I have, like a lot of people, been taking a good hard look at my fuel consumption and cost for my car.  I drive a 2001 Nissan Xterra on my daily 30 mile round-trip commute.  This vehicle also serves as the tow vehicle for my boat.   My current gas mileage in the Nissan is ranging between 15 and 18 MPG.

Over the past couple of months, I've been exploring various options to help reduce costs.  I've looked at swapping cars with my wife (Chevrolet Venture), getting a smaller commuter car, and a motorcycle.


My wife's commute is slightly shorter than mine, but she encounters much more traffic than I do.  So trading would provide no net gain.  A smaller car would lower fuel costs, but the fact that I need to maintain the Xterra for a tow vehicle, simply adds to overall costs due to insurance.

Lastly is the motorcycle: something I've wanted as a "toy" for many years.  This week I decided to put on my analysis hat, and perform a true Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and Return On Investment(ROI) look at buying one.

When I've considered a bike in the past, I've truly only considered small CC crotch rockets, simply due to their price.  I could easily pick on up for a couple of thousand dollars.   Earlier this week a friend came by to show me a bike that he was considering buying; a Vulcan Classic 800.  This bike can easily be obtained in the $3000 range, and is a large enough bike to be safe in a breeze (or passing truck) and to be used as a true leisure bike for my wife and I.  So I it was used for my analysis.

Here are my constants

  • 17 – Current MPG in the Xterra
  • 45 – Reported MPG for bike
  • 30 – Roundtrip Commuting distance
  • $3000 – Cost of Bike
  • $99/yr – Cost of Insurance (through Geico)
  • $3.50/gal – Fixed price of gas for analysis

Using these figures I ran it through three separate scenarios: 1) full time commuting on bike, 2) half time commuting, and 3) 3/2 commuting (3 days on bike, 2 in Xterra).


Monthly Savings

Annual Savings


Full Time



3.34 yrs

1/2 Time



7.51 yrs

3/2 Time



6.01 yrs

Realistically, living in Central Florida's weather, the 3/2 estimate would probably be the most accurate.  It is assuming that I would commute with the bike 60% of the time.  While it may not work out every week, I would estimate it would be an accurate reflection of the year as a whole.

Based solely on the numbers, the business-case can be made, but there are many other considerations that I also taking in to account.

  • Safety – My current commute door-to-door consists of three roads, all divided highways, and a total of three stop lights , all are at least 5 miles from the next.  In the past 4 years I've encountered stopped traffic due to a accident two times, and the speed limit never exceeds 55mph.  If it were anything different I would probably not consider a bike.
  • Savings vs. Earnings – If I were to simply leave the $3000 in its INGdirect savings account, I will only be making 3% return.  Assuming the bike holds its value and the 3/2  analysis above, I will have a $409.54 gain (savings – potential earnings).
  • Environmental – My Xterra has estimated annual CO2 emissions of 9,207lbs, compared to the motorcycle's 3,478lbs.  That is a 62.22% reduction in emissions for my commute.  Every little bit helps lowers my total overall carbon footprint.
    [Carbon Footprint Calculator] via TerraPass.com
  • Fun Factor – Both my wife and I have always wanted a bike.  Now that our kids are getting old enough to be self-dependent, we will have time to make use of such a purchase.

So needless to say, a motorcycle is likely in my future.  With it being 15+ years since I've ridden, my first task will be to take the Rider Safety Course.  After talking to friends "in-the-know" to get recommendations on the best course, I will be taking the Rider's Edge program offered by Harley Davidson

Obviously, I'm also in the market for a 2000-2003 Vulcan 800 Classic or a similarly prices Suzuki Boulevard C50.

Try the my analysis out yourself by downloading my Motorcycle Cost Analysis Spreadsheet [XLS].