So, you’ve started thinking about getting your own set of wheels. Or perhaps you’re a parent helping your increasingly independent son or daughter pick out their first ride. What are the options? Generally, the first choice you need to make is whether you should purchase a car or a motorcycle.
Cars are generally considered better than motorcycles, due to their superiority in terms of safety, durability, and top speed. These characteristics make it a better fit for most drivers, especially first time buyers. Motorcycles, on the other hand, are more affordable, use less fuel, and require less maintenance.
The following article is a straight shoot-out across various categories to see what comes out on top. Hopefully, by the end, you will have a clearer understanding of what is best for you and your situation. Let’s roll!
“Safety first”, as the saying goes. This is arguably the most important area of concern, especially for parents whose kids are about to hit the roads for the first time.
The general public has always held the belief that motorcycles are far more dangerous than most other forms of transportation. In fact, many people are convinced that when it comes to accidents, motorcyclists are playing a game of “when” rather than “if”.
However, what do the statistics say? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the main authority behind road safety figures in the U.S. According to NHTSA crash data, 5,014 motorcycle occupants were killed in 2019 compared to 12,239 passenger car (excluding pickup trucks, vans, and SUVs) fatalities in the same period.
In the same year, 84,000 motorcyclists were injured, compared to 1,498,000 passenger car occupants.
At face value, those numbers may look like an open-and-shut case in favor of motorcycles, but, for a better understanding, we must consider how many motorcycles and cars are on the road in the first place. This will highlight the frequency of accidents for both vehicle classes.
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics revealed that, in 2019, there were 8,596,314 motorcycles on American roads compared to a whopping 253,814,184 “light-duty vehicles” (passenger cars). Cars represent 89.2% of all registered vehicles on U.S. roads, while motorcycles represent 3.2%!
With both sets of stats in mind, the pendulum swings definitively towards cars. In fact, personal injury law firm Rainwater, Holt & Sexton claims that, per vehicle miles traveled, motorcycle riders are TWENTY-SEVEN times more likely to die in an accident than passenger car occupants.
The reason why motorcycles are much more dangerous is the lack of physical protection (body, chassis, windows, doors, seatbelts, etc.) that is present on a car. The only real protection a rider has is a helmet and, in some cases, elbow and knee padding. Essentially, a bike rider is outside and exposed.
Motorcyclists have a greater risk of not being seen by other road users as well, which only adds to the danger.
Although cars carry significant risks as well, they have greater visibility than motorcycles, as well as an array of safety features. Modern cars have seatbelts, airbags, collision warning systems, lane-departure warning systems, cameras, and many more technologies and features geared towards protecting occupants.
While price is an important consideration, it might not be a determining factor for getting one type of vehicle or another. This is because there is a car or bike for any budget, especially if you also consider the used market.
However, new motorcycles tend to be cheaper than new cars. On average, a new motorcycle will cost anywhere between US$4,000-$6,000. The average cost of a new car is around the US$40,000 mark.
You also have high-end luxury and performance brands on both sides. Bikes from brands like Harley-Davidson and Ducati can range from $50,000 to $100,000+. High-end cars from makes like Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, and Ferrari can easily blitz past the $100,000 mark.
The used market is far easier on your pocket, especially for cars. Cars, in particular, can depreciate very fast, which means you can get an excellent used one for a fraction of its original factory price.
The range of choice for both vehicle classes is extremely vast. In the U.S., you can even find used cars and bikes for under $1,000…if you look hard enough.
Speed thrills, despite what Mom and Dad think. Performance is a very important consideration for some people and it may sway you in one direction or another when deciding between a bike and a car. Just like with price, performance levels within both vehicle classes can vary widely.
On average, motorcycles with combustion engines have quicker acceleration than combustion engine cars, especially from a standstill. Motorcycles have much higher power-to-weight ratios than cars, which gives them an edge in this regard.
When it comes to top speed, however, it’s a different story. Most modern cars can reach and sustain speeds of up to 140mph fairly easily, while most bikes usually peter out at +/-100mph.
Of course, you have high-performance machines on both sides. The fastest cars in the world easily breeze past the 200mph mark. The Bugatti Chiron Supersport, the fastest car in the world (currently), has an incredible top speed of 304mph!
The Kawasaki Ninja H2 is the fastest street-legal motorcycle you can buy today, with a top speed of 217mph. However, the H2’s evil (and non-road legal) sibling, the Ninja H2R can hit a whopping 248mph!
However, do not forget that U.S. speed limits top out at 80mph!
A vehicle is not something that most people purchase every day. Given the potentially high purchasing costs of purchasing a car or a bike, owners expect some degree of longevity.
In pure numbers terms, cars accumulate around 220,000-250,000 miles. A few cars, like the Ford F-150 and Toyota Corolla, can easily make it past 300,000 miles without feeling an inch older than 50,000 miles. Motorcycles, in contrast, do not reach the same levels of accumulated miles. Typically, anything over 50,000 miles is considered very high mileage.
The great news is that you, as the owner, can influence your vehicle’s lifespan. Regular service and timely repairs will go a long way to preventing bigger problems.
Storage can also impact your vehicle’s longevity. Avoid exposing your car or bike to the elements to protect your paint job, upholstery, and seats. A garage, shed, or storage warehouse is seriously recommended for all vehicle owners.
Perhaps the best way to ensure a long life for your vehicle is to not crash it. Seems obvious, but still worth mentioning.
Other Pros and Cons
While the above factors are some of the common considerations, there are other things you might want to think about before committing to a car or a bike.
Let’s start with the advantages of getting a motorcycle:
- Motorcycles are easier to maneuver and can weave through traffic
- Motorcycles use less fuel
- Better gas mileage
- Lower maintenance and service cost than most cars
- Lower insurance costs
- DIY repair is easier on a motorcycle
- A bike requires less storage space than a car
- Easier to park
- Looks cool
Now for the perks of getting a car:
- Protection from the elements (wind, rain, etc.)
- You can sleep in your car if you need to.
- Greater people carrying and storage capacity
- Insurers regard cars as less of a risk than motorcycles, which can lower premiums
- Infotainment and media systems
- A car is more difficult to steal than a bike
- You can sip drinks and coffee while driving