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Will driving a motorcycle to work save you money?

By Mark Vallet

For Insurance.com

Published: Thursday, Sept. 4 2014 1:45 p.m. MDT

Updated: Thursday, Sept. 4 2014 2:37 p.m. MDT

Unless you are cruising a true junker, your dollar will always go further at a bike shop than your local car dealership.

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Editor's note: This article was originally published on Insurance.com. It has been reprinted here with permission.

Tired of forking up $80 to fill up your car and spending hours stuck in traffic?

Crunching the numbers is depressing. At an operating cost of 55 cents a mile, a 40-mile round-trip daily commute costs more than $50,000 over 10 years.

Trading four wheels for two can put some of that hard-earned cash back in your pocket and maybe even increase your street cred. But the learning curve is steep, risky and not without unexpected costs of its own.

Cheaper to buy, cheaper to run

Unless you are cruising a true junker, your dollar will always go further at a bike shop than your local car dealership.

A mere $4,700 will put a brand-new 2013 Honda CBR 250R complete with anti-lock brakes in your driveway. According to Car and Driver, the cheapest new car in 2014 was the Nissan Versa, at $12,800.

Going used doesn't change the game much. A 2008 Honda Shadow Spirit with less than 10,000 miles can be had on Cycle Trader for $3,900 to $5,500. Typically, cars that fall into this price range have well over 100,000 miles and are much older.

The savings on gas can be dramatic as well. Mileage on bikes usually starts around 50-60 mpg, so unless you are driving a Prius, a two-wheeler will usually cut your fuel bill in half.

However, you still have to pay for maintenance, tires, safety classes and equipment, which can jack up the cost of riding, especially for newbies.

Other upfront costs can stack up

A training class is essential for new riders, and in some states it's required. Matthew Jacobs, motorcycle product manager with Progressive, recommends taking a motorcycle endorsement class early on in the decision-making process. "Making sure that you are a confident and safe driver is very important," says Jacobs.

Costs vary, but budget $300 for a training class.

Probably the most expensive piece of equipment will be the one protecting your head. A solid middle-of-the-road helmet will run $300 to $600. You will need two of these if you plan on hauling a passenger from time to time.

Covering the rest of your body with a jacket, boots, gloves and leathers can easily run another $600. Figure an extra $200 for raingear if you plan on riding in less than stellar weather.

Those are one-time expenses, but maintenance isn't.

Motorcycles tend to need more frequent maintenance than cars do, but it's not necessarily more expensive. A spokesman for the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) says spending averages $138 year, with more than half of owners turning the wrenches themselves or getting help from a friend.

Tires need to be replaced every 4,000 to 11,000 miles, MIC says. Tires can cost upward of $300 apiece for sport bikes and closer to $100 for a cruiser. The MIC owner survey found that riders spend an average of $105 a year on tires.

Another expense to consider is the occasional car rental or emergency hotel room, for those times when a motorcycle is impractical, inconvenient or unsafe.

Insurance can be cheaper … or not

Motorcycles can be cheaper to insure than cars are, but it depends a lot on where you live.

Pricing out coverage on a used Honda Shadow Spirit 750, a 24-year-old rider in Jacksonville, Florida, looking for state minimum liability levels would pay about $71 a year, according to quotes provided by Insurance.com. The same driver would pay about $830 a year for basic liability coverage on a 1998 Honda Civic.

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