Home » Here Are Five Beginner-Friendly Used Motorcycles You Can Buy With Your Tax Refund

Here Are Five Beginner-Friendly Used Motorcycles You Can Buy With Your Tax Refund

Five Beginner Bikes Ts2

It’s tax season, which means a lot of you will be getting some cash back from Uncle Sam. Now, you could put that money into getting your hooptie back on the road, but you and I both know you’re going to buy something else. My wife will be learning how to ride a motorcycle so she can join me on rides this spring. She’s so excited that she’s already started flipping through the pages of Facebook for beginner-friendly rides. Despite everything that’s happened to the used vehicle market, it’s exciting to see that there are still some cool bikes out there for not a lot of money. So let’s take a look at five cool beginner-friendly motorcycles that your tax refund might be able to buy you!

If you’re not already a motorcyclist, I highly recommend taking a motorcycle safety class. There are countless motorcycle safety schools around the country from various sources from local organizations to companies like Harley-Davidson. I recommend paying a visit to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and finding a class near you. These classes will teach you the basics of riding a motorcycle as well as life-saving skills that can even help you behind the wheel of a car or at the controls of an aircraft. Depending on where you live, motorcycle training may be free! In my experience, these classes fill up fast, so it’s best to sign up for one now during the off-season.

Vidframe Min Top
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After you complete your motorcycle training, your world will open up to endless possibilities. There are beginner-friendly bikes to cover all sorts of riding from cruising to off-roading. You may have to experiment to figure out what kind of rider you are. The good news is that old beginner bikes can be dirt cheap!

1999 Honda CMX250C – $1,100

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The Honda CMX250C, marketed as the Rebel 250, is a fantastic cruiser-style beginner bike. Depending on the class you find, you may even train on one of these like I did! A Rebel was one of my beginner bikes and I found it to be a perfectly adequate machine. It wasn’t fast, but its top speed of 80 mph was more than fine.

Honda used to be obsessed with emulating the American cruiser. Throughout the 1980s and well into the 2000s, Team Red built a number of motorcycles that looked like they could have worn a Harley-Davidson badge but had the quality and ergonomics you would expect from Honda. The Rebel made its debut in 1985, and later, Honda would launch the Spirit of the Phoenix project, which leaned even further into that American motorcycle style. Roughly translated from Honda’s Japanese site:


[SPIRIT OF THE PHOENIX] further refines the style of motorcycles that has been nurtured in the climate of America, and “the spirit of freedom that resonates with the rider’s heart”, in other words, communicates with the rider like a horse. I sought the spirit of motorcycle building.

Rather than a cowboy image, it is one of the directions of world wide custom bike construction that can gain the sympathy of Japanese and European riders while imagining aggressive and open American pioneer spirit.

And this [SPIRIT OF THE PHOENIX] is a summary of the basic policy of custom model building currently being developed by Honda. Based on “evolution” and “sublimation to a more free style”, it is positioned as a guideline for the development of the new generation custom.

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The Rebel 250 comes with a 234cc parallel twin making a gentle 18.5 HP and 14 lb-ft of torque. That’s moving a machine that weighs about 306 pounds. In my experience, the Rebel isn’t super nimble, but it’s still light and small enough to be forgiving of mistakes. Sadly, this machine is carbureted, but the engine is practically bulletproof.

I think the Rebel 250 is the perfect little bike for someone looking for an easy commuter motorcycle or for something to cruise down backroads on. Again, the Rebel is absolutely not fast, but it’s cheap, durable, and it looks pretty good. The Rebel and its 26.6-inch seat height is especially nice for shorter people. Speaking of height, if you’re 6 feet or taller, you’ll probably be pretty cramped on this thing. Look further for a better choice for you.

The best part is that Honda Rebels are basically worthless. Here’s one for sale in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for just $1,100. It doesn’t have a million miles or anything like that, you’re just looking at a bike people buy to learn on and then sell.

2003 Suzuki DR-Z400S – $3,200

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So you’ve decided that you want a motorcycle that can take you to work during the week but handle trails on the weekend. Welcome to the territory of dual-sport motorcycles! For this particular category, I wanted to choose a bike that could handle highway speeds but still had off-road capabilities.

As Cycle News writes, the seeds for the DR-Z400S were planted in 1990 when Suzuki launched the DR650S, DR350S, and DR250S. Suzuki and its dealers helped organize dual-sport rides and listened to customer feedback. This is what led to the DR getting electric start in 1993. Suzuki also learned that DR riders wanted a four-stroke water-cooled engine in a chassis bred from Suzuki’s motocross and off-road racing expertise.


The DR-Z400S released in 2000. Power comes from a 398cc single making 39 HP and 28.8 lb-ft of torque. Claimed top speed is 94 mph, which is more than enough for most riding.

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When you read reviews of the DR-Z400, you’ll find plenty of pictures of journalists doing wheelies and putting the suspension to the test. There are 11.3 inches of travel up front and 11.6 inches of travel in the rear, and reportedly, these bikes are plenty of fun off-road. A dry weight of 291 pounds also means you won’t get crushed when you tip it, too. That said, these have a towering seat height of 36.8 inches, so short people will have trouble riding this motorcycle.

If you look hard enough, you can find a DR-Z400S for an affordable price. Here’s one for just $3,200 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

2014 Kawasaki Ninja 300 ABS – $3,200

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Alright, so maybe you want a little more speed in your life. Or, perhaps you want modern technology like fuel injection and ABS. If that sounds like you, the Ninja 300 ABS might be your new ride. The Kawasaki Ninja has long been favored by beginners for its predictable and controllable power. Ninjas are fun, but the small-bore models won’t immediately try to kill you with the twist of the throttle.

Now, if you want to go really cheap, pick up an even more inexpensive Kawasaki Ninja 250. However, I decided to go a little newer because those older bikes are carbureted. If you don’t care about that, you can get an even better moto deal in going older. Unfortunately, because so many people buy Ninja 250s and Ninja 300s as their first bikes, it’s somewhat hard to find one that’s cheap, yet hasn’t been beaten to an inch of its life. Even the one on your screen here has been dropped, but at least it doesn’t have a hole in its engine and a rebuilt title like a couple of the others I found.


Launched in 2013 as a successor to the Ninja 250, the Ninja 300 has a 39 HP parallel twin with displacement up from 249cc to 296cc and as I said before, the carb was left in the past for fuel injection. As MotorWeek writes, the Ninja 300 was developed as a response to the Honda CBR250R. The motorcycle will hit 110 mph if you give it enough room.

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Review notes from the Ninja 300 include the fact that the high-set clip-on bars and low pegs give the bike good ergonomics. The 31-inch seat height also means a lot of folks will be able to ride it, though, don’t expect much comfort from the sporty seat. The Ninja 300 weighs 379 pounds and the bike is known for its good handling. You won’t win any races, but it’s a nice choice for a beginner who does want something with a bit more speed. The Ninja 300 is also a decent pick for an experienced rider who wants a frugal commuter. This example also has optional ABS, which will likely come in handy as you hone your skills.

This 2014 Ninja 300 I found in Pinckney, Michigan for $3,200 (negotiable to $3,000) has some cosmetic damage to its plastics, which is common for Ninja 300s in this price range. To me, the damage just means you can ride without worrying about hurting a pretty bike.

1978 BMW R 80/7 – $3,000

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Maybe, like me, you love vintage vehicles with miles on their odometers and stories to tell, if they could talk. To scratch that itch, I think a BMW airhead would be a good choice.

Last year, I bought a very teal BMW R60/7. When I was riding that motorcycle home, I was delighted by how easy the motorcycle was to ride and maneuver. I have since become a bit obsessed with airheads and have been wondering how I have missed out on such wonderful bikes for so long. I’ve learned that airheads have been the first motorcycles of many for decades. It’s easy to see why. These BMWs last a long time, aren’t too heavy, aren’t too fast, and are DIY-friendly. Here’s what BMW has to say about the R 80/7:


BMW followed the latest trend to larger displacement classes and presented the BMW R 80/7 in 1977 as the successor to the R 75/7. The increase in capacity compared to its predecessor was achieved by a larger bore. Over the long term, the R 80/7 also replaced the R 60/7 in the model year 1979. It therefore assumed the role of the new mid-range in the BMW Motorrad product range. Over the course of the production run until 1984, the motorcycle received numerous upgrades and modifications, including the standard twin disc brakes introduced for the front wheel in 1978 and modern cast alloy wheel rims and the sportier S-shaped bench seat in 1979.

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Power comes from a 797cc air-cooled boxer twin good for 55 HP. That’s more power than the Ninja, but with a claimed top speed of 110 mph. You’ll probably top out at a speed lower than that. If that’s too fast, you might be able to find a slower airhead, like the R 65, for similar money.

I would say this pick is good not just for the vintage nut, but also for the rider looking to learn how to wrench on their own bikes. Keep in mind that this motorcycle is 46 years old. Airheads have a reputation for reliability, but even they will need a repair or a few, especially after that long. Here’s a motorcycle that you can use to teach yourself how to wrench!

In terms of other specs, you’re looking at a seat height of 31.9 inches and a weight of 473 pounds. It’s the heavier option on this list, but it is still a manageable weight. Of course, be sure to test out a bike before you buy it so you have some idea if the motorcycle will work for you.

This 1978 BMW R 80/7 can be found in Huntington Beach, California for $3,000. It’s not perfect, but the motorcycle looks fun!


1989 Honda Elite 250 – $1,800

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Perhaps you don’t really care about traditional motorcycles and instead, you want to blast down the road on a scooter. I get you! I love a good scooter, and I really love a scooter that can keep up with traffic around town and in the country. That’s what you’re getting with a Honda Elite 250. When this scoot hit America in 1985, it was the largest scooter on sale at the time. It is considered to be one of the predecessors to today’s maxi-scooters.

Power comes from a 244cc single good for 19 HP and 15.5 lb-ft of torque. So, you’re getting more power than you’d get in a typical scooter, but nothing out of this world. That power is good for a top speed of 75 mph, so you won’t be a rolling roadblock on a country road or highway.

I’ve ridden one of these before and I love the fact that these scooters are incredibly agile, which is perfect for city riding, but there’s more than enough power so that I can ride without worry. Then there’s the cushy seat, the step-through design, and the rad digital gauges. Scooters are a total ball to ride no matter your skill level. Scooters are also great for wrenching. Go ahead and play around with the CVT, customize the panels, add a stereo, and do your own maintenance. These little machines are easy and fun to work on.

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If this 1989 Elite 250 weren’t in Punta Gorda, Florida, I might be the one to buy it! But I am not, so one of you should hand over $1,800 to the seller.

These five bikes are just a handful of the awesome machines out there for beginners. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on a new bike when the used market is full of cheap, fun, and even historic rides. I can’t wait to see what my wife chooses. This summer is going to be a grand time. So, go get that motorcycle endorsement, withdraw some of that tax refund, and go have a blast. Make sure you gear up and watch out for distracted drivers.


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Black Peter
Black Peter
2 months ago

I disagree with a lot of commentators on FI vs. Carbs:
Your first bike:

  • A cheap Honda
  • Dents are preferred
  • Disk brake (though drums are likely nowhere anyway)

You will drop your first bike, actually you’re like to drop your last one too. So cosmetics are the least important item on your list, sure you want to look cool, but you won’t look cool dropping your financed full faired/candy apple bike.
You need to have some understanding of the motorcycle. Sure it’s the current year, but motorcycles are exposed to more elements and things will go wrong. Not knowing what to do when a connector gets wet or a cable breaks isn’t good out on the road. I always suggest a new owner perform a thorough cleaning, including inspecting the electrical connections and adding a bit of bulb grease along the way. Cleaning the bike really well makes sure you look at all the bits and identify them for the future. You might find some hidden gremlins.
You should plan on only owning the bike about a year or so. I mean sure a 250 Rebel might by just right for you, then go ahead and fix the dents and customize to your heart’s content. But you should look for something more neutral, you might find you like canyon carving, you might like long touring or just cruising, a “standard” can do all of that just none of them well. If you buy a decent if haggard bike, you’re likely to be able to sell it for what you paid, mileage, unless enormous, doesn’t change the resale value. Now that you have a year or so of riding you not only know if it’s for you, but you know what kind of riding you want to do and get the type of bike tailored to that.
On gear I agree with everyone, buy the best you can, I disagree with those who think you should never get on a bike without imported 3.5mm kangaroo hide full leathers. Get comfortable gear, if you live in a hot climate get textile, over pants are available so you don’t look like a goon off the bike. But if you buy gear that you’re not comfortable wearing, you might not wear it.
The helmet is where your money goes, all of it if needed, and no, not a used one, not ever. After a while you will gather more and more gear as you can. I gave up the sport, metro Phoenix isn’t a place I feel safe. In the end I had several leather, and a leather/textile jacket, leather pants, chaps, over pants, several helmets, probably 3 pairs of gloves, several type of boots.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
2 months ago

Just buy the BMW, but give it some new fork rubbers!

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