Best Time to Buy a Motorcycle

Well, this is too easy. The best time to buy a motorcycle is after your ship comes in, ie., when you become wealthy. As one of our favorite bucks-up bike fanatic/collectors said when asked what’s the best time to buy: “I never gave it any thought.” 

When you don’t have to think about it is always a good time to buy a new motorcycle. And even if you do have to think about it, bikes are still cheap compared to most of the finer things in life, so anytime is still a good time.

“Whenever you feel like it,” says our friend Michael, who appears to be running out of storage.

For those of us not born to the manor, for whom money is a consideration, the question becomes slightly more complicated.

If you’re fortunate enough to live where there’s not a serious winter, fall is a great time to buy. You can still ride most days, but even in sunny California, the days get short, the nights grow cold, and bike sales slow.

Buying in the fall doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a fantastic deal on the bike of your dreams, though. Depending on the seller’s sophistication and bottom line, he knows as well as you his bike will be worth more in the springtime, when the sap, estrogen, temperature, and testosterone are all rising.

“Yesterday,” says our friend Trevor from Victoria, BC, who just picked up a new Suzuki GSX-S1000F in spite of rain being in the forecast for the foreseeable future on Canada’s southwest coast.

One friend in New Jersey, where they definitely have seasons, advises buy in the spring, sell in the fall. That’s when most people naturally procure their motorcycles. But others will point out that spring is also when you’ll have less selection due to more competition, and will pay the most. Big deal. As another friend accurately points out, delayed gratification sucks. Who wants to be staring at a new motorcycle all winter waiting for the snow to melt?

“When your wife will let you,” says Reg. If relationship stress is a problem, you’ll definitely need to consider your partner’s wishes. My advice for all couples is separate bank accounts. I might still be married if I hadn’t badly needed that Husqvarna TE250 back in, ahhhh, 2006, and I never even had the decency to thank it.

In short, there may not be a best time to buy a motorcycle. It really depends more on the motorcycle you want than the calendar. If you must have the latest model the motopress just raved about, you might need to put down a deposit ASAP to secure one when it arrives at your dealer months later, and you will pay for the privilege of being first. In the case of a few recent bikes we can recall, you also had to pre-order in addition to putting down a large deposit. At least it hasn’t reached the point of some new cars, like when potential buyers had to make a grovelling video to get Ford to sell them a GT40. I’ll just keep my `95 Ranger thanks!

Speaking of special vehicles, if you have your heart set on a certain pre-owned motorcycle, the time to buy is when the perfect one appears and you have the money. As the years roll by, fewer and fewer perfect examples come to market, and prices on those special machines tend to go in one direction: Up. We know a collector who’s given up on adding an RC30 to his collection for now for that reason.

Luckily, this collector has other nice bikes to take away the pain of not having an RC30.

If you’re more open-minded and just want a great deal on a new bike, the dead of winter probably is the time to strike. Most dealers close out their fiscal year on December 31, and any unsold last year’s motorcycles sitting on the floor then – right after the Christmas buying binge – are likely to be nicely discounted. Also, when there’s a new model on the way, like the new 2021 Ducati Multistrada V4 we keep writing about, Brian Catterson up at MotoCorsa in Portland, Oregon, says he will make you a great deal on a 2019 Multistrada.

The internet has turned the when-to-buy decision as upside down as it’s turned everything else. Even if you live in a warm climate, you can still take advantage of the winter doldrums in other parts of the country. If you find the bike you want in the frozen north, lots of dealers seem to be interested in making you a deal that includes free shipping – and even if you pay for the shipping, it shouldn’t be much more than about $500 anywhere within the US. 

Apparently, during a pandemic seems to also be a good time to buy. Word from the Motorcycle Industry Council this morning is that this quarter’s year-to-date sales of new motorcycles and scooters through September increased 10.2 percent compared to the same period last year.

And if you’re planning to finance that new motorcycle using Other Peoples’ Money, during a pandemic and in the middle of a period of record-low interest rates is also an ideal time to buy. Does anybody need to be told to check the internet for special deals? A quick spin around the www reveals Suzuki offering 1.9% financing (you’ll need great credit of course), and don’t be turned off by the $13,495 price tag hanging on the Katana at Suzuki’s corporate website. Those lovelies are all over the www for $9000. Let Mr. Suzuki’s pain be your gain. Elsewhere, the holiday/end of year timeframe is when nearly all the OEMs are offering low-interest financing.

Pretty much right now is as good a time as any to buy, and go ahead and feel some gratitude if you’re in a position to buy a shiny new or new-to-you motorcycle when so many others are hurting. If you dread taking on a few years of payments, realize that the sooner you make the first one, the sooner you’ll also make the last one. Since none of us are getting any younger, you must also factor the Lost Opportunity for Fun into the equation. The sooner you start riding, the longer you’ll get to. Finally, realize that being a motorcycle person has already excluded you from the pool of rational human beings as far as the rest of the world is concerned anyway. No one’s expecting you to be reasonable. You may as well run with that. Good luck.