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The Best Cruisers For Your Money

There is nothing that screams "American style" more than a cruiser.  

When compared to the more recent sport and adventure options, cruisers don't have the most advanced technical prowess or speed efficiency. However, there is nothing more classic or stylish than an American cruiser.

Or is there?

Over the years, many Japanese motorcycle manufacturers have managed to duplicate and emulate the aesthetic and performance of American cruisers.

Let's take a look at some and their differences.

American Cruisers

Big. Loud. Untamed.

That is how you'll hear enthusiasts describe the American born brands of cruisers.

In many cases, they are more reliable than the more recent and souped-up sport bike models. But, long term, they are often less reliable than Japanese manufactured cruiser motorcycles.

Listed below are some affordable, quality, American cruisers:


Is there a more iconic name for cruisers than Harley-Davidson? 

Founded in 1903, Harley-Davidson has managed to last through two World Wars, multiple economic downturns, multiple ownership transfers, and lots of stiff competition.

Though not the first company on the block, Harley-Davidson's explosion in production came about through their assistance with the U.S. military in WWI & WWII. Patriotism goes a long way towards building loyalty! Harley rose to become one of the most dominant and most recognizable motorcycle brands worldwide.

Harley's are not typically known for being the most budget friendly bikes. When you buy a Harley, you're not buying to save money. You're buying into a lifestyle. However, we have a few recommendations for the best Harley's for the money:

Harley-Davidson Street 500 - $6,849
This street style Harley is designed for maximum urban agility and has a sleek, minimalist black-out styling. It's been upgraded with new front and rear brake systems, new brake and clutch levers, and a more ergonomically place rear brake petal position. At around 7 grand, it's a steal for a piece of that Harley name.

Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883 - $8,849
Harley's Sportster bikes have become icons since their introduction in 1957, with their powerful, classic styling. The new Sportster Iron 883 has an all new suspension, wheels, rolled leather seat, and blacked-out wheel spokes, brake rotor, and muffler.

Harley-Davidson Sportster Seventy Two - $11,099
While the price doesn't exactly put this in the "budget" category, we like the Seventy Two for it's truly classic 70's styling, with all the latest modern technology, of course.


Another classic American cruiser, Indian, saw a major boom on their sales in the early 1900's, but success took a major downturn after WWII. Only recently was the Indian name revived when Polaris Industries purchased Indian Motorcycles in 2011.  

Though not currently as popular with the mainstream as Harley, the Indian brand has earned their reputation through building high quality cruisers. The new generation of bikes keep true to Indian's traditional styling, while equipped with modern performance technology. 

Indian Scout Sixty - $8,999
The Scout Sixty is Indian's most budget-friendly cruiser (for a brand commonly thought of as rather expensive). It's designed after the favorite Indian Scout with a lot of the same features, but at a more affordable price. The bike is the same size, but the engine is downsized to 61 CI of displacement (instead of 69). It's less powerful, but you can't beat the significantly lower price!

Japanese Cruisers (Metric Cruisers)

Interested in a cruiser with all the benefits and at a fraction of the cost of an American build?

If you want the cruiser style but aren't too concerned with owning that classic Harley brand, cruisers made by the big Japanese bike manufacturers will do the trick. They're just fine for the average person looking for a fun, cheap, and reliable ride. Though you may have to sacrifice some of the volume, you're neighbors will appreciate it.

Since Japanese cruisers (often known as metric cruisers) are foreign made, they've angered many cruiser purists.

In America, cruisers - and motorcycles in general - tend to be status symbols or social identity markers for riding enthusiasts.

But in many countries where cars aren't very economically feasible (cost, gas prices, etc) motorcycles have become a primary mode of personal transportation. After decades of advancements in design and performance, most people won't notice any real differences. And maybe even advantages. 

Japanese bikes have always been known for their superior quality, and this is certainly true with the cruisers they produce too.  Their cruisers usually run more efficiently, offer a cooler running motor, longer lasting engine, and require less maintenance over their lifetime. Some even argue that they're more comfortable

Not to mention they're much better for your wallets. Because of all the advantages, Japanese cruisers got so popular at one point in the 70s and 80s that they almost killed the Harley-Davidson brand! It was swift action from President Reagan that hiked up tax legislation for motorcycle imports, that managed to save Harley-Davidson from going bankrupt.

Here are a few of our favorite Japanese cruisers for your money:  

Honda Rebel - $4,190
Because of its low price point and super ease of riding, the Honda Rebel has been a popular choice as a beginner bike. Its size is small (234cc V twin engine) but still delivers plenty of power for a fun ride. It also gets amazing fuel economy. It's hard to beat this bike for the under $5k category.

Suzuki Boulevard S40 - $5,499
This is a great price. for the power you get. The Boulevard S40's 625cc single cylinder engine delivers surprisingly high torque and is agile on the road. The styling is a timeless retro design, with Suzuki technology.

Yamaha V-Star 650 Custom - $6,990
This is another bike that packs a punch for the relatively low price. It's the lightest of Yamaha's Star lineup, which means great handling. We especially love the super old-school style with tons of chrome accents.

Kawasaki Vulcan S ABS - $7,399 
This bike offers a great balance of price and performance. The Vulcan has a beautiful cruiser styling combined with that renowned Kawasaki sportbike power and handling. It's lighter than other cruisers in its class, which means increased agility. The seat position is also ergonomically designed for comfort.

Which of these cruisers caught your eye? Are you a die-hard American cruiser fan or would you consider a Japanese one? Will the availability of aftermarket parts sway your decision?

*photos courtesy of manufacturers
By Daniel Relich

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