Before You Buy a Used Motorcycle

Older man examining motorcycle
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Though buying a used motorcycle takes a bit more effort than walking into a showroom and picking up a new bike, savvy shoppers can find great deals and unique rides on the second-hand market.

Whether you’re looking for your first bike or are adding to your collection, here are tips on how to buy a used motorcycle.

Pick Your Bike Type

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer variety of bikes that are available, so before you shop, decide if you interested in a laid-back cruiser, an aggressive sport bike, an easy-to-ride scooter, or maybe a touring bike?

Be aware that different types of bikes see varying amounts of wear. Touring bikes are less likely to see abuse than sport bikes. Dirt bikes, enduros, dual purpose and trials motorcycles have a greater likelihood of experiencing suspension wear if they’ve been ridden off road extensively.

Consider your needs, and shop accordingly.

Choose Between a Dealer and a Private Party

Choosing where you buy your used motorcycle will largely depend on your budget, as dealerships usually charge a premium over private parties. If you buy from a dealer, take advantage of their knowledge and ask as many questions you can about the bike.

Buying from a private party can be a more personal experience--you’re likely to hear nostalgic stories about the motorcycle in question. Private owners are usually also more flexible about price.

Inspect the Bike in Question

Going over a bike’s mechanical condition could save you hundreds of dollars in maintenance down the line, and it can also keep you safe.

Take It for a Test Ride

The beauty of buying a used motorcycle is that unlike new bikes, you’re more likely to be able to test ride the motorcycle in question and get a better idea of whether or not it’s a good fit for you.

If your initial inspection doesn’t reveal any major flaws, there’s more to test riding a bike than simply figuring out if you like it.

Consider Service History

Ask the seller if they have service records, as a well-maintained bike will save you money down the line. Find out of they’ve regularly maintained the chain and sprocket (unless it’s equipped with a lower maintenance shaft drive), changed the oil, kept the tires inflated properly, and performed routine maintenance. Ask for records and find out when the last service was performed.

Mileage is another consideration, and bikes with extremely low mileage can be just as suspicious as higher mileage examples, since sitting for long periods without proper storage techniques can cause problems down the line.

Is There Room for Negotiation?

If you’re looking at used motorcycles, chances are you’re budget-sensitive and don’t want to spend money on a bike that will depreciate immediately. That said, if you fall in love with a used motorcycle and decide you want to take the plunge, don’t commit until you’re comfortable with the price. Lots of great deals are out there and they usually get claimed fairly quickly—but don’t hesitate to ask for your target price if a bike is pricier than you want it to be. Similarly, if an asking price is fair, be prepared to step up to the plate and pay what the bike is worth.

Don't Get Attached Until the Deed Is Done

There are plenty of used bikes in the marketplace, and there’s no reason to commit to a motorcycle that isn’t just right for you. Shop around, inspect bikes in contention, and you’re serious about one, take it for a spin to make sure it’s right for you.

If you’re seriously considering a bike, take a look at its title to make sure it’s clear and that the mileage matches up with the paperwork. Once you find exactly what you’re looking for and you’ve taken all the precautions listed above, seal the deal, throw on your safety gear, and enjoy your new ride.