Used motorcycles are a great choice for beginners. It doesn’t make sense to buy a brand new bike if you are a first-timer. You want to see how riding a bike feels before making a big commitment. Used bikes are the way to go in these situations. But there’s one thing that concerns everyone interested in a preowned bike: how to not get ripped off? Well, I’m here to help you with that. You can find a model in a good condition.
- A bike with no serious damage
- A properly maintained bike
- A bike that starts with no problems
- A bike that has not been in a crash
We already have a how-to-buy motorcycle guide but that’s more general. Here, we will be focusing specifically on used motorcycles.
Where To Buy A Used Motorcycle
First things first, let’s talk about selling venues. There are several options here. You can try looking for newspaper ads and online ads. You can try visiting some venues where private sellers show off their items on certain days in the week. Dealerships also offer used motorcycles, usually, these are well-preserved.
Despite the many options, you still may not find the vehicle you have in mind. After all, you are buying from a private seller. Even if it’s a dealership, the dealer has bought it from a private seller. That’s why it may be hard to find certain models. You need to look at as many ads as possible.
What Kind Of Bike To Look For
I can’t tell you what model to buy, you know that. Here, I’m talking about the condition of the bike. When you will be scrolling through ads, chances are, you will find that more than one seller has the model you want. You need to determine which one is in the best condition.
To filter out the trash items that are not worth your time, focus on well-preserved bikes. Generally, you are looking for a model that has no serious damage, starts and works well, and has not been in a crash. You can easily notice these ads because they are better than the others. If there is a way to prove the bike is in a good condition, the seller will do that in the ad.
On the other hand, some of you may be looking for something damaged. If so, you can ignore what I said above. Let’s say you are not looking for something extra bad but something that can be repaired will do. In that case, look for bikes that are listed as damaged. Maybe you will find something worth fixing.
Things To Look Out For When Buying A Used Bike
You can’t buy the bike without taking a proper look at it. But those are details that you examine after making sure it’s worth your time. Before that, you need to check for big no-nos. That’s what we’ll be talking about here.
Do A VIN Check
The first thing you need to do is make sure the vehicle has not been in any recorded accidents and if the title is legit. You can easily do this with a VIN check. This will tell you if the motorcycle has been in any accidents. It will also tell you if it has been stolen.
Many websites offer a VIN check service. Most of these sites will give you a fee but some are free. Either way, the fee is nothing significant.
Check if the bike has been in any recorded accidents where an insurance company was involved. Compare the digits of the VIN with the digits on the title. If they don’t match, the bike may have been stolen. The current owner just got a new title.
Check For Signs Of Impact Damage
Now, I am not saying that the seller can hide a serious crash. But some damage from impacts whether from falling or small crashes can be hidden. The paint can be repainted and detailed, parts can be replaced, etc. You can be sure about crash damage but you don’t know if the previous owner was responsible.
Fortunately for us, we can notice if the owner had dropped the bike and had fallen off it. Every time you drop the bike it falls a certain way. The parts that always get damaged from impact are the levers, bar ends, and footpegs. Examining these parts can tell you how well the bike was taken care of.
Check the footpegs for bruises. Scratches from falling are pretty obvious. Check the bar ends and brake levers for scratches too. But look for bends and curves too. These parts bend when they hit the ground. Take a close look. If any of these has been replaced that may be something to worry about.
Let’s say the bike looks really well and the seller swears it has not been in an accident. So, if these parts were replaced, just ask why is that so. If the buyer was really honest he will have an answer.
Do A Starting Test
You may not know this if you are a beginner but a bike may have starting problems and be just fine on the road. What is even worse is that starting problems may not occur on a warmed-up bike. That’s why I always recommend checking out the bike cold.
Just ask the owner to not warm up the motorcycle, so you can do a starting test. You can’t hide starting problems on a cold engine. If the owner breaks the promise that means you need to walk away.
Start the bike and see if it has any difficulties. Does it sound weird like it’s going to break after starting it? These are signs that there may be something wrong with the electrical component or the battery. I advise on doing a starting test after taking a test ride. See if it starts okay then, this will show if the rectifier works okay.
Is It Clean
Lastly, how clean is the bike? You should stay away from dirty-looking items. Here’s why. If it’s dirty, that means the previous owner didn’t really take care of it. Even if it was taken care of, why is it dirty if it’s for sale? Is the owner trying to hide wear?
Everyone prefers a clean motorcycle. But you want it to be clean so you can check the paint for signs of damage. Wear on paint and the tires can be subtle, especially if the vehicle is dirty. So, when the time comes to meet in person, if the bike is dirty, walk away. Or, just ask to wash it next time you meet.
Examining The Bike
Once you checked out the big no-nos, you can move on to examining the bike. Do you see what we were doing so far? The buying process consists of making sure the bike is worth checking out, making sure the bike is worth the listed price. Here, I’ll be going through the parts you need to thoroughly check out.
I highly recommend making sure this is worth your time before going through with it. Let’s say you do all these inspections on the bike, and do the VIN check in the end. Why would you spend that much time on inspections when the vehicle may have been in a crash?
There are some parts that you can accept to fix and some parts that you can’t. The engine is one of those parts that you can’t accept if it’s damaged. It’s absolutely the most crucial part. A bad engine means you need a new bike. Engines are really expensive, so it’s just not worth it.
So, start the engine. How does it sound? Does it sound weird? You may not know a lot about this so paying a mechanic to inspect for you is a smart option.
The Gas Tank
Then, take a look at the gas tank. This will also give you a hint of the condition of the engine. Look for rust spots. If the owner didn’t fill up the tank regularly or mistreated it somehow, the tank will have rust spots at the least.
You will need a flashlight to do this, so make sure you get one. If you want to be thorough, get a borescope. Rust spots are bad signs because it affects the engine. Both the fuel lines and the engine may be damaged by the rusty fuel tank.
[Related Article: How To Clean A Rusty Gas Tank]
Although the tires are easily replaceable, their condition can tell you a lot about the owner. Check the usual, check for wear, and check the tire tread limit. Also, find out the production year of the wheels.
My advice is, don’t be worried about the normal wear you notice on tires. I would be worried about flat spots, which means the owner was not exactly gentle with the breaks.
Ask how long tires have been that way. If the owner used the bike with excessive wear on the tires, that may have done something to the engine. Just know this, if the seller listed that the tires are bad, you should be worried. But if the tires are not mentioned in the ad, nor in-person, and you notice that they are bad, that is a sign of trouble.
The next thing you should check out is the oil. A motorcycle needs regular oil change intervals. This is crucial for a healthy engine and healthy moving parts. Take a look at the oil level dipstick. Is the oil level low? Is the oil broken down and dirty. The oil level should be at least in the middle, and the oil should not be dirty.
Check for oil leaks too. The owner may have practiced healthy oil change intervals but the oil leak may have gone unnoticed. Leaks are also a bad sign, repairing can cost a lot.
[Related Article: How Often To Change Motorcycle Oil]
Exhaust & Frame
A bad exhaust or a bad frame is not as dangerous as other parts but it’s expensive to repair. So, that’s something you want to make sure is working properly. The exhaust is not something you replace during regular maintenance.
Start by checking if the exhaust is mounted properly. Neglected bikes tend to have a loose exhaust. Then, make sure that it isn’t corroded. This is best done on a cold motorcycle, the things that a hot engine releases can hide the corrosion.
Check out the frame too. Just look for signs of damage like scratches, dent, cracks. If the vehicle has not been bumped and mistreated, the frame shouldn’t be all banged up.
The Clutch & The Brakes
The clutch and the brakes are parts that are susceptible to wear. So, that’s something you want to check out. Most used bikes had some signs of wear on the clutch and the breaks, but that’s reasonable. You just don’t want them to be faulty.
Pull the clutch and check how it feels. If you are a beginner you may not be able to recognize how a normal clutch feels. It shouldn’t be hard or snapping. A good clutch feels smooth. If you’ve used a working clutch before, you know how it feels.
As for the brakes, there are things you can accept and things you can’t. Brake pads and brake fluid is something that gets wasted with time. So, it’s to be expected with a second-hand bike. These are the things you fix during regular maintenance.
You should be wary of problems with the braking system. Get on the bike and start powerwalking until it starts slowly moving. Then, slowly pull the brake. Just like the clutch, the brake should be smooth. If you hear any noises, it may be worn out brake pads.
You can check everything thoroughly but it’s a good idea to stand back and take a good look at the motorcycle for sale. Is it worth the price? Does it look like it’s straight out of a bike shop? Any scratches that are bothering you?
You can miss a lot of things if you are not experienced. That’s why I recommend taking a mechanic or a friend with you. Chances are, this person can notice more things than you. However, you can do this last step by yourself. You can notice a well-maintained bike just by looking at it. You still have to go through the details though.
A Test Ride
And, the last thing to do, hit the road. Whether it’s a private sale or motorcycle dealerships are involved, you can take the bike on a test ride. This is where you make your final decision. Is this the bike you want to ride? How does hitting the road feel? Any signs of damage?
How To Not Get Ripped Off When Buying A Used Motorcycle
Most of you are worried about paying a lot of money for the wrong bike. I understand that. A private sale does not guarantee quality nor a fair price. So, how do you avoid getting ripped off?
Find Out The Price Range
The seller can pick any price. But the buyers are interested only in a fair market price. A smart buyer does research and knows the purchase price of the item. So, that’s what you need to do.
Go through online ads and check the selling price of the same exact bike you want. Make sure the power and the year of production are right. Here’s where you get the estimate. Of course, all the prices will be different, not every bike is in a good condition.
Anyways, once you know the price range, you know when someone is ripping you off. So, if the seller tries to raise the price, quote the prices you have seen.
List Potential Maintenance Costs
Used motorcycles do not have a fixed price. The reason being, there is always something that the new motorcycle owner will need to fix. So, a compromise is made, and the price is lowered.
That’s what you need to do. Name the things you will have to fix and ask for the price to be reduced. If you are reasonable, the seller will surely accept. Ask for service records if the seller is persistent that certain parts do not need to be replaced.
What To Expect From A Used Motorcycle
I want to end this article with this. The difference between brand new bikes and used ones is that you can’t be sure that everything is okay with used bikes. I’m just saying, lower your expectations. Chances are, you will need to fix or replace something.
This doesn’t mean that you should not buy a used bike. Believe me, used motorcycles can be worth it. You just have to calculate if the things you need to fix are worth it.