Motorcycle vs. Car: What to Know

If you’re in the market for a new vehicle, you might be comparing the merits of a motorcycle versus a car

Some people are serious motorcycle fans, and they may use it for their primary form of transportation or perhaps something they enjoy on the weekends. 

It may be your lifelong dream to ditch your car for a motorcycle or at least add one into the rotation, but there are some pretty serious things to consider first. 

The Risk Factor

The biggest thing to make sure you grasp about a motorcycle is that they are dangerous. For example, if you’re in an auto accident you may only have mild injuries, like a mild traumatic brain injury

If you’re in an accident on a motorcycle, it can and often does mean severe injury or death. 

A few things to know about motorcycles and their risks:

  • There were 5,172 motorcyclists who died in motorcycle crashes in 2017, which is 3% lower than the year before
  • In 2017, motorcyclists were 27 times more likely than someone in a passenger car to die in a crash, per mile traveled by vehicle
  • You need a different set of skills and capabilities to operate a motorcycle as opposed to an enclosed vehicle
  • While motorcycles are inherently risky, there are things you can do to reduce the risk, including wearing a helmet. According to the NHTSA, helmets saved 1,872 motorcyclists in 2017.

It’s fairly easy to understand why riding motorcycles can be dangerous—they don’t have structural support elements like a car, such as a roof and doors. 

The thing about motorcycles and their level of danger is that the more careful you are in operating a motorcycle, and the more you follow the rules of the road, the more the risks go down. 


If your budget is a top concern as you decide between a car and a motorcycle, you may be wondering how the two compare price-wise. 

Motorcycles tend to cost less upfront when you buy them, and the gas is going to be cheaper too. 

For example, you could get a brand-new motorcycle for less than $5,000 depending on the make and model. 

You will still have to pay for things like equipment and maintenance, but again, it’s probably going to end up being cheaper than what you’d pay with a car. 

Motorcycles do tend to need maintenance and service more often than cars, but it comes at a lower price tag for the most part. You might expect to spend around $138 a year on motorcycle maintenance, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council.

The tires on a motorcycle may need to be replaced between 4,000 and 11,000 miles, and they can cost anywhere from $100 to $300. 

Whether or not insurance is cheaper for a car or motorcycle can depend. Much of this is based on where you live. For example, in California, you might pay more to insure a bike than a car. 

If you take certain steps, such as participating in a motorcycle safety course, you may be able to get a discount on your insurance. 

When it comes to resale value, motorcycles and cars are pretty similar in this area. Neither holds their value particularly well in most cases, so it’s not really as if you’re making an investment for the long-term unless it’s a classic car or a unique bike perhaps. 


If you’re thinking about a motorcycle as something you get in addition to a car, then practicalities don’t matter as much, but if it’s an either-or decision then practicality is a big concern.

If you use a motorcycle as your everyday vehicle, it can make your commute more enjoyable and parking easier, particularly in urban areas. However, if the weather is bad and you only have a motorcycle, you may have to use a rideshare service to get to work or wherever else you need to go. 

A motorcycle is often more eco-friendly than a car if that’s a priority for you. Motorcycles have fewer emissions—in fact, they produce about 1/3 the emissions a normal car would produce. 

Then, there’s the feeling of freedom and the adrenaline rush you might get from a motorcycle that you can’t get from a regular car. Many of the things to consider when you’re weighing a car versus a motorcycle are ultimately personal preferences and decisions. The biggest differences between the two are the safety risks, so educate yourself on these before making a decision.

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