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The Best Motorcycles for $1000

Updated on September 17, 2010

Buying a Used Motorcycle for a Grand or Less

With the economy having a big effect on everyone's budget, more and more Americans are turning to motorcycles as their primary mode of transportation. Motorcycles are more affordable to buy and insure, and their fuel economy is much better than that of cars or trucks. Many get greater than 50 mpg.

Better yet, there is a quite comprehensive spectrum of quality used motorcycles whose market value is $1500, $1000, or less. We will review several of the best options, as well as providing a used motorcycle buying checklist -- a must-have whenever you buy a motorcycle that costs less than most mountain bikes.

Motorcycle Inspection Checklist
Motorcycle Inspection Checklist

Buying a Preowned Motorcycle

A Crucial Checklist

> Check to ensure that the VIN number on the title, the frame, and the motor all match. Mismatching could indicate a bike that has been stolen or rebuilt after an accident.

> Inspect tire wear. You want at minimum 1/16 of an inch of tread left on the tire. Obviously, needing to buy and install a new pair of tires can cost an extra 20-30%.

> Inspect to ensure there is zero bearing play in front fork and rear swingarm.

> Check maintenance records. Written ones are preferable, of course, but in many cases a verbal history is all that is available.

> Inspect air filter and fluid levels. Discolored brake fluid, dirty oil, or low coolant levels are all bad signs.

> Give the bike a test run. Run up and down through the gearbox to make sure it shifts well.

Suzuki GS500E
Suzuki GS500E

Motorcycles for Less Than $1000

A List of The Best Options

Buying a motorcycle for less than $1000 is always slightly risky. You might be able to find bikes for sale on the private market for far less than their KBB (Kelley Blue Book) value due to salvage titles or cosmetic damage. However, we want to focus on motorcycles which are actually worth around $1000, and which might be good picks if your budget is one grand.

Yamaha XS650: these bikes offer solid power and reliability from the 650cc SOHC twin. If you have a mechanical bent, there is a huge online community of people who built these bikes into everything from hardtail bobbers to cafe racers. The XS650 was produced from 1968 to 1985. KBB prices range from just under to just over $1000.

Suzuki GS500 (early 1990s): this air-cooled parallel-twin has been a favorite beginner motorcycle since 1989. It is a "naked" bike with a 380 lb curb weight, streetfighter-ish styling, and a KBB value of just over $1000.

Honda XR250L (early 1990s): the little brother of the XR650, this street-legal dual-sport has a nearly bulletproof single cylinder air-cooled engine. As happy on fireroads and trails as backroads or downtown, these bikes can do it all. But don't expect much in the acceleration department - the updated '96 version offered only 19 hp - and the bike is buzzy and uncertain at freeway speeds. Make sure you get the "L" model; this is the street-legal version. The XR250L was discontinued in 2004.

Kawasaki KLR250 (early 1990s): Kawasaki's answer to the XR250L. They share comparable performance, reliability, and pricing. The KLR250 has been used by the US military for a variety of tasks, such as recon and field delivery. Owners report 45-50 mpg in urban riding, and significantly more on the highway. The bike was discontinued in 2005 after a 21 year run in which the bike remained relatively unchanged.

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    • wizardgold lm profile image

      wizardgold lm 6 years ago

      I wouldn't mind a Suzuki GS500 for a cheap bike to run around on.

    • profile image

      Abhijit678 5 years ago

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