Motorcycle Lease vs. Loan: Which Should You Choose?

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Updated on Thursday, February 28, 2019

Motorcycle lease or loan
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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:

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • 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:

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • 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.

The bottom line

Deciding whether to take out a loan and buy a motorcycle or lease one instead is a personal decision where the main factors of price, quality and maintenance all come into play, as an owner or a lessee.

Job one is to get out there and kick some tires, do your research, and talk to people who have purchased a motorcycle or leased one instead. There’s no voice like the voice of experience, so engage with other motorcycle enthusiasts on what worked for them, and what should work given your unique needs.