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How To Inspect A Used Motorcycle

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Buying a used motorcycle is a route many beginning and expert drivers are heading, which is largely because the average motorcycle isn’t excessively driven and maintained well. So, it’s not a bad idea to purchase a used motorcycle. But if you do, you’ll want to make sure you have an accurate and thorough inspection to ensure that what you’re buying is in good shape and the right bike for you. 

When going to inspect a used motorcycle, whether from a deller or personal seller, there are a few things you’ll want to make sure you have:

  • Money. Whether it’s cash, a check, or some form of online payment, be sure you have enough at the agreed-upon or approximate price of the bike
  • Notebook. When you’re inspecting your future motorcycle, it’s smart to grab a notebook and pen (or some other version of taking notes, like an app in your phone) to keep track of any potential damages or flaws you see
  • A fellow biker, if possible. Bringing a friend along will give you a second set of eyes to thoroughly check the motorcycle and offer any advice during your inspection

Take a look at the maintenance records

Any good seller will have maintenance records to show a bike’s condition, and that will give you an honest look into the bike’s performance history and how much longer it should perform well. Mileage alone isn’t a good enough indicator of how well-kept and efficient a bike is. If you can get a picture or copy of the records before going to visit, that’s even better. 

For anything that might be alarming, such as frequent fixes to significant components of the bike, ask the seller for an explanation. You’ll want to know anything that might be a problem, or has proven to be a problem, before you roll away purchasing a near-broken bike. 


Confirm that the owner has all of the accurate, valid paperwork, including the title, bill of sale, and a registration. To be cautious, you can check that all of the numbers match. If anything doesn’t look right or raises a lot of questions, it may be your best bet to walk away. 

Overall condition

When you are doing a basic inspection of the major components of the bike, what do you notice right away? It’s doubtful that it will look brand new and shiny, but a well-mainted motorcycle shouldn’t give the naked eye any problems. 

Noticeable components

When taking a walk around the motorcycle to get your first impression and start your inspection, don’t let anything questionable go by the wayside. 

  • Handlebars: The bars shouldn’t be dented or crooked, and the grips shouldn’t be torn or damaged 
  • Seat: Does the seat have any tears? Check also to confirm that the locks and shingles work properly
  • Bodywork: Check the fairings and gas for loose or missing hardware, along with any cracks or dents. Keep your eye out for any paint chippings or dents as well. 
  • Fenders: Are they damaged or dented? 


After taking a good look at the exterior, significant components of the bike, now it’s time to give the engine, perhaps the most telling part of a used bike, a thorough inspection. 

  • How well does it start? If you have to labor extensively to get the engine with more than a couple cranks, that could be a bad sign. 
  • Does the engine answer well to the throttle? Try it a few times to ensure there’s no sputtering or problems with the engine. 
  • One of the biggest problems to come from an engine inspection is thick, black smoke. See if this happens right away at the start and be sure to keep looking as the engine warms up. What this tells you about the engine is that it’s burning oil. Don’t be too quick to get upset if there’s quick, white smoke; that is normal. 
  • Ask the owner when the last oil change was, how many miles since then, and take a look for yourself. Is the oil condition you see consistent with a good bike? 
  • As the engine runs and you continue your inspection, check for any leaks, such as oil or coolant. 
  • Is the exhaust rusted or rotted? Are there any dents in this? Replacements to be an engine can be time-consuming and costly, so don’t be too quick in this part of your inspection. 
  • You shouldn’t have to listen too carefully for any noise-related problems, such as rattles or bangs. This is where bringing a biker friend along can help to diagnose any issues, but checking with a mechanic is a smart thing to do. 


When inspecting the wheels, it’s best to look at them at the exterior and see how well they work when riding around a little. 

  • Check for any missing or damaged spokes
  • Are the bearings worn? 
  • And while you ride, see how good the alignment is. This can be hard to notice, and that’s likely a good thing. If you can tell there’s a problem right away, the wheel alignment can be a costly issue to resolve. 


Brakes can be both an evident and underlying issue that you only discover while riding, so don’t gloss over inspecting. 

  • Check the fluid level for the front and rear master cylinder. 
  • Check overall condition and leaks for front and rear hoses. 
  • Check any wear for the front and rear pads along with the rear drum brake

Final Thoughts 

In the end, the bike that you’re looking at is going to be yours for at least a few years. So, you’ll want to make sure it’s in a suitable condition for you. Don’t be afraid to bring a list such as this, bring a friend, and ask any questions that come to mind when meeting with the seller. The worst thing you can do is be brief and negligent in the sale, and end up purchasing something you regret. 

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