Used Bike

Buyer Guide: Honda VFR800

It’s one of the few ‘sensible’ cult bikes in the world and a machine with remarkably few flaws. The Honda VFR800 in fuel-injected or VTEC guise is a class act – but no motorcycle is entirely without issues...

Click to read: Honda VFR800 owners reviews, specs and image galleries.

The best bike in the world? Yes it was, at the time. The VFR did it all and did it exceedingly well too. It’s a jack of all trades and pretty masterful at a good number of them as well. It’ll handle every kind of riding from track days to touring and commuting plus it’s extremely reliable and well built.

And there’s more. The V-four engine gives it just enough rough, raw edge to be classed as a bike with character and dodge the common criticism that Hondas are bland. OK, there are better machines available now but the VFR’s still a sweet ride that’s capable of loads.

There are two distinct models covered in this article. The first is the VFR800Fi which was sold from late 1997 until 2001. Late in 2001 the VFR800 VTEC replaced it. It received a mixed reception.

Owners loved the Fi model but the VTEC came with a version of variable valve timing which although simpler than the system used in cars is comparatively complex for a motorbike.

Critics said it added little and caused a jolt in the power delivery as it cut in, plus it made valve servicing prohibitively expensive. As a result, the VTEC has never had quite the following of the  earlier Fi model VFRs but the flip side of that is they’re a little better value on the used market.

Don’t expect to pick up a decent example of either for buttons though. A clean VFR’s money in the bank even if the model can no longer be regarded as the best bike in the world which is more due to the competition getting better than the VFR becoming worse.

A whopping 88 VFR800 owners filled in our online survey this month giving us an accurate picture what these bikes are really like to live with, 39 own the VTEC and 49 the Fi model.

They’ve personally ridden well over a million miles on these bikes which are showing over two million miles on their clocks in total so (as ever)  you can believe what you read here.

Continue the Lowdown of the Honda VFR800

Honda VFR800 Specifications

V4 engine
A rare, exotic and soulful configuration. Newer rivals tend to have more power and midrange but typically due to larger capacity.

Regulator/rectifier
They fail on the VFR800Fi model. Exactly a third of these bikes in our survey needed a new one and they often kill the battery when they go too. We’d suggest a more durable replacement if you have a bike with the original still fitted.

Cam chain tensioners
The Fi model has gear driven cams and no issues there. Two VTEC models (out of 39) in our survey needed the cam chain tensioners replacing. The bill including problems caused by their failure came to £985 for one owner – it’s the only expensive VFR problem we’re aware of and we think most or all have been sorted under warranty now.

16,000 mile service
The biggy with valve clearances and said to be costly, especially on the VTEC model.  Average price paid in our survey was £362 for the Fi and £398 for the VTEC. Some owners who took their VTEC bikes to main dealers sometimes paid £600 or more but others used independents to keep costs down. It’s not cheap but it’s not silly money either.

Reliability
Overall very good. 86 problems were mentioned in our survey in which owners had covered just over 1.25 million miles on their VFRs. That’s one problem every 15,000 miles. Most were minor and cheap to fix too.

Finish
Significantly better than most modern bikes. A proper ‘made in Japan’ Honda. Earlier ones are arguably better than later models but age counts against them.

Thermostat
Not a famous issue but it happened to three (of 49) Fi owners and two (of 39) VTEC owners. Can leak or cause other minor grief but it’s not an expensive or tricky part to replace.

Headlights
Good on the Fi, excellent on the VTEC. That’s typical VFR – a useful detail that’s ignored on many machines.

Console
A printed circuit board on the Fi model can suffer, especially if water gets into the unit, causing partial failure. It’s best to strip it and fix the problem (see how online) as replacement is costly, new or used.

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