Harley Davidson Motorcycles

Why is Harley Davidson Maintenance so Expensive?

Why is Harley Davidson Maintenance so Expensive?

Motorcycles are considered cheaper modes of transportation. Whether for commuting to work or traveling long distances, a motorcycle can save you more money on fuel and maintenance than a car. However, this is not the case for all bikes, especially Harley Davidson motorcycles.

Harley Davidson bikes are high-performance vehicles used for recreation, weekend getaways, and touring. Despite being designed for various kinds of rides, they are better suited as a hobby rather than a mode of transportation.

From touring machines to lightweight cruisers, any bike with a Harley logo comes at a high cost. Harley Davidson motorcycles can have base prices ranging between $15,000 - $55,000. And to keep these expensive bikes in good condition, you have to conduct maintenance often, which can be just as pricey as the Harley models themselves. However, many Harley Davidson owners do not have the same opinion and they consider the maintenance costs of their Harleys similar to other motorcycles that possess the same features, engine displacement, final drive, suspension, and brake set-up. In this article, we will learn about the factors that cause Harley Davidson maintenance to be so expensive, and also discuss whether Harley maintenance is truly as expensive as some members of the motorcycle community claim it to be.

Also Read: Why is Harley Davidson Struggling?

1. Factors that Affect the Cost of Harley Davidson Maintenance

The annual maintenance cost of Harley-Davidson motorcycles can range between $1,000 to $16,000. Several factors can influence maintenance costs, including the motorcycle type, model year, riding style, frequency of maintenance, and mileage.

1.1 Frequency of Maintenance

How often should you maintain your Harley Davidson? Contrary to popular belief, the more you maintain your bike, the less the overall costs will be. Most riders neglect maintenance, deeming it unnecessary if their bikes are still performing well. Ignoring regular maintenance checks can result in bigger problems down the line that may take longer to repair and are more expensive to fix. Compared to other motorcycles that can go on for long without maintenance, Harley bikes require timely maintenance if you want them to perform to their utmost potential. If any of the recommended service intervals of a Harley are skipped, the bike breaks down frequently, causing stress and increasing maintenance bills in the process.

1.2 Riding Style & Usage

Aggressive riding, off-roading, two-up riding, and long-distance riding can cause more wear and tear, resulting in more frequent maintenance checks. Aggressive riding can cause the brake pads and tires to wear out faster. Similarly, if you are riding with a passenger or carrying luggage on your cruiser, it can put a strain on the engine, suspension, and brakes or cause the tires to pop. Other problems may also include battery failure and fractures in the frame. Collectively, these maintenance issues can increase costs by $15,000. Moreover, if you are an aggressive rider, then you are more susceptible to running into accidents. Even a minor collision can damage the bike or at least its paint. Paint repairs and dent removals can also add to the maintenance costs of a Harley.

1.3 Exposing the Bike to Elements

Parking your motorcycle in open spaces exposes them to harmful UV rays that can damage the paint and clear coat, protecting the metal underneath. Moreover, riding the bike in the rain or not storing properly during the rainy season can cause paint damage, corrosion, and rust. If you can fix the damage yourself, then it won’t cost you much. But hiring professional help can add to your annual maintenance costs.

1.4 Extra Storage Space

Harley Davidson cruisers and tourers have different engine displacements, features, and specifications. Hence, the maintenance costs between Harley cruisers and tourers are also different.

If you ride a 2016 or earlier Harley Dyna or Softail model, the standard service fee will be cheaper than the latest models. Similarly, when comparing the maintenance costs between a tourer, like the Road Glide, and a cruiser, like the Softail Low Rider ST, the maintenance costs will vary because a Road Glide has more advanced features and performance upgrades than a Low Rider ST.

1.5 Harley Dealership vs Local Motorcycle Repair Shop

Getting your bike serviced by a Harley Davidson technician can be more expensive than working with a local mechanic. At Harley dealerships, you get the best maintenance services but they can be very expensive. On the other hand, riders know trustworthy mechanics that provide high-quality service at a more affordable price.

Your location can also determine the maintenance costs of your nearby dealerships and repair shops. For example, the maintenance costs at a Harley dealership in Florida will not be the same at a Harley dealership in Virginia.

1.6 Condition of the Bike

Maintenance costs often differs between used, custom, or new Harley Davidson motorcycles. If you have just bought a used model, it might need a lot of maintenance before it is ready to take out on the road. On the other hand, if you ride a bike with custom parts, the maintenance costs after modifications are made will be reduced. New bikes kept in good condition will not need extensive maintenance and help you save a lot of money for at least two to three years.

1.7 Mileage

It is best to change the engine oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. After changing the engine oil, you will also need to change the primary oil. Primary oil is a lubricating agent used only in Harley Davidson bikes. Consisting of petroleum and additives, this oil is pumped through the crankcase, transmission, and clutch before reaching the engine components. Besides serving as a lubricant, primary oil also helps keep the engine from overheating. Next, you would have to change the gear or transmission oil every 6,000 to 10,000 miles. If you ride your bike at average speeds and stick to well-paved roads, the new oil should last at least 10,000 miles. Brake pads applied gently can last between 20,000 to 30,000 miles. But if you ride aggressively with high mileage, the frequency of maintenance will increase.

2. How Much Does It Cost to Maintain a Harley?

All Harley Davidson motorcycles follow the same maintenance schedule or intervals. Maintenance intervals are calculated based on miles. If you travel on a heavyweight cruiser or a tourer across long distances frequently, your bike will cover 10,000+ miles faster than a lightweight Harley cruiser and require maintenance earlier.

Common Harley Davidson schedule intervals start at 500, 1000, 2,500, and 5,000 miles. Once you have traveled 10,000 to 20,000 miles, your motorcycle may require special maintenance services. On average, you should get your Harley serviced every 500-600 miles if you ride daily and every six months if you ride occasionally.

Here is an estimated cost breakdown for all Harley Davidson service intervals. The service charges may vary depending on your location and the model you own. You can also check with Harley-Davidson dealerships in your area for estimated service costs.

Harley Davidson Maintenance Schedule and Costs
Service Intervals Details Cost
500-600 Mile Interval Required only for specific models. Details are in the user manuals provided with each bike
Differs between Harley bikes.
The warranty usually covers the cost. But if you don’t have an extended warranty, the service cost can be between $100-$300
1,000 Mile Intervals Same for all Harley bikes. Includes oil, transmission fluid, filter, tire checks, and any minor wear and tear.
Engine oil and transmission fluid is changed
The oil filter is replaced and the air filter is changed if required Brake pads, brake discs, and brake fluid levels are checked
Tire pressure and rims are checked
Extra lubricant is added
General inspection of the clutch, forward controls, engine, exhaust, belt drive, battery, and other electrical equipment
Chargers are different for each type and model year.

Harley Davidson Tourers: $350-$450
Harley Davidson Softails: $350-$400

Harley Davidson Dynas: $300-$350
Harley Davidson Sportsters: $250-$350
The latest versions of Softails and Tourers may cost more.
2,500 Mile Interval (optional) Involves More Thorough Checks
Engine Oil is Replaced
The oil Filter is Replaced
The motorcycle is Checked for Leaks
Transmission Fluid is Inspected
Brake Pads and Discs are Inspected
Throttle Operation is Inspected
Tire Pressure and Treads are Checked
Electrical Equipment, Battery Connections, and Switches are Checked
Air Filter is Cleaned or Changed
Brake Fluid Leaks are Checked
Road Test
If you have adequate knowledge of motorcycles, you can perform all of these checks yourself to save money, but professional help is recommended.

Costs around $200-$250 for all Harley bikes.
5,000 Mile Interval Crucial Interval for Riders Who Enjoy Long-Distance Trips
All the Tasks for the 1,000 Mile Interval Must Be Done
Check the condition and operation of the timing belt.
Inspect the vacuum hose and ignition timing.
Estimated costs are $250-$400 for this interval.
Costs are the same for most Harley models.
7,500 Mile Interval (optional) Best known as the precautionary maintenance interval.
Same tasks as the 2,500-mile interval
Costs around $200-$250 for all Harley bikes.
10,000 Mile Interval Same tasks as the 1,000-mile interval.

Spark plugs must be changed.
Tire pressure and tread are inspected. Tires must be replaced if damaged.
Steering head bearings must be lubricated.
Check for and fasten; loose bolts. Fractured bolts must also be replaced.
For this interval, it is recommended that you book an appointment at a Harley-Davidson dealership.
Same costs as the 1,000-mile interval if no new spark plugs, tires, and bolts are added.
Expected costs are $200-$600 for additional work.
20,000 Mile Interval Involves complete Harley motorcycle inspection
Same tasks as the 500, 1,000, 2,500, 5,000, and 10,000-mile intervals.
Front fork oil must be changed to improve the performance of the suspension.
Costs around $350-$600 depending on the motorcycle shop, your location, and your Harley model.

Adding upgrades and purchasing replacement parts will increase the costs up to $1000-$2,000.

Also Read: Summer Motorcycle Maintenance Checklist

3. Reason Why Harley Motorcycles Are So Expensive to Maintain

Based on the Harley maintenance schedule listed above, you will need to visit the mechanic at least seven times, two of which are optional. Five of the maintenance checks are mandatory if you want to keep your Harley in good condition. The most crucial intervals are at 1,000 and 5,000 miles. If you manage to follow the schedule consistently for the first two to five years of owning your Harley, the maintenance costs will be in the lower range. Do not skip a maintenance check if you ride regularly, aggressively, or go on tours.

If you do all the mandatory maintenance checks and ride 20,000-25,000 miles in one year, the average maintenance cost should be:

1,000 Mile Interval $250-$450
5,000 Mile Interval $250-$400
5,000 Mile Interval $250-$400
5,000 Mile Interval $250-$400
5,000 Mile Interval $250-$400
Total Miles: 21,000 Miles Total Annual Cost: $1,250-$2,050

Based on this cost breakdown, one can conclude that Harley motorcycle maintenance costs are similar to other bikes. The services required and the motorcycle model might increase the cost slightly. However, a rider owning a motorcycle from another brand will spend at least $1,500 annually on motorcycle maintenance. Why is Harley Davidson motorcycle maintenance so expensive?

The main reason is that Harley Davidson is an American brand. The costs for designing and producing Harley models are expensive, resulting in expensive maintenance costs.

Over the decades, Harley Davidson has also installed new technology, engines, and other features that add versatility. However, the extra features result in higher prices and constant care to ensure they function properly.

4. Takeaway

Harley Davidson motorcycles are expensive two-wheelers and their maintenance costs often depend on the number of miles you travel per year. On average, if you ride 5,000-10,000+ miles per year, your Harley Davidson would at least need to have it's primary and engine oils changed. Next, you would have to get replacement tires. Harley Davidson motorcycle tires can last for two to three years, provided you primarily ride on paved tarmac roads. Off-roading can reduce the longevity of Harley tires and cause you to replace them more frequently. Basically, your riding style can affect your motorcycle’s maintenance costs.

Paint repair, dent and rust removal, brake pad replacements, and light bulb replacements are other expenses you may have to spend on; however, these are optional add-on services and the cosmetic services are not crucial for your bike’s performance. If you perform small maintenance work yourself, you can save a lot of money. Luckily, Harley Davidson motorcycles do not feature chain drives that require frequent maintenance and replacement. The belt drives in Harley are extremely low-maintenance and can last many years.

Also Read: Why Do Harleys Require a Lot of Maintenance?

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