Motorcycle under magnifying glass

9 Tips For Buying A Used Motorcycle

Buying a pre-owned motorcycle can be a great value—if you find one that’s in good condition and comes with its paperwork in order.

The biggest thing to keep in mind when buying a used motorcycle is to not rush through the process, says Tera Kirby of Reed’s Motorcycles in Hurst, Texas. “People get in a hurry and may just want to buy the first bike that fits their budget,” she says. “But that may not be in their best interest.”

Instead, she recommends taking the time to find the right motorcycle for your price range. Here’s what to do.

1. Look For Damage

Visually inspect the motorcycle and make sure there aren’t any major scratches or dings. Pay special attention to the gas tank; if it’s dented, it may need to be replaced. Look at the exhaust pipes, too, and check for any bluing on the metal, which could indicate that the motorcycle overheats.

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2. Check The Tires

“Stick your fingers in the tire tread,” says Kirby. “If it covers the tip of your finger, it’s in good shape.” If it doesn’t, or if the tires are worn on one side or the other, it might indicate a problem with the alignment or possibly a bent wheel. Also make sure the fender isn’t touching the tire, which could cause abnormal or uneven wear.

3. Listen To The Engine

The sound should be smooth and clean. Listen for any knocking or rattling, which could be something as simple as a loose bolt or be indicative of a bigger problem. Also pay attention to the idling; rough sounds could indicate a problem with the gas or mean that the engine hasn’t run for a while.

4. Assess The Oil

When you look in the oil window or pull out the dipstick, you want to see a dark brown, semi-translucent fluid. If the oil is black, it hasn’t been changed recently. Also check underneath the motorcycle for leaking oil, which could indicate a problem with the primary gasket (or something worse).

5. Check The Mileage

Make sure the odometer has a reasonable number of miles on it. All zeroes or an oddly low mileage could mean the entire speedometer has been replaced and the motorcycle is TMU, or “true miles unknown.”

6. Ask For Paperwork

Has the motorcycle been in an accident or had major repairs? Have there been recalls on it? Doing a search on the Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN (located vertically on the steering neck), can tell you everything that’s known about the motorcycle’s history, including whether it was stolen. It will also help you be sure the bike has a clear title, one that’s free of liens.

7. Take A Test Drive

Sit on the motorcycle to be sure it’s the right size; you should be able to put your feet flat on the ground for stability. Then go for a short ride—even just a mile is enough. “Make sure the bike is comfortable and not too heavy,” says Kirby. “You need to know you can handle it.”

8. Have It Inspected

A dealership should have a certified mechanic who has already checked out the motorcycle, but if it doesn’t, or if you’re buying from an individual, have the motorcycle inspected by an outside mechanic before you buy.

9. Research The Price

To determine whether the asking price is fair, make sure similar models are priced in the same range. Check motorcycle dealerships and online sources, and if the asking price seems too high—or low—ask why. If you think the price is high, don’t be afraid to negotiate.

Once you’ve selected the perfect used motorcycle, help protect it with motorcycle insurance from GEICO. Get rolling with a quick quote.

Read more: How To Safely Transport Your Motorcycle

By Ellise Pierce

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    Leave a comment

  1. Dean Johnson says,

    I’ve been looking to buy a used motorcycle for the past 7 months. No kidding, the past 7 months! I’ve decided on a Suzuki C50, it fits me, (I’m a short guy) all the reviews indicate the C50 is a smooth ride, it looks good, it’s not a monster engine at 800cc but it will do the job for my needs including extended road trips around the NW. I’ve done the requisite test riding on all the C50’s I’ve seen but what intrigues me is that most of the owners cannot tell me what exactly they’ve done regarding routine maintenance such as simple oil changes, brake fluid flushes, drive shaft routine maintenance, etc.,etc. Most of the sellers are not the do it yourself types regarding simple maintenance. I am a do ityourself type and I’m into preventative maintenance with my current bike and my car.

    How come I’m finding, for example, a 2007 C50 Boulevard that has only 450 miles on it??
    Gimme a break! Many others I’ve looked from 2007 to 2012 model years have under 2k miles on them too? Is odometer tampering happening? I’m sure folks can still somehow tamper with odometers. In the old days odometers were a mechanical thing, but modern bikes are all electronic or digital, right??

    Dean Johnson