Guaranteed Mileage: How Many Miles Will Your Motorcycle Really Last?

How Many Miles Do Motorcycles Last?

When shopping for a motorcycle or a car, it’s common to look at mileage before any other listing information. But motorcycle mileage is different from car mileage, and it’s also not as important as you might expect. Here you’ll find the answer to the question how many miles do motorcycles last, plus more on caring for your bike no matter the mileage.

Factors Which Affect Motorcycle Engine Life

You might feel tempted to only look at mileage when shopping for a bike, especially if you have a specific make or model in mind. But there are other factors which affect an engine’s useful life, and they aren’t always obvious ones.

A few factors you should consider are:

● Extreme weather conditions, whether hot or cold

● Adherence to an engine maintenance schedule

● Other bike maintenance (tires, chain, etc.)

●  Engine CCs and overall performance (and usage)

Extreme weather conditions—such as starting the bike below freezing temperatures or riding in supremely hot summers—can cause undue wear and tear on a bike. Some damage is visible, such as to the paint job, the seat, or the handgrips, since those materials are more susceptible to chipping or wear, while other issues are less noticeable.

Plus, idling in the heat isn’t ideal for any air-cooled engine—meaning your freeway commute in tons of traffic mid-summer isn’t going to help the bottom line when it comes to the odometer.

Not sticking with regular maintenance can also reduce the number of miles a bike is good for. And while there’s no hard and fast rule about higher CC bikes running for fewer miles, the more you open the throttle and crank the RPMs up, the worse it is for your motorcycle’s engine.

And of course, letting the bike idle rough doesn’t help prolong its engine life, either. You should keep up on regular engine maintenance—or find a pro who can do it for you—to avoid wearing your bike out before its miles are up.

Caring for Your Motorcycle Engine

Regular engine care is one of the most significant factors when looking at the overall expected mileage. After all, you wouldn’t expect a bike that goes tens of thousands of miles between oil changes to last for as many miles as a well-cared-for motorcycle.

Keeping up with regular engine maintenance can ensure your bike keeps humming along no matter what the miles suggest. Taking care of basic maintenance—from oil changes to air filters—is the first step. First, oil changes every few thousand miles are crucial to your bike’s overall performance.

Checking (and replacing) the air filter is another essential step, as the filter can become clogged with debris and cause your engine to choke up. Air filters can be tough to access, depending on the model of the bike, but it’s an easy DIY with the help of your user’s manual.

Coolant is another easily checked item on your motorcycle maintenance list. The coolant avoids overheating, corrosion, and freezing, so no matter the weather, keeping the level consistent is a significant part of your bike’s regular checkups.

How a Motorcycle’s History Means More Than Its Miles

What’s better: buying a motorcycle with 10,000 miles that’s had a few drops or getting a bike with 20,000 miles with no visible or other damage? When shopping for a bike, you should consider more than just the odometer reading to determine the quality and overall value.

Bikes with clear maintenance histories or just one owner are often in much better shape than bikes that change hands often. An owner who’s careful about riding safely—and avoiding falls and drops—suggests a better-quality bike than one with low miles that has taken several hits.

You can’t always interview the former owner in-depth, but in general, being able to view the bike’s service records can give you a good idea of its quality. Looking for a used motorcycle with low miles is a good idea, but you shouldn’t overlook a motorcycle with higher miles and an impeccable track record with oil changes.

Motorcycle values depend on a handful of factors, one of those being mileage, but past accidents, consistent (or not) oil changes, fluid top-offs, and other regular upkeep matter, too. With a clean background, a bike could clock in at 50,000 miles or more without an issue.

Engine CCs and Power

CCs refer to the size of the motorcycle’s engine, but the rating can also suggest a few things about its performance. In general, a bike with higher CCs generates more power, which means its engine takes in more air and fuel at a time than an engine with lower CCs.

Of course, burning more fuel means you’ll have lower gas mileage with a higher-CC bike. Increased torque and smoother operation are also highlights. Most experienced riders are willing to make the tradeoff, but you should also stay within your comfort zone as far as torque and motorcycle size.

When High Mileage Matters

High mileage is a negative indicator when the bike you’re looking at is missing service records or has changed hands often. Similarly, it’s not a great sign if you look at a bike with high miles that was ridden by someone just starting out.

After all, breaking in the bike properly is a big part of ensuring its longevity over time. Ideally, you want to know the history of the vehicle you intend to buy, regardless of what the odometer reports, because there’s always more to the story than that number alone.

Even though 50,000 miles, for example, seems like a high number for a bike (especially considering it’s like 200k on a car), if those are well cared for miles, it could still be a smart buy. And if the bike is older with more miles, insurance costs could be significantly lower than on a newer bike.

Motorcycle Value Versus Longevity

When you’re shopping for a new bike (or looking to sell yours), you’re hoping for a good deal. After all, finances are a big part of the picture for most of us. But a cheap bike isn’t always the best deal, just like a bike with low miles isn’t always a smart buy.

In terms of value, yes, a bike with lower mileage tends to be worth more than a bike that’s racking up miles. However, a regularly serviced motorcycle with no known engine or other issues with a ton of miles is always a better option than a bike with a sketchy history and only a couple thousand miles.

You can reasonably expect a motorcycle with 40,000 miles, an impeccable service record, and a clean body to be worth purchasing, even though some riders would judge the bike as being high mileage. On that same note, an off-road bike with 40,000 miles will likely look rough and not perform well, as off-road miles are tougher on a motorcycle than street miles.

The Bottom Line: Is High Mileage a Deal-Breaker?

When you know what you’re looking at, no, high mileage isn’t a deal-breaker. There are many other indicators of whether a bike is worth its asking price than the odometer alone, and it pays to be savvy when shopping for a new bike.

Whether you’re searching for a low-mileage bike for a beginner or a 3 wheel motorcycle for a rider retiring from a two-wheeler, mileage isn’t the top feature you should look at. Keep an open mind and look at other aspects of each motorcycle before deciding—otherwise, you could end up with a lemon, even though its mileage is low.