Justifying hysteria, the cost of a 250R

Ninja 250 pricing gone wild, is it even worth it?
Published November 30, 2008

Rumor has it, the new Ninja 250 is a bit popular and demand has driven dealer asking prices stupid. A shame, as at MSRP plus tax and reasonable dealer fees the bike is a great bargain. Prospective buyers are rightfully concerned by the ballooning prices and question if the bike’s worth it. I can’t speak for everyone’s case, but this is my take on the sour subject.

I first looked at moto prices on Kawasaki’s site back in mid-’07 after a coworker inspired my curiosity. Back then–already talking about 2007 as if it wasn’t yesterday–Kawasaki listed a new Ninja 250 for $2,999, a price that floored me. Had I known bikes were that affordable, I might’ve considered riding earlier. But then had I known a new model, a price hike and Wii-caliber demand (hysteria?) would soon make $2,999 a pipe dream, my optimism might’ve deflated just as quickly as it hit.

I’m a bit of a bargain hunter but also unwilling to settle for less than what I want, a pair of traits that generally keeps me from buying much at all; I’m adverse to compromise and content to have nothing. I’d decided on the 2008 Ninja 250 before doing any market research, and when I did start talking to dealers in February I almost lost hope. One dealer had a waiting list but would take deposits (not the best situation for negotiation), another had a green bike in stock but tried to squeeze me for $5,500 out the door. I haggled the latter down to $4,500, with $4,000-even my aim. I left that battle disappointed, uncompromised and with nothing.

I’m adverse to compromise and content to have nothing

I spent the next week dialing dealers as far away as Roseville and Placerville (travel distance: two hours, plus) with no one interested in trading a bike for less than $4,500 cash. One dealer eventually called back with $4,300 and I was tempted but the color (green) and location (Oakland) were enough to keep me from jumping on the best price I’d managed to wring from Northern California dealers.

The weekend after, I visited another local shop which had called me to advertise the blue bike they’d just rolled onto the showroom floor. I didn’t have much hope for negotiation, more wanted to see the candy plasma blue in the flesh (I picked blue as my favorite based on online photos). The shop also had a leftover 2007 model which I reluctantly started to haggle on. Not that a pre-’08 250 is a bad bike–in some ways it’s better than mine–but to me it was compromise. And not trying to sound resentful, but that dealer was ridiculous with the asking price on the year-old model; after nearly an hour of back-and-forth, the lowest otd price I could manage was $3,600…on a leftover $2,999 bike.

Seeing that that negotiation was going nowhere, I parlayed my rapport with the salesman into discussion of the blue 2008. Post (too) much deliberation, we agreed on an otd price of $4,300, matching the earlier offer but with a local bike in the color I wanted.

Any buyer’s remorse I felt afterward–having compromised and not gotten the $4,000 deal I wanted–was gradually assuaged as anecdotal otd prices climbed. As gas prices senselessly soared and the summer loomed, demand for the 250R escalated and so with it prices. The insane offers of $5,500 I turned down in February looked genius in June when Craigslist postings offered low-sided samples for even more. A $500 hike in the MSRP for the ’09 model makes my reluctant $4,300 sound like the best deal imaginable.

Riders who buy new bikes are 70% more likely to have a crash

But while the rising price of the new Ninja 250 gives me mental relief, it’s not the reason I’m happy I bought the bike when I did. I’m happy I bought the bike because it’s the bike I wanted. Every time I climb off and walk away, I can’t help but glance back. The Ninja looks the part and doesn’t leave me wanting for a cooler, bigger supersport–this thing’s got cool in spades. After 5,000 miles of riding, I’m not looking to upgrade. Getting what I wanted means that I can be satisfied with what I have, which in the world of motorcycles–a world where riders who buy new bikes are 70% more likely to have a crash–is a healthy feeling. The improved suspension in the new model 250 will suitably give me room to grow my riding skills for years, which is more than I would have expected had I settled for a used, older bike.

I didn’t buy my bike expecting to quickly turn it around for a 600RR or R6. I wanted something for keeps, something I wouldn’t have to compromise. And for that, it was worth the hassle and cost of buying new. It’s a bike I imagine I’ll love forever. New buyers looking for a short affair are better off with a cheaper used bike–buying new and selling with a thousand miles on the clocks is stupid–but budding riders in want of a lifetime companion won’t be disappointed by the 250R. Even if getting one calls for some compromise.