New vs Used Motorcycles: Does Half The Price Mean Half The Bike?

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I’ll kick this post off by using myself as an example in this new vs used motorcycles debate.

My very first big bike was a 1999 Honda CBR 600. I bought it with 26,000 miles on the clock for the princely sum of £1,895.

As you’d expect, it didn’t have all the technology that modern-day bikes boast. Nor did it have ABS, traction control, heated grips, built-in sat-nav, or even an automatic choke.

I went everywhere on that bike. I rode 20,000 miles in the first 12 months without even a hiccup. Plus, I toured Europe, rode an extended version of the NC500, completed a tour of Wales, and rode everything between.

Fast-forward to the present day, and I am in current ownership of a Honda Africa Twin which I bought brand new.

It had 7 miles on the clock when I picked it up, and it came with all the bells and whistles. And for these bells and whistles, I paid around £12,500.

honda cbr 600 - new vs used motorcycles
I loved my CBR 600! The best £1,895 I ever spent

New vs Used Motorcycles: A Look At My Maths

If we’re general with the figures, I paid almost 6 times more for my Africa Twin than I did for my CBR. To be exact, I paid 559% more.

But when I compare the two bikes, do I consider my new bike to be 559% better than the CBR?

No.

Nowhere even near, in fact.

Do I get 559% more enjoyment? Or comfort? Or economy?

No, I don’t.

If anything, my new bike is just a tool to get me from one place to the next. To all intents and purposes, it may as well be an Uber.

On the other hand, my CBR was a part of me. I loved it. And to this day, I wish I hadn’t sold it.

Will I have a tear in my eye when I trade in this Africa Twin?

Na. I’m pretty certain I won’t miss it in the slightest.

honda africa twin
New vs used motorcycles: I’d love to say I get 559% more enjoyment from my Africa Twin over my CBR 600. But I just don’t! (Image via Moto)

Comparing Apples With Apples

I appreciate that many of you now will be thinking that my new vs used motorcycles example above isn’t fair. They aren’t even similar bikes!

So let me use another friend as an example.

My friend, Mike, is a shameless BMW fanboy.

He bought a BMW GS1200 Adventure (brand new) back in 2016.

And despite it being the ugliest thing on the face of the planet, he loves it. To be fair to him, he’s never had any issues with it. It’s always, well, worked.

A few months back, between lockdowns, Mike and I were on a ride out where we happened across a BMW dealership. So we popped in for a browse – as you do.

Whilst I shuddered at the thought of buying one of these monstrosities, Mike clambered upon the new GS1250 Adventure – the one with the 40th Anniversary pack.

Both the salesman and I could see he was smitten.

And as the salesman rubbed his hands with glee, I shook my head in despair.

bmw r 1250 gs adventure - new vs used motorcycles
New vs used motorcycles: Are the 2021 BMW GS Adventure’s that much better than the 2016 models? (Image via BMW)

Cappuccinos & Motorrad Muffins

An hour later, Mike & I had finished our complimentary cappuccinos and muffins. So we left the dealership and headed back to our bikes.

I’m pleased to say Mike didn’t buy the bike on this occasion as he needed to think about the cost and discuss it with his wife.

But why did Mike need to discuss the price with his wife? Well, because the price of this particular bike was £20,800.

£20,800! I genuinely find that hard to write without laughing into my tea.

Now, I’ll admit that whilst I’m not exactly an exuberant fan of the GS, it is (probably) the best bike in the world (in a general sense.)

It has a lot going for it. And it has 40 years’ worth of refinement that’s gone into it.

But £20,800 is still a shit tonne of money. In fact, I bought my Africa Twin and my car for £800 LESS than the price of that GS Adventure.

bmw gs 40th anniversary
40 years of refinement has made the GS one of the best (if not the best) bikes on the market (image via BMW)

New vs Used Motorcycles: Two-Wheeled Arithmetic

When I got home, I wondered what the price difference would be between the new GSA in the showroom, and Mike’s 2016 model.

So I typed Autotrader into Google. And I was surprised to see that (on average), 2016 GSA’s with 15,000 miles on the clock were going for around £9,000 – £9,999.

And this got me thinking about new vs used motorcycles.

If I wanted a GS (I don’t, but let’s pretend I do), would I rather spend £20,800 on a 2021 model, or spend £10,000 on a 2016 model and save myself £11,000?

When you say it like that, it sounds like a lot of money, doesn’t it?

Eleven THOUSAND pounds.

That’s nearly a house deposit up here in the north.

Or a decent family car.

£11,000 pays for a lot of things!

bmw gs adv off-road - new vs used motorcycles
Do newer models warrant an extra £11,000? (Image via BMW)

Half The Price, Half The Bike?

For ease, let’s round down the GS Adv to £20,000. That’s still a £10,000 price difference between the old bike and the new bike.

It makes the new bike twice as much as the old one.

Or the old one half as much as the new one.

Look at it any way you prefer!

Now, let’s be honest here. The 2021 GSA is still essentially the same as the 2016 model. Yes, there have been a few upgrades and refinements that make the GS what it is today.

But despite a 6-year gap, the advancement in technology between the two is somewhat marginal.

And because of that, I’m not entirely convinced that the new GS is £10,000 better than the old one.

So when looking at new vs old motorcycles, I had to ask myself:

“Does half the price mean half the bike?”

bmw gs adv churning up sand
New vs used motorcycles: I’m not convinced that this bike is twice as good as its 2016 counterpart (image via BMW)

Doing The Autotrader Shuffle

Based on my recently acquired knowledge of new GS prices against old GS prices, I decided to do a few searches on Autotrader to see if I could find any similar new vs used motorcycles comparisons.

And this is what I found.

New vs Used Motorcycles: A Few Comparisons:

And we can make this even simpler by dividing everything down into averages:

  • The average cost of a new bike (based on the above list) is: £17,551
  • The average cost of its 5 or 6-year-old equivalent is: £9,697
  • Buying used over new would incur a saving of: £8,266
  • The average % increase you are paying for new vs old motorcycles is: 82%
ktm super duke 1290 gt, 2016 - new vs used motorcycles
This 2016 KTM Super Duke 1290 GT is every bit as good as the 2021 model – and it’s £9,000 cheaper (Image via Marc Cook)

New vs Used Motorcycles: Which Should You Buy?

I’m afraid that’s a question that only you can answer! (I know, I know… but it’s comfortable over here on this particular fence.)

My bike mechanic (who I trust implicitly) wouldn’t be seen dead on a new bike. As far as he’s concerned, they’re too flakey, too expensive, and of poor and ever-declining quality.

And I have to admit, he makes a good point. Newer bikes aren’t blessed with the heart, soul, and build quality of their older generation counterparts.

That said, I have numerous friends who only ever buy new bikes. Some buy them because they like to have the newest toy. Others buy them because the price of the first big service is so extortionate that it’s cheaper to trade in the old bike and get a brand new one on their PCP deal.

And in the real world, money matters when it comes to new vs used motorcycles.

Of course, my friends pay a premium for those bikes. But with that premium price tag comes peace of mind, a multi-year warranty, the latest technology, and the most recent safety features.

ducati multistrada with pillion
Buying new or used motorcycles is personal preference! But usually you’ll find yourself in one camp or the other (Image via Ducati)

What About Me?

Over the years, I’ve bought both new and used bikes. And whilst PCP makes it easy to buy new, I must confess to finding myself slightly blasé when it comes to new bikes. A bit ‘meh.’

They hardly ever live up to my expectations, and I find the quality and service somewhat disappointing.

Henceforth, I think I’ll be buying something that I love. And if that means making my money go further by buying used, then that’s exactly what I’ll do.

That doesn’t mean I’m having a dig at people who want to buy new. If you love having a new bike, and you have the money to buy one, then that’s absolutely fair enough.

I totally see why you would.

triumph tiger explorer - new vs used motorcycles
I wonder how much cheaper this Triumph Explorer will be when the 2021 model is released this year

New vs Used Motorcycles: Conclusion

So, does half the price mean half the bike?

Absolutely not.

Aside from ponsy developments (such as adaptive cruise control, cornering lights, heated seats, etc), motorcycle technology hasn’t come along all that much in the last 6 or 7 years.

If you look at Moto GP or medicine, for example, the technology in operation now is lightyears ahead of the technology they were using 7 years ago.

The technology used in consumer, road-going motorcycles is actually pretty stagnant in comparison.

Regardless of what manufacturers try to tell us via their expertly produced advertisements and pretty sales brochures, the 2021 BMW GS is still pretty much the same as the 2016 BMW GS.

And whilst KTM will have you believe you’re ‘ready to race’ with their 2021 Super Duke GT, it isn’t any more ready to race than the 2016 model.

Of course, we could sit here all day and quibble about the few extra horsepower. Or the slightly different suspension setup.

And whilst the 2021 derivative of a motorcycle might get you from 0-100mph half a second quicker than its predecessor, does that really matter in the real world?

Probably not.

Would does matter is the extra £10,000 in your back pocket.

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