WhyBike Motorcycle Blog

Mailbag: High Mileage Motorcycles

By James - 9/5/2007

Scott wrote:

Hi, I recently just got my motorcycle license, and I’m considering purchasing a 1998 Sportster 883 XLH…for what seems to be a great deal at $3,000. screaming eagle exhaust, chrome everywhere…(I’m in Rhode Island) However, it has 26,000 miles on it. What do you think? Is it worth $3k? Right now he is asking $3,500, but I wouldn’t pay that. Is it risky buying a bike with this many miles on it ? Any help is appreciated. thanks, newbie

This is an interesting question and one I have seen on a few forums recently. The proposition of buying a “high” mileage motorcycle is a mixed bag. On one hand, you are avoiding all the deprecation and costs associated with a brand new bike. On the other, a motor only runs for so long and an old bike can nickel and dime you to financial death. So is it worth saving a buck and buying a “high” mileage bike?

I would say it depends. In your situation, with limited experience a used entry level bike is perfect for you. You don’t know what will happen in the next year and you don’t want to hand over a wad of cash for a starter bike. You want a bike that is reliable, since as a novice you don’t want to have problems while you are riding it, and you probably don’t have the mechanical skills to fix a bike that breaks down. Your used bike will not have the cutting edge technology, the modern aesthetics, or the cool paint schemes that the new bikes have but as you ride you will figure out whether that is important to you. Once you have a couple years under your belt you will have a better idea of what kind of bike you want.

I love older bikes. If the engine still runs strong and smooth after 50K miles you can be sure it will run strong for another 50K with the right care. You also have to look at the person selling it. If they are doing wheelies and stoppies, the bike probably has a shorter life expectancy than if a retired auto shop teacher uses it on the weekend. If a deal is too good to be true, it usually is, so take someone down to look at the bike with you or take it to a mechanic. I hope you get a good deal and that you get a really good bike.

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