So you’ve decided you want a motorcycle? Buying a used motorcycle is a great way to get a quality bike for cheap and one that won’t depreciate in value faster than a bowling ball falls in a vacuum (Trick metaphor! Everything falls at the same speed in a vacuum). However, if you go in blind and unprepared, you may end up with a two-wheel, v-cylinder paperweight.
If you know how to buy a used motorcycle the right way, you will cruise the open roads with ease and not break the bank.
The first thing you’re bound to find out when you sit down to do your research—and you should do research first—is that there is a huge variety of bikes out there on the used motorcycle market. To avoid being overwhelmed by it all, first decide what kind of bike you want. There are several different “types” of bikes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, like cruisers, sportbikes, scooters, touring bikes, dirt bikes, choppers, enduro bikes, etc. Once you decide what type of bike fits your needs and style, you can begin narrowing down to the perfect make and model.
PRIVATE PARTY OR DEALER?
After you get a good grasp on what you want to buy, you will want to decide whether or not you want to buy from a private party or a used motorcycle dealer. Whichever you decide (and there is no reason to limit yourself to one or the other as long as you understand the pros and cons of each) you will want to have a firm understanding of the common marketplace value of the bike.
You should have a clear idea of what you want to spend (and be sure to include motorcycle insurance, safety gear, courses, etc, into this budget) but we would advise strongly against sacrificing safety in the name of a good buy. Safety trumps an under budget buy ever day of the week!
When you contact the seller, dealer or private party, you will want to see the bike in person so you can inspect it properly and thoroughly.
You will want to immediately check the frame. Even the smallest crack or hairline fracture in the bike’s frame can become a serious problem, resulting in thousands of dollars worth or repairs. In fact, we highly recommend that you do not buy a used motorcycle with frame damage. When looking for potential problems, remove any parts that you can that obscure the frame.
Also check the chain and sprockets for wear, check the battery and battery leads, inspect the tires and tread, sit on the bike, test the brakes, and look for anything that appears missing. It’s also quite OK to ask to see any maintenance and service records.
THE TEST DRIVE
The used motorcycle has passed your inspection, so now it is time for a test drive. We always tell our readers that when riding a motorcycle you should wear the proper safety gear and this applies to the test drive as well. Come prepared to the inspection with the appropriate gear to take the hog out for a spin.
When buying a new motorcycle, you probably won’t get the chance to test-drive it first, so don’t take this for granted. If you are buying the used motorcycle from a dealership, you will probably have to sign a lot of insurance and liability forms. This is normal.
You should feel comfortable on the bike while riding and the longer the test-drive the better to get a good idea of what it will feel like for longer rides. Also, you will want to familiarize yourself with the bike before you hit the roads. Get a feel for the pedals, the throttle and handle bars, the mirrors, etc. Once you are ready, take her out!
When test driving a used motorcycle, variety is the key! Vary the speeds (accelerate then brake and repeat) and vary the road conditions and types of roads (curves, straight-aways, flat ground, hills, and so on). Try to simulate, as best you can, how you will be driving the bike if you were to buy it. But take it slow! It’s not your bike yet.
THE PRO INSPECTION
Finally, after the bike passes your inspection and after you enjoyed the test-drive, ask if you can take the bike to a mechanic for a proper inspection. This will come out of your pocket so make sure you are very interested in the bike at this point. Even though it will cost you, it will you save you money in the long run if the bike has some mechanical problems that a mechanic would have otherwise detected!
Once everything checks out, it’s time to negotiate! Have a firm price in mind and be ready to walk away if the seller can’t hit it. With the power of the “walk out” you might just ride home on a sweet deal.