row of parked motorcycles

Whether you’re buying a motorcycle for a daily commute or as a way to hit the open road on a sunny day, there are plenty of things to take into consideration before you choose the one for you.

You may still have some basic questions about the process. For example, how much is a motorcycle? Is there a guide that shows you how to buy a motorcycle? We’ll be providing the latter for you right here and answering many of the questions you might have. Let’s start with what kind of bike you should be looking for. Options are surprisingly varied. You should look at the different types and sizes of bikes available and learn the difference between buying from an individual and buying from a dealership. Here’s an overview of what you should keep in mind:

Choosing a style of motorcycle

How you’re going to use the bike will make a big difference in the kind of motorcycle you buy. Each type of motorcycle comes with its own set of benefits and uses, so look at all your options and think about how, when and where you’ll ride.

Standard motorcycles

What is a standard bike? Standard motorcycles are traditional in design, reflecting basic utility and classic aesthetics. If you’re a new rider or seeking a comfortable, versatile ride, then a standard bike might be for you. Learn more about standard motorcycles.

Pros: These motorcycles offer classic styling, affordability and serve as a blank template for customization.

Cons: Accessories and passenger accommodations may be limited relative to cruisers, and performance might lag behind other sportier offerings.

Sport motorcycles

What is a sport bike? If speed is what you want, a sport bike can oblige. These bikes are made to go fast, with sophisticated suspension systems, and cutting-edge power and performance. More experienced riders seeking a thrill can find it with a sport bike. Not all “sport bikes” are equal in terms of performance and risk. Read the spec sheet to know how much power you’re paying for relative to your needs. Learn more about sport motorcycles.

Pros: Sleek, modern designs and professional-caliber performance levels make sport bikes an adrenaline rush to ride if you’ve got the experience to control them safely.

Cons: These bikes are built for speed, not comfort. They’re not popular for long-distance rides and shouldn’t be the first choice for anyone who is new to motorcycles. They may also be more expensive to insure, which may factor into your purchasing decision. Not all “sport bikes” are equal in terms of performance and risk. Read the spec sheet to know how much power you’re paying for relative to your needs. [1]

Touring motorcycles

What is a touring bike? Sometimes, you want a different kind of road trip. If you’re tired of rolling down the window to get some air while you travel, a touring bike could be for you. These bikes are made for long-distance trips, with extensive carrying capacity for luggage, comfortable seats and other features you might typically find in a car such as GPS. Learn more about touring motorcycles.

Pros: If long journeys are what you’re into, touring bikes are perfect. They’re comfortable, durable and have room for your gear. They also feature expansive passenger accommodations, which make them a popular choice for couples sharing the ride.

Cons: More room for luggage means less precise handling. These bikes are big and heavy and will not feel as nimble on the road as other bikes. [1]


What is a cruiser? Cruisers are traditional-styled motorcycles steeped in American riding heritage. They typically feature low-slung seat heights, footboards or feet forward designs, and are known for chrome and a focus on customization. Learn more about cruisers.

Pros: Cruisers are versatile enough to serve riders who favor pleasure or function. They’re also great for riders who just want to be seen riding on a sharp-looking machine. Cruisers offer a wealth of customization options, from handlebars to saddlebags, and are frequently popular with riding groups.

Cons: Like touring bikes, cruisers are on the heavier side and do lose some maneuverability for it. [1]

Dual-Sport motorcycles

What is a dual-sport bike? Can’t decide if you want to ride on or off-road? A dual-sport bike might be for you. These versatile bikes are also made to be durable, making them great for trading pavement for dirt or, in the case of the increasingly popular ‘adventure tourer’ category of larger dual-sport styled bikes, distance riding. Learn more about dual-sport motorcycles.

Pros: If you want to be able to take your bike almost anywhere, that’s exactly what a dual-sport motorcycle will let you do. They’ve got the toughness and versatility to ride on all manner of terrain.

Cons: These bikes are designed with high centers of gravity, which can be good for sitting high in traffic, but not ideal if you need something a little closer to the ground. [1]

How much does a motorcycle cost?

Once you determine what kind of motorcycle is right for you, you’ll have a better idea of what kind of pricing you’re looking at. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll pay between $5,000 and $25,000, but there’s a lot within those two numbers. If you find a bike you like, spend time online researching costs; just as with cars, you can pinpoint the cost of the motorcycle and know that you’re getting a good deal.

Most expensive motorcycles

Motorcycles vary greatly in cost, but the two most expensive varieties tend to be touring and supersport bikes.

On touring bikes, everything is made to be bigger and more powerful, which is why the cost tends to be higher. With powerful engines, large fuel tanks, extra-large bodies to accommodate storage, these bikes are made to perform over long periods of time across long distances. Some models also include high-tech equipment that can drive the price up further.

Supersport bikes are simply made to perform at the highest level in terms of speed and handling, and their price reflects that accordingly. When you buy one of these bikes, you’re paying extra for an ultra-powerful engine and suspension. [2]

Most affordable motorcycles

Dual sport and dirt bikes tend to be the least expensive options for bargain hunters seeking a new bike. For both models, the lower price tends to stem primarily from the lightweight, simple designs. These bikes aren’t made with frills, they’re made to hold together on a variety of terrain types and keep on chugging. In that sense, dual sport and dirt bikes give buyers excellent bang for their buck. [2]

Remember the extras

Of course, the costs don’t stop with the purchase price. You want to factor in such costs as:

  • Gas: You may find you’re spending less at the pump than with a car. Motorcycles are fuel efficient at speeds below 50 mph. Once you cross that threshold, you’d be surprised how many motorcycles lose competitiveness with some of today’s most fuel-efficient cars as aerodynamics come into play.
  • Motorcycle insurance: The cost will vary based on the engine size and type of motorcycle you choose. Check out Nationwide’s motorcycle insurance offerings, which include collision, comprehensive, and options for vintage motorcycles as well as optional total loss replacement for new motorcycles.
  • Insurance add-ons: Depending on your needs, you may require some insurance add-ons to your standard policy. Nationwide offers coverage for safety apparel and custom equipment you installed on your bike post-manufacturer as well as roadside assistance.
  • Maintenance: Maintenance requirements vary by type and brand of motorcycle. As an example, you might research what type of valve adjustments (if any) are required. If maintenance is outside of your skill level, consider the service cost at a qualified repair facility.
  • Gear: In addition to the motorcycle itself, you’ll need to buy a motorcycle helmet, boots, gloves and other protective riding gear. These can add up, but they’re important for your safety – so make sure there’s room for them in your budget.

Dealerships and financing

Just as with a car, you have the option of buying a new or pre-owned motorcycle directly from the dealership, or you can buy a used bike from its previous owner. Knowing where to buy a motorcycle is a good first step to selecting a financing option.

  • Buying from a dealership: One of the main advantages of buying from a dealership is a wider selection of motorcycles – and, if they don’t have what you’re looking for, chances are they’ll be able to get it. You will also have a service department you can turn to for maintenance or mechanical issues.
  • Buying from a private seller: If you’re buying from a private seller, you'll probably need outside financing (an option you can choose when buying from a dealership, of course). It’s important you get a loan with payments that will fit your budget, and remember to leave room for the other costs that can pop up unexpectedly.
  • Do I need a motorcycle license? You don’t need a license to buy a motorcycle, however, you do if you ever want to ride it. A hefty fine awaits anyone who gets pulled over on a motorcycle without a motorcycle license. If you don’t have yours yet, you’ll need to ask someone else who does to help you get your new bike home or otherwise bring it back on a trailer. Consider a motorcycle safety course, whether you have a license or not. The more you know, the better (and safer) the ride. [3]

Regardless of what type of motorcycle you’re buying or from whom you’re buying it, do your homework first. The more time you spend learning about what you'd like to buy and what you need, the more informed and satisfied you’ll be with it.

[1] “What Kind of Motorcycle Should I Get? A Guide to the Best Motorcycle Types,” Bill Roberson, https://www.themanual.com/auto/what-kind-of-motorcycle-should-i-get-motorcycle-types/#dt-heading-dual-sport (Accessed November 4, 2022).

[2] “What Is the Average Price of a Motorcycle?” https://powersportsguide.com/average-motorcycle-prices/ (Accessed November 4, 2022).

[3] “How To Buy A Used Motorcycle From A Private Seller: A Pro’s Guide,” Kyle Cannon, https://motorcyclehabit.com/how-to-buy-a-used-motorcycle-from-a-private-seller-a-pros-guide/ (Accessed November 7, 2022).

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