When it comes to buying your next dream machine, which option is best?
alk into a showroom today looking for a used bike and a strange thing happens. Before the plastic cup of coffee has had a chance to scorch your fingers, a salesman will mention that you can buy a brand new bike for less than the used one you’re lusting after.
This apparently impossible situation is made possible by PCP (Personal Contract Purchase), a finance scheme designed to give low monthly repayments on new bikes, making them more affordable than used.
Instead of paying off the entire price of the bike as you would with a normal loan, you just pay what the bike loses in value. So if a bike costs £10,000 new and will be worth £6000 in three years, you pay back £4000 – hence the low monthly repayments.
But it doesn’t magic away what you owe. At the end of three years you don’t own the bike, so have three choices: pay the money owed (in our example it’s £6000); hand the bike back and walk away; or hand the bike back and roll your PCP deal onto a new bike and start all over again.
There are myriad pros and cons to each well-trodden path, so which route should you take?
To help you decide MCN pitched two generations – new and tidy used – of three models against each other in search of answers.
A tale of two triples: New Street Triple RX v Used Street Triple R
The new-for-2015 Rx takes all that was brilliant about the Street Triple R; thrilling three-cylinder engine, feisty handling, sensible ergonomics – and adds a quickshifter and ABS as standard, plus a freshly styled tail unit and 6kg less mass. Its problem is that the old Triple R was fantastic already, so for most of us the only meaningful change is to the styling.
Strip away the subtle cosmetic changes, and the reason Triumph’s Street Triple has won so many back-to-back MCN road tests is clear; it’s simply brilliant. The 675 motor is a gem, it has lovely fuelling and torque which means it’s not intimidating for inexperienced riders, yet even former international racers will discover the fun side. It’s the same with the chassis, just as happy darting around town as it is embarrassing larger-capacity bikes on a trackday. This 10,000-mile, 2013 R model is a lovely bike, and the aftermarket underseat Arrow pipes just add to the fun, barking with every twist of the throttle.
It really is hard to find fault with the Street Triple – it’s such a versatile bike, and at a bargain price.
Some say the old Street Triple looks dated, and to be fair the underseat pipe does immediately mark it out as the older model. The newer Rx does look notably sharper with its neater, side-exiting exhaust. The red sub-frame and wheels also give it a racier appearance, but it’s not light years ahead.
And there’s not a huge amount of difference between the two on the road, either. The main reason for this is that the old bike is so good, making it hard for Triumph to improve upon. The new Rx feels a little smoother, is a little lighter and feels more forgiving, it certainly has that new bike feel. But despite its mileage, the old R version still feels fresh and delivers the same huge smile that the Rx model does.
Triumph’s 6.9% is reasonable enough, and the guaranteed future value of £3866 seems sensible – the bike would need to be valued at £5716 in three years for you to get your deposit back to roll into another PCP. Not impossible if you look after it and Triumph don’t come out with a stonking new version that knocks residual values.
As you can see from our used example, Street Triple owners like to personalise their machine. This is not advisable on a PCP bike unless you’re willing to put it back to stock at the end of the deal, as it could harm resale value. Plus, there are the usual PCP disadvantages of an annual mileage (usually 5000) and the pressure to keep it in fine fettle. So riding through winter is best avoided.
Because the bike is used, it’s easier to haggle on price – you can use the condition of the bike as a bargaining tool. If you don’t like the bolt-ons, for example, budget on replacing them and knock that off the price. Also, if you don’t like the bike or your plans change after a couple of months, you can sell it and either buy something else, or pay off the loan. This is harder with PCP until after the second year.
Manufacturers and dealers love PCPs because they can keep you in a buying cycle and consequently make interest rates very competitive – you’ll struggle to match them getting an ordinary loan. The example we used requires you to have a decent deposit, yet still the monthly repayments are higher than PCP.
A superbike revolution: New YZF-R1 v Used YZF-R1
The new R1 has put Yamaha back at the top of the superbike heap, with a 197bhp engine, superlative electronics and a riding position copied from Rossi’s M1. There are a couple of downsides though. Firstly, it costs an almighty £15,135, and secondly it’s a race bike for the road, not the other way round. Suddenly a 2006 R1 doesn’t look like such a daft alternative. It’s blisteringly fast, has a bulging midrange, is almost comfortable, and it’s a third of the price.
And what a bike. The smooth power delivery really takes you by surprise, it’s quick, really quick; and I’m talking about the ,06 R1, which is a 10-year-old design now. But despite its age – it’s still got it. Plus, without any rider modes getting in the way, you control the power and therefore the fun. I’d forgotten how good the old R1 is. Back in ,06 the conventional four-cylinder motor produced a quoted 165bhp and despite this bike’s 18,000 miles this lovely example hasn’t lost any horsepower over the years. On the road do you really need any more?
It’s way bigger and roomier than I remember, which makes the new R1 feel small, almost 600-like, and very different.
On the new bike I can hardly touch the floor, the seat feels like a plank of wood in comparison to the soft, old R1 and I’m greeted by a plethora of confusing rider aids; the new dash does make the old R1 appear very old, too. Comparing the electronic rider aids and very clever dash to the 2006 R1 is like comparing an iPad to a ZX Spectrum, but there is a lovely simplicity about the older bike.
The new 2015 cross-plane motor barks loudly, and despite the standard exhausts it sounds much more aggressive than the old bike. Yes, the old bike is quick, but the new R1 feels like a race bike. The steering is lighter, the brakes sharper, the motor clearly has more power, but the jaw-dropping difference is the electronics package. The rider aids aren’t intrusive, in fact they are the opposite – they turn you into a riding god. There’s anti-wheelie, quick-shifter, variable riding modes, traction control and slide control, even launch control. The 2015 R1 uses a six- way Inertial Measurement Unit with an internal gyro. The bike can detect how far the bike is leaning, pitching and accelerating, and combined with other sensors, like wheel speeds, can calculate the difference between wheel spin and a sideways slide. There’s also an integrated ABS system. This means no matter what the conditions, you can personalise the new R1 to your riding tastes and let the bike control the power, slide, spin, and braking forces as you get you r head down.
Obviously the old bike has none of the above; twist the throttle and go, pull the brake and stop. Even though the new R1 is much more powerful, lighter and smaller, the rider aids make it an easier bike to ride fast.
By far the biggest is affordability. £200 a month isn’t chickenfeed to most of us, but paying that to have a £15,000 superbike in your garage is astonishing.
Because you pay a big deposit and the guaranteed future value is a fairly high £8122, there’s a good chance you’ll lose some of the deposit at the end of the term. The interest rate is by no means a bargain either.
If you find a clean nine-year-old bike like this one (albeit with past-it tyres), a loan can get you almighty motorcycling kicks for less than any PCP deal. Plus it’s all yours after three years.
Because you’re borrowing a smaller amount, the interest rate won’t be as competitive and will often be much higher than PCP deals. Plus, there are the usual worries that accompany a used bike such as how previous owners have treated the bike, and no manufacturer warranty etc.
Adventure-sport face-off: New Versys 1000 v Used Versys 1000
The original Versys 1000 was blighted by looks that could put you off your dinner, and consequently they didn’t find many buyers. This must have annoyed Kawasaki no end, because it was a good bike, with a wonderfully smooth motor and GS-beating comfort. This year’s model rectifies the styling woes and suddenly the Versys is a budget rival to adventure bikes from BMW and KTM.
If you want to go touring, at speed and in comfort, it’s an excellent bike, and can accommodate a larger rider and pillion with ease. The 1043cc inline four-cylinder motor is so strong you can throw on a pillion, plus luggage and you’d never know; sit at 90mph vibration-free and head to the horizon. Kawasaki know this, which is why they changed very little mechanically, only added a few more bhp, fitted more road oriented tyres and beefed-up the subframe to take more luggage.
The fundamental black spot against the old bike is its looks; having fallen from the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. On board, the old and new bike are very similar and you almost forget the ugliness, but then you’ll spot your reflection in a shop window and it’s like walking into a party with your flies undone!
Kawasaki transformed the Versys’ looks in 2015 into the much more appealing new bike we have today. It’s gone from Ugly Betty to a supermodel overnight. Fundamentally though, they are practically identical.
Advantages of PCP
Kawasaki’s PCP deal has a lot going for it. The interest rate is less than half of Yamaha’s on the R1, and the list price is low compared to rivals too.
Disadvantages of PCP
The guaranteed future value of the Versys is £5735, which we think is a tad high. It means the bike would have to be worth £7535 to get all your deposit back, and that seems very unlikely.
Advantages of used
That is a hell of a lot of two-year-old bike for the money. The dealership selling it recently knocked off £1000 to try and provoke interest.
Disadvantage of used
Financially, none. You’re getting a great deal. But you’d have to park it facing away from you in the garage.
So what have we learned?
If you want a new bike every two or three years and affordable monthly payments, and aren’t too bothered about never getting to the point where these payments stop, PCP is perfect.
In the long term though, it can be a lot more expensive than buying a bike with a loan and then holding onto it for a few years. With a loan, the payments eventually stop and you’re left with a valuable asset. With PCPs that never happens – unless you pay a lump sum at the end.
Many will struggle with the lack of ownership inherent in PCP, but if you’re one of the millions who ‘buy’ their cars this way, you’re already a convert. The amount of money you have available as a starter sum will also skew the decision heavily.
If you’ve got a significant deposit available, buy the bike outright; if you’ve got almost nothing in your wallet then PCP could be your saviour. But the underlying rule is the most simple: always check the figures first. Bikes have come a long way in the last five years, but we’ve proved here that you’re unlikely to have less fun on the older bike.
New is nearly always better – but it might not be the right decision for you.