Why is getting your motorcycle serviced so expensive?

It seems like everything these days are getting more and more expensive but motorcycles are unusually expensive to get serviced, even more than your car, truck, or sport utility vehicle (SUV)?

Many factors such as specific fluid and lubrication demands, parts that need to be removed to access drains and fillers.

There are also plenty of specialty tools needed, and ever-increasing shop labor rates that make getting your motorcycle serviced is so expensive.

Some other factors that might not be so obvious are increasing waste and recycling costs, the availability of parts, and the fact that the motorcycle industry is a pretty small niche.

The intended outcome of this article is to show you where your money is going when you get a motorcycle serviced and why it is so expensive, to show you where the potential savings are, and what tasks you can do yourself.

Fluid and lubrication demands

The fluid and lubrication needs of a motorcycle can be very different for each model, brand, and style/use.

Because of the specific design of these fluids and lubricants, they have a limited scope for which they can be used making large batches impractical if not impossible to produce.

The biggest one of these is engine oil. Engine oil for a motorcycle needs to be compatible with the clutch and transmission as these, unlike automobiles, are housed inside the engine block.

This means conventional oil that is used in other products such as cars, trucks, or SUVs cannot be used in motorcycles which limits the supply of oil available for use in the industry, leading to higher costs.

On top of that, there are only a few specialized makers of motorcycle oil which also drives up the cost.

Another consideration is, some of the extreme conditions faced by motorcycles, require many of them to use special greases and other lubricants that other industries don’t use either, adding to cost increases.

For example, many motorcycles require special lubrication for the chain that transfers power from the engine because they are mounted externally and are frequently exposed to extremes such as dirt, dust, and mud.

Lastly, each manufacturer prides itself on bringing something unique to the table when it comes to design and functionality which can lead to fluids or lubricants that can be used in 1 small batch of motorcycles.

To make things even worse, some types of motorcycles, such as sportbikes go through design updates every few years.

For me, this is one of the leading factors that drive up service costs on motorcycles and unfortunately, there is little that can be done.

If your motorcycle needs special fluids and lubricants you have no choice but to pay what the manufacturer of these wants. There is very little chance you can save any money in this area.

Parts removal

Plastic and chrome parts removal before servicing is such a common thing in the industry as many bikes use cowlings and fairings to aid in aerodynamics and aesthetics.

Also, there is a big desire from riders to customize their motorcycles. Adding a few shiny pieces here or there can really boost the look of a motorcycle but can make servicing take longer than those without them.

Functional pieces fall into this category as well, things such as luggage racks or bags, fall protection such as frame sliders, and even electrical enhancements such as lights or GPS (global positioning satellite) technology can all make accessing service components more difficult adding to labor costs.

Specialty tools

Specialty tools for motorcycles used to be just that, something for motorcycles only. For example, a motorcycle chain breaker, that is not included in the average toolset, can be used on every motorcycle with a chain.

Now we are at the point where there is a special tool unique to each motorcycle, let alone for specific brands or variations of the same motorcycle.

I am not convinced that many of these make servicing any easier, but it does make it so only those with the special tool can do the job.

This again drives prices up even further with no option but to purchase and use these specialty tools.

However, if you do prefer to service your own motorcycle, it can be cost-effective, in certain situations, to purchase some of these tools to avoid going to a motorcycle shop and paying the ever-increasing labor costs.

Parts and fluid availability

With many of the parts and fluids made in other countries, availability can depend on factors such as political, resource shortage, and even weather.

I am sure you are familiar with this as we see the price of oil and gas fluctuate based on the political status of the middle east because of the fear of shortages or the price increases on anything that uses a transistor due to shortages.

I bet you even noticed the price of coffee rise due to the heatwaves in South America reducing the availability of the product.

It seems like every day there is a new tariff, talk of oil shortages, or more severe weather phenomena leading to availability issues.

No matter which way you look at it there is not much you can do if the stuff you need is back-ordered or unavailable.

Waste and recycling costs

One of the things that most people are unfamiliar with is the costs associated with waste and recycling.

Used filters, oils, coolant, fuel, tires even pressure washer runoff need to be disposed of correctly and those costs are transferred to you the customer.

Even everyday things like cardboard and plastic recycling cost money and will end up increasing service costs.

Motorcycles are a small niche

Despite their perceived popularity and record sales numbers in the wake of covid, motorcycles are but a drop in the bucket when you compared to other similar industries like heavy-duty trucks and automobiles.

The fact that motorcycles have many different requirements depending on the model and purpose doesn’t help either.

For example, a cruiser motorcycle can have longer service intervals with less intense operations to perform than say a dirtbike where service intervals are much shorter and a top-end rebuild is part of regular maintenance.

Increasing shop labor rates

All of the topics above contribute to the rising labor costs at your local motorcycle shop.

Add to that the cost of keeping the lights on, the shop heated or cooled, so-called acts of God, and even costs associated with misdiagnosis and employee negligence all get transferred to you the customer in some fashion.

This is why choosing the right shop will not only save you money but can also bring some peace of mind that the job will be done correctly and in a timely fashion.

Final thoughts

Now that you know why getting your motorcycle serviced is so expensive and where the money you spend is going you can see where you can get potential savings and where you cannot.

You’re not likely to save much on fluids and lubricants but it is possible and supplying your own when going to a shop will help a bit.

This leaves labor costs as the biggest area to save money.

Performing the work is the best way to save money however this may not be possible for everyone.

Another solution is if you can find a good mechanic who does side projects, this is probably the most practical way to save money but it does come with the issue of actually finding a good mechanic.

You could also remove as many of the covers and fairings as you can to help reduce the service time.

As always feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns, or topics you want to be covered. Until next time.