Calculating the Cost of a Motorcycle (or anything else)

What is the Actual Cost of a Motorcycle (or anything else)?

After receiving hundreds of responses from all over the world to my essay on coping with your motorcycle dealer (thank you), almost all of them positive (thank you!), I thought it might be useful to add some thoughts on cost.

A few people let me know that money is money, and they wish to spend as little of it as possible. This is a determinant in whether they use the products and services of their motorcycle dealer or ride the information highway. Fair enough.  Retired and (currently) unemployed, spending as little as possible is pretty much an imperative for me.

But – what is the actual cost if you are purchasing niche products?

Consider toilet paper, a product that almost everyone purchases.  Unless, of course, you have a strange predilection to relive the origin of the phrase “rough as a corn cob.”  I can purchase toilet paper from dozens of outlets (pun!) near my home.  There is little to be gained by Internet shopping.  You go for price vs. quantity, with possibly an assessment of quality.

Motorcycles are not sold in quantities anything like toilet paper.  They comprise, as do many things, a much smaller market.  Let’s say you enjoy your involvement in motorcycles, radio-controlled ship models, and scuba diving.   My, aren’t you interesting!

For products like this you may or may not have a store near you, or you have to turn to the wonders of the Internet.  However, if it is scale model replicas of cannons for the radio-controlled warship you are building, or a new weight belt or fins, or motorcycle gear, you may want to have the product in your hands for a close inspection before parting with your funds.

So, what is the total cost of an item, with all factors considered? There is the purchase price, or course, but also the cost of your transport and time to and from the store, plus any hassles involved.  Some of that cost may be offset in a way if you enjoy simply being in the store.

The cost of an item is influenced by the size of the market, the number of items produced, and consumer demand.  Plus, the regrettable historic tendency of humans for greed.  When the 2005 Ford GT came out, the list price was $150,000, but most dealers added a “market adjustment,” which might have been as much as $100,000. Examples abound throughout history.  To test this, run out to your local Chevy dealer and attempt to order the new mid-engine Corvette, which magazines have been touting for, literally, 50 years. Tell the salesperson you want a base Corvette, with no options, at the MSRP listed.  Let me know how you do.

As a teen ager, I had a conversation with my father, who was working on the design of the Apollo spacecraft at the time. He explained that if you wanted to build one door for the Apollo craft, it would cost $16,000,000 dollars.  If you wanted to make 100,000 of those doors, the price would drop to $99.95.

Apply that to your hobbies.  Replica scale cannons for your model ship will be relatively expensive for their size and weight, because the market is small. Motorcycle tires are going to be more expensive than car tires, even though they are much smaller, because the market is miniscule compared to car tires.

Another factor to consider is your own mechanical ability and the tools at your disposal. If you own a tire changer and balancer, perhaps it makes sense to order tires and do the change yourself.  You may also have the requisite skills and find enjoyment in doing your own maintenance and repair, or even custom work and restorations. You have to consider the investment in the tools, of course, but if you enjoy the tasks, it is probably worth it.

Let’s go back to the store, in this case a local store that sells the niche items you need/want for your hobby.  But you can find them at less cost on the Internet.  So can everyone else. If enough people choose the Internet option (I am simplifying), the local store goes out of business.

Now calculate your cost again. I have two Triumph dealerships in my area. What happens if they close?  There will be a delay of months, years, or forever, before another Triumph dealer is nearby.  What are my costs now?

For Triumph motorcycles, I would need to travel over 200 miles south to Oregon, or 140 miles north and across the border into Canada.  Shopping for the items I want to hold in my hands before purchase just got exponentially more expensive in time, hassle, and cost. 

By this reasoning, it is in my own best interest to make a reasonable effort to make sure my local dealers are healthy and profitable.  That may mean I pay a little more here and there, or not, but what I am actually doing is investing in the dealers who support my hobby. For my own benefit.

Or, I can choose to only purchase mainstream products. Like toilet paper.

Copyright 2019                              David Preston

About david

I am a 73 year old motorsports nut who lives in Snohomish, Washington. After a 31 year career as an English teacher, I segued into a self-created job in the motorsports business. Now retired, I was involved in customer relations for Ride West BMW in Seattle, after almost 10 years of similar work for the Cycle Barn MotorSports Group. I own, at the current time, a Triumph Rocket 3 (2020) and a 2016 Ford Focus ST. What else would you like to know?
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