Motorcycle Technician’s Drowning In Debt

  • By George
  • May 28, 2017
  • Comments Off on Motorcycle Technician’s Drowning In Debt

What trade can sometimes require an initial investment of $40,000 and pay a starting salary as little as $9 per hour? Answer: Motorcycle Technician! It sounds unbelievable but it’s true! High debt and low pay is the reality for many motorcycle technicians just starting out. Here is a small sample of online complaints from mostly new technicians:

The only people working in dealerships without financial hardships you will find are the owners or general managers and managers everyone else well they are very easily replaced and find no value in them regardless of work ethic or reliability.

how do I support a family on $11 an hour?

my family has been in the motorcycle business for 35 years and i would avoid a career as a motorcycle technician at all costs. diesel mechanics, or even auto mechanics would be a better profession. most motorcycle shops are mom and pop operations and most jobs you’ll find reflect that by having little to no benefits, no job security, power mongering owners/managers, poor working conditions, and worst of all, nepotism.

“40k for tuition and i just make 13 an hour as an advanced tech for hd. Plus you get hands on training on old sh*t, you teach HD lan? Milwaukee 8’s. Imagine learning about computers now using computers from 5 years ago and then going to work on current stuff. I enjoy my job, but i cant afford my loans and may have to find other work just to afford the tuition. And fyi if youre a phx local and have a family here dont bother the market is so flooded that youll be lookong at washing bikes for min wage from 3 to 5 years and get a buck more after you spend 10k on tools…”

I paid 40g for everything Hd offers plus 12 weeks of yamaha. I tech outa school makes $10 an hour. U do the math

The Harley shops I have applied with, were at best, hiring only part time at $10 or less per hour.

I worked 2 yr at 11 an hour. And 2 yr at an after market shop for 12. Does that pay your 30-40000 tuition

Working for shops only made owners money. It’s a fun job but you will struggle to live!

I could go on and on with online quotes from motorcycle technicians swamped in debt and struggling to make a living. The entry level salary for motorcycle repair is low to begin with, so adding a big monthly student loan payment to the equation makes life significantly more difficult. Most people simply give up and drop out. Pay eventually goes up, but that can take years and moving from shop to shop.

Most motorcycle dealership pay an entry level salary that is anything but reasonable.  When I say “reasonable salary” I am talking about an income that will provide for basic necessities like food, shelter, clothing, transportation and health insurance after you deduct taxes and work related expenses. I don’t see how someone can have these basic necessities with a $9 per hour job and than on top of that make payments on a $40,000 student loan. I guess they can live rent free in their van, but I wouldn’t consider that reasonable shelter. I don’t consider anything below $15 per hour to be a reasonable salary in this industry, and motorcycle repair is a career type profession, so expecting to be paid a reasonable salary is not unreasonable. And don’t forget student loans are meant to make money for the bank, so a $40,000 student loan is actually more when you add on interest.

Some motorcycle repair schools can cost as much as $25,000 to $60,000 depending on what electives a student takes. Electives are manufacturer specific training, which makes the student more attractive to dealerships. Manufacturer specific training prepares a student to immediately be productive on his/her first day at work. This is a good for both the technician and the dealership, but the technician isn’t paid extra for this training even though the dealership benefits from having a more productive employee. The student can pay as much as $10000 for one elective in addition to the tuition for the schools core program. If the additional training increased the techs salary it would make more sense, but it doesn’t. It might make the student more attractive to employers, but it doesn’t increase the new technicians salary. A student can take all the electives offered at the school and it would not increase their salary by one cent, but their debt will skyrocket. This is how a student, who is approved for federal student loans, can end up with a lot of debt. Even an 18 year old with no employment or credit history can get approved for student loans thanks to the federal government.

In addition to tuition, technicians are required to supply their own tools. A basic set of tools and tool box can cost $10000 or more, and tools are an on-going expense in this industry. Most entry level techs are forced to buy tools using credit, which adds even more debt to the already struggling technician. If you sat down and look at all the numbers for attending school, buying tools, living expenses and salary; it’s a very poor return on your investment. I am not saying it’s impossible to have a successful career as a motorcycle technician, but it can be a rough road to travel.

Payments on a $40,000 student loan at 6.8 percent interest over 10 years is $460.32 a month. Total interest paid after 10 years is $15,238.63. That $40,000 loan turns into $55,238.63 after 10 years. Lets be generous and say your making $15 per hour. Your weekly paycheck, after state and federal deductions, will be $463.50, or pretty close to that amount. That student loan payment will leave you with $3.50 for the week after deducting the payment from your weekly paycheck.

I don’t blame the schools for the student debt problem. I blame the federal government’s involvement in student loans and the motorcycle repair industry for paying low wages. A Harley Davidson dealership charge $350 for a 1000 mile service and gives the entry-level technician anywhere from $9 or $12 per hour for a job that shouldn’t take more than 2 hours? The technician is doing all the labor and is the one paying for and supplying the tools to do the work. Let’s say the Harley dealership spends $50 in parts and pays the technician $11 per hour. A fast technician should be able to do a 1000 mile service in 1 hour. That means the dealership makes $289 and the technician makes $11 for this one job. If the technician does 8 of these jobs a day, the dealership makes $2312 and the tech make $88, plus the tech has the added expense of providing tools to do the work. The technician receives only 3.6% of the labor cost billed for this one job minus their tool cost. I worked in a automotive repair shop where the technician split the labor cost down the middle, which means the auto technician received 50% of the labor cost billed for each job. There is no good reason why a motorcycle dealership can’t pay better than 3.6% other than they want the money, and they know they can take it

I believe the solution to student loan debt is to stop handing out student loans like you hand out candy on Halloween, and that means getting the government out of the student loan business. This will force banks to be more critical of whom they loan money to and will force schools to lower tuition. Some school may have to completely restructure their program, but I think that’s a good thing.  I don’t know what the solution is for low paying dealership salaries, but maybe getting the government out of student loans will lower the amount of new techs and raise the salary through supply and demand. At least than maybe motorcycle dealerships will place more value on the service technician knowing there isn’t a fresh crop of motorcycle repair graduates to replace the technician when he or she quits to find higher pay elsewhere.

If you want to be a motorcycle technician and can pay for school out of pocket or with very little debt, than I say go for it. But think long and hard before taking on large amounts of debt to be a motorcycle technician; low pay in this industry is bad enough, but low pay AND high debt can make life very difficult. Also, motorcycle jobs can be few and far between and are seasonal in some areas. There is a high probability you won’t last longer than a few years in this industry, but your federal student loan debt will follow you to your grave. Not even bankruptcy can shake that monkey off your back!


John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.


Note 8/5/2017: California law requires repair shops to supply tools, equipment, shoes and uniform to all mechanics. They must supply every tool required to do a job. If the shop requires the mechanic to supply their own tools, than the shop is required by law to pay the mechanic at least twice minimum wage. I think minimum wage in California is $10 per hour, so a mechanic who supply’s his own tools should make at least $20 per hour.


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