10 Things You Should Do Before Buying a Used Motorcycle
If you are ready to buy the used motorcycle you’ve always dreamed of, do your research before making this major purchase. Consider these 10 tips to help you make an educated decision.
1. Decide what type of bike best fits your lifestyle.
If you are planning on long rides — even cross-country — you may want a touring model with all the bells & whistles (heated grips, seat and foot warmers, surround sound, cruise control, etc.) to make your journey a little more comfortable. A sport bike, however, might be more appropriate for shorter rides. You should definitely evaluate your riding needs before deciding on which type of used bike to buy. Also, consider the following:
- Visit dealerships and/or the websites of various motorcycle manufacturers to learn about what’s out there. You can find information about models and features to help you narrow down your choices.
- Attend Original Equipment Manufacturer-sponsored bike rallies, such as Daytona Bike Week, Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Americade or Delmarva Bike Week. At events such as these, motorcycle enthusiasts (with a motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license and proper riding gear including helmet and boots) may take test drives offered by several manufacturers.
- Read other riders’ comments and reviews by visiting motorcycle forums and blogs. While you may not share the same opinions, you may find some of the posts are helpful when considering various models. You will also be able to search for comments and evaluations regarding dealerships’ reputations.
- Talk to your biker friends to ask their opinions. You may find the word-of-mouth information you gather personally to be invaluable in your decision-making process.
2. Research the value of the used motorcycle you are considering.
In addition to sources such as Kelley Blue Book and NADAguides, which provide market pricing, you might want to see what comparable models are selling for in your area. Try checking local classifieds or visiting online vehicle sales and pricing sites. These sites can provide thousands of sortable, customizable motorcycle classified ads nationwide.
3. Research availability and cost of insurance before committing to the purchase.
Motorcycle insurance can vary based on a number of factors, including the class or model of motorcycle you are purchasing. Make sure to talk to your insurance agent to investigate your options and the associated costs prior to purchasing your used motorcycle.
4. Decide where to buy.
You should evaluate the pros and cons of buying from a franchised or independent dealership, or from a private party. For example:
- A franchised or independent dealer may take your old bike in trade, allow you to take a test ride and have a service department. Some franchised dealers may also offer “certified pre-owned” motorcycles that would come with a complete service history and a guarantee or warranty.
- A dealership typically offers more variety and more protection than buying from a private party. There may also be a tax savings: If you have a trade-in, its value will be debited from the purchase price, reducing the sales tax you pay at the time of purchase. Granted, buying from a private party likely won’t include sales tax, which is worth consideration.
- Buying from a private party may give you the best price for the bike you are buying, but it may not give you the same benefits as buying from a licensed dealer. If you are able to buy a “single owner” bike with service records, this may be a very good option because you’ll typically have the most information about the bike’s history.
5. Inspect the motorcycle before buying, or have a qualified mechanic check it out for you.
The goal is to know what you are buying and how much additional money you’ll have to spend to make it roadworthy. It’s critical that you thoroughly inspect the motorcycle, because one missed problem could make your purchase more expensive than you anticipated.
6. Test drive the bike.
This is your opportunity to make sure that you are not buying a bike beyond your skill or experience level. A high-performance bike, for instance, should not be driven by a novice rider. It will also give you a chance to make sure that the bike fits your body. You don’t want to ride a bike that’s too tall or not tall enough for you, as it could be difficult for you to control and maneuver. Again, the benefit of the manufacturer-sponsored bike rallies where you will be able to take test rides is something you should keep in mind.
7. Request a service history.
A well-cared-for bike may come with a file of maintenance receipts. By reviewing these records, you could be able to determine how well the motorcycle was taken care of and if there were any mechanical issues you should be aware of before making your purchase decision. Also, ask if the owner’s manual and factory tool kit are available.
8. Research the title history.
Consider doing a title history search, which can be done easily by visiting a motorcycle vehicle history report website.
- Motorcycle vehicle history reports can also give you access to recalls, complaints and investigations related to the year, make and model of motorcycle you are considering.
- Get a copy of the title before committing to purchase the bike. Never buy a used motorcycle without a title, as you will be unable to legally register the motorcycle, or sell or trade it in the future without a title.
- If you buy the motorcycle from a dealership, they will assist you with the paperwork. If you buy the motorcycle from a private party, be sure to get the original title and registration that shows the bike is titled in the seller’s name.
- Do not complete the transaction (pay for the motorcycle) without first making sure you will receive the proper paperwork to be able to title and register in your own name. You can’t legally drive the motorcycle without doing so.
9. Make an offer.
Now that you’ve found the motorcycle you want to buy and have done your research on its condition and history, it is time to make an offer. There are four prices you may wish to consider at this time:
- The asking price: What price does the seller want for the bike? Remember tip No. 2 above regarding researching the value of the used motorcycle.
- Your highest price: Decide in advance the absolute most money you are willing to spend to ride this motorcycle based on the research you have done, from condition and repair costs to the cost of your bike insurance. If it comes with a warranty, factor that in as well. You don’t want to experience buyer’s remorse by overpaying.
- Your target price: This is the number you really want to pay for the motorcycle. It is the price you are most comfortable with and that you believe is a reasonable offer for the seller.
- The offer price. Your offer price should be lower than your target price to give you room to negotiate, but not so low as to insult the seller.
10. Take a motorcycle safety course via the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.
To find an Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) rider course class nearest you, visit the MSF website. Not only will it make you a better driver, there’s a chance it may lower your insurance rate as well, according to DMV.org. If you are already an experienced driver, consider taking an advanced rider class to improve your skills.