Buying a Used Motorcycle

While buying a new motorcycle is an exciting experience, there are many benefits to buying used. A used bike customer faces a much lower initial cost, break-in procedures already complete, lower insurance rates, and no worries about minor scratches. Here is a guide to help make the right decisions, without buying “someone else’s problems.”

Know What You’re Buying

used kawaskiWe all have different riding styles, expectations and needs, and preferences about what is a perfect bike. That is why we are fortunate to have so much variety in motorcycles these days. However, the flip side of this is there are a lot of motorcycles that might not be well suited for you. Weight, riding position, handling, acceleration, seat comfort, noise, and so on, are all different between makes and models. Just as you wouldn’t buy an Indian Chieftain for dirt trails, you wouldn’t like using a Honda CRF in LA traffic. Both are sweet bikes, but have a dedicated purpose and style. Take the time to find just the right bike for you.

Research, Research, Research

Once you have a couple of motorcycles in mind, it is time to research them. Check out online forums for advice. Just be aware there are some instant “experts” on forums that might really be a 13 year old that has never ridden the Star VMAX you’re asking about. YouTube is a great source of unbiased reviews, as owners post up their opinions with nothing to gain other than helping fellow riders. Finally, don’t forget to check the old standbys, the big name motorcycle magazines. They have tested hundreds of bikes, and can offer thoughtful insight into specific bikes. Check Craigslist, NADA, and Cycle Trader to get an idea of prices in your area.


Once you have found your perfect bike for the price you want to pay, it’s time to take a closer look at it. First thing is to check the fairings, handle bars, exhaust and such for any evidence the bike has been laid down. Check for aftermarket parts, as some are better than factory quality, but some are cheap junk. Talk with the owner to see if it has a clear title, and if they have the maintenance logs. Have them start the bike while you watch the exhaust for black/purple smoke.

Test Ride

Last, it’s time to see if this is the bike for you. Hopefully you brought your riding equipment and license. Take it slow, as every motorcycle is different. Test the brakes at low speed to see how they are working. They should be predictable and quiet, not grabby or noisy. Once familiar with the bike and the engine is warmed up, work it a little harder, paying attention for odd drive-train sounds or sluggish response. Make sure all the gauges, lights, and accessories work, and use them as bargaining chips if they are inoperable. Finally, if this is your “new” ride, insure it before riding home. There are too many stories out there about wiping out on the drive home, uninsured and out of luck.

3 Responses

  1. Ridley Fitzgerald says:

    Thanks for the tips on buying a used motorcycle. It’s a good idea to know what type of bike I want, and what will work for me. I’ll be riding mine on the roads to school and work, so I guess I should do some research to find the best type of bike for that!

  2. Marc says:

    I loved when you mentioned how you should test the brakes of a motorcycle before buying one. It makes sense to think that doing this can help you get a feel for what the machine is like before buying it, especially when it is used. We are planning on getting a couple of motorcycles to use as we travel around the state, so I’m glad I found your page.

  3. Callum Palmer says:

    It really is important to inspect the used motorcycle before buying it. As the article points out, there are several factors that you want to look at before you place any money on the bike. In addition to the inspection you cannot forget the test ride since that will show you if everything is working properly.

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