Before You Buy a Used ATV, Find out What to Look For

man rounds up sheep using his dog and a quad bike

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If you're buying a used ATV you'll want to know everything you can about it. Not seeing a problem can mean the difference between a great deal on a used quad and getting a lemon.

Find out what to look for and what might be a deal-breaker when you're ready to buy a used ATV.

Use the Economy to Your Advantage

So you've made the decision to buy an ATV. You've been through the whole "should I buy a new or used ATV" and realized that with this economy it makes sense to buy used.

There's no Cash for Clunkers program for quads to destroy potentially good values on used ATVs, and sadly there are more people selling their ATVs to make ends meet so there's a good selection of used quads to choose from.

Check the ATV for Rust and Cracked Welds

A good indication that a quad has been damaged is rust. All external steel parts on an ATV are coated, painted or otherwise treated to prevent rust with the possible exception of brake disks and the chain. If you find rust there's a good possibility that there's damage.

Many frames today are made of aluminum which doesn't rust, so finding cracks in a frame will require close visual inspection. Aluminum is a light, silvery color, and a crack will show up as either dark silver or black lines at the base of the weld.

Shake, Rattle, and Roll

Get the quad off the ground so you can check the suspension and wheels. Spin all the tires. Hold each of them with both hands and try to twist, bend, and shake the tire while listening and feeling for problems in the ball joints, suspension, brakes, and other areas.

Look below the handlebar mount for the steering stop. It's the metal on metal "bump" you hear and feel when you move the handlebars all the way to one side. If it looks damaged there could be steering or suspension problems from a crash.

Check the Airbox

Take the seat off and remove the airbox cover. Remove the air filter and inspect the air intake area. If you find water, dirt, or other debris in this area you probably have it in the motor as well, which is never a good sign.

Check the Motor

Check the motor oil for a burnt smell, lack of viscosity, contaminates, or excessive darkness. Check all the lights and switches, levers, and anything else that moves.

Carefully put your hand next to the motor (about a half inch away) to see if it's hot. If not, put your hand on it and see if it's warm. If it's warm, you won't be able to tell how the quad will start if it's cold. It could be hard to start and the seller might be trying to hide it from you.

Do the Normal Test Drive

If everything looks acceptable, it's time to don your helmet and hop on the quad for a test ride. Considering it's not yours, yet, I would take it easy on the jumps until you've made the purchase, just so the seller doesn't get upset if you choose not to buy it.