Would You Consider Renting a Motorcycle Instead of Owning One?

If you can rent $10,000 watches for several months at a time, why not rent high end motorcycles the same way?

If you can rent $10,000 watches for several months at a time, why not rent high end motorcycles the same way?

What do expensive watches have to do with motorcycles? If you could rent a top of the line motorcycle for several months at a time each year, perhaps committing to several rentals, would that satisfy your annual need to ride? Is there a market for long term rental motorcycles? I don't mean renting a Harley for a few days to tour the Pacific Coast Highway or leasing a motorcycle for three years like leasing a car, it's renting for a month or two.

Just today, I noticed an article about a new startup called Eleven James. For about $250 per month, you can rent a series of watches for two months at a time, enabling you to sport the latest and fanciest $10,000 watch ($10K for a watch? Wow!) without having to buy one and commit to something you may find out later you don't really like. Maybe it doesn't get the reaction you were hoping for from the ladies and you need more bang from that bling, ... so to speak. Whatever the case, you have it long enough to enjoy it and wear it and then turn it in for another top of the line model.

Do you need to own it?

Now apply the same idea to motorcycles. A company like Eagle Rider will rent you a Harley for a few days so you can ride while you're vacationing a long way from home, but suppose you wanted to rent for two or three months during the summer. No winter storage, no long term maintenance, no commitment beyond those few months. Your payment might be a lot higher than if you were buying it, but the payments wouldn't last for long. You get to ride a top of the line bike without the huge investment and the following year you try something different.

Just enjoy the ride

We've had many comments on various articles here from owners who would rather ride their motorcycle than get their hands dirty. Working on a bike brings them no particular pleasure, it's all about the wind and sun and fresh air. If you're not going to modify the bike in any way, why not ride a factory stock example, especially if the model costs more than you're ready to spend?

There are lots of rental companies catering to the "rent to buy" segment of the market, which is really just an expensive way to get things on credit when your credit isn't so good. Furniture and appliances and big screen TVs are their stock in trade, but that leans toward the necessary furnishings found in the average home. When you rent $10,000 watches, you're into a totally different segment, the customer isn't struggling and the item isn't a necessity, but it still gives that customer the ability to have, at least for a while, something very nice without tying up lots of money or committing to a long term loan.

Pricey luxury items (Did you know there are companies that rent high end designer jeans?) are what we're talking here, and when you get to the over $10K price point you open up the possibility of renting a whole different type of item. Rent a Ducati for the summer, then turn it in and try out their next new model the following year. Why not enjoy an Electra Glide Classic or maybe even a new Confederate or perhaps a Motus?

Join the club

I seem to remember a company or two trying this idea some time back, but I haven't seen anything recently, though there may be an active rental operation out there I'm unaware of, but think about it, maybe make it an annual membership, six month rental, or two rentals of three months each or three rentals of two months, almost like those long term rides the bike mags get to report on. It's like joining an exclusive club with access to the best bikes. When the weather closes in, you turn in the rental and get a different bike the next time around. It would be more costly if you kept doing this, it would have to be to cover the overhead of the rental company, but it would give you a chance to ride more bikes than you otherwise would.

Would the motorcycle companies be willing to try it?

The motorcycle companies may hate this idea, they have to sell bikes to survive, but oddly enough, the limited production bikes like a Confederate or Motus might sell more units to rental outlets than to individual buyers, it's hard to say. (I remember when Shelby sold GT350 Mustangs to Hertz) I have to think through the economics of this idea, too, it may not work too well, but it's interesting to think about, isn't it?

Now, should I wear the Patek Philippe or the Girard-Perregaux tonight? Decisions, decisions.

Comment Policy: The Kneeslider does not endorse nor imply agreement with any particular comment just because we let it stand, but, you already knew that. Comments are moderated and should be closely related to post content. Personal attacks, personal grievances, profanity and other unhelpful remarks will be removed. Please read the entire post and check for included links before commenting or asking questions. We invite your thoughts and ideas so we may have an interesting and civil conversation. Thank you.

Comments

  1. Ogre says

    I wouldn’t be interested; where I live the “riding season” is 11 months or so. I also don’t like the idea of not being able to do even minor customizing.

    • Paul Crowe says

      Well, the rental agreement could be an annual one with several different bikes over the course of the entire year to take care of the year round riding locations, or a multi year agreement for those areas with a limited riding season. In those cases the rider still gets a more varied riding experience and the rental company gets enough of a commitment to guarantee some profitable business, but you’re an example of the guy who wants to work on his bike, at least a little, so you are not the target market for this sort of thing.

  2. MikeC says

    A couple of buddies and I have been renting motorcycles across the southern US for 7 years now in order to break up the Canadian winter. We usually go for 3-5 days of riding (depending on the amount of time we can get off) and blast through the SoCal canyons, or the Arizona high country, or San Francisco gold fields area. We rent what we think our mood will be for that year. Did a Harley year (not me though), a Goldwing year, a horsepower year, a hyperbike year, and then a touring BMW year. 2 of us actually came home and purchased the bike we rode on the trip. This is a great way to experience different bikes at little cost. Be average $200/day rentals (all in) and about $2000 per trip including flights, accom, food, booze, etc. Now we are booking our first Euro adventure for next spring. An absolutely fantastic way to see the country, and ride new bikes. I would totally support a short term rental business at home as well. If they offered late model machinery with some flair (Hyper, SS, Naked, Adv, etc), and not just poky cruisers, it would get my vote.

      • MikeC says

        For those that wouldn’t use this, I give you my thoughts. I own 4 road bikes, and 3 dirt bikes. I ride them all depending upon my mood, time of year, riding partners, etc. I like low volume Japanese production specials that are easily rideable with high reliability. I also like blasting on a ‘Busa, or cruising on a K16 or ripping on a Duc. I don’t have enough room for all of them. In the past 12 years I have had 12 used bikes, with a total cost of ownership (including depreciation, tires & maintenance and clean license insurance) of just under $218/month. I live in Alberta, CA, giving me at best a 7 month riding season. Would I pay $2-300 a month to ride whatever they have? You bet. Would I pay $500, I don’t know.

        The reality of it though, is that the price for a rental club model would have to be more like $5-700 per month. Hell, in sunny locals, you could eat half that up in tires per month. I support, with my money, short term rentals frequently. Long term contracts, I think, would be a business challenge, at least in my area.

  3. Brian J says

    Not for me. I like to ‘tinker’ with my machines. It’s part of the reason I own a motorcycle. I can see for people that don’t want the ‘responsibility’ of upkeep, but these are the folks who go to oil changes places too probably. I find the intimate time I spend upgrading or performing maintenance, essential to knowing the machine. When I’m blasting down the road, failure is not an option. My view. YMMV.

  4. Yeti2bikes says

    I was at my older son’s house last night looking at the new 2014′s on the internet and we were talking about this very thing. We live in Arizona where the riding season is year round so seasonal rentals wouldn’t be a marketable idea for us since we both already own bikes, but being able to drop a little scratch just to throw your leg over a new Monster or take a new Speed Triple for a ride just to test the water would be something I’d be interested in.

  5. SausageCreature says

    I might look into something like the “club” model if it existed…pay monthly/yearly dues and get to select and reserve a bike for a certain number of days each month or whatever. I usually ride naked/standard bikes, I’ve always wondered if I might enjoy a different kind of bike (cruiser, adventure, super sport, etc) long term.

    There are similar boat “clubs” here in Jacksonville (and probably in most other coastal cities). They get mixed reviews, but some people like them.

    Also, I can’t imagine that this would be bad for bike sales. These bikes would accumulate miles faster than most privately owned bikes (if the “club” is operated efficiently), which means they would have to be replaced more often than privately owned bikes, too.

  6. Adrian says

    I use a 150cc scooter for my inner-city commute every day, then rent a sportsbike a couple of times a year to go up the coast. The money I save on insurance for the scooter pays for the rental, and I get to use the right vehicle for the each job!

  7. GenWaylaid says

    Not sure I’d like this model for motorcycles. I feel like after a few months I’d only just be getting a good idea of what the bike can do.

    However, if there was a service like this for classic cars or sports cars, that would really get my interest.

    • Wave says

      There are plenty of clubs like this for sports cars and classic cars. One of the most famous ones is Classic Car Club Manhattan, but they’re in most capital cities these days, at least in the USA and Australia. Usually the clubs offer a mixture of classics, sports cars, modern supercars and sometimes also pick-up trucks or vans for those weekends when you need to move something.

      http://www.classiccarclubmanhattan.com/

      • GenWaylaid says

        Very nice, but not quite what I had in mind. I was thinking about small European sport coupes and roadsters, and 1950s American cruisers. My tastes appear to be more eclectic and less horsepower-focused than CCC Manhattan. Probably cheaper, too.

        I like that they describe the cost as “less than the cost of a monthly parking spot in Manhattan.” I think a lot of things cost less than that.

  8. Katya Kakhov says

    I could stand a couple of months on a Crocker and a Kiwi . Me and the ol’ lady could swap ‘em back and forth .

  9. jon spencer says

    Wonder what the total rental cost would be for someone who puts about two to three thousand miles a month on for 7 months?
    The renting a bike for a day or two is fine for trying out a different make or model and for a longer time if you are not in your home area.
    I would consider leasing if the total cost is “reasonable” and that word very subjective.
    The insurance is another thing.

  10. Cameron says

    I own a CRF230L because it’s stupid cheap and reliable and a Silverado because it works. When renting a car I never choose the Camry, I rent the muscle car or the luxury sedan.
    How about a new Brough Superior S100, Bennelli, electric Tron bike, any grey market/ limit run model. Now if the rental company included this level of exclusive bike along with some higher end items like the new Duke I would be interested.

  11. Jason says

    I don’t know if I would want to rent a bike for a couple of months but in the past 5 years I have ridden many more miles on rented bikes than my own. I’ve done 3 tours in southern Europe, a long weekend out of Vancouver, and a weekend tacked onto a business trip to San Diego. I’ve ridden a Honda CBF1000, BMW R1200GS, BMW F800ST, Triumph Bonneville, Suzuki V-Strom 1000 and a Harley Road King. Renting is a great way to try out different bikes and see a different part of the world.

    Meanwhile my BMW R1150R sits in the garage and the wheels have only turned 2900 miles in that time. I’ve only put gas in it once this year! It costs twice as much per mile to commute on the bike compared to my car and sitting in gridlock traffic on a bike is miserable. I might as well be sitting in the car with the A/C or heat on, drinking coffee and listening to the radio. Likewise the nearest good riding road is 1 1/2 hours away. So the bike sits in the garage on the charger with fuel stabilizer in the tank. Even though the bike is long paid for and insurance is only $100 per year I’ll be selling the BMW in the spring. I’ll be keeping my 70′s Kawasaki to give me something to tinker with and have something to ride locally between rentals.

  12. MrDude_1 says

    I think the hardest factor here is insurance.
    Not only the insurance for when someone gets hurt, but for the bikes themselves.
    I dont know if you were considering sportbikes, but it would have to include them for me. (or the motus, but thats just uber cool)

    Cruiser and “standard” bike rentals can be found everywhere…. Sport bikes are harder to rent. You’re talking about a $12,000 bike that can do $6,000 damage with a minor tipover. I am not exaggerating either, you tip over on a rock or something, and you can punch the case, scuff the fairings, break a clipon, gouge the swingarm or frame, etc….
    Plus, sportbikes are the most commonly stolen bikes out there.

    What this means, is that from the insurance “statistics only” standpoint, they MAY present a high risk
    Insurance breaks it up further, and depending on where you fall, you may pay anywhere from $30/mo to $400/mo in insurance.

    With such a broad spectrum of policy rates, it may be difficult to get a reasonable rate for a rental company without having to put massive restrictions on who you can rent to.

  13. says

    To me the idea sounds really great. Especially if it was only month and not yearly. That way I could drop it in the winter when there less riding opportunities. I like the idea of having a new/different bike every few months, and I would plan rides around the type of bike I would have. I agree it would have to fall into the 2-300 a month range. When you start taking 5-700 doing it for a year could get you a used bike. If you used that same monthly expense you could fill your Garage with 2 or 3 of your own pretty quickly.

  14. Bigshankhank says

    I could actually see there being a market for people during the summer who want to use one as a commuter bike when fuel prices spike. I am sure most of us have heard the argument about selling our big truck/muscle car and buying a small Honda crapbox to save some gas in, but economically you would never recoup those costs. With this, one could spend a few hundred to save a few hundred on fuel and keep the big gas guzzler when you need to haul something (furniture, a$$, etc).
    In my case, I am commuting over 80 miles a day and getting reimbursed for 32 of them by my company, so I could conceivably make money on a deal like this if this contract last long enough.

  15. Hooligan says

    If you want to explore the island of Mallorca on a bike. I would reccomend this lot http://www.albionmotorcycles.com/the-chronicles/. They have a really focused range of classic and modernish bikes and have a good reputation. And Mallorca has some incredible biking roads. The road from Soller up through the mountains is one of the great rides. Probably best done early morning before the tourists get out.

    • Wave says

      I checked the website, they do guided tours only and will not rent their bikes out, which is not really the same thing. Looks like a nice day out though.

  16. Buell Ducley says

    Or it could be for the folks like me who want a hot rod for riding with the buddies, but also
    want to take the wife for a ride now and then. She likes the big bike with the throne on the
    back so she can sleep when she’s tired of looking around.

  17. Bob Childers says

    Paul, It’s an interesting idea. Personally I can’t see the manufacturers going along with this unless there’s more profit to be made than in selling new bikes, then what are they going to do with the used bikes that come back in from the summer leases? Where I live in Michigan our riding season pretty much ends about November 1st and doesn’t start again until about late April or so.

Let us know what you think