Buying a used motorcycle or vehicle (Motorcycle Helmets tangent alert!)

We’re not gonna talk about motorcycle helmets today. Why? Because tangents are fun.

Instead, we’re gonna talk about buying a used motorcycle. Really, the advice in here applies to buying any sort of used vehicle, but I suppose I’ll keep things mainly focused on motorcycles today, since, you know, this is the motorcycle helmets guide, after all.

The first thing to consider in buying a used bike is simple enough: what kind of bike do you want? An easy way to figure this out is to ask yourself what you primarily want to be using the bike for. Is it just going to be a commuter bike to ferry you to and from work? Do you want a touring bike for long weekend rides? Or are you looking for a supercharged crotch-rocket for the track? Obviously the answer to these questions will significantly affect what kind of used motorcycle you’re looking for.

The next decision you have to make is whether you’re going to buy from a dealer or a private party. Buying from a private party can often seem appealing, because the prices you can find are often lower. But you have to recognize the trade offs. A reputable dealer will have fully refurbished your motorcycle before you buy it, and will typically also offer some sort of warranty. A private party transaction will usually offer no such guarantees, and you’re generally stuck with whatever you get, good or bad.

Notice I used the words “reputable dealer” above. This is key. Buying from a dealer is no better than buying from a private party if it’s not an honest dealership that you’ve checked out ahead of time, whether by word of mouth, online reviews, or whatever. In fact, buying from a dishonest dealership could be worse than buying from a private party, because you’ll end up paying more for the same bike.

If you do decide to go the private party route, also remember that whenever you’re buying or selling a used vehicle, it’s important to use a quality bill of sale to document the transaction. If you don’t already have one, visit auto bill of sale for an inexpensive, quality form you can use for this purpose.

Before you buy, you want to check out the condition of the vehicle. Inspect the drive chain and sprocket, making sure they’re in good condition and have a bit less than an inch of up-and-down play. Make sure the tires are in good shape with sufficient tread. Inspect all visible components and body framework for signs that the bike has been in a crash. Is anything bent or broken? How does the bike feel when you sit on it? Check the tank for rust. And of course, ASK the seller about the bike’s history. If the seller is honest, they’ll be able to give you a rundown of just what this motorcycle has been through. You’ve gotta take it with a grain of salt, of course, since they *are* trying to sell you something, but this can still be a useful source of information.

Alternatively, if you have a friend who is mechanically saavy, bring them along to inspect the motorcycle (or car) with you. There’s nothing like an expert inspection to help you make up your mind.

And, of course, turn the bike on. Does it start up quick? How does the engine sound? Are there any ugly clanks that could be a sign of internal problems? 

Basically you want to get a realistic overview of the condition of the motorcycle or car before you buy it. Remember that you are buying a used vehicle, so things may not be perfect, but even though perfection isn’t the goal, you still want to know what you’re getting before you buy it. This should help you arrive at a reasonable price point as well.

So there you have a few tips for the next time you go to buy a used motorcycle, and like I said, more broadly speaking these suggestions can be applied to any car or other vehicle as well.  We’ll get back to motorcycle helmets in the next post!