From the outside looking in, motorcycling can easily look like an exorbitant hobby, with bikes alone costing thousands of dollars, and that’s before factoring in aftermarket parts, tires, maintenance and upkeep, registration and insurance, a helmet, and riding gear. And while affordable entry-level motorcycle models have historically been limited to only a few bikes, the last approximately half-decade has seen an enormous influx of increasingly competitively-priced production bikes from practically every two-wheeled genre under the sun.
With today’s manufacturers currently offering an incredibly diverse and abundant selection of accessibly-priced motorcycles, we thought we’d carve out some time to scour the showroom floors and all the latest catalogs and brochures to bring you this condensed guide to the best motorcycles under $5,000. So, whether you’re shopping for a supersport, a cafe racer, or even a V-Twin-powered cruiser, this guide has got you covered with more than a dozen of the finest sub-$5K scoots currently in production, along with what to consider when buying a motorcycle in this price range.
Budget Moto Shopping’s Big 5
The Main Things To Consider When Buying A New Motorcycle For Under $5,000
While there are admittedly plenty of areas that should be taken into account regardless of what style or price point of bike you’re in the market for, there are a few factors that are particularly crucial when it comes to purchasing a sub-$5K scoot. Below, we’ll break down each of these five vital areas.
Intended Purpose: Before you consider anything else, the biggest question you should ask yourself is “How do I plan on using this motorcycle?” as this will help to hugely narrow down your search in terms of what genre of bike and engine configuration and size will be appropriate for the intended task(s) at hand. Factors like the powertrain and riding position will hugely affect how conducive a given motorcycle will be to touring, track riding, everyday commuting, and so on.
Engine: Historically sub-$5,000 motorcycles primarily employed carb-fed air-cooled single-cylinder engines, though today’s market boasts a wide selection of different twin configurations, mills with fuel-injection, liquid-cooling, and other more modern elements. On top of engine configuration, its displacement (aka size) also plays a pivotal role in determining a bike’s power, as well as its power delivery and overall character. It’s also worth doing some research into the manufacturer-recommended service procedures and intervals for their engines, as well as the reputation, said engine has for reliability (or lack thereof in some cases).
Genre: There really never has been a better time in history to buy an accessibly-priced motorcycle, as prices have never been more competitive, nor has there ever been a wider array of motorcycles types sold at under the $5,000 mark. And while you might not be able to snag a big-bore American cruiser or a cutting-edge liter-sized Ducati superbike model, just about every style of bike is available, so long as you’re okay with the relatively small engine sizes. That said, most models considered “small-displacement” in the North American market are still plenty capable for two-up, long-distance, and/or freeway travel.
Manufacturer: There’s some truth to the fact that you do pay a bit of a premium to have a bigger, more reputable company’s badge on the tank, there are some objective benefits that come with buying from a big, mainstream manufacturer. On top of a more robust dealer network and easier and more abundant access to new and used spare and aftermarket parts, the bigger more reputable motorcycle marques tend to have better track records for reliability.
Value: While it’s pretty phenomenal what $5,000 can buy you in 2021, not all accessibly-priced motorcycles offer the same bang for your buck. You’ll want to consider everything you get for your investment, from the aesthetics and styling to the engine and frame, to the running gear and technology. This latter point is more crucial than one might guess, as features like antilock brake systems, digital displays, and track-ready adjustable suspension are all increasingly becoming standard fare on today’s less expensive and entry-level motorcycle models.
2021 Benelli TNT135
Though the Honda Grom and Kawasaki Z125 Pro tend to get most of the love in the minibike segment, Benelli’s more-recent entry to the market with the TNT135 is more than worth considering if shopping in this space, putting a sleek, aggressive, and unmistakably Italian twist on the standard minibike formula. The smallest member of the Chinese-made Italian firm’s hyper-naked lineup, the TNT135 features an exotic dual-pipe exhaust setup, a streetfighter-style headlight, and body-integrated tail-lighting, but one aspect that really makes this model stand out is its sub-$2,800 MSRP.
Engine: Air and oil-cooled 134.7cc SOHC single-cylinder
Power: 11.3hp & 7.4ft-lbs
2020 Cleveland Cyclewerks Hooligun
Available in a number of different liveries, with 250cc or 450cc engine sizes, and in dirt-focused dual-sport or kart track-ready supermoto setups, Cleveland Cycle Werks’ Hooligun is an incredibly capable yet affordable thrill machine with an accessible MSRP made possible through the use of the American-assembled machine’s Chinese-Sourced powertrain. Despite its budget-friendly price-tag, the Hooligun is equipped with a surprisingly premium array of componentry, with an inverted front-end, a six-speed transmission, and a fuel-injected engine that’s good for more than 80 miles per gallon and speeds exceeding 70mph.
Style: Dual-sport / Supermoto
Engine: Liquid-cooled 450cc SOHC single-cylinder
Power: 43.5hp & 31.4ft-lbs
2021 Honda Trail 125 ABS
The Trail 125 ABS (aka the Trail CT125 Hunter Cub) is the latest addition to Honda’s legendary Cub range which dates back to 1958 and stands as the all-time best-selling model range in history with well over a million units sold. After debuting as a concept vehicle at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show, this scrambler version of the eighth-liter runner now boasts a selection of dirt-oriented parts such as a high-mount exhaust, spoked wheels, a rear luggage rack, increased suspension travel and fuel capacity, crash bars, and a small skid plate, among several other touches.
Style: Adventure Scooter
Engine: Air-cooled 124.9cc SOHC single-cylinder
Power: 9hp & 8.1ft-lbs
2021 Honda Monkey
Utilizing the same air-cooled eighth-liter powertrain as Big Red’s Grom, Trail 125, and Super Cub, the Monkey is another modern interpretation of a beloved motorcycle icon, this time evoking the spirit of the little Z series of the 1960s and ‘70s. Though the modern version boasts a visual design that’s tightly inline with that of the original, the new Monkey packs far more oomph, doubling the power output of their predecessors and making for a machine that’s conducive to short-distance rides around town rather than just fields and off-road trails.
Engine: Air-cooled 124.9cc SOHC single-cylinder
Power: 9hp & 8.1ft-lbs
2021 KTM Duke 200
KTM first released its 390 Duke in 2013 and quickly went on to corner the market on the premium small-displacement naked class, though now, after the better part of a decade of success—and a number of noteworthy mechanical and component upgrades—the Ready To Race brand is offering the same fan-favorite Duke in a smaller, even-more manageable and new-rider-friendly 200cc version. Even with the reduced displacement and cheaper price, the fifth-liter variant retains its big brother’s sharp Kioka-Designed aesthetics and menacing appearance, plus its litany of top-shelf running gear such as its inverted WP forks and mono-shock, and ABS-enabled Brembo-made brakes.
Engine: Liquid-cooled 200cc DOHC single-cylinder
Power: 25.5hp & 14.25ft-lbs
2021 Yamaha V-Star 250
Yamaha’s V Star 250 is a shockingly competent touring bike offered at an almost suspiciously accessible price. Not only does the pint-sized cruiser model pack a genuine V-Twin powertrain, but the chain-driven sled is also more than capable of touring duties with fuel-consumption rated at 78mpg and a top speed of over 85mph. On the flip side of the coin, the quarter-liter V Star’s 27” seat height and 324lb curb weight also make it a great candidate for urban riding and commuting duties. And while it admittedly might lack the character or prestige of a Harley or Indian model, you’d still be hard-pressed to find a better entry-level cruiser.
Engine: Air-cooled 249cc SOHC 60° V-twin
Power: N/A & 15.2ft-lbs
2021 FB Mondial HPS 125
Founded in 1929, FB Mondial was a legendary Italian motorcycle manufacturer with an incredibly successful race history spanning approximately almost a decade in the 1940s and 1950s. And though the original Milan-based outfit closed its doors at the end of the ‘70s, FB Mondial has since been revived (again) by descendants of the original owners and operators, and now trades in stunning neb-retro-designed, Chinese-manufactured, small-displacement motorcycles like the HPS (or “Hipster”) 125. Kicked along by a liquid-cooled, fuel-injected DOHC single, the HPS 125 features one of the most modern and unique designs across the entire entry-level market.
Style: Neo cafe racer
Engine: Liquid-cooled 124cc DOHC single-cylinder
Power: 13.41hp & 7.75ft-lbs
Origin: Italy (Chinese-made)
2021 Yamaha MT-03
The naked counterpart to the Japanese brand’s YZF-R3 supersport bike, the MT-03 is a popular and highly-versatile urban commuter bike, good for everything from touring to canyon riding and track days. Powered by a parallel-twin engine, the little MT wears aggressive-looking headlights bookended by a sharp set of air scoops, and an angular belly-pan and pair of radiator covers that help to fill out the negative space surrounding the 321cc two-banger, giving the small displacement bike an appearance similar to its 689cc, 890cc, and 998cc siblings.
Engine: Liquid-cooled 321cc DOHC parallel-twin
Power: 41hp & 20.2ft-lbs
2021 Suzuki TU250X
If you’re interested in a classically-styled, no-grills standard bike, then look no further than Suzuki’s TU250X. With its chrome accents, a pronounced headlight bucket, large fenders, spoked wheels, a peanut tank, and a swept-back muffler all make for a bike that could easily pass for a 1960s model. That said, the Hamamatsu marque’s 250cc classic also benefits from several decades of technological improvements, giving it old-school style and modern-day reliability, emissions, and fuel economy.
Engine: Air-cooled 249cc SOHC single-cylinder
Power: 16.1hp & 11.5ft-lbs
2021 BMW G310R
Though it may sound too good to be true, for less than five-grand you can buy a brand-new BMW Motorrad bike that offers staggering performance capabilities relative to its price. Visually-inspired by its liter-sized roadster big brother, the S1000R, the G310R boasts upside-down gold-anodized forks, a multifunction digital display with fuel-level and gear-position indicators, cast-aluminum wheels, and a manageable 30.9″ seat height. Sold in one of three paint options—including a traditional M Racing livery—its 313cc single enables it to achieve freeway-capable speeds of around 90mph.
Style: Roadster / naked
Engine: Liquid-cooled 313cc DOHC single-cylinder
Power: 34hp & 21ft-lbs
2021 Honda CB300R
While it is the smallest-displacement member of Honda’s Neo Sports Cafe (or NSC) range—the Big Red’s take on modern-day cafe racers—the CB300R offers a lot of performance and technology in a fairly-priced package. A 41mm inverted fork, track-derived steel chassis, LED lighting and blacked-out hardware throughout, and ABS-linked Nissan calipers biting down on petal rotors are all standard fare. The CB300R’s liquid-cooled 30hp single not only makes it good for speeds of approximately 90mph but also earns it touring capabilities with a counterbalance shaft that hugely mitigates vibration and increases long-distance riding comfort.
Style: Naked / neo cafe racer
Engine: Liquid-cooled 286cc DOHC single-cylinder
Power: 30.7hp & 20.2ft-lbs
2020 SYM Wolf CR300i
When talking neo-retro models, you’ll often hear the phrase “the best of both worlds,” with these vintage-inspired contemporary platforms offering modern-day technology, performance, safety, and reliability, while being dressed up as production and race models of yesteryear. And that’s exactly what we’ve got with the SYM Wolf CR300i, a new retro-style cafe racer backed by all the modern amenities one could ask for. Built around a high-tensile steel double-cradle frame and good for speeds of over 85mph, the Cafe Racer 300 Injection also gets a headlight cowl and tail cowl, cast aluminum wheels, a bevy of aluminum details, a classic dual clock cafe instrumentation setup, and a contemporary take on a cafe-meets-superbike muffler.
Style: Cafe racer
Engine: Liquid-cooled 278cc DOHC single-cylinder
Power: 26.82hp & 19.17ft-lbs
2021 Kawasaki Ninja 400
Dollar for dollar, Kawasaki’s current Ninja 400 is arguably the best entry-level superbike model currently in production, with a 400cc parallel-twin that makes it conducive to freeway travel, while also making for a potent track day machine. Adorned in full bodywork and fitted with LED lighting all around, the Ninja 400 can clock roughly four-second 0-60mph times and top speeds of around 125mph. The engines approximately 50hp and 30ft-lbs of torque make the bike manageable and forgiving for new riders, while still packing more than enough muscle for thrills and growth as a rider. Even long-time veterans can thoroughly enjoy themselves at the track aboard a slipper clutch-equipped Ninja 400.ro
Engine: Liquid-cooled 399cc DOHC parallel-twin
Power: 48.32hp & 28ft-lbs
2021 Royal Enfield Himalayan
Just barely squeezing in below the $5,000 mark, Royal Enfield’s Himalayan is a fully-capable adventure bike, as well as one serious bargain. By utilizing a relatively simple air-cooled single-cylinder engine, Royal Enfield has been able to fit the budget-friendly adventure bike with long-travel suspension, switchable dual-channel ABS, and a skid-plate after the model’s 8.5” to 9” of ground clearance have been exhausted. This bare-bones adventure machine was built to explore harsh terrains—and to take a beating in the process—though, its roughly 75mph top speeds also mean it capable of freeway travel and on-the-tarmac touring.
Style: Adventure bike
Engine: Air-cooled 411cc SOHC single-cylinder
Power: 25hp & 25.6ft-lbs
2021 Husqvarna Vitpilen 401
Sharing its hydro-formed and robot-welded high-strength chromium-molybdenum steel chassis and electronically-fuel-injected liquid-cooled 373cc DOHC single-cylinder engine as the RC 390 and 390 Duke, Husqvarna’s Vitpilen 401 is unequivocally the most modern and idiosyncratic neo cafe racer currently on the market, with an industrial design that really is hard to compare with practically anything else out there. In addition to its striking appearance, Husky’s Vitpilen 401 also features a top-shelf array of running gear including a slipper clutch, ByBre brakes, WP suspension, spoked wheels with gold-anodized rims, and LED lighting throughout.
Style: Neo cafe racer
Engine: Liquid-cooled 373cc DOHC single-cylinder
Power: 44hp / 27.3ft-lbs
The 12 Best Motorcycles You Can Buy Off The Lot
Interested in checking out a selection of today’s latest and greatest bikes that aren’t restricted to a $5,000 MSRP? Well, our guide to the best motorcycles you can buy off the lot right now for a dozen stellar options for two-wheeled travel.
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