Motorcycle journalists have it good. Getting to ride the latest and greatest motorcycles is clearly a dream, and every once in a while, the result of us spending so much time with a particular model is it eventually becoming a permanent part of our collection. Obviously, a handover of cash has to happen, but there really isn’t a better way to get to know a motorcycle before buying it.
The next best option would be a lease. While not as great as having a free motorcycle for a while to ride around, leasing gives you a low-risk alternative for what’s essentially a long-term rental. However, as super common as it is in the car world, leasing a motorcycle isn’t something you typically hear about. So that got us wondering: is motorcycle leasing even a thing? As it turns out, the answer is yes! As of this writing, there are currently two companies offering motorcycle leases in the United States. We’ll get to both of them in a moment, but first, let’s talk about what a lease is and whether or not it’s right for you.
Anyone who has paid rent or leased a car is likely very familiar with what’s entailed in leasing a motorcycle. The basic premise is simple: another party owns the bike and you’re responsible for making payments at an agreed-upon price for an agreed-upon length of time (up to 60 months, or 5 years, in some cases). Once that time is up, you have a few options:
So, why should you lease a motorcycle, anyway? Besides, in the US, where two wheels are considered a discretionary purchase whereas four is more essential, making payments on what amounts to a toy for many people – without necessarily getting to keep it in the end – seems a little strange. However, there are some people who could benefit from such an arrangement.
The first are people who meet very specific criteria: they like to have new vehicles every couple of years AND they tend to rack up significant miles on their current vehicles. If the thought of long-term reliability and ownership costs deters you – and the thought of something new and shiny every few years is also appealing – then having the dealership perform basic maintenance on your motorcycle while you borrow it and then getting something new every couple of years certainly sounds nice.
The next category of potential lease candidates are those with bad credit. It’s typically much easier to get approved for a lease instead of a loan, so if you’re desperate for a motorcycle, have bad credit, and are trying to build it back up, then leasing a motorcycle could be a good option. The catch, of course, is that you’re probably going to have a terrible rate, and if you default on a payment your already bad credit is going to take yet another plunge.
What if you don’t fall into either of these categories? Then a lease probably isn’t for you. Sure having a rotation of new bikes every couple of years is nice, but if you don’t rack up the miles (we’re talking something like 20,000 or more a year), then you’ll likely be left with negative equity at the end of your current lease that could get rolled over into your next if you decide to go down that route.
If you already have good credit, then you probably make smart financial decisions anyway and aren’t trying to repair your credit. And lastly, if you tend to pay cash for your motorcycles, then this entire article doesn’t really apply to you.
Currently, there are two companies offering leases for motorcycles: Motolease and Speedleasing. Both work in similar ways, as dealers contract through either company to be an authorized dealer. From there, you apply for a lease approval (and are usually given an answer within minutes), agree to terms, and ride off on your motorcycle! In its FAQ section, Speedleasing advertises that often low or no down payment is needed, though this isn’t always the case. Motolease offers leases for up to $20,000, with down payments ranging anywhere from 10%-30%. A larger lease amount is possible only if you’re able to provide a larger down payment or trade-in to make up the difference. As an added bonus – and unlike many car leases – both Motolease and Speedleasing offer unlimited mileage.
Here’s the main difference between the two companies: Speedleasing only leases 2007-2020 Harley-Davidsons and 2014-2020 Indians. Motolease, meanwhile, offers leases on new or used motorcycles that are up to 14 model years old as long as the make and model are available in the NADA powersport guide. One more thing to keep in mind: both companies only operate in certain states, so be sure to check with either site or your local dealer if this is something you’re interested in.
And that’s it. The low down on motorcycle leasing. If you were interested, and you fit one of the criteria above, it may not be a bad option to try.