How To: Buy a Used Motorcycle Like a Pro

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Category: How To

Buying a used motorcycle is a good way to get a perfectly running machine for dirt-cheap while also stretching your budget to get you on a much nicer bike. Here are our favorite techniques for getting the most value when you buy a used motorcycle.

Be Willing to Travel
Used motorcycle values vary wildly based on geographic location. The Manufacturers Suggested Retail Pricing (MSRP) and the addition of dealer fees usually dictate new motorcycle prices, with little variance. Pricing in the used market, however, is based on supply, demand, and what people in any geographic area are willing to pay. Los Angeles tends to believe 1970’s used Hondas that need work are worth $3,000-$5,000, while Bakersfield (50 miles north) has them for $1,500-$2,000. If you are willing to extend your search into areas that aren’t subject to fads, you have a much better chance of getting a better deal.

Value of Aftermarket Additions
Buying a used motorcycle is a way to get a motorcycle with the aftermarket options you want, already installed. The downside is that the seller often believes the aftermarket additions are worth the amount they paid for them (including what they paid for installation). New tires, a fresh oil change, or nice exhaust system are nice additions to a used motorcycle and will save you ownership dollars. These items are worth paying a little more for, while personalization bits like fancy levers and new mirrors are not.

Ashlee's first purchase had a number of aftermarket "modifications"

How Many Miles Is Too Many?
The used motorcycle market is interesting because of the wildly varied use of the inventory within it. My dentist thinks hitting 1,000 miles in a year is a lot of riding. Many people view motorcycles as Sunday toys, which contributes to the idea that motorcycle engines can’t handle regular use. If you have two identical options side-by-side and one has 20k less miles, that’s obviously the better buy. If the bike you want has 30k-40k miles and looks like it’s been taken care of in the process, don’t be afraid to buy the bike you want as the engine has plenty of life left in it.

Willing to drive to Portland? While this face may look friendly, Thor is known for putting his bikes through the ringer.

Be Nice (Really!)
It’s your right to offer however much you can afford to spend for a used motorcycle. Offering too little, however, can be taken with offense and can be the difference between a sale or not, so know the market, know the product and offer something fair. You never know when the seller has aftermarket additions he planned on selling separately, but will toss in because he likes you and you treated him with respect. Remember, we are all just trying to get the most out of our money.

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