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Should You Buy or Lease a Motorcycle?

If you’re dreaming of roaring down the road on a motorcycle this summer, you have more options than whether to buy new or used — you could lease.

Motorcycle leasing could be great if you want the newest, most powerful motorcycle, but find that purchase payments for it could be a little pricey. Compared with buying, leasing is a less expensive way to get on a bike. And when it’s time to turn it in at the end of the lease, you don’t have to bother trying to sell it yourself or haggling with a dealership about a trade-in price. You just turn it in, and you could turn right around and get the new hottest motorcycle.

Here we’ll further explain the differences between buying and leasing a motorcycle, the pros and cons and alternative ways to get on an iron horse.

Can you lease a motorcycle?
Motorcycle loan vs. motorcycle lease
Which option is right for you?
Alternatives to motorcycle financing

Can you lease a motorcycle?

It is possible to lease a motorcycle, though it’s not extremely common. Ask your motorcycle dealership if they have any leasing options or if they work with a motorcycle leasing company. Not all dealerships will lease, so you may have to look around.

Besides dealerships, there are motorcycle leasing companies. Unlike a car lease, the motorcycle you lease may not have to be new. You might be able to lease a used motorcycle, depending on where you lease from. But when you contact a dealership or a leasing company, make sure you ask what the motorcycle leasing requirements are. They may require that you have good credit and, depending on the motorcycle you want, you may need to give a down payment.

Motorcycle loan vs. motorcycle lease

Motorcycle loan

Most people will buy motorcycles instead of leasing for many reasons. Some want to personalize their bike with different paint jobs, equipment and accessories, which you can’t really do with leasing. Buying also lets you relax on the upkeep of your bike. With leasing, you have to watch out for excess wear and tear. And if you know that the bike you’ve set your eyes on is definitely the one for you, you’re going to want to keep it for a long time, so you might as well buy it.

You might be able to get a motorcycle loan at your bank, credit union or online lender. Motorcycle manufacturers often have special financing offers available to people with good credit, so shop around to see what suits you best. You should apply to a couple lenders before you decide on one, to see how much, for how long and at what APR you could borrow.

The loans can range from 24 to 84 months, depending on the bike, the lender and your credit. Some lenders will only go up to 60 months.

If you don’t know what your credit score is, you can check it here. If it isn’t the best, you can take a look at how to get a motorcycle loan with bad credit.

Motorcycle Loans: Pros & Cons
Pros Cons
  • Available from many sources
  • Manufacturer financing often features special low rates and rebates
  • You can personalize your bike as much as you’d like
  • Your loan payments could be higher than lease payments
  • You’re committed to paying for the whole motorcycle


Motorcycle lease

It’s often easier and cheaper to lease a motorcycle, turn it in and lease a new one than it is to buy one, and trade it in to buy another new one. If you like to “keep up with the Joneses,” then leasing might be right for you. And, if you don’t need to always have the newest motorcycle, leasing could make a nicer one more affordable.

You may be able to get a motorcycle lease through a dealer or a leasing company; you usually can’t lease a motorcycle through the manufacturer. It would be smart to call the dealership ahead of time to ask whether it has leasing programs before you go there. Motorcycle leasing terms can go up to 60 months, depending on the motorcycle and the leasing company.

Also, if you’re new to the world of motorcycles, you may not want to commit to buying a one.

Motorcycle Lease: Pros & Cons
Pros Cons
  • Your lease payments could be lower than loan payments
  • A nicer bike could be more affordable with a lease than with a loan
  • If you want a new bike every couple of years, it’s cheaper to lease than buy
  • When the lease is up, you can turn it in without price haggling
    • It can be harder to find leasing programs
    • Leasing may not be available for the motorcycle you want

Which option is right for you?

How long do you intend to have the motorcycle?

If you know you only want to have the motorcycle for few years, or you frequently get a new one, leasing is probably right for you. If you want to commit to having a motorcycle for a long time, then buying probably suits you better.

How much do you intend to ride it?

Leases usually have mileage limits. Whether you buy or lease, the more miles you put on the motorcycle, the less it’s worth to another buyer. When you sign a lease, you agree that the vehicle will be worth a specified amount when you return it. If you drove more miles than you said you would, then the vehicle is worth less than what you agreed upon, and you have to pay to make up that difference. So if you plan to drive a lot, leasing a motorcycle most likely isn’t the best choice; buying would be better. On the flip side, if you know you’ll only drive it occasionally, then why pay more to buy?

How do you take care of your vehicles?

If you lease a motorcycle, you’ll have to pay attention not only to its maintenance, but also to its upkeep — how it looks. Excess dings from going down a gravel road or rusted chrome from salted roads or ocean air could eat away at your wallet in excess wear and tear charges when you turn in the vehicle in. If you take care of your bike and have a spot in the garage for it, leasing shouldn’t be a sweat. If you don’t have a garage spot, or you’re more of a rough and ready person who doesn’t enjoy waxing and polishing (or paying someone to do it for you), then buying is probably better for you.

Do you want to modify your bike?

It’s part of motorcycle culture to personalize your bike. You may want something as simple as a chrome gear cap with a skull design, or something more complicated like changing out the exhaust pipes. If you do want to go hog wild with accessories, then buying is a smart choice. When you lease a motorcycle, you have to return it with all the parts it originally had and no extra parts.

Alternatives to motorcycle financing

1. Renting

If you have a special event you want a motorcycle for, you don’t necessarily have to buy or lease it — you could just rent one. Renting can be a great way to explore all the types of motorcycles to find the right one for you, because just test driving one around a couple blocks may not be the best way to get a feel for the vehicle.

Renting one for a weekend drive will help you to find out if you’d prefer a sport roadster (which comes with a windshield) rather than a cruiser, or vise versa. Or you may just like renting different models for different purposes: a chrome-heavy cruiser motorcycle to go to a high school reunion, or a more comfortable touring bike for a scenic weekend trip.

2. Balloon loans

These loans are a lot like leasing, in that you have low monthly payments and you’re not committed to buying the whole motorcycle. If you don’t want the motorcycle when the first half of the contract is up, you can turn it in. If you do like it, you can buy it by paying for the rest of its cost in cash, or by getting a traditional loan on the remaining balance. These programs usually require an excellent credit score, so not everyone will qualify.

3. Credit card

You could use a credit card to finance it and get points or cash back for the purchase, if your card has a reward program. Some cards offer free introductory financing periods for 12 months or longer, which you can use to your advantage. However, be aware that you may tie up a large portion of the credit that’s available to you on your credit card. You should also know what your APR will be once the card starts charging you interest.

4. Cash

If you know what you want and you have enough cash to get it without a worry, why finance? Just keep in mind you’ll have to pay taxes and fees out of pocket, in addition to the sticker price of the motorcycle.

5. Alternative loans

If you already have a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit (HELOC), you could use the cash from that to buy a motorcycle outright. If you want to make multiple large purchases, some type of home equity loan might be the cheapest way for you to get the money.


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