I’m a huge fan of buying my cars and bikes used. Every single motorcycle I’ve ever owned has been pre-owned and I truly believe that one’s loss is another’s gain. If you are the type of person who keeps their bikes or cars for decades, buying new might be worth it. But I enjoy switching what I ride fairly often so buying new would not be very cost efficient. There is definitely a negative stigma about buying used motorcycles. Many are afraid they will get stuck with a bike that has endless mechanical issues and while that’s definitely a possibility if you’re not careful, there are also plenty of honest sellers out there who just want to get rid of their bike at a fair price. Being able to identify red flags and knowing what to ask and what to look for can help you land a great deal. Here are a few tips for buying a used motorcycle.
Figure out what you’re looking for and how much you’d like to pay
Classifieds are flooded with motorcycles for sale and unless you know exactly what you are looking for, narrowing down your search is going to be pretty tough. First figure out what make and model of bike you want, what year range and how much you want to pay. Being too picky about the bike specs when buying used is going to make finding the perfect bike a very lengthy process so you might have to compromise. When figuring out how much you want to pay for the model of bike you’ve chosen, consult a few different sources. First, there are of course website like Kelly Blue Book and NADAguides that will show you the bike’s estimated used retail value. This will give you a general idea of how much the bike you want is worth. My favorite source for checking the prices however is eBay. eBay allows you to see closed auctions or sales and how much the bikes actually sold for. Sellers often inflate their asking price but what the bike is listed for is not always what the bike is actually worth.
Where to look
Today’s most widespread source of classifieds is Craigslist. Sometimes to get a good deal on a used motorcycle, you might have to branch out outside of your city or perhaps even outside of your state. Websites like SearchTempest allow you to search Craigslist nationwide. Don’t get lazy, sometimes a great deal is worth a really long drive. Some other sources to check out for used bikes are eBay, bike specific forums, Cycle Trader (although it’s almost completely abandoned by private sellers, you can still find good deals once in a blue moon) and public auctions. Most of the time, buying a used bike from a dealership means that you are going to over pay. Even if you find a used bike at a dealership listed for a fair price, the out-the-door price after all the taxes and fees the dealer adds on will usually put you over the fair market price.
Questions to ask the seller
These questions should be answered prior to you making the trip to look at the bike. By asking these questions you are not only gathering information about the bike’s history, but you are also looking for any red flags that the seller is not being completely honest. Two things you should definitely never ignore – If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is and if you have a gut feeling there is something off about the deal, you are probably right.
What to look for when checking out the bike
It always helps to bring someone along who knows motorcycles and can help you determine the condition of the used bike. But if you don’t have such a buddy available, here are a few things to look for when checking out a potential bike purchase:
If you are completely new to riding, I would not recommend you test riding someone else’s bike. Firstly, you won’t really know what you are looking for during the test ride. An experienced rider will know what a bike is supposed to feel like and is a lot more likely to notice issues that might arise during shifting, braking, turning, etc. As a new rider you are also vulnerable to making a mistake and dropping someone else’s motorcycle and being responsible for paying for damages on a bike you don’t even own. If you don’t have a buddy or acquaintance who is an experienced rider and can test ride the bike for you, keep reading about taking your bike in for a pre-purchase inspection.
If you are not mechanically inclined, get a pre-purchase inspection from a shop
Most motorcycle shops or dealerships will offer pre-purchase inspections on used motorcycles. It’s fairly inexpensive and will give you a clear idea on what you are getting yourself into. If a bike needs a lot of work and you still decide to go through with the purchase, an official quote from a shop on what it will cost to get the bike fixed can be used as a bargaining tool to get the price of the bike down.
There are a ton of great used bike deals out there. Remember to BE PATIENT as finding a great deal might take some time. Better to wait for just the right bike rather than getting stuck with something that you overpaid for or something that will give you nothing but headaches. Happy bike shopping!
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