Buying vs. Renting a Motorcycle in Colombia

Whether to buy or rent the motorcycle for the dream motorcycle tour of Colombia is a question we get asked quite a lot here, and even though we make our living off of motorcycle rentals, we are still able to give a pretty objective viewpoint. There are many factors that come into play when making the decision between a motorcycle rental or purchase, and as with most travel-related decisions, money and time are the two big ones.

You don't even get a good discount when you buy 10. If you have a larger budget and a small time frame for travel, then a motorcycle rental should be an easy decision. There is some time involved in the buying and sales process before and after your motorcycle adventure that will quickly eat into your vacation time, and if you have the money available, there’s no reason to bother with it. The decision to rent or buy your motorcycle becomes more difficult when you have a longer period of time for vacation. You can rent a 150cc import quality Honda motorcycle in Colombia for an average of $40 USD per day, or bigger touring motorcycles (Honda, Yamaha, BMW) for $80 USD and upwards. Obviously, you are able to negotiate these prices a bit if you are taking the bike for multiple weeks. You can find cheaper, Colombian/Chinese models in the local market, but reliability is something these motorcycles are not renowned for, and this IS something that is very important during a motorcycle tour of Colombia no matter your budget. Those same motorcycles purchased brand new in Colombia will cost you approximately 30% more than in Europe or North America, due to the 35% import tax on vehicles. The purchase process is very straightforward through a dealer and will take around five days from payment until you receive your bike, ready to ride (if you’re lucky).

If you decide to buy a motorcycle in Colombia second-hand, you may get a better deal if you know how to haggle and negotiate, but they will likely still be more expensive than the same bike overseas, and buying privately invites a whole other level of complexity. Like many developing countries, buying a motorcycle in Colombia involves a large amount of paperwork and bureaucracy, which is tricky, but not impossible to navigate with a good understanding of Spanish. There are vehicle taxes to be paid before the sale/purchase, title transfer paperwork to complete, sales contracts to be written, payment of any fines, registration at the department of transport, third party injury insurance to buy, vehicle emissions clearance to obtain, and the issuance of a new set of paperwork all need to be completed before the transfer of ownership can take place.

If you are buying a new motorcycle in Colombia from a dealer, they will take care of it all, and the associated fees will be included in the purchase price. However, if you are buying privately, it will be up to you to do your due diligence, and no matter what, you will be responsible for completing all of this when it comes time to sell your bike at the end of your motorcycle trip. When buying a motorcycle in Colombia through a private seller, it is highly recommended that you know your way around a motorcycle. Many Colombians will use generic versions of motorcycle parts, including internal engine parts, due to the cost and poor availability of original factory parts. Don’t assume a Yamaha motorcycle has an engine made of Yamaha factory-quality parts. There’s a good chance someone cut some corners and put a brand new $12 piston inside your beautiful second-hand moto. Especially if it has over 30.000km on the clock.

That $12 piston, probably.

If we compare the cost of a Colombian motorcycle rental with the cost of buying a used $4,000 USD mid-range touring motorcycle and losing 20% on the sale, you can see that the crossover point between the two prices, when taking into account the cost of sales paperwork will be around the 14-18 day mark. This doesn’t take into account the cost of a helmet, protective gear, luggage racks, etc which sometimes can come with a second-hand motorcycle purchase, but are usually included for free or very cheaply with a rental. When it comes to a motorcycle rental in Colombia or purchasing a motorcycle in Colombia, we have come to the conclusion that for trips longer than 3-4 weeks, it makes financial sense to buy and sell the bike. However, this is assuming you speak Spanish, have at least a week on either end to organize the paperwork and know what to look for in secondhand motorcycles, or are happy to spend your time on one of the cheaper, local brands.

For people looking to carve out their own motorcycle tour of Colombia, and are not on a shoestring budget, or have even minor time constraints, it makes more sense to rent. Plus, any decent rental agency will have a whole bunch of maps, recommendations, gear/tools, routes, tips, and tricks that a private or retail salesperson will not. But either way, get out there and enjoy the ride. Peace, love, and motorcycles. The AA team

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