It’s Harley Time – But Is It Worth the Cost?

On warm sunny days, especially after a spell of cold weather and snow, the sound of Harley-Davidson motorcycles roars through the air as the riders emerge, one by one, in pairs or groups astride their proof of coolness motor bikes.

A bit of Harley trivia.

In the early 1900’s two enterprising young entrepreneurs invented this motor bike in their Milwaukee Wisconsin homes. William Harley and friend Arthur Davidson were just in their twenties when they tinkered around to invent the concept.

Harleys are big bikes and are known for their distinctive rumble – via their special exhaust system. They got the nickname HOG when a team of farm boys consistently won races, then put their mascot – a hog – on the bike and rode it around the track on their victory lap.

The Harley-Davidson company has voluntarily met EPA standards and issues an environmental warranty to each new owner.

Who rides HOGS?

According to a Bloomberg Business Week article in 2011, the average age of Harley riders is now 47 (as opposed to 35 in 1987). The company encourages the various clubs and activities of Harley owners to build a strong brand loyalty.

Two of my neighbors bought Harleys. A Harley can cost more than a car – some in the range of $36,000. Although Wikipedia claims that the medium household income of Harley owners is around $83,000, it turns out that neither of my neighbors could really afford the luxury of a pleasure hog, used only a few times a year.

Would you risk your home to own a motorcycle?

One of my neighbors was out of work, and had been for months when he bought his Harley. He was a tree trimmer. His wife had been a bartender and had just switched to cleaning houses for money instead. They lived in an old 1950’s track house of about 1000 sq ft. with dividers for interior walls and a poorly done homeowner add on room above the basement garage.

One day, he called my husband over to admire his new purchase, explaining to him that he had to take out a line of credit on his house to get it! His rationale? He was in his forties and wanted to have it while still young enough to enjoy it. They soon divorced and had to sell the house.

My other neighbor could probably afford the bike – until the great recession hit, his business lost enough customers to close shop and they went underwater on their mortgage. He may still have it, judging by the contents of his yard, he has trouble letting things go.

Why Buy a Motorcycle?

There are a number of valid reasons that folks spend their hard earned credit on bikes.

  • They are fun to ride – on warm sunny days or warm starlit nights.
  • They can save money on gas for the commute to work.
  • They can get to places you can’t in a car.
  • They can help you join a community.

Why Avoid Buying a Motorcycle?

  • It’s a want, not a need – in most cases.
  • They can be very expensive to purchase.
  • They typically sit unused for most of the year.
  • Only one or two people can ride at once.
  • They are not as safe as most cars.
  • It’s harder to haul extra stuff around on them – unless you buy a trailer.
  • You can use the money to invest instead of spending it.

It’s not just Harley’s and it’s not just motor bikes!

In case I wasn’t clear, the point of this post is that you need to choose carefully the ‘doo-dads’ (as the Rich Dad Cash Flow game calls them) on which you spend your hard earned money.

Substitute just about any item that you really don’t need. A boat, a camper, a second home, a bigger home, a Honda bike, private lessons or whatever it is that you want but don’t actually need.

Sure, you only go around once and you do need to live your life the best way possible, but you will have to make choices – no matter what your wealth level. Choose wisely for your maximum life benefit. Multiple fancy play things now, or financial security for life?

I’m expecting some comments from Harley lovers!  What about the rest of you, at what cost do you fulfill your wants?  Do you have any regrets about doing so?

This post was written by Marie.


It’s Harley Time – But Is It Worth the Cost? — 17 Comments

  1. I am a scooter rider, and generally hate Harleys. Oh, let me count the ways… The cost is excessive, there are plenty of cheaper motorcycles from the likes of Honda et al. The noise is excessive. Noise is fun, yeah, I drilled through the baffles in my muffler to make it a bit louder, but Harley noise is stupid noise. On top of that, there is ABSOLUTELY NO PRACTICAL REASON for you to be constantly blipping your throttle at a red light. You might as well just stand up, drop your pants, and show the world how small it really is. And finally, the ego is excessive. Just because you spent way too much money on a rolling earthquake machine that is driven like a car more often than it is ridden like a motorcycle does not make you any more of a rider than me. I’ve got over 12k miles on my Honda in 3 years for a reason. It’s my daily driver, I ride year round, I can carry all my crap on it with it’s spacious cargo deck, and I don’t have anything to compensate for. Real riders aren’t afraid to ride scooters because it’s about the ride, not the machine.

    And real riders ride year round, for that matter. I personally hate it when spring rolls around and all the morons come out of the woodwork. First warm weekend had three local motorcycle crashes.

    Vent complete.

  2. I will be riding a Harley – as you probably have already read on my blog, I am planning a trip across the US on a motorbike. Yes, it is a want – but wants are what define us as humans and individuals. Wants are the salt of life and I am determined to keep my life tasty. Safety, is a concern but the fun that can be had outweights it by far.

      • 🙂 I thought that might rile some feathers. I work at a Vespa dealership (among other brands). I’m just teasing.

      • ha! small fleet… I get the ‘why’ of owning a Harley but you have to admit that you pay a premium just for the name. If you were looking into owning a motorcycle simply to save money a Harley would not be a cost effective way to go. There are lots of other reasons to ride though and if a Harley is your hearts desire then you should absolutely buy one! I find that the motorcycle community is so passionate that it always seems where there’s a will there’s a way- motorcycle enthusiasts will find a way to be able to afford the hobby.

  3. Ohhhhhh motorcycles scare me. I try to be extra cautious when I’m driving around one. In Pennsylvania you used to have to wear a helmet. They changed the law in the past couple of years and since then I’ve seen virtually no one wearing one. I don’t understand it. People must want to look cool so badly that they’re willing to scramble their brains. And lose their homes, apparently.

    Sorry, Harley and all motorcycle lovers. I’m just worried for your safety!

    • I’m glad you are! The other 98% aren’t even paying attention.

      Also, Pennsylvanian here, and I don’t wear a helmet unless I’m highway riding. Not to look cool, but for convenience. Also, feels better.

  4. I started riding 3 years ago and LOVE IT. I ride a Ninja 650. I will switch to a cruiser in a couple of years. My dream is to ride across the country on a Cruiser and stay in California for the rest of my life.

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