The joy of the open road on your own motorcycle is unparalleled, however, the price tag associated with a brand new motorbike can be a bit overwhelming. This is why many people look to pre-owned motorbike’s to get their dream bike without the brutal price tag.
Buying a pre-owned motorbike isn’t terribly complicated. With a bit of common sense and some handy tips, you’ll be on the road in no time.
Before you start shopping, you’ll want to do your research. You need to know exactly what you’re looking for in a bike before you start shopping, including your budget and expectations. If you’re looking for a Harley Sportser that’s a couple years old for under $3000, for example, you’re going to be out of luck.
You’ll also want to consider that, like anything with a second-hand market, certain makes and models survive the long haul a lot better. Read reviews on used bikes and how they’ve fared over the years to make sure you’re not going to be buying a lemon.
Check out lots of ads to compare what other people are selling these machines for and to gauge the market value, average mileage, and popular modifications and if there have been any factory recalls issued against that model.
Essentially, you’ll want to become a bit of an expert on your chosen machine and know exactly what you’re looking for before laying down the cash.
Get the FAQs
When you’re ready to start looking at physical bikes and we recommend you check out a few using a service like the American Motorcycle Trading Company, come armed with a few questions to ask the seller.
- Has the bike ever been crashed?
- How long have they had it?
- Is this the original paint?
- Why have you decided to sell?
- Do you own or are you still financing?
- How often has the bike been serviced?
- Have they made any modifications, if so, what?
You’ll still need to examine the bike thoroughly but asking these questions can help you figure out how the bike was treated and what kind of rider the original owner was.
It’s a bummer to consider, but people get their bikes stolen all the time. Before you fall in love with a bike, physically check the numbers to make sure they haven’t been re-stamped. Some bikes are stolen more often than others. For these models, you may want to consider bringing a print out of the original stamped numbers, so you can compare. Beyond the VIN, check to make sure the current owner has any other necessary paperwork.
Do a ‘cold’ inspection
Before you stop by to see a bike, ask the seller to leave the bike cold and not to warm it up or run it before you arrive. It can be surprisingly easy to conceal starting issues or other engine troubles on a warmed-up bike. Make sure the bike is actually cold by feeling it to make sure it hasn’t been run recently. Once you’re there, ask the seller to start the bike. If they struggle or you’re hearing troubling noises for the first minute of run time, you have a bike with some serious problems on your hands.
Check the bike over as well before you’re taken it out for a spin. Have you ever noticed that when you go to a used car dealers’, they immediately want to put you in the car for a test drive? That’s a practiced tactic to try to get you to fall in love with the vehicle first so that you have a harder time examining it with a critical eye. Don’t fall for this with the bike. Look for scratches, dents, or missing components, and check to see if the boltheads and screws are stripped or damaged.
Look over the tires
Check the tires to see how hard the bike’s been ridden. While riding a bike hard isn’t necessarily bad for it, some drivers are very hard on their machines and this is a quick way to tell. If you see flat, longitudinal grooves on the tires, this can be indicative of burnouts. On sport bikes, look for little blobs of rubber or small surface ripples on the tires out to the edges as a sign the bike was used at the track. You should also check the “hero blobs”. These are small indicators on the footpegs that let the rider know if they are getting close to scraping costly parts. If these are ground down or gone, the bike could have gone to the track.
While this doesn’t disqualify a bike or mark it as not worth the money, an owner who doesn’t disclose this information could be hiding bigger issues.
Pop the seat
You’re going to be doing this to look at the wiring and anything hooked up to the battery. While all you may end up seeing is clean, factory connectors and nothing amiss, you could also things like fog lights, hanging power leads, and electrical tape—which should make you question the bike further. Look for vampire connectors or long runs of single colored wire—which may have been used because the owner was too cheap to buy multiple spools to differentiate. Issues like this could lead to expensive electrical repairs down the road.
Assess the overall condition
Try not to worry about the odometer too much, it will only tell you one thing about the bike. In reality, it’s the other little idiosyncrasies you should look for. For example, if the owner gives you a pile of receipts when you’re looking over the bike? That’s a great sign! We’ve found that if an owner has cared for his bike enough over the years to hold onto receipts, he most likely has cared for it in other ways too. Most bike owners are rarely particular about one part of their bike—like the matching tires and replaced wear items—and then lax about parts of the bike. People usually love or neglect their bike. Those who have loved it will be able to hand you an intact owner’s manual, pristine factory keys, and paperwork from aftermarket equipment.
Those who haven’t? Not so much.