20 Tips to Look For When Buying a Used Motorcycle

I have had my share of motorcycle in my life, some new but most second hand or third or maybe forth. The thing is I have gained a lot of experience in deciding the actual value of a used motorcycle.


You would not want to end up with a junk after spending a huge amount of your hard earned cash. If you have already bought a used bike or two, you might have gained some prospective. But for all the riders who are looking to buy a used motorcycle for the first time in their life, this list might be helpful.

What To Look For When Buying a Used Motorcycle?

There are various things you will have to consider yourself, before buying a used motorcycle. If you are not sure about what to look for when buying a used motorcycle, then this article will definitely give you some insight.

1. Type of motorcycle you require

This is the first thing you will have to decide. Finalize the bike category you will be exploring depending upon your needs and requirements. Will you be looking for an aggressive sports motorcycle, a cruiser that is laid back, a scooter that is easy to ride, or a touring bike?

What you will have to consider when looking for a used bike is the kind of wear and tear it has gone through depending on its type. If it is an enduro, dirt bike, trial, dual purpose or any other sports motorcycle then the suspensions would have experienced a lot more wear as compared to any touring bike.

2. Is it a private seller or dealership?

Including your preferences, this choice will also depend on your budget as dealerships tend to charge more in addition to the money demanded by the private party. But on the other hand, if you are dealing with a private seller, you will be able to listen to some great memories of riding related to that motorcycle and such sellers are more flexible when it comes to the final price.

A motorcycle that is used and available for sale will require some touch-ups and repair which is better done by used motorcycle dealerships along with the final quality check. You might make some new likeminded friends as well when dealing with a private party.

3. Visual Inspection

When you are looking at the bikes that you have finalized, take a closer look. Your eyes can sometimes detect even the small defects that you might not be able to find even when you actually ride that bike. In case you are deciding on the web whether to go ahead on a deal or not, then always ask for a lot of images and also a video if possible.

Although, I strongly suggest that you should never make such decisions solely via internet interaction. Actually looking at the motorcycle and riding it is very crucial part of your investment. Always be completely sure before investing your money and look through various options.

4. Checking the VIN

When you ask, what to look for when buying a used motorcycle? The first thing is that it should not be stolen. Ensure that you are not getting into a bad deal by investing in bike that has no VIN or it has been re-stamped.

Call the DMV if you are in a dilemma and ensure that it is not stolen, also you can enquire about the additional registration fee that you will have to pay to transfer the vehicle to your name. Another thing to keep in mind is confirming the name to which the motorcycle is currently registered.

5. Theft Recovery

When you look for bike options online, you will come across a few sellers who own a used motorcycle store. Such stores are mostly personally owned, they deal in all types of bikes and they have a huge collection. But such places might also have a lot of stolen bikes to sell; the owner might or might not be aware of it.

There could be some theft recovery vehicles which are not junk and run really good, if they are legal, by all means go for it. But you should be aware of what you are buying, so always check the ignition and fork lock for any damage. If anyone these is busted or the keys to both are not the same, you are entitled to further investigation.

6. Examine Foot Peg, Levers and Bar Ends

These are some of the things you should look at as will they give a very good insight about the actual condition of the motorcycle and also it’s past. Their age needs to be proportionate with the bike; if they are damaged then the motorcycle has definitely suffered at the hands of the previous owner.

The levers could show some rash, but rash can be buffered out. So another thing to look for is if the levers are curled, if they are then they have hit the pavement a lot. To cover this some sellers might cut the curled part but they makes the levers short and it is very evident. Of course you can but a bike with curled levers if you do not personally mind this. But ask the seller about it and if they are lying you can know they are being dishonest.

7. Pop the Hood

Yes, pick that seat up and have a look at the battery and especially all the wires connected to it. If you see all factory connectors without any missing component, then all is well. But, if there are fog lights, a GPS, or hanging power leads you should know there is something fishy. Also look for vampire connectors, electrical tape or a single colored wire excessively used.

A single color could mean that the owner didn’t want to spend enough money for different colored wires. Image the amount of confusion and problems this would cause you in the future.

8. Cold Examination

This is one of the best tips and something you should always do when you want to test used motorcycle engines. Whenever you are going to look at the bike for the first time, tell the seller not to warm it up or crank it. This will help when you go and start the engine yourself; the things that a cold engine can tell about a vehicle, a warmed up one can never do that.

So, what to look for when buying a used motorcycle? Run the engine cold and listen for any type of noise that should not be there.

9. Check for Leaks

You can check for leaks, this might save you lots of money alter. Have a good look under the engine and the radiator if possible for any leaking fluid. There might be a puddle under the bike as the seller would have changed the location. You can run your fingers underneath the engine and along the gasket surfaces to detect fluid leakage. Visual access if all the plumbing connections and joints are there.

When selling a second-hand motorcycle, its used value can decrease if there is a leak in the main engine casing as it will be costly to repair.

10. What are You Looking At?

Obviously you would have made up your mind about what make and model you are more interested in. Another thing you can do before you actually go out and look at all the motorcycle available, is research. Raid the internet, it is crucial that you gather all the information that you can about the motorcycle that you are particularly interested in.

You can also look up for articles that explain how to buy a used motorcycle, so that you know exactly what you are looking out for. Reading will help you learn many new technical aspects and general tips that you were otherwise unaware of.

11. Take a Test Ride

Of course you will go for a test ride (if allowed by the owner) to test the motorcycle you went to have a look at. Make sure that you do all the audible checks and pay special attention to the riding and engine behavior such as clutch engagement, shifting accuracy, ease in shifting, power delivery, throttle response etc. Also check the brakes and ensure that there is no vibration. If you feel any vibrations then leave the handle for a moment and see if the bike strongly pulls to one side.

Even if you are going for the best cheap used motorcycle, you might be compromising with looks or make but never adjust with the engine quality. You will need the engine to give its best performance and not create unnecessary problems.

12. If You Can’t Take a Test Ride…

Now just in case you go to look at a bike but you are not allowed a test ride as some owners are strict about it. You might not face this problem if you go to a used motorcycle dealership. Then in such situation, what to look for when buying a used motorcycle? But anyway, if you cannot take a ride then ask the owner to start the bike cold and remember to check for any type of unusual noise such as odd rumbling sound, excessive valve clattering, heavy knocks etc.

Do not fall for the “they all make this type of noise” excuse because that is not the case. There should be no odd noises. Or if you are not allowed to ride then ask the owner to ride it and you can sit behind and observe for any unusual behavior.

13. More Cost, More Cuestions

If you have already decided which bike to buy, you must have a look at some used motorcycle price guide available on the internet to ensure that the price quoted by the owner is genuine. In the case of higher cost you should not just go straight away and deny.

If you are actually interested in this motorcycle, you should ask the owner more questions regarding the high price. As the higher you will be paying, you might have to ask more questions. Ask why the price is so high as compared to actual market price of similar motorcycles.

14. Service History

This is one important task that you should never forget when looking at a used motorcycle that you are considering to buy. Get complete information about the parts that have been replaced, change in mileage over time (if any), major engine overhauls, if any small or huge engine part has been replaced then it should be company certified and some local manufacturer made.

Such compromises made during repair or scheduled maintenance and service of a motorcycle can effect the overall performance and also might create huge expenses for you in the future.

15. Not in Running Condition?

If you are considering to invest in a used motorcycle regardless of its engine condition then there are many more options available for you. That is if you are also considering motorcycles that are not in running condition and you are willing to invest time and money to reincarnate a bike that is not in running condition, that means you are probably already well versed in all things related to the technical and mechanical aspects of motorcycles. But if you are not planning to do so then buying a bike that is not in running condition is not a very good idea.

16. How Hard Was The Bike Ridden?

So, what else to check when buying a used motorcycle? The answer is in the question above, that how hard was the motorcycle ridden or in what situation was it used. Ask questions like what region the bike was ridden more, which particular terrain, off-roading or not and how many times were the tires changed or the actual miles on the meter. The riding style of the previous riders also contributes and affects the present condition and performance of the motorcycle.

17. Expert Advice

Just in case even after a lot of internet research and reading, you are still not sure about what to look for when buying a used motorcycle? Then there is one more very easy solution for you, take expert advice from a mechanic or technician. Or another thing you can do is take along a friend who is an expert or in any way more experienced with motorcycles than you are.You can get help related to used motorcycle from websites which are dedicated to these topics only.

18. Do Not Get Fooled

You will be listening to the seller sing songs about the great condition of the motorcycle. The things they say might be true but also remember that there are chances that they might try to fool you with all the sweet talk to sell their bike. Before reaching a final decision, consider all pros and cons with a clear and unbiased mind.

19. Negotiate

Don’t just pay whatever price they demand make negotiations if possible. But never be unreasonable and ask to lower the price to an impossible range, it might give a wrong impression about you. The price of a used motorcycle can be enquired from various websites online if you are not sure whether the demanded rate is suitable or not. Never get ripped off or pay excessive money without any reason.

20. Do Not Get Too Attached, Too Soon

When you will be looking for used motorcycles, it will be a long process till you find the perfect match for yourself. During this process, you will shortlist some bikes, look at them thoroughly and then finalise the one that matches your requirements. When you go out and look at each one of the bikes you finalised, do not get too attached to every bike as there is a chance that the deal might not work out.


You can rely on internet research when you are not sure what to look for when buying a used motorcycle. This video will give you good insight on how to look for minor alterations or detect defects.

This article can be your guide to buying a used motorcycle and if you find it useful enough, you can share it with your friends who need tips like these.

Bradley Miller

There is nothing that compares to the feeling of controlling a thundering beast beneath you. In addition to the joy of the ride a motorcycle has many advantages over any other vehicle. You learn how to drive the smarter way with traffic rules on the road; also you are always in the state of complete-awareness when on the ride.

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