In the real world your first motorcycle should combine the most positive traits that fit your unique needs. You need to consider price, availability, maintenance, and the type of riding you plan to do. Here is a short list of great bikes that will get you from point A to point B on a budget.

If you are working for a fast-food chain, coffee shop, or simply trying to make ends meet and you have plans to start riding motorcycles, then here are 10 great options to get you on the road for under two grand.

1986–2006 Kawasaki Ninja 250R
2003 ninja 250 blue
2003 Kawasaki Ninja 250
Any of these 250 Ninjas between will fall between $1,500 and $2,000 for a nice, clean machine.
Kawasaki

This happens to be the first streetbike I ever rode and it will forever be etched in my mind as the premier starter bike. Sure, the Rebel is slower and lower so it's easy to ride, but as an 18-year old guy, it just seemed that the Ninja was way cooler. Plus, the market is saturated with them so you can pick up a good used bike almost anywhere.

1985-2006 Honda Rebel
2006 Honda Rebel
2006 Honda Rebel
Right now you can pick up a 2006 Honda Rebel for $1,000–$1,500 in cities across the USA. These pint-size cruisers have a low seat height, get more than 50 mpg, and are probably the cheapest bike to insure on this list.
American Honda Motor

If you want to ride, like the cruiser look, and don’t mind having a top speed of 87 mph, then the Rebel is worth a look. There seems to be a bunch of bobbed Rebels on the market too. So you don’t necessarily have to buy a stock version because customized units are everywhere. Just make sure to take a close look at the bike and maybe pay a local shop to inspect it for you. As long as you get a good one, you’re going to spend many happy miles behind those Rebel bars.

1985–1999 Kawasaki 250 Eliminator

If you bleed green and wouldn't be caught dead on a Honda, the Kawasaki 250 Eliminator might be a better option. They are rare in most places but a few always seem to be available. The look is a little more stout, a bit more aggressive than the Honda, but the price point is typically a few hundred bucks less. Besides the badge on the tank though, this motorcycle is every bit as solid as the Rebel. Expect to spend anywhere from $750–$1,200 for a clean Eliminator.

1975–1980 Honda CL125
1971 Honda CL125
1971 Honda CL125
This is one of many classic scrambler models from this era. If you can locate a CL that runs well and has reasonable hours on the clock, it will likely be a great ride. Considering the popularity of retro-cool cycles, bikes like the CL are an instant hit with the hipster crowd.
American Honda Motor
2014-2015 Yamaha V Star 250
2015 Yamaha V Star 250
2015 Yamaha V Star 250
They've been around for a while now so the used bike market is starting to warm up.
Yamaha Motor Corp, USA

This classic cruiser may not have the name association the bikes above it do, but the V Star models are proven reliable. They are no-nonsense bikes that can take a fair bit of abuse and keep on rolling down the road. Still, you can pick up a 2014 model for anywhere between $1,200 and $1,800. That’s a great deal and they are available in many different cities right now.

1995–1999 Suzuki DR250
2007 Suzuki DR Z250
2007 Suzuki DR Z250
This is the quintessential small-displacement dual-sport of its time. It is light, cheap, and gets great mpg for a bike built before the 2000s. These are available all day long for under $2,000.
Suzuki Motors of America
1991–1995 Kawasaki EX500
Kawasaki EX500
This bike is basically a big-bore 250 Ninja. It is bigger and obviously a bit more powerful, but overall it is a great beginner bike.Kawasaki

They used to be the hottest motorcycle in the newspaper (that was an actual printed publication that was delivered to your house by human beings back in the ’90s)…but once they were phased out of manufacture they lost popularity among new riders. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t a great bike. Low-mileage examples should be under $2,000 and a quick scan online showed many of them still on the market in that price range.

1988–1989 Yamaha FZR400
Yamaha FZR400
1988 Yamaha FZR400
One of the most coveted trackbikes of the '90s is alive and well today.
Yamaha

Now that the craze has resided after 30 years of hoarding by the few folks who didn’t destroy them, the original 400cc supersports are popping up all over the place. Think of this as the holy grail of beginner sportbikes. If you find a clean example for anywhere near $2,000, then grab it up and enjoy the ride. If you are looking for a larger bike, the FZR600 is equally impressive though it may be a little bigger than what the average beginner rider might be willing to deal with. But it’s worth checking out if you find one.

2005–2008 Buell Blast
Buell Blast
2007 Buell Blast
There was a point when Buell was firing on all cylinders, and at that time it introduced the Blast as the ultimate beginner bike.
Buell

The Blast had its merits and to this day it is a superb starter cycle. Its low seat height, torque-heavy single-cylinder engine, and rudimentary controls have proven to be dang near bulletproof after decades of use. Watch close and you’ll find a Blast for under $2,000 in most major cities.

1999–2009 Suzuki SV650
1999 Suzuki SV650
1999 Suzuki SV650
At one point the demand for SV650 motorcycles far outweighed the supply for these fantastic trackbikes. As a result, many of them found their way to the garbage bin after serving time as beginner trackday bikes and racebikes. Their combination of user friendly V-twin power and comfortable ergos was only rivaled by their low price point and bountiful aftermarket products.
Suzuki Motors of America

You can still see grids full of classic SVs at a racetrack near you, but finding a clean, street-legal version is almost as easy. Just keep your feelers out and, when one pops up, have cash ready because it won’t be around for long if it is in good shape. Expect to pay anywhere in the realm of $2,000 but there are lots of well-used ones for less and just as many pristine versions for a bit more.

Keep in mind that many of these motorcycles are models and eras that I have seen work out great for my buddies. There are quite a few options out there, but most of these are the cream of the crop, so if you stumble across one, grab it before someone else does.