Online versus in-store purchasing is a decision shoppers need to make whether they are buying a new set of drag pipes or a trip to Paris. Online is almost always cheaper, but you usually have to give up the personal attention and knowledge that comes with human to human interaction.
I ride a Sportster because I’m a fan of the Harley bike, brand and lifestyle. I also ride it because it was the only Harley I could afford. It’s my first Harley, after 10 or so Japanese bikes over the years. I love it, and from that first ride away from the dealership, I understood the difference. I’m a regular working guy on a budget, so in 2005 I was able to buy my first Harley, a used 2001 Sportster 833 XL with 3000 miles on it from Glendale Harley, here in Los Angeles. The model is a cool one, although I lucked into it, as it just happened to be in the used department. It has the forward controls, drag handlebars and is lowered, all from the factory. It has a low cool look and style and rides great. It cost me $5500., out the door with tax, title, and all the extras. Not bad, and I was on my first Harley. Also not bad that the bike has held its value and is still worth about $5500. today, unlike most vehicles after 5 years.
I have to save money whenever I can, but not at the cost of safety. I get the bike serviced regularly and use only synthetic oil and fluids, which I feel are far superior. I’m a fan of online shopping, and would recommend any of the big motorcycle sites for parts and accessories. Try Amazon.com as well, they have all kinds of parts, including exhaust systems and other mechanical stuff. Some items can be bought with no sales tax and free shipping, which can save a lot from buying in a local dealer or store.
For example, before I change the oil, I buy the Mobil 1 and the special Harley filters right on Amazon.com, paying the lowest price possible. Sometimes I give them to the dealer to use in my oil change.
For anything mechanical, I always let the dealer do it. There’s no room for error with bikes and I just don’t have the mechanical skills to do anything serious. But cosmetic items like mirrors, levers and general maintenance, I like to get my hands dirty. Don’t be afraid to ask the dealer for a discount, they would rather make a little less profit than lose you to a web sale.
Have the confidence to try to do things yourself. Get yourself a Clymer or other basic shop manual for your bike so you can perform basic maintenance and repairs and at least find more info if the problem is bigger than you can handle. Knowledge is power.