What is High Mileage for a Motorcycle? A Helpful Guide


It’s one of the most frequently asked questions: “What is high mileage for a motorcycle?”

I have found out that it’s not as clear-cut as you would probably like. However, I’m going to break all things motorcycle mileage down for you.

Here’s the answer:

Smaller engined motorcycles are thought of as high mileage after they have covered 20,000-30,000 miles. However, my last 125cc covered 60,000 miles before I sold it. For larger motorcycles of 650cc or more, once they have covered over 50,000 miles or so, they are considered high mileage, but my 1000cc Honda Varidaro covered over 90,000 miles and operated perfectly.

However, when looking to purchase a second-hand motorcycle there are other factors to concider which are just as important and maybe more-so.

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Here are the other factors which should be considered when purchasing a second hand motorcycle with high milage:

  1. The bikes service history
  2. How the bike has been used
  3. Where and how the bike was stored
  4. The sale price
  5. The rarity of the motorcycle

The mileage a motorcycle has covered is relative, so just because the bike may have covered many miles which as a prospective buyer you may feel is high milage, long-term performance and overall value are likely what should concern you most.

You certainly do not want to purchase a motorcycle for example, if the bike has any oil leaks or damage to it.

I would personaly be much happier to purchase a motorcycle that has been well looked after and has many more miles on it than the bike with fewer miles but some issues.

What is the Average Yearly Mileage Of A Motorcycle?

First of all, it’s essential to have a general idea of how many miles motorcycle riders typically put on their motorcycle in a year.

The average yearly mileage the general rider covers on their motorcycles is approximately 3,000 miles.  

Based on that number, you should be able to determine if the past owner, or owners, seldom rode the bike or used it as a daily commuter.

Should You Only Purchase A Second-Hand Motorcycle With Low Miles?

When purchasing a motorcycle, it’s not about low versus high mileage. You have to weigh the total mileage the bike has covered with the price, the type of bike it is, its service history, and how it was used and stored.

Here are two scenarioss to put my point into perspective:

  1. If I were interested in a motorcycle that has covered only a few miles, I would be tempted to purchase it. However, after finding out some more information about the bike from the owner, I find it has been sitting in a storage unit for five years, untouched. I want to carry out much deeper investigations on the bike than if the motorcycle would have been used regularly to go on short trips or alike.
  2. I could find a motorcycle which I liked, but it has high mileage, in fact, 45,000 miles or so on it. In this scenario, the owner (there’s only been one) has all of its service records and has pampered it to no end. I would be much more inclined to purchase this motorcycle as I know the bike has been looked after, and although the miles are high, I would feel that I would not get many problems with this motorcycle as long as I keep up with regular maintenance.

So, in this case, I would pick the second scenario based on this information. Of course, there are other factors, but you get the point.

Always give a motorcycle with high mileage a chance; it could be well worth it. As with any big purchase, you need to carry out research and make sure you do not make any off-the-cuff decisions.

Finding out all you can about any motorcycle you may be interested in purchasing is key to not making a mistake purchasing a motorcycle, which could give you problems down the road and end up costing you a lot of money.

Researching how the motorcycle has covered the high milage will also give you a good insite into its condition.

For example, has the motorcycle covered the high mileage as a couriers bike covering all the high mileage riding around city traffic changing up and down on the clutch continuously throughout the day, turning the ignition on and off 100 times a day whilst stoping to deliver items, or has the bike covered the high mileage cruising along the highway at 65-80 mph with minimal clutch usage.

These are all things to investigate and will tell you a lot about how the motorcycle’s condition may be. Maybe the bike has had a new clutch fitted only 100 miles ago, or had a complete overhaul? Without research, you will never get to know the ins and outs of a motorcycle with high mileage.

Research, research, and more research are key if you are thinking of purchasing a motorcycle with high miles!

Can The Motorcycle Type Effect What Is High Mileage?

The type of motorcycle and its usage affect how you should consider the number of miles the bike has covered. Not every bike is created equal. And that’s certainly ok because we all love our motorcycles for different reasons.

Let’s take a look at the different types of bikes out there (keep in mind this is just a glimpse into the world of motorcycles) and how I would preserve a motorcycle type against high mileage.

The Sports Bike

Sports bikes, with their powerful engines and aerodynamic design, are built for speed. That, combined with aggressive driving, can wear the engine out quickly. It’s essential to consider this when looking at the mileage on a sports bike. In my opinion, High mileage on sports bikes may not be considered very good.

The Motocross Bike

The motocross bike takes a beating every time it’s out on the track. The dirt, the crashes, the hard hits – it all adds up quickly, so low mileage in this type of bike could equate to high mileage for another kind. However, research is the key, and many motocross bikes are very well maintained with new parts and upgrades being added continuously, so maybe the high miles should not be such a put-off after all.

The Cruiser

Think Harley Davidson, and you can probably easily picture the cruiser. The low seats, flashy chrome, and long wheelbases define the Easy Rider lifestyle. With enough care and attention, high mileage on a cruiser might mean nothing at all.

These motorcycles are built to cover high miles. So guess what?

Find out how the bike has covered the miles and research the service history of the bike. Ask all the right questions such as how th motorcycle has covered the miles, have any new parts been fitted to the motorcycle such as a new gearbox and find out how oftern the motorcycle was serviced.

Was a cheap low budget oil used or a high end oil used at the oil changes/

The more you can find out about a bike with high miles the better!

The Touring Bike

A sizeable touring bike’s life expectancy may very well be many years more than an off-road or motocross bike when it comes to mileage. Long miles on the highway with a low-revving engine are a lot easier on a motorcycle than, say, chassis-destroying, constantly crashing off-road bikes.

If these motorcycles come with service history and have been well maintained high milage should not be an issue. 

If A Motorcycle Has High Milage, You Must Find Out How The Bike Was Used.

You need to know how the past rider(s) used the bike to determine how mileage should matter.

The Bike That Wasn’t Used

A bike that sits in storage smolders out in the sun, is never ridden, or ever touched will likely cost you a lot of money to get it to where you would want it to be, even if it has low mileage. A bike that has been used often, and has high miles, but taken care of is a much better deal than one left to the elements and completely neglected.

The Bike That Was Ridden Hard

This one applies to several different scenarios. For example, was the rider pulling wheelies and slamming the bike down, on the throttle the entire time, or ignoring the clutch? Or are you looking at a motocross bike that’s been ridden hard through the dirt and not fully maintained?

You may want to stay away from this type of motorcycle if it has high miles on it.

Again research is key here.

The Motorcycle That Someone Learned On

If the motorcycle has been ridden by a beginner and used to gain thrir riding experience then the bike may have been through some punishment.

Beginners have had to learn, which is excellent. I was a beginner once many years ago except this bike may have taken a beating as the rider learns how to ride.

Clutch control, stalling the motorcycle, excessive braking and posably dropping the motorcycle are all posibilities when looking to purchase a beginners motorcycle so indepth research is deffinetly key in this senario.

A motorcycle that has been ridden by a learner and has high mileage may not be a good purchase.

The Bike That Was Loved And Well Maintained

High mileage on a bike that was loved (as in, well-maintained) is well-worth taking a look at. With service history and receipts for the added parts which have probably been fitted to this type of motorcycle, any bike with high mileage like this could well be a great investment.

In fact the added after market parts alone may have cost the owner more than they are selling the bike for, so there are some really good deals to be had when looking to purchase a well maintained loved by the owner motorcycle.

Has the bike had an upgraded exuste fitted? How about any upgrades on the bikes engine? Is the seat a high end after market seat that cost a lot of money?

Guess what? Yep, its all about the research!

The Bike That Was Put Back Together Again

The mileage of a motorcycle might not even be relevant if the previous owner rebuilt the bike. It could have tens of thousands of miles on it (really high mileage), but if a bike is fully restored with all new parts, the mileage number is entirely irrelevant. 

As long as the upgrade work to the motorcycle has been carried out correctly and all the receipts are present, then purchasing this type of bike, even with high miles, can be an excellent purchase.

Service History And High Milage 

Mileage doesn’t matter nearly as much when a motorcycle has received regular service at the correct service intervals and was well-maintained overall.

When purchasing a used motorcycle, you must review the bike’s entire history, including all maintenance and any repairs and parts which may have been replaced or added to the bike.

I would like to make a very important point here:

It might not be worth buying a motorcycle if you cannot see its full service and repair history. Without this information to hand, you will never know whether the bike has covered many miles or not or if the service of the motorcycle has been carried out correctly and within the manufacturer’s specific service timeframe.

I would never by a motorcycle if there is no service history of the bike.

However, a motorcycle that has covered many miles, has a full service and maintenance history, and has been taken care of will likely still have plenty of life left in it.

A Motorcycle’s Mileage

Mileage is a relative term. Ultimately, you have to weigh low mileage vs. high mileage with what you want in a motorcycle. 

High mileage is more than just a number when it comes to a motorcycle’s lifespan. Some motorcycle enthusiasts would say that there’s no such thing as putting too many miles on a bike. In contrast, others trade out their bike every few years for a newer model. It all depends on what you want out of your motorcycle.

The motorcycles I use within my courier business I trade-in for new ones every year, as they are out every day in city traffic and covering long distances on the highway. These bikes have regular maintenance throughout the year and can cover 25-30,000 miles.

These motorcycles would still be a good purchase for someone as any item that requires replacing or servicing is carried out no questions asked.

My personal motorcycles however I keep for a much longer amount of time, usually many years.

9 Important Checks To Make Sure A High Milage Motorcycle is in Good Condition?

Here are the 5 important checks:

  1. Get a full vehicle history report for the motorcycle
  2. Take the bike out for a test ride
  3. Check the service record, including any receipts for work done
  4. Check out any mechanics who carried out work on the bike are they still in business
  5. Check the tire wear of the motorcycle
  6. Check the condition of the chain and sprockets
  7. Check the VIN number matches the paperwork
  8. Check the condition of the oil
  9. Study the motorcycle for any corrosion or damage
  10. Get the motorcycle checked over by a professional

Should You Buy a High Milage Motorcycle from A Dealer?

If choosing to purchase a used motorcycle from a dealer the miles on the motorcycle should not be of primary concern.

Many motorcycle dealers put any used motorcycles they are selling through an intensive inspection, with many putting them through 40 or 50 point intensive checks.

Highly skilled motorcycle technicians perform these inspections, so you can be rest assured that the motorcycle will be in tip-top condition once it is passed over to you.

Some of the parts a motorcycle technician checks:

  1. The Engine
  2. Primary Drive
  3. Transmission
  4. Any part that may wear out, such as Breaks and Clutch Plates, etc
  5. Gaskets, seals, and all fluids
  6. Tires

A reputable motorcycle dealer will also check if the bike is due any work required by a manufacturer’s recall and carry out the work if needed. As well as this, they will also carry out any service the motorcycle requires and also give the bike a road test.

Most of the time but not in all cases, when purchasing a motorcycle from a dealer, the bike will usually come with the remainder of the motorcycle’s warranty if it is still young enough. The dealer may give a three or six-month warranty for older bikes, which they will cover themselves.

If you are unsure, research that the dealer is reputable.

Happy riding!

Robert Blake

Hi, I'm Robert and I've been riding motorcycles for nearly 2 decades. The intention of this blog is to give reliable up to date information to other motorcyclists who are looking for answers about all different aspects of motorcycling. All the information is either from my personal experience or investigational work I have carried out myself. Happy Riding!

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