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I’ve often heard the questions about whether or not it’s a good idea to get a motorcycle as your way of transportation during college. College is stressful enough, so figuring out what you’re going to use to get you around town shouldn’t have to add to that stress.
While I was at school, I had my own motorcycle. Because I was studying mechanical engineering, I had to frequent the library. Although I loved the idea of having a bike while in college, there were also some things I disliked. I’ve been able to compile an unbiased, honest list of the pros and cons of having a motorcycle while in college.
Pro: Lower purchase cost
I was initially hesitant to buy a motorcycle because of the high price. I bought a 1980 Yamaha XS850 motorcycle for around $800. Then, I had it re-built for $200-$300. Although it was an older bike, it still got me around the city.
When you buy a vehicle, you want to make sure it’s reliable and that it’s not going to leave you stranded both literally and financially. Let’s look at a few numbers comparing the purchase cost of a motorcycle and the purchase cost of a car.
Let’s say you have a budget of $4,000 – $5,000 to buy something that will get you around town. There are plenty of cars to choose from, but it’s not hard to tell that most college students who are buying a car themselves end up choosing a used sedan of some sort. The Toyota Camry, Honda Civic and Nissan Altima are the most popular college student cars.
So we’ll go with a very average car, a 2004 Honda Accord. This vehicle, which has an average of 12,000 miles per year, is valued at $4,600 in good conditions (according to www.nadaguides.com). It seems quite reasonable for a car.
Now let’s look at a motorcycle. Let’s say you get something like a 2004 Kawasaki Vulcan. Cycletrader.com reports that the average price for a motorcycle of this type is around $3,000.
You can make a lot of comparisons between more expensive vehicles and more expensive motorcycles. This example shows that you can buy a motorcycle for a fraction of the cost of a car college students have.
Some people might argue that you have to also add on the cost of gear when buying a motorcycle. That is a fair point which is why I’m mentioning it. Don’t ever buy cheap motorcycle gear, especially a cheap helmet. You don’t need to buy the most expensive either, but buy quality gear. Expect to spend about $500 on gear appropriate for the type of riding you’ll be doing (that’s the average I spent on gear). Click here to view my recommended motorcycle gear.
The motorcycle will cost about $3,500, which is still $11,100 less than buying a car. You can save a lot of money on groceries if you are a college student with that $1,100!
Pro: Less Maintenance
I love the fact that motorcycles require less maintenance than cars. Because motorcycles are so much simpler than cars, anyone can learn how to maintain them.A college student is a good example of this.
Checking tire pressure and condition are the most important things to do on a motorcycle. Also, make sure you change the oil regularly, use ethanol-free gasoline if your carburetor is equipped, and lubricate the chain. You can ride your motorcycle around town for many years without any problems if you do all of these things.
So let’s talk about the maintenance that’s required on a car. There are many other things to be concerned about, beyond the basics like changing the oil or checking the pressure.
If you’re buying a used car, chances are you’ll need to change the timing belt at some point (and that is something you cannot ignore or skip!). The average cost of that is usually around $500 – $700. Next, you need to take care of the transmission, balance the tires, get new struts and address overheating issues.
All of those fixes and maintenance you’ll end up doing on a used car will add up to a price most college students can’t afford, especially if the previous owner didn’t take good care of the car before.
Pro: Easier To Work On
A motorcycle is a great way to have fun while you are at college. While I didn’t know much about motorcycles when I purchased mine, I was able quickly to learn a lot from trial and error as I also a few YouTube videos.
With an endless reservoir of information at our fingertips (the internet), you can really fix almost anything on a motorcycle yourself if you’re willing to learn and put in the time. Of course, there are several things that do require attention from a mechanic because some fixes require tools that most of us don’t have laying around.
Even so, most motorcycle issues that are fixed by a mechanic will be much cheaper than those on a car because of the labor involved in getting to certain parts.
Proposal for Parking
Sometimes, it’s easier to park a motorcycle in a garage than a car. Every university I attended (I moved between three schools during college) had designated parking spaces for mopeds and motorcycles.
When you get a motorcycle, that doesn’t mean you can park anywhere you want. Many people believe that a motorcycle owner can park on sidewalks or on striped lines. This is not true and is illegal in most places; you’ll likely get a ticket (and you know how campus police LOVE to give out tickets). Click here to read an article on motorcycle parking etiquette.
Universities still love to make it easy to park motorcycles at universities. Utah State University had a large parking lot that was dedicated exclusively to mopeds and motorcycles when I went there. This made it easy to reach all of my classes everyday.
Motorcycle parking permits are often cheaper than car parking permits. The average I’ve seen with each university I went to was about $65 for a motorcycle parking permit for the year and about $150 for a car parking permit for the year.
Pro: Fuel Efficiency
In addition to the other cost efficient points that have been brought up in this article, we can’t forget to mention the amount you would save on fuel with a motorcycle. And let’s face it, any money you can save in college is usually worth doing.
Because motorcycles are smaller and more aerodynamic, they tend to get better gas mileage than cars. A motorcycle can average 35-40 miles per gallon.
This depends on the size and weight of your motorcycle, as well as how powerful your engine is. Your average gas mileage will rise if your motorcycle is lighter or has a smaller motor.
Since we previously mentioned college students getting something like a 2004 Honda Accord, we’ll use that example again. On average, the 2004 Honda Accord gets between 20-25 MPG. Sedans are well-known for their fuel efficiency, so any vehicle larger than this will get worse gas mileage. You can expect to save at least 10 miles per gallon with a motorcycle.
Con: Inclement weather
Now that we’ve discussed some of the best parts about using a motorcycle as transportation while you’re in college, I’ll start talking about some of the downsides there are.
If the weather is warm, motorcycles make a great vehicle. There’s nothing quite like riding through campus during a warm spring or fall day because you feel pretty cool doing so. But if you’re going to school in a place that has harsh winters, having a motorcycle might be a little tough.
Though it’s still possible to ride motorcycles during cold weather, it’s not really advised to do so when the weather is below freezing temperatures. It is not only dangerous for your motorcycle, but also dangerous to drive on roads with ice. You can view my article here that discusses more about when it’s too cold to ride a motorcycle.
Sometimes, weather can also be unpredictable. It’s really frustrating and pretty scary if you’re riding down the road only to find yourself in an unexpected rain or snow storm. Other times you may be in class or in the library studying and come outside to your motorcycle only to find it had snowed a foot outside and you didn’t realize it.
It is very uncomfortable to ride a motorcycle in cold or poor weather. Not only that, but as a college student you’ll probably be wearing a backpack with expensive books in it that could get soaked from the weather.
Con: Other Drivers around You
No matter how many safety features you can put on a motorcycle, there’s no going around the fact that you are more susceptible to injuries on a motorcycle than you are in a car.
A car provides more protection against an accident than a motorbike. If you crash on a motorcycle, there’s really nothing holding you back except hopefully the quality gear you’re wearing.
One of the most difficult things about riding a bike is the fact that other drivers might not be aware of your abilities and cause an accident. Driver’s Ed teaches drivers to be aware of their surroundings, but it doesn’t teach drivers near enough about being aware of motorcyclists.
According to the Insurance Information Institute 84,000 motorcycles were involved with injury accidents in the United States in 2015. Cars account for 42% of all motorcycle accidents involving cars. This is typically due to cars turning left.
Now I’m not saying that riding a motorcycle is a dangerous sport and shouldn’t be done. This point is to demonstrate the lack of knowledge that other drivers have around motorcyclists and the last thing you want is an unaware driver hitting in to you as you’re on your way to class.
Con: Less Room For Items
As I have mentioned, motorcycles are fuel-efficient due to their better aerodynamics. These aerodynamics have a price.
When you ride a motorcycle as a college student, you’re pretty limited on the amount of stuff you can take with you. When I rode my motorcycle, I would usually take my backpack and the contents in it with me and that’s it. This was simply because I couldn’t fit anything else on my motorcycle.
A motorcycle can make grocery shopping a little more difficult. And grocery shopping is something you’re going to have to do while in college. Even going through the drive through and getting take-out isn’t easy on a motorcycle unless you have some sort of bag or basket attached to your bike.
Many times, I had to take my friends or roommates along to the grocery store so I could get the groceries I needed. If you own a motorcycle while going to college, you’re probably going to need occasional help from someone who has a car.
Con: The possibility of theft increases
Unfortunately, motorcycles are already vulnerable to theft. They’re easy to access and if needed, someone can bring a buddy and simply lift it into the back of their truck and get it started later.
The college parking lots are a favorite spot for thieves. It makes perfect sense that a campus bike parking lot offers a variety of bikes for students to choose from. A skilled thief could get a bike running in under 30 seconds, and no one will even notice. And campus police are none-the-wiser because they don’t keep track of who owns what motorcycle.
It’s not just a risk of the motorcycle being stolen but also anything you leave on your motorcycle can get stolen as well. If you have any bags or baskets on your bike and leave anything in them, that’s a perfect invitation for someone to take it.
There are some safety measures that you can use to make your bike less tempting to thieves. Use a lock on either one or both of your wheels. Chain it to something stationary, such as a bike rack. It may seem excessive to cover your motorcycle. However, thieves may be tempted by the idea of looking elsewhere for something that they can see.
Click here to view a list security products that I recommend for motorcycles in order to prevent theft. These items may be of great benefit to college students who ride a motorcycle.
Con: Shorter commutes are more constrained
This last con I’d like to point out may not be applicable to everyone depending on their riding skills and willingness to ride long distances. You are limited to the area you live in when you have a motorcycle.
I never rode my motorcycle long distances. My family lived over four hours away from the college I attended. The canyon was dangerous so I did not attempt to return my motorcycle in those conditions.
You can make road trips on a motorcycle but it is not always possible. A touring motorcycle is a better choice. You can do long trips on other motorcycles, it just won’t be as comfortable and you may not be able to take as much stuff with you.
College students usually aren’t taking long road trips unless it’s during some break. However, college students enjoy going on weekend trips that are more than 50 miles. Some people may not be comfortable riding on a bike.
What are the general benefits of riding a bike? Aside from the benefits discussed in this article, some additional benefits of riding a motorcycle include their resale value, they’re easier to customize, and riding has mental and health benefits. Click here to read an article on motorcycle riding benefits.
Is it possible to write off your motorcycle when you file taxes? The reason that you use your motorcycle to commute is what will determine whether or not your motorcycle can be written off on your taxes. You can deduct your motorcycle expenses if your motorcycle is used for business purposes. If you are using your motorcycle for personal reasons, your motorcycle cannot be subject to tax.