Should You Avoid A High-Mileage Bike?

Buying a used bike can be a dream or a nightmare. Are you planning on a purchase soon?

"How many miles does it have?" That is the one question I get more than any other when a customer comes shopping for a used bike. The answer is the result of many factors, including geographic location, the type of motorcycle, and the age of the bike.

Despite all the variables, what I see is that the average rider puts 3,000 to 5,000 miles a year on a bike. Most of the bikes we see fall into that range. Lower numbers come from true fair-weather riders (and there are a lot of them) and those who own multiple bikes. Higher figures typically come from those who use a motorcycle for transportation.

Typical mileage on trade-ins at my dealership is pretty much what you would expect: Sportbikes and fancy cruisers see the least average annual mileage while touring rigs see the most. A Gold Wing getting 10,000 miles a year isn’t unusual at all. But I’ve also seen exceptions like a year-old touring bike with 5,000 miles. Buyers looking at used bikes often shy away from what is perceived as high mileage without doing the math. A 2006 Honda CBR with 40,000 miles on the clock would be right in the average range, though we don’t see a lot of them.

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Mileage isn’t the only consideration. Mechanical condition is more important. A high-mileage bike owned by a careful, maintenance-savvy rider is often a better deal than a low-mile bike that’s been thrashed and neglected. Dealers often have to mark down high-mileage bikes to move them, which can make them a better deal, but the current market has enough low-mile machines in it that it’s often tough to sell a really “experienced” bike. Think again, though; if you’ve found the bike you want, in the color you like, and it has the options you want, don’t discount it just because it has some miles. Look a little deeper before you move on.

Jeff Maddox is the sales manager for a multi-line dealership in the Midwest. Questions for him? Email us at with "Retail Confidential" in the subject line.

Questions for Jeff or the Motorcyclist staff? Email us at