MarketWatch. Millennials’ Student Loan Debt Is Hurting The Motorcycle Industry

Student loan debt has been hindering millennials for years; now it’s causing harm to the motorcycle industry. According to , the motorcycle industry has been increasingly struggling due to millennials’ disinterest in purchasing motorcycles in light of financial burdens.

Over the past year, Harley-Davidson Inc. has been dropping in stock by as much as 29%. Sales have also decreased by 6.7%. The famous motorcycle corporation announced it would be closing its U.S. factory as a result. Bernstein analysts say the reason for the slide in sales could be due to the aging out of baby boomers as the lead target audience.

Young millennials and Gen-Z/Millennials, born between 1990 and 2003 respectively, are two-thirds as likely to be interested in motorcycles as baby boomers during their pre-family stage, Bernstein says. Yet, an interest in motorcycles may not be enough to keep the industry alive.

“The average millennial has almost twice as much student debt today during their ‘pre-family’ life stage as did the average Gen Xer,” said Bernstein analyst David Beckel. “That may not sound like a large enough increase in debt to sway one from buying a motorcycle,” Beckel said. “But for the individual 20 million millennials with student debt, the difference between $15,000 and $26,000 of student debt is $130/month, which is the equivalent to a monthly loan payment on an $8,000 bike.”

In 1990, 50% of college undergraduates had taken out student loans with an average borrowing of $15,000. By 2012, up to 70% of undergraduates had taken out student loans with an average borrowing of $25,000.

With that kind of debt, it makes sense for 80% of millennials to be happy with the idea of lab-grown diamonds when it comes to engagement rings compared to baby boomers and Gen Xers.

The typical new motorcycle will cost around the same as today’s average student loan debt, which makes it difficult for young millennials to purchase cars let alone a motorcycle. It’s for this reason that many who are interested in purchasing a motorcycle often opt for used bikes.

Approximately 78% of motorcycle usage is on-road riding while 41% is off-road riding, which makes used bikes seem like the better investment.

Bernstein analysts additionally theorized that rebellion, the characteristic often attributed to motorcycle culture, doesn’t appeal to debt-burdened millennials like it used to appeal to older generations prior to starting families.

“If you aren’t getting married, chances are you are not thinking about having children any time soon,” said Beckel. “And therefore the need to ‘rebel’ against the inevitable onslaught of permanent responsibility is lower.”

28 Responses to “MarketWatch. Millennials’ Student Loan Debt Is Hurting The Motorcycle Industry”

  1. 1 Emmett Apr 19th, 2018 at 8:54 am

    I might add that aging “Boomers” like myself are most likely retired or will soon and are reluctant to take on additional debt as well. Opting instead to keep the bikes they have and ride them to the Pearly Gates when that time comes. That is the case for most of the geezers I ride with. Run what ya brung.

  2. 2 highrpm Apr 19th, 2018 at 8:58 am

    educational capitalism: more robbing from peter to pay paul.

  3. 3 takehikes Apr 19th, 2018 at 9:08 am

    Let snot forget much of lending in the motorcycle industry is also predatory. With prices of bikes and incomes flat since 1970 its difficult to buy any kind of new bike for cash.

  4. 4 Dee Apr 19th, 2018 at 10:47 am

    The real fact of the matter is that everybody is reporting record sales except for Harley. So when we say “the industry” is down, what we’re really saying is Harley is down. So it’s time to start talking about what Harley is doing wrong instead of blaming mellenials or boomers or whoever else. It’s time for HD to look in the mirror.

  5. 5 Matt. W Apr 19th, 2018 at 10:55 am

    I see more young riders on vintage (or at least retro cafe styled) Japanese and British bikes these days. In fact 2 metric custom shops have opened in my area in the last 4 years and both seem to struggle keep up with demand.

  6. 6 1550TC Apr 19th, 2018 at 11:00 am

    Indiaq with Scouts sales not having problems!

  7. 7 ozzie21 Apr 19th, 2018 at 11:04 am

    Wanna know what’s hurting the motorcycle industry, specifically H-D? Producing such ugly models such as the one at the top of this article.

  8. 8 Aaron! Apr 19th, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    Geez the trickle down economy model isn’t working and finally affecting the corporations?


    HD is about the only manufacturer down in sales and refuses to change?


    I mean who could’ve predicted this?

  9. 9 Seymour Apr 19th, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    How are you going to bash Boomers when you’re riding a Harley? Duh!

  10. 10 fuji Apr 19th, 2018 at 9:04 pm


    You have some validity. They [H D] had to regroup with their racing venue and trash the 2017 Flat Track bike and redesign .

    It no longer looks like a Street 750 engine. No fins DOHC engine that looks more Japanese water Buffalo than Harley.

  11. 11 fuji Apr 19th, 2018 at 9:06 pm


    You have some validity. They [H D] had to regroup with their racing venue and trash the 2017 Flat Track bike and redesign .

    It no longer looks like a Street 750 engine. No fins DOHC engine that looks more Japanese water Buffalo than Harley.

  12. 12 Boomer Apr 20th, 2018 at 9:13 am

    I see this a little differently. True, the Millennials don’t have the disposable cash to buy new Harley’s, but when did young people ever have that kind of money? Harley has been making changes they way they do; slowly. No big moves. The muscle bike in the first picture is an excellent example. Combining the Dyna with the Softail while giving it some modern parts like the forks, headlight, and mufflers is actually a big change for Harley. The wave HD has been riding for the last 50 years is slowing way down. Heavy nostalgic looking bikes worked for past gens but not the new, raised on computers and smart phones, generations. Think “Tron” not “Easy Riders”. As for me; it will always be “Easy Riders” and the eye candy they rode. It doesn’t mean I don’t respect and admire innovation though.

  13. 13 Chris Apr 20th, 2018 at 10:12 am


  14. 14 v4bob Apr 20th, 2018 at 11:04 am

    “H-D is about the only manufacturer down in sales and refuses to change?’ Better check your facts. Overall motorcycle sales are down in the US for all manufacturers with the exception of Indian. And I believe that they (Indian) are continuing to ride a nostalgia wave with their retro styled bikes based on the original Chief. Most of their sales are coming from former or would-be Harley owners. This will not be sustainable, and I’m sure Polaris is working on developing other new models to try to attract buyers.

    As for H-D refusing to change: 2017 saw the introduction of the M-8 engine. Sure it is still a OHV design with only partial liquid or oil cooling. But is by far the most modern Big Twin design to come from the MoCo. After all they still have to maintain the Harley look and feel of the 45 degree V-Twin. If you want see Harley go broke real fast, have them drop the traditional V-Twin and go to a liquid cooled OHC desigh like they did with the W-Rod!

    They have also done a major upgrade with the frame of the new Softail. Lighter, better handling, mono shock design.

  15. 15 Apr 20th, 2018 at 11:36 am

    The student loan system is a predatory, hyper inflationary cancer on this country.

    John Adams once said: “There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword, the other is by DEBT”.

    The dirtiest trick ever played on low/middle income college students and their families was the removal of bankruptcy rights. The Founders felt so strongly about bankruptcy rights they called for them ahead of the power to declare war and raise an army.

    The student loan catastrophe proves their wisdom in spades.

    We are fighting this national threat. We are bipartisan. This is a big-government monstrosity that must be drowned in a bathtub or something ..

    Come to Studentloanjustice.Org. We need your help!

    Alan Collinge
    Founder, StudentLoanJustice.Org

  16. 16 Woody's Apr 20th, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    No, the dirtiest trick played on students was hyperinflation of tuition and Associated costs because the colleges knew there was so much easy money available for borrowing and that the students didn’t have the common sense to figure out how they were going to pay it back. Instead of whining and complaining that you’re not allowed to declare bankruptcy to get out of your student loan, perhaps your organization could advocate for people to take classes for which they were good paying jobs available afterwards. Then in your spare time you could addvocate for the party that wants to create jobs over welfare, and moving jobs overseas. If the laws were ever changed to allow students to default on government student loans, then the government should at the same time get out of the student loan business. It’s the only way to treat the taxpayers fairly. Being a trigglypuff is entertaining for other people to watch, but it doesn’t have much of a financial future, and they will always be a burden to society.

  17. 17 GIT REAL Apr 20th, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    Alan Alan Alan

    Pay back what you borrow and no issues!

    If you and your followers do not want to pay back your student loans, then you should have borrowed from your parents or grandparents! They forgive, the US Govt does not!

    Next ?

    Git Real

  18. 18 Xenu Apr 20th, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    Senator Harkin of Iowa wants to also go after the for-profit colleges such as those who advertise heavily on TV, and like one college, have 45 recruiters to each counselor but few graduates getting jobs. He’s been the most vociferous critic of the student loan bubble and the gouging by many universities and colleges.
    He isn’t the man who paid a $25,000,000 fine for running a fake “University” with no real curriculum or credits.

  19. 19 Boomer Apr 20th, 2018 at 6:44 pm

    College is overrated. It really needs to be reformed with a focus on just the skill set needed after the first two years of basic higher education. If someone is going to be an engineer or scientist then all focus should be on classes that make them work-ready. Forget all the fluff and puff. Those who treat college as party time can be left behind. Develop more blue collar trade schools that teach skills needed tomorrow so current adults can transition into those fields. More focus on entry level job placement by working with employers who tell the schools what skills they need and at what level. One would think all this was already being done but it isn’t. Forget placing blame on yesterday; focus more on what will work tomorrow. How many barista’s with a PHD in liberal arts does the world really need? He would be better served learning to fix robotics and his head wouldn’t be full of mush.

  20. 20 Ulrich Apr 20th, 2018 at 7:21 pm

    My first half-dozen or so bikes were cheap used bikes. When you’re young thats what you do and most of the time you really don’t care what brand you ride as long as you can ride. I see that same thinking in a lot of the young folks I ride with. They start off with Craigslist bikes and, suprisingly, there are some pretty good bikes out there for low bucks. So nobody has to go into big debt to have fun on a bike. In my state if the bike is less than $4K you don’t have to pay sales tax and insurance is cheap on an older bike. Sure, maybe the big brands are hurting but that never kept anyone from riding if they really wanted to.

  21. 21 Uthinkuknowme Apr 21st, 2018 at 6:46 am

    I started riding HD around 20 years ago. The very first thing I did after graduating was to buy a Harley. This was when you had to place an order at a he dealer and 1 year later you got your bike. Even used Harley’s drove a premium price so buying new made sense. Now, you can pick up a used Older model FXR, Softail or Sporty for under $5K and have a great bike. There is no incentive to buy new nor do people have that kind of disposable income. I ride a 20 and 30 year old bike and love every minute of it.

  22. 22 MDSPHOTO Apr 21st, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    I’m sorry but I’m going to have to call bullshit on this report! When I graduated in 1986 I paid $113 a month for 10-years on my student loans. Adjusted for inflation today’s grads are paying less than I did. And from what I understand more grads are defaulting on their loans than ever before.

  23. 23 hark Apr 23rd, 2018 at 8:37 am


  24. 24 Batterycap Apr 23rd, 2018 at 10:55 am

    The government and higher education are in each others back pockets to keep the scam going. Without any concern at all on the impact it will have on these young lives, they issue debt to the extent the colleges desire. Do the colleges seek to keep their costs in check or lower them? No. The colleges believe they can thale all they want, and the government agrees by shovelin all they want to them.

    Like every Ponzi scheme, this one is shaky, and soon to come crashing down, as the amount of unpaid and unpayable debt is simply transferred onto the backs of the taxpayers.

    It is yet another example of government sponsored socialism and yet another example of a failed socialist policy.

  25. 25 Apr 23rd, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    It’s nothing like a Ponzi Scheme, it’s only predatory if you’re too dumb to take classes with an income outcome to pay your bill later, and it’ll only be on the backs of the taxpayers if people listen to folks like Alan Collinge and let people that knew a bankruptcy wasn’t available and change the law to let them off the hook.
    Of course government and higher education are in each others back pockets to keep the scam going, that’s why we need to get the government out of the business of lending to people that banks won’t touch. I realize that some “advanced” countries have “free” college, but perhaps they have a smaller population % that would see free college as 7-year High School, and an economy that depends on Uncle Sam paying some of their defense costs for them?

  26. 26 Apr 23rd, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    ‘course the 2009 Vespa headlamp on the pictured Fat Bob ain’t helping

  27. 27 Speedy Apr 30th, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    Batterycap – “government sponsored socialism,” really?? If that were the case college tuition would be free. This system is pure capitalism leaning toward fascism (corporate takeover of gov’t). Good ‘ol Ronnie Reagan started this mess 40 years ago with his trickle-down corporations are king philosophy. When the first priority is to your shareholders the rest of the economy doesn’t matter, including student debt and when that bubble bursts it will hurt everyone.

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