couple standing near motorcycle at the beach

When buying a motorcycle, whether you’re a first-time owner or you’ve already owned a two-wheeler, you’ll have many options to consider. These include the engine size, the make and model of the bike and whether you want a new motorcycle or a used one.

If you’re new to the motorcycle world, you might be better off buying a new motorcycle because you’ll have the support of a dealership – which can be helpful, particularly if you’re not experienced in the mechanics and servicing of a bike. A new motorcycle is also good if you want to make sure you have all the latest technology and features.

However, for some riders, a used motorcycle makes more sense.

When to buy used

One of the biggest advantages to buying a used motorcycle is the price. Whether you’re going through a private seller or a dealership, there’s usually a significant price difference between new and used motorcycles. If your budget is the biggest consideration, buying used could be a great way to get more bike for your buck.

Experienced riders may also be good candidates for used motorcycles. If you have some experience riding, you’ll know better about what to look for in the overall feel of the bike.

If it has some minor mechanical flaws, you’ll be more likely to notice them. You’ll probably know whether, say, that clinking sound you hear coming from the motor is something that can easily be fixed or something that’s setting you up for bigger problems down the road.;

Keep in mind that older bikes may not have all the technology and safety features of new models, such as ABS or other recent technology advances. That can affect your decision as to which motorcycle is best for your skill level and intended usage.

Private seller or a dealer?

Buying from a private seller can be a great experience or it can be less than perfect, and much of that depends on the seller's honesty. With a dealership, you can often get a certified pre-owned bike, so you’ll know it’s been checked out mechanically and is in good condition for the road. 

That’s not the case with a private seller, so be extra diligent. Some things you’ll want to check are:
  • Is it up to date on its service visits? Can the owner provide the paperwork to prove it? 
  • Has it been in any accidents or had any major repair work done?
  • How many owners has it had? What is its overall driving history?
  • What is the odometer reading?

Getting a vehicle history report, which also is called a VIN check, can provide you with most of what you’ll need to know about the bike before you decide to buy. Once you have the VIN, or vehicle identification number, you can get a free report from services such as about that particular motorcycle’s history online. In most cases, if you buy from a dealership, it will be able to provide that for you.

Red flags

Things to look for when buying a used motorcycle include rust or significant scratches, oxidized paint, a rusty chain, smoke from the exhaust when the bike is started and leakage from the engine or transmission. Any of these can signal signs of bigger problems. If you aren’t entirely familiar with the mechanics of working on a motorcycle, have it checked out by a pro.

Finding the right bike can take some time and homework but making an informed, well-researched decision can lead to miles of pleasure on the road.

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