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Updated on Thursday, February 28, 2019
Many two-wheel roadsters might pay cash for that chopper thanks to a wide selection of motorcycles in the four-figure range. But perhaps you have your eye on Harley-Davidson’s forthcoming $30,000 electric bike or something in between. What’s the better deal — leasing or buying? Each option has its pros and cons. Let’s look at a motorcycle lease vs. a loan.
Motorcycle loans at a glance
- More common than a lease, motorcycle loan options are available through banks, credit unions, online lenders or the manufacturer itself.
- Terms generally ranged from 24 to 84 months, at time of publication.
- APRs at time of publication ranged from 4.69% to 12.24%.
Getting a loan for a motorcycle gives you a single big advantage over leasing a bike: Once you pay the loan, you own the motorcycle outright. That gives you more options than with a lease — you can keep the bike, sell it, or trade it in for another bike, reducing the cost of purchasing a new motorcycle.
Bike owners may also want to customize their motorcycle, or give it a colorful new paint job, something that isn’t allowed with a leased bike. Wear and tear is an issue that bike owners don’t have to stress over, as opposed to riders who lease a bike and have to pay close attention to wear and tear, and must return the machine in good condition or else pay fees.
Pros and cons of a motorcycle loan
Like any large financial purchase, motorcycle loans have their upsides and downsides – here’s a quick snapshot:
- As an owner, you can customize or personalize your machine without having to worry about running afoul of leasing agreements.
- Access to dealer and manufacturer sales and rebates — read more about these in our guide to motorcycle loans.
- Monthly motorcycle loan payments are typically higher than lease payments.
- Like any vehicle purchase, the best rates generally go to those with the best credit.
- If you don’t like the bike for whatever reason, you could be stuck with it for a long time, unless you resell it.
Motorcycle leasing at a glance
- Unlike car leasing, most motorcycle manufacturers don’t offer leasing programs, though some dealerships do, in addition to leasing companies.
- Terms range up to 60 months, at time of publication.
The most significant advantage of leasing a motorcycle instead of buying one is cost — it’s significantly less expensive to lease a bike than to take out a loan, especially when some motorcycles can cost $10,000 to $35,000 and up, though there are plenty of bikes well under those prices as well.
After the lease is up, you typically have several choices: simply return the bike to the dealer; return the bike and lease another; or buy it outright if you really like the make and model.
Pros and cons of a motorcycle lease
Leasing a motorcycle also has its upsides and downsides – here’s a look both scenarios:
- With a lease, you’re getting the benefits of riding a new or new-to-you bike without a heavy financial commitment.
- Leasing means you can change bikes every few years.
- You might get a better bike than you otherwise might be able to afford to buy outright.
- Motorcycle leases can be difficult to find, whereas bike loans are widely available.
- Not every motorcycle make and model is available for leasing – that could keep you from getting the bike you want.
- Heavy fees are associated with leasing a motorcycle, especially charges incurred when you wish to end a bike lease early.
- A bike lessee will have to look out for mileage fees as well. Many leases come with a 15,000 miles-per-year limit; you’ll be charged a fee for exceeding that limit.
- The motorcycle dealer may insist you buy pricey gap insurance before you can sign a lease. Insurance protects the owner (the dealer, in this example) if the bike is stolen or heavily damaged.
- At the end of the lease, you won’t have ownership of the machine unless you decide to buy it.
Leasing makes sense when:
- You only want a bike for a few years. If you’re into a bike for the long haul, getting a loan and buying it is preferable to leasing.
- If you’re concerned about the high cost of a motorcycle. Motorcycle lease payments are typically lower than loan payments.
Buying makes sense when:
- You feel like you might be lax in the care and maintenance of your motorcycle. With a lease, the dealer will require you to take special care of the bike — after all, they own it — which will add to your total motorcycle cost.
- You want to personalize or customize a motorcycle. In a lease deal, the dealer may force you to keep the bike as is, and not allow any changes to the bike.
- You plan on driving the motorcycle great distances and might exceed lease mileage limits.