Mechanic checking motorcycle wheel

10-Point Checklist For Buying a Used Motorcycle

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There are a few things I would recommend when buying a used motorcycle nowadays. It all came from the day I was buying my first motorcycle a few years back, and I was asking around for what to look for when it comes to buying a used motorcycle, so here I am today, answering the commonly asked question about what to look for when buying a used motorcycle.

I have to say, when you are buying a used motorcycle, there is a list of key points you should check before purchasing. By all means, buying a used motorcycle isn’t a sketchy thing…but there are a few things you must keep in mind when buying a used motorcycle.

Before you even consider buying a specific model, make sure it’s one you will genuinely enjoy if you made the purchase, I’ve seen far too many motorcycle purchases where the buyer is dissatisfied, yet the used motorcycle is just fine, it’s just something to keep in mind when you are looking on craigslist and other related browsing locations. I recommend checking the overall condition, brakes & clutch, suspension, chain, tires, exhaust, fuel tank, oil, relevant history, and title and registration.

Here is a thorough list of things you must check when buying a used motorcycle.

10-Point Checklist For Buying a Used Motorcycle

  1. Overall Condition: Checking the overall condition is, in fact, the most important part of this checklist. The motorcycle must be in satisfactory condition to justify the purchase. It was a little over a year ago now when I was shopping around for a motorcycle in my area, and when I found one that I absolutely loved, the images on the internet were fabulous, but when I went to go check out the bike… I found scratches, nicks, and other conditional problems with the used motorcycle. So I ended up not buying that model, I brought up that story, so you don’t run into further issues with overall condition inspections, just make sure the used motorcycle is in satisfactory condition to your standards.
  2. Brakes & Clutch: Checking the brakes and clutch will definitely save you a headache or might even sway your justification on a particular bike. To test the brakes, simply sit on the bike, have it out of gear and simply roll it forward then brake. The motorcycle should come to a stop, then let go of the brake and roll forward, in doing this, there should be no sound coming from the brakes, if there is, that means the brakes most likely need work done to the brake calibers or other related parts. For the clutch, simply pull the clutch in; and release slowly, it should be as smooth as can be. If there is any abnormal tension or pull, it’s possible it could be a minor issue, but chances are the clutch needs to be replaced due to overuse.
  3. Suspension: The easiest way to tell if a used motorcycle suspension is still good is to simply sit on the bike and test out the shocks. For the rear suspension, aggressively sit on the motorcycle, so you initiate downforce. The motorcycle should rise back to normal height without springing up and down. For the front suspension, it’s a little more difficult when diagnosing any problems. Push down on the forks and initiate downward motion; there should not be any rough sounds, it should be smooth, and also should not be leaking oil from the seals…I’ve had this happen to me in the past, where it was leaking oil from the seals. If this is happening, chances are you will only have to replace the seals, which is an easy fix overall.
  4. Chain: Checking the chain could save you lots of time on used motorcycles. Grab the chain and check the tension it has on the sprocket, if you can pull the chain horizontally from the side of the sprocket about 3/4 of the way to the end of the tooth, then it’s time to replace the chain. The chain must be in good condition also it must be shiny and clean.
  5. Tires: Unfortunately, I don’t have any images at the moment of a good-looking tire vs. a bad-looking tire, but you should be able to see the wear and tear difference. If there are wires showing, then you must get new tires. If the wear and tear are moderate, I wouldn’t worry too much; keep in mind you may have to replace the tires while you’re the owner of the vehicle. Don’t get too stuck up on this, it’s something that is a given on a used motorcycle simply because it’s been driven for a while and has wear and tear.
  6. Exhaust: Motorcycle exhaust is a crucial part of your buying decision, and we understand this can be complicated at times. Before you start the engine, inspect the exhaust, and look for rust and corrosion…sometimes you’ll be able to spot rough spots in the exhaust system, which often show signs of work. Another reason you want the engine cold is so you can start the engine cold. It’s harder for a used bike to turn over cold than a bike that’s been running for a few minutes.
  7. Fuel Tank Check: Checking the fuel tank is one of the last things I check when buying a used motorcycle. Open the cap to the gas tank and check the gas, is it clear? The other thing you want to check is the interior surface of the fuel tank. Look for a shiny silver covering, if you cannot see a shiny side, chances are it is an old fuel tank and must be replaced. In this event, I would replace the fuel system as well, just to be safe.
  8. Check the Oil: Checking the oil for residue is important, making sure the motorcycle oil doesn’t have water or metal shards. This is very bad news, don’t plan on getting this used motorcycle unless you look forward to tearing apart the engine. I don’t want to dive too much into motorcycle oil, but the oil simply should be functioning correctly unless something happened recently.
  9. Relevant History: Checking the relevant history of the used motorcycle is crucial, so you must dive into that specific model and see if there are other related issues that the company says might be prevalent in that model. This is what I’m talking about: fully understand the motorcycle you are interested in, so you are ready to ask the right questions when you are checking out the bike.
  10. Title & Registration: The last thing you should check when buying a used motorcycle is the title and registration, locate the motorcycle VIN number and see if it matches the current registration on the motorcycle. If the VIN is not matching, then I would start asking questions…in this situation, you wouldn’t want to buy the motorcycle because you don’t want to find yourself unable to register the motorcycle.
Mechanic Checking Motorcycle List

How Do You Inspect a Motorcycle?

When it comes to inspecting a used motorcycle, the most often aspect people miss is asking the right questions. Below are some of the most common questions I ask when buying a used motorcycle.

  • How long have you had the bike? – This question is a helpful way to start a friendly conversation and learn more about the used bike.
  • Has the motorcycle crashed at all? – When asking this question, it will be very easy to tell if the seller is telling the truth. Are they hesitant?
  • How has your experience been with this motorcycle? – Asking this question allows you to continue the dialogue and learn more about the bike.

There are hundreds of questions you should ask, but these are three of the most common questions I would recommend you ask when buying your first used motorcycle.

Where to Buy a Motorcycle?

So you are interested in buying a motorcycle? Here we are going to discuss the 4 places you can buy a motorcycle. The platforms listed below are chosen based on reputable sources and personal experiences.

CraigslistLower PricesPossible Scams
eBayMore OptionseBay has a National Range
OfferupLower PricesPossible Scams
Local DealershipsVery ReputableOver-PricedN/A
  • Craigslist: I absolutely love craigslist. It’s by far the best option when it comes to buying used motorcycles. Personally, I’ve used craigslist to purchase an abundant amount of motorcycles and other motorcycle-related products. They are 3rd party and offer anyone the ability to buy and sell on their site. They’ve gotten better in the past with security, such as making sure it’s not a scam listing and whatnot, but to be completely honest with you, it should be fairly easy to tell the difference between a scam and an authentic listing. The image below will help you understand what an authentic listing looks like on craigslist.
Buying a Used Motorcycle
  • eBay: eBay is an interesting platform. They have products all over the world. So, for example, if you are looking for a motorcycle, you must have limited options locally or look nationally, which will limit you to driving to look at the motorcycle and then checking out the motorcycle after driving to look. So, there is the argument that it’s unreliable to buy used motorcycles.
  • OfferUp: OfferUp is very similar to Craigslist; it’s a similar setup since it offers local searches for just about anything from electronics to motorcycles.
  • Local Dealerships: Buying a used motorcycle from a local dealer is something you’ll have to think about before you make your final decision to make sure you can justify spending more money at a dealership. Just from my experience and research, motorcycle dealerships almost always have higher prices. Cycle Trader has a phenomenal tool that will help you figure out how much the motorcycle is worth.

How Much is a Used Motorcycle Worth?

There are a few factors that influence how much a used motorcycle is worth. Before making any buying decisions, make sure you check out the tools below that will help you calculate how much a used motorcycle is worth.

Please Note: These sites that estimate the motorcycle cost only factor in a few things to determine the price, so make sure you go with your gut feeling that the motorcycle you are buying is within your budget and is something you will love and not feel remorse about because the last thing we want for you is that you hate your purchase idea and so it sets a bad tone in the motorcycle industry.

Related Questions:

Should I buy a motorcycle from a private seller? – From my experience, it is okay to buy a used motorcycle from a private seller as long as you do things legally and build a powerful relationship with the buyer so you can assure yourself that the deal was worth it for both parties.

Should I buy a motorcycle from a dealership? – Buying from a dealership is totally fine. Some say the prices are over-priced, but that comes with some benefits also, such as warranties and professional inspections before the sale of the motorcycle.

Final Thoughts

I hope this checklist was exactly what you were looking for; like I was saying, again, when I was searching for my first motorcycle, I was buying it used, and a thorough guide like this would have been so helpful.

We made this guide so you have a better understanding of how to buy a used motorcycle responsibly. I can’t stress the importance of walking yourself through the checklist enough.

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10-Point Checklist For Buying a Used Motorcycle

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