12 Tips For Buying a Used Motorcycle


Categories: Ask RideApart, Expert Advice

For most, motorcycles are not a necessity. You can be damn sure they are a must in my life (and probably yours if you're reading this), but for normal people, they’re a luxury. So, when you only have so much money, buying a motorcycle at almost any price is an investment worth taking seriously. I know I can’t afford multiple motorcycles, no matter how hard I try.

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We’ve written a story on how to buy a used motorcycle, but tips and learning experiences are subjective and we thought it was time for an update.

I grew up on the other side of a parts counter. I was raised in a family of barters and grew up going to swap meets several times a year. I'm now obsessed with attending them on my own. I swept the floors of a dealership, bought cheap parts and wrecked bikes as I grew older, but I’ve been amazed at how much more I learned from my recent months of searching for a new horse in my ever growing stable.

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We’ve been scouring the earth in search for an inexpensive, small, and cool motorcycle for my fiancé to start riding, also something I could steal when my bike’s broken (We finally bought it, read the Hipster Bike Piece at the link above).

Here are a few tips I’ve gathered—mostly from personal experiences—on how to buy a used motorcycle.


Cold Blooded

You want it cold! This is one of my favorite tips. When you first go to look at a bike, let the seller know not to crank it and warm it up. A warm engine is easy to start and can hide many tuning issues. A cold engine, however, can show the weak links in the chain.

My soon-to-be uncle in law recently sold an older Yamaha and the buyer asked him not to crank it before he came to look at it. “Man, that thing was a pain in the ass to get cranked. It took us forever,” said George, “but he did buy it.” Then, after some thought, “well, he talked me down a few hundred bucks though.”


Research Parts Before Going

Brake pads/shoes, clutch cable, throttle cable, intake tubes, carb rebuilt kits, petcock rebuilt kits and tires are a must. If parts are hard to find be wary—very wary. Also, don’t give me that, “Well, I’ll just make my own parts.” Can you make new jets from scratch? How about a head gasket?

Our Honda project needed brakes (luckily we knew this before going), which were easy to find at places like PowerSports Place for around $40 for two sets of (front and rear) shoes. We also assumed it needed a clutch cable and a head gasket (because of a described oil leak over the phone). We were able to find all of the parts for under $100. If it needed tires and other items, we could be out an extra $500. It's important to know these amounts before going.

These figures can not only tell you if you’re over budget, but can also be useful in negotiation. Saying things like, “My max is BLANK and the price of new tires and brakes at your asking price will put me over my budget. Would you take BLANK off your asking price?”



It’s all about respect—show up on time, don’t insult them, and don’t screw around.

Take pride in their ride. This is a piece of machinery that has established an emotional connection with the seller, so compliment it.

Have a reason why you want to pay less money. For example, list out the parts or the back fees, and express to them your budget. Don’t simply say, “It’s junk and not worth the asking price.” Be kind, respectful and patient. Compliment the item and if you make them a lower offer than the asking price, don’t insult them. Make it clear that it’s how much you can spend, not how much you personally think it’s worth, at least not without indisputable evidence.

Old Bike Putnam

Don’t Play Games

Be friendly, but be upfront. Don’t waste the person's time by rescheduling twelve times, showing up late, taking up most of the seller's afternoon, and then finishing it off with an offer that’s half the asking price.

photo 1

Don’t Let Them Play Games

I almost made a very bad purchase a couple weeks ago. I made an impulsive decision to look at a H-D Sportster 883 (not pictured) the afternoon it was published on Craigslist. It needed work, but the asking price was right. I showed up and learned it was on a mechanic’s lean, which is a messy ordeal with the DMV. It’s all up the mechanic to do the proper paperwork and if they don’t, it can be a big problem for the new owner. I didn’t believe this seller did the proper work, as he explained things differently than the DMV instructed.

He was amped, bouncing around his shop and hard to follow. He claimed the paperwork was somewhere else, offered a box of parts that appeared to came from several different bikes, he wanted to switch out the wheels and the bike was rougher than originally described. I wasn’t sure if this was a conscious technique to overwhelm and confuse me, but it worked. According to the seller, it had no back fees and ready to be registered.

I made an offer and he countered too high. I shook his hand and said I’d think about it.

Later that night, the seller’s son called me back (they had listed two phone numbers on the ad) unbeknownst to him that I had already seen the bike that day. I asked him about it one last time, to which he said, “Well, it has $700 in back fees.” I asked him to clarify that one more time and then said no thanks. His response was, “Well, you better make your mind up quick, we have a lot of people looking at it…."CONTINUE READING

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