on a Duc! (Unless I replaced the vinyl-covered two-by-four they call a seat with something more comfortable. :wink: )

When a person buys a bike, s/he has to get the right one for the mission. If the mission is to go out and have fun, get a Duc or a Japanese sportbike. If the mission is to replace a four-wheeler as one’s primary means of transportation, get a Japanese “standard” class bike.

      • I never owned any motorcycle, but on the subject of scooters,
  • The three different people I have known who have bought those tiny Vespa scooters ended up trashing them in less than a year. The things just did not hold together very well at all. They seemed more like toys you can use in the street rather than something you’d actually depend on to get you places. -That is, if that was what you were thinking of. There might be bigger and better Euro models to be had but if not, do yourself a favor and stick to models from Japanese motorcycle companies. They’re bigger, heavier and they cost more but they seem to last a lot longer. - MC

Johnny L.A

Whilst we are waiting for the 996 replacement which is truly a work of art you could always lust after an MV Agusta.

Me, I collect my CB750 Nighthawk in six weeks, which’ll be a big improvement on my 17year old Honda CBX550.

One day I will get the new Triumph 595(supposed to be a Blade beater - we will see) which is not yet off the drawing board.By the time its ready I might even have the money.