Spring is right around the corner, and for those of us in the Midwest and the east, that means motorcycle season is almost here! Lately, I’ve been finding myself looking at deals on cheap motorcycles, and have been surprised with the copious choices at the inexpensive end of the new-bike market. If you want something new, there are some cheap bikes that don’t appear to be completely terrible. Here are five new motorcycles that won’t break the bank.
Last week, I wrote about the 2023 Honda XR150L. Honda is pitching this motorcycle at first-time riders and experienced ones who want to relive their first motorcycling experiences. Here’s a little motorcycle with enough power to scoot around on most roads and capable enough to tackle some trails. In a world where many new motorcycles have all sorts of kit like rider assist systems, riding modes, screens, apps, and monitors, the XR150L is almost an anachronism. Its engine is fed from a carburetor, its uses a simple analog instrument cluster, and heck, the rear brake is a drum! Perhaps even better is its price, which is just $3,000 before fees and dealer markup.
Most of my colleagues in the Autopian Slack channel adored this motorcycle. It seems like the perfect ride for someone who just wants something that will reliably do its job without gimmicks or anything else to break. Naturally, this brought up another question: What other new motorcycle gems are out there for under $5,000? Well, I’m glad you asked!
2023 Honda Navi – $1,807
Really, an under $5,000 list could be populated entirely with Hondas. The best-selling motor vehicle in the world, the Honda Super Cub, can be had for just $3,849. There are well over 100 million of them in the world and the new ones still have that classic look. You could also find yourself on the stylish $4,749 Honda Rebel 300, the brilliant $3,499 Honda Grom, or a $4,899 CBR300R. These are all great choices, but for this one I’m going to focus on the cheapest motorcycle that still has a Honda badge.
In late 2021, Honda announced that Americans would be able to buy a new dirt-cheap bike starting in 2022. The Navi borrows some traits from both the Grom and the Ruckus scooter and combines them into one accessible and affordable commuter motorcycle. Perhaps surprisingly to some riders, the Navi wasn’t engineered in Japan or even America, but in India. Even though America got it in 2022, these have actually been around in India since Honda R&D India unveiled them in 2016. In fact, Navi is an acronym for “New Additional Value for India.” It’s powered by a 109.2cc air-cooled single-cylinder scooter engine making 7.83 horsepower and 6.6 lb-ft torque. That drives the rear wheel of the 235.9-pound motorcycle through a CVT.
This isn’t like a Grom where you can expect to do wheelies, stoppies, and other stunts. Really, the Navi packages scooter power and ease of use into a motorcycle package. With a light rider and perhaps with a tailwind, a Navi will do at best 55 mph, which makes it too slow for most highways. But it is fast enough for running around town or jaunts down backroads.
I’ve been following Navi owner groups since the motorcycle’s launch and it seems many owners love them for the lack of having to shift, their low price, their 30.1-inch seat height, and their maneuverability. I’ve also noticed that many Navi owners are newer riders. Normally, I’d say that a new rider should get something used, but at $1,807, a Navi could be your first motorcycle.
2023 Royal Enfield Classic 350 – $4,599
If you’re like me and you adore motorcycles that have classic style, Royal Enfield might be the ticket. Since its introduction in India in 2008, the little Classic 350 has the distinction of being Royal Enfield’s best-selling motorcycle over its 120-year history. Royal Enfield says that as of 2022, it sold over 3 million Classic motorcycles in more than 75 countries. Here’s what the company has to say about the Classic 350:
The design inspiration of the Classic range dates back to the Royal Enfield G2 350 Bullet in 1948, a motorcycle that revolutionized the industry with the introduction of the articulating swingarm. While this innovation transformed the performance of motorcycles at the time, the modern Classic 350 invites us to rediscover the experience of pure motorcycling. Nostalgic style cues blend with a confidence-inspiring ride, with modern touches and a refined overall feel that celebrates the original unhurried, uncomplicated feel of an authentic handcrafted motorcycle.
Something that Royal Enfield doesn’t mention in that graph is that the Bullet has the distinction of being the motorcycle with the longest production run. Bullets have been around since 1948, continuously! The Classic 350 is supposed to look like a Bullet but carries some modern equipment. Power comes from a 349.34cc air and oil-cooled thumper making 20.2 HP and 19.9 ft-lbs torque. Despite the vintage looks, you’re getting fuel injection and dual-channel ABS. Top speed can be over 70 mph on the 430 pound bike depending on rider or conditions. That makes it good enough for state highways, but interstates might be a stretch depending on where you are.
When Cycle World reviewed the Classic 350, the publication admitted that it isn’t the fastest nor futuristic motorcycle in the world, but Royal Enfield and its machine are planting its stakes in a world where people yearn for simpler motorcycles:
Unhurried by the march of time, the Royal Enfield Classic 350 is proudly simple, wearing its affordability like a badge of honor. As the motorcycle industry at large invests in new technologies, places its hope in alternative energy sources, and dazzles with ever-grander ideas, it seeks to divine the dreams of the mythical next generation of rider. Royal Enfield, on the other hand, has let the arc of history do the hardest work for it, slipping into the global scene at what it hopes is the right moment: When the basic, affordable motorcycles it’s long built and has continued to develop are primed for acceptance by young people who long for the virtue of simplicity.
I wasn’t aware that the Classic 350 is as inexpensive as it is. I’ve long wanted a Royal Enfield and I might just put my money where my mouth is and swing a leg over its 31.7-inch seat.
2023 BMW G 310 R – $4,995
Developed by BMW Motorrad in Munich and constructed by the TVS Motor Company in India, the G 310 R is BMW’s motorcycle initially for developing countries. Back in 2013, BMW Motorrad decided that there was an opening in the market of small displacement sub-500cc motorcycles in developing countries for the roundel to make some inroads. BMW’s history is full of small motorcycles, including the 200cc BMW R2. However, BMW Motorrad of today is known for its big bikes. Teaming up with TVS Motor Company, BMW Motorrad brought the G 310 R and G 210 GS to market in 2016, reaching America in 2017.
The G 310 R is the least expensive way into a new BMW motorcycle, and you still get some pretty neat bits of kit. The G 310 R has a slipper clutch and BMW’s Ride by Wire throttle system. There are more goodies in there like ABS, LED lighting, and adjustable brake and clutch levers.
Ultimate Motorcycling has this to say from a review of the machine:
The BMW G 310 R is the perfect bike for urban day rides. It’s small and agile, easy to handle, and the 30.9-inch seat height ensures I can get my feet flat on the ground at every stop.
Those are all important, as I’ve joined the post-Christmas bustle on the boulevard. Drivers are still a bit distracted, leading to unexpected stops and evasive action. The 310 is also narrow enough to thread the lanes to move me to the front of the queue, keeping me ahead of the fray.
The ergonomics make for a comfortable ride as I tool along the San Fernando Valley’s suburban roads. The close-to-upright seating allows me to easily look over my shoulder to keep an eye on the surrounding traffic, as well as take in some new storefronts emerging from the COVID-response-scarred economic landscape. Footpeg position is lightly sporty, and the reach to the handlebar is natural.
Power comes from a 313cc single-cylinder making 34 HP and 20 lb-ft torque. Seat height comes up to 30.9 inches. Loaded down, it weighs 362 lbs and has a top speed of around 89 mph, which makes this one capable of taking you down a highway without getting creamed by a semi.
By all accounts, it seems like the cheapest BMW is still a good one. My former colleague at the lighting site, Steve DaSilva, has the adventure bike version of this and he loves it.
2023 Yamaha V Star 250 – $4,699
If you’re more into cruisers, you don’t have much choice for a name-brand bike for under $5,000. Before, I mentioned that you can get a Honda Rebel 300 for just $4,749. That machine has been called a “top-quality beginner motorcycle” by Cycle World for its mild manners, ergonomics, and riding characteristics that are perfect for a rider fresh out of class. If for whatever reason you cannot find a Rebel 300, or the dealership has marked it up too much, you can still get a small displacement cruiser from Yamaha.
The Yamaha V Star 250 made its first appearance in 1988 as the Yamaha Virago VX250. Like the Rebel, the V Star exists as a low-displacement chopper-style cruiser that’s perfect for beginners. I think the most incredible thing about this machine is that it hasn’t changed much since 1988. Motorcycle riders sometimes mock Royal Enfield for being stuck in the past, but the Classic 350 on this list has more tech.
Yes, this motorcycle is like a stone axe, but apparently, it also means a good ride, from Ultimate Motorcycling:
A beginner motorcycle should be welcoming, friendly, and fun—a simple concept that Yamaha figured out 30 years ago and hasn’t let slip away with the 2018 Yamaha V Star 250.
New riders will immediately feel comfortable when they throw a leg over the very-approachable 27-inch saddle. The low seat will allow most people to sit astride the slim 326-pound motorcycle with both feet firmly planted on the ground, and this is one of the best ways to put a beginner at ease.
The grips are within easy reach of the rider as the compact cruiser motorcycle has narrow drag bars and the foot controls are in a relaxed forward position. Surprisingly, Yamaha totally missed the mark on the hand levers. The levers are non-adjustable and the reach, especially to the front brake, is excessive. I have big hands for my size—women’s large gloves—and it was immediately noticeable to me. The only saving grace to this inexplicable oversight is that the clutch pull is light.
This 324-pound cruiser feeds from a Mikuni carburetor, is stopped with a front disc and a rear drum, and you won’t find a single screen on it. There’s a 249cc V-twin on deck and it makes 21 horses, good for a top speed of around 85 mph. A highlight of this motorcycle is its low 27-inch seat height.
CFMoto 300NK – $4,199
The last motorcycle on this list is more of a wildcard. Motorcyclists may have some reservations about Chinese brands and it’s because, in the past, a number of brands landed on American shores with downright garbage offerings. CFMoto was among them! The company set up its U.S. headquarters in 2007 and not long after started selling vehicles here. A couple of its early American efforts are the CFMoto V5 CF250T-5, a weird cruiser hiding a scooter powertrain. There’s also the CFMoto CF250T-F, a scary-accurate clone of the Honda Helix/CN250 scooter. I owned the Helix clone before and rode it through winter. In some regards, it was better than the Helix, but it also drank its own oil and tapped like crazy even when the valves were adjusted correctly.
CFMoto has come such a long way from those days and today, the company sells motorcycles that look attractive and appear to be pretty decent in quality. CFMoto left America before making a return in 2021. One of the motorcycles in the new lineup is the 300NK, an entry-level sportbike. This motorcycle is such a departure from CFMoto’s old fare that Cycle World sums it up like this:
CFMOTO’s entry-level naked sportbike, the 300NK, is an impressive machine marketed as a direct competitor to the small-displacement motorcycles from the Japanese Big Four and European companies. The 300NK features comparable specs, features, and performance at a lower cost, potentially swaying consumers to rethink their biases toward the long-standing contenders in this space.
From what we can tell, the CFMOTO hit the nail on the head with its 300NK, offering a quality motorcycle for an affordable price. Welds on the trellis frame are clean and even, materials seem premium, coatings are robust and neatly applied, and everything functions precisely as intended. You’ll be hard-pressed to point out notable flaws…
For $4,199, you get a naked sportbike with a 292cc single making 29 hp, 18.7 lb-ft torque, and fueled with Bosch EFI. It weighs in at 333 lb, has a slipper clutch, a 31.2-inch seat height, dual-channel ABS, a color display, and LED lighting. Basically, it’s nearly as well-equipped as that BMW, but for hundreds fewer dollars.
Cycle World’s review notes that the 300NK’s steel trellis frame and suspension give the motorcycle a high-end look and handling that’s predictable. Steering is noted to be direct and the ride is sporty, yet comfortable. The publication also gives it a high mark for its counterbalanced engine.
Cheap Motorcycles Are Abundant
This isn’t an exhaustive list of motorcycles under $5,000. As I said above, Honda has tons of awesome motorcycles that you can go home with little money. And if you don’t mind some wrenching, going with a drop-shipped motorcycle from China can mean even more savings on two wheels. At the same time, prices are changing. If I wrote this back in 2020 I might have included a Kawasaki Ninja 400 or the Royal Enfield Himalayan, but now both of those are above the $5,000 mark. There are some awesome motorcycles just above $5,000 out there like the KTM 390 Duke or the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401.
I would also recommend looking at the used market. Depending on where you live, you might find used motorcycles with attractive pricing and low mileage. You can even find some quirky machines like a Harley-Davidson V-Rod for a surprisingly low price.
If you need training, I highly recommend taking a Motorcycle Safety Foundation MSF Basic RiderCourse. This course will teach you the basics of riding and the instructors will even teach you some extremely helpful habits that can even save your life behind the wheel. Depending on where you live, the instruction may be as cheap as free. Go to MSF’s site to learn more.
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If I was to get back into riding, I would be shopping in this price bracket, but I would just go electric at this point. If I were to go ICE, I would just look for a used classic and enjoy working on it too. Except for carbs. Eff carbs…
Let us know what electric motorcycle you are buying with $5000.
The V-star is a great short-inseam option, though you might be surprised how easy it is to swing a leg over a used SV650, and how good it feels.
There are lots of entry points both new and used for a new or returning rider.
The most important things IME taking a safety course new or refresher and suitable clothing. Don’t skimp on that stuff.
Have fun out there, there’s lots to be had
You mean shorts, flip flops and Oakleys aren’t enough?
The Honda ct125 trail bike is the top of my list. i miss my old trail 90
The Royal Enfields, holy hell do they impress. It is clear that they are primarily if not exclusively built for export. Quality, fit, and finish are top notch. Behavior and rideability aren’t the best ever, but most important for beginners, it’s predictable.
The Navi is, objectively, so terrible that nobody should buy it. Seriously. It would be behind the times for the 1980’s. It was literally designed to cut every cost – including ones that shouldn’t be – so they could sell more in developing countries.
I would argue a better Honda entry would have been the Rebel 300 ($4749,) a classic low-seat, upright, standard. Or the PCX “scooter” ($4099 with ABS, $3899 without) that I would argue, isn’t very ‘scooter.’ Especially since it can do 70MPH, making it highway capable.
Royal Enfield sells about 750K motorcycles a year but only about 10% of those are exported out of India. The domestic Indian market buys about 60K of the 350cc models per month.
I don’t have motorcycle sales data, but, holy hell what? I mean this legitimately makes no sense not because of cost (they’re certainly in a good price range) but because seriously. Have you seen India’s “roads”? Even in the most built-up urban areas, “smooth” can only be used sarcastically!
Obviously an upright is much better for rough pavement from a riding perspective. But the fuel is absolute crap! RON/MON is 91-95/81-85 (in US octane, that’s about 84 to about 90.) And threadlocker can only do so much against that much vibration!
… damnit, stop making them more impressive! I do not have money or room for a Classic 350 in stunning Halcyon Green!
2023 Yamaha MT-03 – $4,999
I would also take the Hinda Monkey over the Grom or electric thing, but that price is compelling and it is near impossible to find a 2023 Honda Monkey for the MSRP of $4,249
I got my Monkey at MSRP. I had to order it and wait a few months, but the dealer had no problem selling it to me without an upcharge.
A 250 will disappoint. When I worked in a shop, every customer who bought a CB250 traded it in 2 months later on a bigger bike (and half of customers who bought a CBR900RR crashed it leaving the parking lot).
Go used. Just I bought a 2006 VFR800 w/ABS with 15k miles for under $5k.
Why not start with a cheap used 250? I started with a 250 cc Honda I bought for $700 from a guy who learned to ride on it and sold it to buy a bigger bike. When I wanted a bigger bike after a year, I sold the bike for $900 to another new rider.
Cheap small used bikes are great. They hold their value well since there are plenty of people interested in learning to ride. In a lot of cases, you can sell the bike for what you bought it for, so it is essentially a free motorcycle.
people claim to hate them, but for beginner and or occasional rider, the old Yamaha 650 Vstar v-twin was pretty decent.
While I love the VFR800 (I also own a 2006 w/ABS that I got for $5k!) I cannot in good conscience recommend it to a new rider or a person with a short inseam. For anyone looking for a fantastic upgrade from whatever they had as a beginner, look no further. The way the V4 sings when VTEC kicks in (yo) is like no other machine.
Last I looked they were awfully hard to find. As was anything somewhat similar new.
A 250 depends on the rider. My wife is tiny so she’s both happy and fast on an old 250. Odder still was a coworker who was bigger than me and rode a 250 Ninja for years.
I’ve been looking at the Royal Enfields for some time now. Every time I sort of make myself forget about them, something like this comes along to influence me again. I’m pretty close to cracking and actually buying one. That Yamaha V Star looks really nice, too. I’ve not done much street riding, but one of those could change that.
Same. I’m after the 650s, but dang if they don’t make me want it more and more every day. I finally saw one in the wild and it looked amazing, talked to the rider for a bit and he had nothing but good things to say about it as well.
Just chiming in to emphasize: if you’re even just slightly interested in motorcycle riding, GO TAKE THE BRC THROUGH MSF. Really! Even if you decide street riding isn’t for you, it’s a super fun way to spend your weekend. Very welcoming for ultra-newbies, too. They start with the basics and assume you’ve never been on a motorcycle in your life and have you riding like it’s nothing by day two.
I like the VRide and the Royakl Enfield. Now to take a rider course and convince my finance manager this is a good idea for a short runner.
“In fact, Navi is an acronym for “New Additional Value for India.””
It sounds a lot like “navvy”, which is an old-timey British word for “a laborer employed in the excavation and construction of a road, railroad, or canal” (Dictionary.com).
This may not be a coincidence.
I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the Yamaha TW200. It is the go-absolutely-anywhere-and-make-it-back bike, built like a tank, runs on moonshine and is under $5k.
Here’s Fortnine’s brilliant review:
even if you don’t care about motorcycles, his videos are amazing
My gf and I bought 2 Navi’s last year. Yes they were listed at $1,807 but the shipping was way higher, and with bs dealer fees, tax, extra shipping, prep and a small extended warranty plan, etc they were each right at 3k. But I’ll tell you what, they are a BlAsT cruising around on! I’ve found that the sweet spot speed-wise is somewhere between 33-38 mph, just scooting around local here. Anything faster both takes a while to get up to, and also gets a little squirrelly. Highly recommend though. So much fun. So easy to own and maintain. She loves the automatic/twist and go as she’s a new rider, and I like the mini-moto look.
Fees almost doubling the cost of a bike. And they wonder why motorcycling is dying in the US. Powersports dealerships are terrible.
After many years and thousands of miles of scooter riding, a cheap used V-Star 250 was my first actual motorcycle last year. Personally, I hated it because holy hell did that thing ride rough. Every bump sent a shock into my spine like I’ve never felt before. It was fine otherwise, so if a test ride feels good to you, my advice is don’t buy a new one. You can buy these used all day long for $1500-2000 in excellent condition, and they virtually all have under 5k miles on them.
I got a low mileage Royal Enfield Continental for $4250 and have been loving it. As much as I’d love a Honda minimoto (and probably still would have gotten one if I could find a new one without markups), it’s pretty hard to justify the cost against a great condition used bike, especially with the used market for them being insane where I am.
I wish there were more cheap dual sport bikes. I have lots of dirt and gravel roads out here and the wrong bike. I’m a little surprised a BMW made the list and curious how it rides. The only BMW single I’ve ridden was a G450X which was very dirt oriented but capable below 60 mph.
Also used bikes are still a worthy path, in 1990 my first bike was 15 year old Kawasaki KZ400 for $500, my wife’s first was a Honda CM250 that was $400.
Anyone have recommendations for how to go about finding a cheap vintage motorcycle? A lot of the typical online haunts are really devoid of them, and most of the Google results are for expensive collector’s items. I just want something stylish with a dead motor that I can convert to an EV runabout
“Anyone have recommendations for how to go about finding a cheap vintage motorcycle?”
First, go back in time about five years… 🙁
Sorry, the market has become bonkers recently and I’m a little salty about it.
Do you want this to be a runabout for on the street or strictly off-road? If you want to license it, you’ll need a) a title or b) to go through Vermont’s DMV to get a registration, but I don’t know how they would handle an EV conversion.
If you just want “stylish with a dead motor” then your local CL is the way to go IMO: with a local seller you can pick up the bike, because shipping such a thing may be cost-prohibitive.
It’s relatively easy to do the paperwork for an EV conversion here in Colorado. My local CL is absolutely devoid of motorcycles. It sucks
Adds for cheap motorcycles near me moved from Craigslist to Facebook Marketplace when Craigslist started charging $5 to list a vehicle. I also find some cheap bikes listed in the CL “Motorcycle Parts” to avoid the fee.
yea, I’ve been slightly frustrated at the bifurcation of the used goods market. I check both CL and Facebook with notifications, etc
Look for small displacement bikes. People buy them as starter bikes, and then decide they want to move up. You can find them under $1000 in just about any area.
Look at 200cc and smaller cycles and you’re likely to find something. Look at 350cc motorcycles and up and you’ll have to be ready to spend most of $2000 for any of them.
Don’t worry about finding a dead motor. Find any older bike and you’ll probably find something that needs a carburetor adjustment or rebuild. Pretty much the same thing.
Yooo, for real. I picked up a perfectly good bike a couple years ago for $400 because the owners didn’t know you had to clean carburetors
The success of the Navi reinforces my opinions about motorcycle styling without shifting gears. In most ways it’s no better than a scooter of similar displacement (and certainly less practical) but in the US, scooters are seen as dorky. Still waiting for a viable sub-$5k electric motorcycle or scooter.
It’s a shame scooters are scoffed at because they really are pretty awesome these days. I have a ten year old Buddy 50 I picked up from a friend a few years back and honestly if it weren’t for a lack of weather protection it could serve my transportation needs 6 days out of 7. If I’m at the house and need to run up to town on a light errand, I take the Buddy. Just grab the key, start and twist & go. It’ll carry a six pack of beer under the seat and has a hook up front to hang grocery bags. It could be a little faster and if I was shopping new I would chose a 150, but for sheer ease of getting around combined with the pleasure of being on two wheels, a modern scooter is where it’s at.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have some other larger bikes but people need to get over themselves about scooters. They’re great.
Good choice. Mine is an ’08 Buddy 150, which is pretty much the same bike as yours with 3x the engine. Which is good, but honestly the chassis and tires, designed for a 50cc, get a little overwhelmed at 55-60mph.
Tell me about it.
I almost, almost bought a used Suzuki Burgman 400. Which I can only describe as absolutely ridiculous, in a good way. I mean seriously! It’s a 400cc “scooter” that weighs only 489lbs, gets over 56MPG, and has no governor so can do over 85MPH. It’s absolutely perfect for my needs. Especially since you can fit the 650 Executive’s heated seat and grips.
Then I read up on the air filter problems with them. And the replacement procedure. Step 1: disassemble the entire goddamn body. Nope.
So many options! Especially from Honda. I picked up a new CT125 just in time for winter in NY. Can’t wait to actually get it out!
Honda’s cheap bikes are awesome. I wonder if they make a profit on them? There is clearly a demand (I ordered a Monkey from a Honda dealer and it took 6 months to arrive), so they could sell a lot more if they wanted to.