Should I get a motorcycle lease?

Man sitting on a motorcycle, with his child behind him Image: Man sitting on a motorcycle, with his child behind him

In a Nutshell

A motorcycle lease is similar to an auto lease — it allows you to get a bike without taking out a loan. Instead, you’ll make monthly payments for the right to drive the motorcycle, but you won’t own it at the end of your lease. You may be able to qualify for a motorcycle lease even with some credit problems, but watch out for potentially high interest rates and down-payment requirements.

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Motorcycle leases are similar to car leases. You’ll make monthly payments over a period of time for the right to ride the bike of your choice.

But motorcycle leases aren’t as common as auto leases. You won’t find a leasing program at many dealerships you visit. For example, even within the Harley-Davidson franchise, you may find leasing offered in one shop but not in another.

You may be able to qualify for a motorcycle lease even if your credit isn’t great. But the trade-off may be a high interest rate or large down-payment requirement. For these reasons, leasing may not be the best choice for everyone.

Hop on to learn if a motorcycle lease is right for you.


What is a motorcycle lease?

Similar to an auto lease, a motorcycle lease lets you drive the vehicle without buying it. At the end of the lease, you may renew the lease, return the bike, buy the bike or trade it in for another one.

Motorcycle lease terms typically range from 18 months to 60 months, and you’ll often have the option to lease either a new or a used motorcycle.

Here are some other important details you should know about motorcycle leasing.

  • Availability: Motorcycle leases through dealerships aren’t common in the U.S, but they do exist. Besides dealerships, financing companies like MotoLease also offer motorcycle leases.
  • Cost: Motorcycle leases can be expensive. You may need to put down somewhere between 10% and 20%, and your interest rate will vary depending on your credit. Typically, the better your credit the lower your interest rate will be.
  • Unlimited mileage: An auto lease typically comes with a mileage restriction, while a motorcycle lease often has none.

Motorcycle loans vs. leases

Motorcycle leases and motorcycle loans both have their pros and cons. Let’s compare the two options.

Availability

Motorcycle leases aren’t as widely available as motorcycle loans, so you may not be able to lease directly from a dealership. For example, Honda, Harley-Davidson, Ducati and BMW all offer motorcycle loans. Of these four, only Harley-Davidson offers motorcycle leasing — but not in all locations.

Credit requirements

You may be able to get approved for a motorcycle lease even if you have rough credit. While that’s also possible with motorcycle loans, beware of “buy-here, pay-here” loans, which often come with high interest rates and unfavorable loan terms.

Overall cost

Motorcycle leases may be more expensive than motorcycle loans. If you have good credit, it may make more sense for you to finance a motorcycle since you may qualify for a lower interest rate than if you leased a bike.

Also, remember that at the end of your lease, you won’t own the motorcycle. You’ll have to renew your lease, lease another bike, buy one or find alternate transportation.

Is a motorcycle lease right for you?

A motorcycle lease may not be right for everyone. If you can afford to buy a motorcycle outright or have solid credit, buying may save you money compared to leasing.

But motorcycle leasing may be a good option in these two scenarios.

You have credit challenges

If you’re working on building or rebuilding your credit, leasing could be a good option. You may want to think of a motorcycle lease as a second chance loan. The drawbacks are that you may pay a high interest rate and be required to make a large down payment.

You drive a lot and want a different bike every few years

Leasing can be a particularly good option if you plan on putting a lot of miles on a bike and prefer to drive a new one every few years. You can often find lease programs with no mileage restrictions.

Alternatives to motorcycle leasing

Besides loans and leases, there are a couple of additional motorcycle-financing options to consider.

Balloon financing

Balloon-financing programs are offered directly by some motorcycle dealers. With this option, you only make payments on part of the bike’s total amount you financed — then you’ll owe one large balloon payment at the end of the contract. As a result, your monthly payment ends up being lower — until the balloon payment is due.

Keep in mind that these programs usually require solid credit for approval, so not everyone will qualify for this type of financing.

Short-term rental

If you only need a motorcycle for a few days or weeks, a short-term rental could be a good option. You can also use this opportunity to try out a few different motorcycles before committing to buy or lease.

Two options for short-term rentals are EagleRider, the exclusive provider of Harley-Davidson rentals in the U.S., and Riders Share, a motorcycle-sharing program that’s similar to Airbnb for homes.


Bottom line

Whether a motorcycle lease is right for you ultimately depends on your personal situation, especially as it applies to your credit and your driving behavior.

Before you decide to lease, think about your needs and create a budget. That will help you understand if a motorcycle lease fits your lifestyle and finances, or if you need to take a different financing route instead.