Busting the Myth that Motorcycles Save Gas (and Money)


With each new surge in gas prices, a frequently asked question is whether motorcycles offer substantial savings in fuel consumption.  The related question is whether motorcycles have a place in practical frugal living.

The questions make sense enough.  After all, what could possibly be more fuel efficient than a two-wheeler that weighs 1/8 the weight of a car?  What better idea for saving gas than losing the unused seating capacity, the empty trunk space, the metal frame and siding, and otherwise reducing your means of transportation to the absolute bare minimum?  Surely, 100 miles per gallon is something any frugalist would die for.   If that weren’t enough, the thrill of the open road, soaking up the sun on those beautiful spring and fall days, and the rugged, independent image make it a no brainer, right?


As someone who owned a motorcycle and used it as my primary means of transportation for seven years, I can say with complete confidence that the notion that motorcycles save money is a myth.  Let me walk you through some of the reasons why a motorcycle has no place in the practical frugal lifestyle.

We can start by dispelling the myth of motorcycles conserving gas.  First, I don’t know where this bit about “100 miles a gallon” came from.  Maybe the first small machines made decades ago approached this figure.  But the best fuel efficiency offered by any major manufacturer’s make these days is the Honda Rebel, at 84 mpg.  While that is nothing to sneeze about, it requires you to entrust your well-being to a 234 cc engine, which Honda somehow liberally rounds up to 250.  That provides you with just enough horsepower to travel at highway speeds, at a noisy, high revving engine speed and with precious little room for passing acceleration.

After the Rebel, the choices for high fuel efficiency cycles are few.  Yamaha Star offers a 250 of its own, which advertises 78 mpg, and the options just get worse from there.

In fact, if you want to put yourself on a motorcycle with more reasonable horsepower, you unfortunately have to jump up in engine size dramatically.  In the old days, the major manufacturers offered midsize engines in the 450 – 500cc range.  Mine, a Honda Nighthawk 450, belonged to that category.  For some reason that I will never get, the major makers now offer no such lines.  Instead, you pretty much have to jump all the way up to something in the 750cc range, although Yamaha does at least offer a 650cc Star model these days.

The first problem with these bikes is that their fuel efficiency is terrible – worse, in fact, than a Toyota Prius.  They are also tremendously overpriced.  The Yamaha Star 650 that I mentioned, for example, lists for $6,990.  That’s right –  one-half the price of a reasonably priced fuel efficient car like the Hyundai Accent.  By the way, the Yamaha Star 250 that I mentioned earlier?  Be prepared to spend $4,290 for that small machine.

But let’s go back to the disappointing fuel efficiency for a moment.  The Yamaha V Star 650 advertises 49 mpg.  Keep in mind, too, that the quoted efficiency is the EPA estimate, which is almost always overly optimistic.  I learned all too well the accuracy of that qualifying phrase, “Your mileage may vary,” during my cycling days.

I bought my Nighthawk during my college days, in part because of the fuel efficiency, which was supposed to go over 40 miles per gallon in the city and over 60 highway.  Instead, I found myself routinely filling up the 2.7 gallon tank every 90 -100 miles.   Admittedly, this was at a time when most of my miles were logged in on a college campus, with very frequent stopping, starting, speed bumps, etc.  Even in more traditional city travels, however, it was never the fuel sipper that I was led to believe it would be.  This was a major disappointment for me, in part because I rode it responsibly, rarely peeling out or torturing neighbors with senseless revving at every stop.

That takes me to the last point on motorcycle fuel efficiency.  If you operate a motorcycle in the irresponsible and downright foolish manner that so many bikers model, your fuel efficiency will drop even further.  Jack rabbit starts, weaving around traffic at sharply varying speeds, and gunning the throttle for no reason other than to make noise will do nothing more than waste gas.

So that’s a pretty good overview of why motorcycles are way overrated when it comes to their supposed fuel savings.  I’ll write separately on several other considerations that easily eliminate motorcycles as a tool of frugal living, using our earlier definition of practical frugal living.  In the meantime, I’m certainly open to comments from riders whose experiences have been different.  But please do review part two of this article for a full understanding of where I’m coming from.

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60 Responses to Busting the Myth that Motorcycles Save Gas (and Money)

  1. warero says:

    Reblogged this on Javmode.

    • austin g. says:

      Are you always this grumpy when you write? In May 2016, I purchased a 2012 Honda CBR250R with 5000 miles for $2000. So far my milage per tank is around 100-120 miles per tank driving as this author describes, “irresponsible and downright foolish”. I have pulled 138 miles from a tank with easy (boring) riding. My tank is 3.4 gallons. Having said that I have never hand pushed my bike into a gas station with an empty tank. My motorcycle tells me to go fill up when the last bar remains. My fill ups are around 2.2 gallons. I fill regularly at one location because they don’t have complex safety switches on the gas nozzle. I’ve calculated my mileage most of my ownership and this bike gets between 58-70 mpg. The factory rates this bike at 77 mpg with quite a long disclaimer about test conditions, driving styles, load weight, etc, etc. In addition I weight 205 lbs. I am not a skinny rider at all. I am quite pleased with this milage and have to say it is the funnest 58-70mpg transportation so far. This is a good topic but for fair discussion I suggest reading from motorcycle forums to find more balanced straightforward motorcycle information. Good luck to all you future two wheelers and ride safe!!

  2. what about scooters for in-town driving (honda/piaggo)? They get 50-100 mph depending on the model and you’re in town so you don’t need huge power anyways. seems more practical for city living – no parking costs, lower insurance, lower maintenance costs, better mileage and you can pay outright for a used one $2,000/$3,000 instead of taking on debt. I haven’t done out the numbers, but worth seeing if it’s a better deal. Esp. for city folks where a car is a huge expense. Walking or biking would be the cheapest though!

  3. vster says:

    Nice comment, 1000. And, yes, my understanding is that those gas-powered scooters are good on gas, but I personally have a lot of concerns about them. One, they just don’t have any power. I’ve not researched top speeds, but it seems like every time I see one on the road, it is revving hard and loud just to move the rider 30 mph. If they can go much faster than that, it’s not by much. As I see it, you would still need another vehicle to handle your highway needs, and who wants to pay for a second machine for just local driving? These scooters also don’t look very sturdy to me, and I would be worried about maintenance and wear and tear issues. In addition to the limited speed and acceleration capability, they are very small and lower to the ground (thanks to those tiny wheels). This makes them even harder to see than motorcycles.

    Your right that bicycles are the cheapest alternative. I’ll have some more thoughts on that in a future post. Thanks for commenting.

    • May be an old post now, but for city driving, my friend just got a new yamaha mt125 which does about 300 miles on 10 litres, which is about 130mpg, with top speed of about 85mph. It also looks fantastic.

      • Shar says:

        Yeah… I think maybe it didn’t work for him, but there are options that will work for others. This was way to dismissive of 2 wheeled transportation for my taste. My 50cc scooter saved me thousands last year on gas because my job requires me to stop anywhere from a half a dozen to a dozen houses a day… Now that I live outside of the city and have to take the highway I’m considering a motorcycle. I’m going to take into account what he said but still continue to do some research.

  4. Pingback: Busting the Myths of Motorcycle Savings (Part II) | Practical Frugal Living

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  6. Actually, I don’t agree with this post. You haven’t considered all the options. A royal enfield can easily get you 75 mpg in the city. That’s better than maybe 90% of all the cars nowadays. Besides, with a motorcycle, you can park wherever you want, therefore saving time finding a parking spot, which can take a lot of time in a big city, and you don’t have to be in car traffic because you can ride through the lines. I live in Lisbon, Portugal, and I have a motorcycle. If I had a car instead of it, I would spend a lot more money. Not just in mileage, but also in time.
    If you really advocate frugal living, a motorbike is a great choice.

    • Ben says:

      My 1996 Honda CB 250 gives me approx 130 (UK) MPG on my daily commute to and from Surrey to the center of London (UK). Thats approx 390 miles before I hit the reserve and have to refill!!.

      I weight 200 lbs and use the bike in rain/sleet/snow and ice. Its a brilliant workhorse

      I have heard that diesel motorbikes(yes they exist) can easily get 200+mpg

      • LJ says:

        I haven’t seen a reply that addresses this: what about insurance and maintenance costs? Insurance alone for me is $1140 more expensive per year for my car. Not to mention that a 4000 car probably won’t run as well / last as long as a 4000 bike. Cherry picking facts is a bit misleading.

    • cory says:

      I agree! I live in Canada, Motorcycles are super cheap. To start off, i pay 25% of what i pay for standard vehicle insurance, can do all the maintenance myself which saves hundreds, and get 5.9liters for 100kms of driving and that is driving an 1100cc cruiser. i ride for recreation as well as for work, but if someone was really looking for cheap modes of transportation, motorcycle and public transportation when its winter.

  7. Nelson J Wood says:

    But, this is silly. Maybe a 250 is fine for what you need. I personally have ridden a 250 cc bike from Miami to LA, no problem, getting like 80 mpg

    A 250 cc engine is perfectly adequate for me. Yeah, you’re right, it’s not frugal if you buy a giant gas guzzler of a bike and ride like an ass. But how is that not true for pretty much any class of vehicle?

    Drive a reasonable bike in a reasonable manner, you will be spending a lot less money than you would with a car. If you want to be frugal, don’t do the things you said. But that doesn’t make motorcycles as an entire class of vehicle less frugal than cars.

    • Nelson J Wood says:

      I should also add that in the city, especially if you are commuting, you can get a lot of that highway mileage back by filtering. Unfortunately, the only US state where filtering isn’t explicitly illegal is California, but everywhere else in the world you can safely filter which drastically reduces how much gas you are burning in gridlock traffic as well as dramatically reducing trip times.

  8. Brendon Bosy says:

    This article isn’t doing justice. With regards to motorcycles vs cars, there are plenty of motorcycles out there which accelerate fast and also get Prius-level MPG. The Kawa Ninja 300 which does 0-60 in 5.5 secs, and is rated at 68 MPG. Yeah, in real world tests it does 55 MPG, but that still matches the best hybrids out there.

    The problem is in the United States motorcycles aren’t a form of transportation, they’re toys. That’s why most bikes are either 250 cc or 600+ cc. 250s are starter bikes while you’re learning, then you bump up after a season. No matter what, overall with motorcycles you’re still getting a huge bang for your buck. The cream of the crop motorcycles like the Ninja ZX-10 or the CBR1000RR accelerate faster than a Ferrari, but still get 30+ MPG. If 100 MPG is what you’re after, good luck. Even 50cc scooters only top out at like 90 MPG in real world tests. By that point, just ride a bicycle and don’t use gas at all.

  9. Ian says:

    I ride a sports 600 and also have a car for the winter when it’s just too lousy to ride. MPG on both is comparable. The difference in cost comes to light when you factor in travel time. On the bike it’s a 20 minute trip to work. In the car it’s 45 minutes. Bercause the car is on the road for more than twice the time to get the same distance and burning fuel the whole time must be worth something. Also. The bike takes up a frugal amount of parking space once at the office.

  10. With my car I pay 700 dollars every six months for insurance, which is mandatory. My Honda rebel 250 motorcycle costs about 600 dollars per year for insurance, if I choose to get it (bike insurance is not mandatory in my state). The car gets 30mpg. My bike gets 80. Sure, disadvantages of the motorcycle are plentiful. If it weren’t for the money, I’d be driving my car every day. With a bike you have to accept: not being able to have very many passengers and the ones you do have to be willing and capable of riding, and they’ll need the proper gear (a helmet at minimum). You can’t haul much stuff. You are always outside and exposed to the elements (riding a bike is definitely not as luxurious as being nestled up in your car with the stereo and heater on). Every trip has to be planned for (proper gear for the weather, limited ability to haul stuff, take stuff, etc.). Gear and accessories for motorcycles are outrageously priced (Many hundreds of dollars for gloves, coats, pants, helmets, luggage bags and rackets, etc. And if you use a bike for everyday commuting then you will need these things. You don’t really have a choice). Bikes also have a shorter engine lifespan and require frequent small maintenance procedures (chain lubrication every 500 miles, oil changes every few thousand miles (bikes don’t even have oil filters so you can’t skimp), tires that ware out every 15000 miles, etc.).
    BUT, you have to keep all of this in perspective. My bike saves me about 6 dollars a day (about 200 dollars a month) in insurance and fuel savings. Plus all that maintenance I talked about, while frequent, is relatively inexpensive. A quart and a half of oil here, two bike tires there, a spark plug here, etc.) I think six dollars a day can easily pay for all the financial costs of riding a motorcycle. Plus, the bike itself that I have is only 4000 dollars brand new off the lot. And for about 2000 dollars you can find a used one in like-new condition. A used car in decent shape with low miles that isn’t too old and will get you FAIR mpg (like 30), if you’re lucky, will cost you about 3500 dollars, but that is if you’re lucky. Plus the insurance and gas are going to be substantially higher, adding more overall cost to the vehicle. And lastly, let’s not forget, for every mile you put on your bike, that’s one less mile you put on your car. The less you drive your car, the longer it’s lifespan will be. You are trading your bike miles for car miles.
    Under the circumstances the author laid out in his article, I would agree that driving a car is more economical. But under the RIGHT circumstances, you can save yourself a lot of money riding a bike everyday. There are a lot of start-up costs, and it is quite a new experience, one I think not everyone could do or enjoy, but it can save you money. Just be prepared for a small and/or fuel efficient bike, and be willing to make sacrifices. It’s not just as easy as “buy a bike and start saving money.” There has to be a methodical and thought out way of doing it for it to work.

  11. FotoTomas says:

    I realize I am coming in late here but my two cents is being tendered.

    I think frugal is a relative condition based on circumstance. I have a 2000 Chrysler van that gives me about 15 miles to the gallon. I have a 2004 Honda Shadow 750 that gives me about 45 miles to the gallon. I commute 120 miles round trip a day, five days aweek. At todays prices of around $3.40 a gallon I am saving in fuel cost about $100 a week.

    Yes I accept the inconvenience of the open ride, cold and rain as well as safety concerns. I try to ameliorate those conditions with proper gear and mindset. The cost is easy to improve upon due to compromises and finding gear that is bike usable but not bike marketed. In addition I can not afford to trade in the van due to my financial situation. Both the motorbike and van are paid for. In my case the motorcycle is a GREAT method for saving fuel and other costs in my limited circumstances. A very frugal option.

  12. bentag4 says:

    Let us not confuse saving money with safety, comfort, or inconvenience.

  13. dkb says:

    try riding a motorcycle in michigan for the last 4 months or the next 2, you won’t get far with all the weather. Also, let’s see you carry more than a sac full of groceries on a rebel, or take your date to the movies or park when it’s sleeting out. I suppose in very few states a bike could be “frugal” but for 13K you could buy a kia, nissan, chevy spark, etc and live in the car. Now that’s frugal.

  14. I own a 21012 Honda CBR250R it has a top speed of 90MPH. Enough power to pass comfortably on the highway and can cruise at 75 MPH all day long. I took it on a 400 mile ride in the mountains the other day backroads, highway, city, all types of road conditions. I averaged 80 MPG. I bought the bike 2 years old for $2,500. I’m not sure what has you so jaded on two wheel transportation but your story is very one-sided.

    • vster says:

      It’s really not one-sided. It’s just fact based. As for your mileage, I’ll take the 80mpg highway claim at face value, although that’s pushing the upper limit, and it’s certainly not going to happen driving at 75mph. But, no, you cannot pass comfortably at high speeds on that bike. Plenty of reviews on the Honda Rebel say that. Try riding that bike with a passenger and see how well it moves at high speeds and while passing. Furthermore, the maintenance costs/concerns that I raised will be magnified on a bike that small. Tires won’t last at all.

      • sportbike mike says:

        I have the same bike 2012 cbr250r. My highway commute is 65mpg at 75mph. If i keep it in town it gets 78mpg. It will cruise all day long at 75mph with a passenger, i have done it. It will take a 1,600 mile road trip with no problems. I have done that as well.

        My 250 has 28000 miles and runs perfectly. The tires lasted 19000 miles and the service interval is 8000 miles. That’s right 8000.

        Tell me again why I need a car to be frugal.

  15. Daremo says:

    It’s selectively fact based. Presuming you’re not a speed freak, as people interested in frugal living tend not to be, or frequently carrying passengers, as people interested in motorcycles in the first place tend not to do, a 250 cc may well meet your needs. If your premise includes the stipulation that touching a motorcycle is going to turn you into a rabbit starting, engine revving, traffic dodging dolt, then it’s no wonder that you come to a negative conclusion.

  16. Jambow says:

    The biggest myth is assuming that your circumstances apply to every one else. I have basically paid for my Yamaha xt250 that gets 75mpg at 21,000 miles ridden or close to it. For sure lower costs of operation come in many forms if you do the basic maintenance yourself, oil changes are simple enough. Yes I do not take the highway to work on my 36 mile round trip a 250cc bike doesn’t belong next to 18 wheelers, so I ride through town which adds about 5-8 minutes to my commute. Since I actually enjoy the commute on the bike no big deal. Insurance is cheaper too.

    I’m now considering a Honda CB500x as they are getting 62-70mpg and also would be suitable for a quick highway jaunt if not extended rides. The right bike used properly can save you real money and is a lot more fun than a Prius. I remember being next to one at a stop light and asking the owner why he would drive such a gas hog, his expression was priceless. Twice I also cut across a field to avoid stopped traffic while a line of cars was sitting there blocked in.

  17. T Rex says:

    Wow, it is amazing how uninformed the inexperienced can be. I own 7 two wheel vehicles and they range from low 40s to high 70s mpg. My 650 KLR get 60s all the time with a full load of camping equipment and touring gear traveling at 65-70. My wife rides a Vespa 350s which get in the 60-70 MPG and I defy any Harley to beat it off the line. Besides for gas let’s talk about tires, oil, and general wear and tear on our highways. Let talk insurance prices for those cars compare to two wheel vehicle. I have a ST1300 that got over 50 miles to the gallon all the way to Washington DC and back at speed we will not discuss. Yes your Night Hawk with old type carburetors probably did get poor mileage, especially if it was the shaft drive model. The modern motorcycles of today with ABS brakes, fuel injection, cruise control, water cooled and advance transmission are a completely different animal then the old Honda Nighthawks.

  18. Franny Morlan says:

    I have a 2011 Vstar 650 its my regular commute vehicle it costs under 20 bucks a week to go my 41 ish miles round trip commute on the bike. My other vehicle was a Ford 2005 F-150 cost me over 100. my bike payment is 212 a month guess what I’m more than breaking even in savings.

    • vster says:

      If you were driving an F-150 on a 41 mile commute, then, yes, you probably are saving some money using a motorcycle instead. My article assumes that you drive a sensible, economical car instead of a large, full size truck.

  19. Boo says:

    I felt my lip twitching north even just fumbling through this incredibly subjected piece.

    Its late and im not irritated enough to discredit all of your points. Motorcycles do save money provided safe riding and lack of injury.

    Less mass requires less energy to move, therefore less fuel consumption. This isn’t disputable. For single person transport motorcycles win.

    We’re talking practical frugal living– surely readers are inclined to “go the extra mile” in terms of saving money. I did.

    1997 Yamaha Virago Virago 250 $800, 1600 miles. Changed sprockets to 17/38. 80mph cruising highway at a reasonable aprox. 6600rpm. 75-100mpg.

    Thats practical frugal living.

  20. There’s many things wrong with this article. First of all, the total cost of owning a motorcycle is considerably lower than a car. Insurance for an econobox would run you $20 a month in Los Angeles, while for a 750 motorcycle it was only $12. Parts are considerably less expensive for economy motorcycles compared to economy cars, and are much easier to work on which potentially save you money with maintenance costs. As someone mentioned before, you can lane split to gain both speed and MPG, saving you both time and gas. You also neglected to mention the 50+ MPG motorcycles with displacements over 500cc (which is the lowest I would ever go), like the NC700x which only costs $7000 and boasts 70mpg.

  21. Marty McFadden says:

    I have been riding motorcycles for well over 40 years now. They absolutely do not save you money. They are expensive toys. Toys that we love. The maintenance costs of any decent motorcycle are far above the maintenance costs of a car. Good tires are over 100 dollars each, not including installation. A good tire might get ten thousand miles. This puts tire costs at over 6 times the cost of tires on a car being driven for the same number of miles. Oil changes have got to be done four times as often. Doing it yourself will cost thirty dollars. If you have to get someone else to do it, expect a bill for three times that. A four wheeled brake job on a car can be done for one hundred dollars. Needs to be done one time in a hundred thousand miles. Three hundred dollars for two wheels on your bike, every twenty thousand miles.There are only a handful of bikes out there that will still be alive after one hundred thousand miles. Take a look around on the road. Do you see many twenty year old bikes?
    I am a mechanic and have never let anyone work on any of my bikes. The best bike that I have ever owned by far is my 94 Harley Road King. Not fast or super good at anything, but it just refuses to quit. 150 thousand miles and still chugging and clunking along. 40 MPG at 85 MPH. I have totally worn out a big pile of Kawasakis and Yamahas. I watch my money that I spend on my machines. The most economical vehicle that I have ever owned to date is an old Mazda.
    If you are trying to save money on your transportation costs, just get an old econobox car. If you want to ride a motorcycle, you don’t have to justify it. You deserve that raw pleasure of having the wind in your face. It doesn’t matter what it costs. Anyone who disagrees is not your friend.

  22. Todd says:

    Unless you happen to be one of the lucky ones that can fit the 4 for $100 tires, your tires will likely NOT be cheaper. I had a Chevy Cavalier with low profile tires. Good gas mileage(36 avg), but a set of tires cost nearly $700, and lasted approximately 25000 miles. The cheapest set of new tires I was ever able to get was $490 for my Toyota Corolla. Show me a set of tires that lasts to the supposed 60,000, even 50k or 40k these day. Tires get shoddier every year it seems. Michelin’s Commander 2 motorcycle tires will last 20k+ if you don’t drive like an a-hole. So, i’m not sure how you figure 6 times the cost.

    9 times out of 10 a brake place will not let you get away with a $100 brake job. If you can do them yourself, great, otherwise good luck. Oil changes – 4 times as often? If you go by the manufacturers minimum specs of 3000 miles, you are saying you have to change the oil every 750 miles? If you go to 7500 which I routinely do on all my vehicles(and have never had a problem), your 4 times as often number comes out to 1875 miles. This is more believable. Congratulations on getting a Harley to last 150,000, really. 150k is an accomplishment for any vehicle but I think not that hard to attain with proper maintenance. The fact is, most people are lazy and don’t do it.

    Of the top 5, every motorcycle mechanic I have talked to says Yamaha bikes are the most reliable. They convinced me to get my current Yamaha. After that, Kawasaki, Honda, then Harley. BMW(I was shocked about this) is the most unreliable of the top 5. I have 2 friends that have converted from Harley because of problems and ridiculous repair costs. They were also upset that they could get very similarly equipped, similar looking bikes for well under half what the same Harley costs. These days most bike brands are pretty reliable, even Harley. My question – is it worth 3x the cost just because it says Harley? Personally, I can afford a Harley, but I choose to avoid the snobbery.

    To the original poster – motorcycles are economical for the most part, depending on which one you own, and possibly even more so depending on your alternate mode of transportation. For example, I have a Dodge Ram 5.7L Hemi which gets about 15mpg. My Yamaha V-Star 1100 gets 48mpg. It has enough power that I can get myself out of a jam if I need to. Plus it is enjoyable. Neither of these could be said for the Hyundai Accent. Honestly, I think i’d rather ride public transportation. You don’t think motorcycles are frugal? How about the Smart Car? That might as well be a motorcycle, and it gets worse gas mileage than my Yamaha.

    Way cheaper insurance – $100 a year vs $100 a month
    Gas – 48mpg vs 15mpg
    Maintenance – less moving parts = less repairs
    Financing – $100 a month for my bike vs $350 a month for my truck

  23. john says:

    I have a victory 8 ball . Even though u have made some good points , I don’t agree with your over all accounts of the motorcycle not being frugal. U left out that u do save the money on insurance if the bike is owned . If your motorcycle is paid off then u are not required to have insurance in most states . You are only required to wear a helmet. Next is if u set your cruise control and actually cruise ( act responsible and not like your a race care driver ) your gas mileage goes up . I agree that a hundred mpg is far fetched , but in the 70s is not . Most sports bike owners do agree with the ride is about attitude, but for us cruisers it’s about the ride . Ty for your time

  24. jay says:

    i agree with these statements if you don’t work on your own bike. If you do all the services and tire changes,valve adjustments,chain and sprockets replacements on your own then it can be very cheap to ride. It all depends what your riding too. sport bikes go through a rear tire in about 5000 miles, a cruiser can last upwards of 10000 miles for the rear depending on brand. If you take your bike to get serviced it will surely not be as cheap as running a 4 cylinder econo car getting 30mpg. Just a rear tire change on a sport bike can cost $200.00 , a valve adjustment can cost anywhere from 200.00 to 400.00 (depending on bike and if you go to the dealer to have it done which is always more expensive). Oil cost is higher a 2005 kawasaki ninja zx6r (636) sportbike requires 3.5 liters of oil but it requires fully synthetic so at 13 dollars a quart that’s 52 dollars just for oil not including filter. add filter another 15 so your looking at 67 dollars for your oil change on zx6r every 4000 to 5000 miles.

  25. Cody says:

    Bought a 2007 Suzuki Marauder 250cc with 3,200 miles for $1350. It easily cruises @ 60mph & has decent passing ability if needed. I tend to take it easy & cruise @ 55mph since that’s the highest speed limit in my area anyways (Southwest FL). It gets a little over 70mpg & has a 3.7 gallon tank. I haven’t had to do anything to it except put some fuel system cleaner in a couple tanks of gas since it sat up for a bit. Craigslist is a beautiful thing — don’t buy new. Motorcycles do save money if you do it right.

  26. lovethebig4 says:

    Interesting article. If you compare a economical car to an economical motorbike then I’d put all my money on the bike. That’s the frugal choice. Are bikes expensive to run yes. Are cars yes. Its not a frugal lifestyle . Frugal is putting a 50cc powered engine on a bushbike and doing it tuff to avoid being caught getting to work on a price of a rag.haha. I agree with the article .I just think it lost me when it started to compare to cars. But yes big fast bike… u gunna be shocked if u think its the same as running Yr lawnmower.

  27. Hi there. I’m from Sri Lanka, where 250 cc is pretty much the upper limit for street-legal bikes – yes, there are a couple of 400cc Honda Steeds around, a handful of Enfields, but that’s just it.
    Here the most common range is between 100cc and 150cc. Bikes made by Indian manufacturers (such as Bajaj) are lacking in build quality but seem to do a decent 50 km per liter (pretty close to the 100mpg figure, if I’m not mistaken).

    Introduce one of these bikes into your calculations and see?

  28. I like the motocycle but i haven’t got monney to by one je veux un cadeau je suis en haiti.

  29. I have some problems with this article. you had a 2.7 gal tank, and ran it 90-100 miles before a fill up, this was city driving(around your campus and “traditional city driving”). the math here is that you got between 33 and 37 mpg, and that is if you ran the tank dry. that’s really not that far off of that motorcycles predicted mpg. since you didn’t claim to have experience related to automotive service, and didn’t say you tried to remedy this inaccuracy, I’m going to assume you didn’t work on your own motorcycle. under those assumptions, it’s safe to assume you don’t know the very specific maintenance needs of an engine. being a mechanic by trade, I can tell you that there’s a mountain of reasons why your bike was getting “bad” mileage. you could have needed new spark plugs, your carburetor could have needed cleaning or was adjusted poorly, poor gas quality, low back pressure, inaccurate oil weight, these are just a few common issues with vehicle performance that even the most diligent owner will overlook. beyond that, you’re driving habits could be at fault. sure, you say you were a conservative rider, but there’s a lot of difference between conservative and conscious. take for example, motorcycles run poorly when cold, they waste fuel at low speeds, people typically shift the transmission too late/early.

    also, in another post, you add that maintenance is expensive. depending on the part, and your willingness to replace it yourself, this is true. tire mounting and balancing is difficult, and not something anybody can do in a garage, so the cost of tires is real. do the tires wear faster? well that depends on the tire you buy and your commitment to making sure they are aired up properly. do the brakes wear quickly? yes, but motorcycles aren’t designed with an automotive like braking function in mind, the preferred method for slowing down on a motorcycle is through shifting, clutch usage, and weaving, these functions are lightly assisted with braking. this also allows you to slow down much earlier, and perhaps avoid a complete stop (a stop that would otherwise negatively impact your fuel economy and the wear of your components). sure, motorcycles have an allegedly short life, roughly 25k miles. but just like any other motorized vehicle, the actual shelf life varies. regular maintenance, proper shifting, proper starting procedure, and many other factors affect a vehicles shelf life.

    over all, I believe you just had a terrible experience, and either out of spite or kindness, seek to direct people away from such an experience. either way, your opinion is in fact, only an opinion, and you should do well not to broadcast it as such negative facts. anecdotal evidence, in small quantities, is not accurate evidence to maintain a fact. You would need to have tested hundreds of motorcycles, specifically ones that are commonly used. you’d have to make sure each of those motorcycles is at a similar level of maintenance and wear. and most importantly,you’d need a large selection of riders to ensure accuracy across many riding styles. you did no such thing, and are therefore, just projecting.

  30. This is an old article, but I’d like to comment on it.

    1) There are certainly a fair number of roughly 500cc bikes on the market. Royal Enfield makes them. Honda has the CB500 series, and the CBR300 at around 280cc. Suzuki has the DR-Z400, which is about 400cc. Those have all been available since this article was printed, as far as I can tell.

    As a side note here, I’ve taken my Honda Rebel on the highway. It wasn’t pleasant, but I didn’t feel like I was particularly at risk. For anyone who doesn’t need to ride on an interstate regularly, a 250 will do everything they need.

    2) Yes, EPA fuel economy numbers are mostly optimistic. I get about 70mpg average on my Honda Rebel, and it’s not going to get better going larger. That said, I know people who claim to get 70+mpg on the NC700x, so at least some of the modern bikes are fuel efficient.

    3) If you drive reasonably (keeping as close to the speed limit as is safe, accelerating slowly, things like that), you’ll probably get near the EPA numbers. When you were riding your 30mpg Nighthawk, how did you ride? And what did the available cars get?

    4) Let’s talk apples to apples. You say you had a Nighthawk 450. That means it has to have been early 80s, since they were only manufactured from 82-86. Looking around, the average new passenger car around then appears to have gotten around 20-25mpg, which matches my memory. So 30+mpg was an improvement, and a pretty decent one: 30mpg vs 20mpg is a 50% improvement, and at 30 vs 25 it’s still a 25% improvement.

    5) OK, so I think I’ve shown that you can realistically get a reasonably sized motorcycle and get better fuel economy than an average car. Let’s address price. Let’s take the CB500x as a starting point. Here in 2015, the MSRP is $6299 plus all the usual nonsense… figure you get out the door for $7000, give or take. That gives you a reliable vehicle that can handle highway speeds, is easy to park, and riders are reporting fuel economy in the mid-60s. Now let’s look at the auto side. You can’t get a new car for seven grand, so I’ll just look for something cheap. According to Autotrader.com, the cheapest car currently on the market is the 2014 Nissan Versa, at $12,800. That’s a manual shift, 109HP car rated at 36mpg highway. The worst fuel economy on fuelly.com for the CB500x is 51mpg (with one person reporting it as an average). So the motorcycle is nearly $6000 cheaper, and at its worst is about 40% more fuel efficient than a Versa at its best. What about the other end? A Prius C is currently the cheapest one on Toyota’s website, with an MSRP of $19,450. It’s estimated at 53mpg city, 46 highway. So for about three times the money, you can get a car that will be as good on its best day as that motorcycle is on its worst.

    I’m sorry: basically every argument you put forth here is wrong. If you buy the right bike, it will use less gas, be cheaper to insure, and cost significantly less than any car. For solo commuting in a place with good weather, a motorcycle is a good economic choice. If you need to move a lot of gear or people around, it stops looking so good — two motorcycles are probably less fuel efficient than one Nissan Versa, for instance — but in a one-to-one comparison with a car with only the driver riding in it, motorcycles are more efficient. I also did the math on maintenance at some point: assuming I do nothing on my own, the motorcycle is slightly more expensive to maintain. If I do my own oil changes on the bike but not the car (it’s much easier on the bike), they come out pretty close to even. In my case, the reduction in insurance rates and fuel cost more than equal that difference, though.

  31. Led says:

    Waiting for the fuel injected 50 mpg GL1000! Meanwhile, my ’06 SV650 gets 40+ which is 100% better than my ’97 Nissan hardbody at 20 mpg (driven like a sports car).

  32. Bob says:

    A 125cc motorcycle will be frugal compared to a 4 cylinder 1300cc motorcycle. A 4 cylinder 1300cc motorcycle will be frugal compared to a 6 litre v12.

    A bus will be more frugal than your own transport but in the end you have to place a value on your time and safety. Only then can you make a compromise.

  33. Mike says:

    “The first problem with these bikes is that their fuel efficiency is terrible – worse, in fact, than a …..” . A Bugatti Veyron?? Nope. A Porsche 911 4S. Nope. Ok a BMW M3? Ok ok. shit a Honda Fit. “No a Toyota Prius.”
    Im totally with you. that is “terrible”

  34. Grant says:

    Hmm, I guess I’m the weirdo here. I’ve been driving my 2011 Honda CBR125R back and forth to work for the last 3 years. My fuel economy average is 97.6 MPG over 12361 miles (according to Fuelly). The fastest speed in my area is 55 MPH and the bike can easily go 75 MPH (drops to about 68 MPH against a strong wind) so the size is fine. If the weather is really bad I’m stuck taking the minivan which averages 20 MPG, so the choice is clear. I would drive an electric car and charge it off Solar + Wind + city power if I could afford one.

  35. ricardo silva says:

    It depends where you live and your commute. If you live and work in a european city theres no doubt the motorbike or scooter is the cheaper and logical choice. You don’t get stuck in traffic and can park right on your working place. So even if it usues as much fuel as a car, the time you save and the parking space you don’t have to pay means a lot at the end of the month. If you do long commutes in motorways with no traffic the car’s aerodinamics is unbeatable and usually it uses less fuel than a bike at a steady 120kmh (and uses less tires too). But a bike is a bike, yes it is more dangerous and less confortable but who rides one knows why i leave the car at the garage when i need to move from one place to another or simply clear my mind…

  36. Kyle says:

    Lame story.made your story and credibility look bad you said you filled up around 90 to 100 miles with a 2.7 tank at 40 miles per gallon sounds about right to me so were does it talk about busting any myth compare to vehicles.My bike does 200 miles with a 4 gal tank roughly 10 dollars to fill it up my truck only goes 300 while spending about 60 to fill it up do the math.a bike is a great way save money yea they can be costly but got to spend money to make money only siren fall is there more hazards to watch out for ….. the manufacturer’s base the mileage when filling up with premium gas And at high way speeds

  37. Walter Weinzinger says:

    Bought a 1999 Yamaha Virago 250 with 4k miles on it for $2000 back in 2003. It now has ~29k miles (all city miles) and I still get right around 80 mpg riding it mainly to and from work. I ride it as often as possible because my truck only gets 18-19 mpg. So a big reason I ride it is to save money on gas.

  38. Roger says:

    Whatever, first a Honda accent for example isn’t a car I can comfortably ride in at all and if you drive it in an irresponsible fashion it’s fuel economy drops as well.

    Now here’s one. I have a Victory Kingpin with a 106 cubic inch motor and have seen better than 50 miles per gallon at a relaxed cruising speed of 55 on a 55 mph road in 6th gear. Far better than we ever expected to get. Now Ive gotten only 25 mpg out of it too, riding in a fashion that would leave a Prius in the distant past!

    I can average 35 to 40 mpg around town no problem out of that 1730 cc motor. Besides, a motorcycle brings alot more joy to me than I can ever recall any economy car doing!

  39. MPG is all about aerodynamics, 30-40% of your fuel is wasted by aerodynamic drag. Allert Jacob’s modified his motorcycle with aerodynamic fairing designed and built by Velemobile company, just by doing this he was able to achieve 214 miles per gallon with no special technology, only aerodynamics, he did not even need to shed any weight off his motorcycle which uses a 9hp 4 stroke 125cc motor it’s cruising speed is 55mph and gets 214MPG.

    If you’re looking for fuel efficiency… an aerodynamic motorcycle is the best option. Aerodynamics and weight is the key to high fuel economy.

  40. UMadBro says:

    LOL I just want to say to this blogger “You mad, bro?”

    I have no idea where his anger toward motorcycles comes from.

    Someone here made an excellent comment that in the US, bikes are toys. for the most part, your’e right. however, Considering that used bikes that get ~60 MPG are easily under $2k, free parking in most places, and quicker city travel, the ease and savings are irrefutable.

  41. Kevin Rusch says:

    Well, you’re totally right that they mostly don’t get 80mpg. However, the depreciation on bikes is really fast (as some commenters said, they’re mostly toys) so you can get an older bike with low miles for somewhere around $2-3k. For many of those, you can get a 500cc bike that’s water-cooled and fuel-injected and will go PLENTY fast, and even throw some saddlebags on there. Insurance is cheap (because who are you going to hurt) and if you live somewhere with good weather, you can ride it often and get pretty darn good mileage (50-60mpg easy). Is it a panacea? No. But as a low-cost supplement or near-replacement for a car, they can fit some peoples’s situations remarkably well.

  42. Pingback: So What Are Quality Frugal Transportation Choices? | Practical Frugal Living

  43. Joe says:

    I have two vehicles, one is a 1981 Jeep CJ-7 that gets 8mpgs, the other is a CB500x that averages 55mpgs the way I ride it. Neither were bought new, & the price for both combined was under 10k. I work 5 miles from home & my CB is my daily commuter. In short, this article is written under a narrow set of pretenses, with I title that is only true under those pretenses.

  44. Mo says:

    What a piece of utter garbage this article is, motorcycles are more economical than cars my 2005 cg125 was getting around 120mpg and that was even with me pinning the throttle at times! in the 8 years I have owned the bike it never gave me any issues except the center stand became stuck during one tough winter full of snow and salt…it cost me a half a day to take it off using an angle grinder. I do all my own servicing on the bike so oil is usually changed every 3k miles and costs £4 a bottle brake pads i always use decent ebc ones so they are like £13 and tyres last for a long long time infact i think its coming to over 10000 miles on my current rear tyre and the thing only cost me £55 delivered the spark plug is like £7 and at only £16 per year on road tax about £9 to fill the tank and about £65 for a years insurance, show me a car that will let net those kind of figures and ill eat my hat.

  45. Tony says:

    I respectfully disagree. I had a 500cc Buell that got well over 70 mpg, and I rode it hard. Also i got over 60 with my girlfriend on the back. I also have a 1996 carbursted Harley with a 1200 cc motor and it gets 45 plus easy. Again riding it hard, and I let it warm up for about 5 to 10 minutes prior to riding. It gets 55 on the highway going up to the mountains. In adition full coverage for a 19 year old unwed male cost 40 bucks for the Harley. My 01 ford ranger 4×4 first over 130!! Ps I have no traffic violations. And my 3.5 gallon tank last me over 180 miles, my 15 gallon tank in the truck I’m doing good to get 280 miles on it. Not lifted. ( I drive the Truck conservatively ) and both bikes combined cost less than the truck. I drive a lot 200 miles a week. And I can tell you it’s way way cheaper to have I motorcycle. The only reason I still have the truck is cause I live in the mountains, so there’s snow. Other wise I wouldn’t even have a truck. I purchased both bikes for less than my beater truck. Insuraning the 2 bikes is half of what it is for my Truck. And my Gas guzzling Harley easily gets over 2x the milage of my Truck. And it’s way way more fun. Plus they take less oil, you only have to buy 2 tires rather than 4.

    Plus you are comparing the prices of née bikes. I bough a 8 year old 500cc buell, with only 3500 miles on it in great condition for 1500 bucks. And it got 70 plus mpg. And insurance cost 30 bucks amonth. Sorry prius you loss. Not to mention guy in a prius not attractive to ladies any guy on a motorcycle ladies are all over. So take you pick gentlemen.

    Ps you had a shity motorcycle sorry you defied to trade in you 2 wheels for a prius. But glad it’s working out for ya.

  46. Paul says:

    I have 2013 vstar 250 and my car is a 2016 Ford Fiesta. My motorcycle oil changes I do myself at home cost about $40 for oil and filer. My car oil changes cost about $80. I spend about $5 every two weeks of commuting (7miles each way) on the motorcycle. And about $25 every two weeks for the car. Motorcycle insurance is $130 for the entire year car insurance is about $150 a month. The motorcycle is definitely cheaper. But your experience may differ.

    • vster says:

      Thanks for the comparison, Paul. Not sure where you are going for a Ford oil and filter that costs $80. Might want to check O’Reilly’s or Auto Shack next time.

      That aside, I’m sure your fuel and insurance costs are lower with that bike. But when you calculate commuting costs, you have to figure in wear and tear on major items, and, believe me, you will have to replace tires and brakes on that bike every 8 – 10K miles vs. every 50K on the car. If you keep it long enough, you will also burn through clutch and brake cables every 15K miles or so. (No fun when that clutch cable goes all of the sudden, leaving you stranded with your next stop either).

  47. Adog says:

    If you pick the right bike say a cb500f and you do all your maintenance yourself. You come out way ahead of owning any car. Especially when you consider being allowed to lanesplit in California.

  48. That motorcycles can save you money is not a myth, just do the math. You can’t just play the “yeah but…” game and bring every variable into the equation or you changed your original argument. A 30k Honda Goldwing as primary transportation in Detroit Michigan, for example, does not in any way shape or form prove that motorcycles as economical transportation is a myth.

  49. Rob says:

    So you make no point here. By your own words your bike got 33-37 mpg and you drove very carefully. So how’s that not better or fuel efficient? Most cars are 20 -30mpg max.

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