With the riding season upcoming, there is no doubt that some of you out there will shop for a new-to-you ride. Whether you're a seasoned rider or a first-time rider, purchasing a pre-owned bike may be the best way to save a few bucks and get into exactly what you're after. That said, buying a used motorcycle can also come with its own set of challenges. In this blog post, we'll go over some tips and tricks to help you make an informed decision when shopping for that perfect ride without getting burned!
First Impressions & Gut Feel
First impressions should definitely not be ignored. That feeling you get when you see a ride for the first time is reflective of the current owner's feelings towards it. If the bike is dirty, stored in the back corner, and looks like it hasn't moved in ages - you can take that as a sign that the seller doesn't show pride in ownership. Take note of your gut feeling and first instincts as a sign of potential when you first approach the ride. Obviously, this isn't the only indicator, but it can definitely be a red flag if you're not excited at first glance.
Taking a Closer Look
Now that you've noted your first impression, it is time to dig deeper. If you're not mechanically inclined, it may be a good idea to bring along someone who is to give it a once-over. Here are a few important notes to consider:
Sit on the ride and be sure that the ride height and position are suitable for your build.
Check the frame for dents, cracks, or scrapes. Feel along the weld points as much as possible to ensure there aren't any loose spots or signs the bike has been in an accident.
Inspect the exhaust for signs of corrosion. Start it and have a listen for any rattling or leaks. Note the decibel level - many cities are starting to hit riders with noise citations. If it seems louder than normal, ask if the current owner has had any issues.
Have a good look at the plastics for damage. Check that they are not loose and are securely fastened. These are usually the first to sustain damage in a collision and are a good indicator of poor repair attempts.
Check the steering head bearings by holding the front brake and rocking the bike back and forth. If you feel movement or hear a clicking noise, it could indicate bad bearings.
Take a look at the brake pads to see if they are worn out. Check the discs for notable damage. Inspect the hoses to ensure they aren't cracking. Give the wheels a good spin to be sure they aren't binding.
Tires are replaceable but can be costly. Ensure that the tires aren't cracked, squared off, or bald. If they are, be sure to factor that into the cost.
The bar ends, levers, mirrors, crash bar, and foot pegs are all great indicators that the bike has been down. While this isn't necessarily the end of the world, if the seller didn't disclose that, it could be a red flag to take note of. Run your fingers along the edges for roughness. In some cases, if the ride has been down, the seller may have touched up the damage with paint or nail polish as a quick fix. If the bike has been down, ask if they had it inspected afterwards to be sure there is no further damage.
Note the fluid levels and condition. Check the fuel tank for sediment or dark fuel that has sat for a while and may need to be drained. Examine the coolant levels and color, ensuring it doesn't appear rusty, which could indicate major issues. Have a look at the oil. Old oil can be replaced, but if you note metal flakes in the oil, avoid at all costs as this could indicate heavy wear to the engine.
Inspect the electronics to be sure your signals, headlamp, and dash are all functional. Also check out comfort features such as heated seats, grips, and audio to be sure they are all working as intended.
Start the bike up and not the smoothness as well as the exhaust color. If you notice blue smoke, you're likely burning some oil. If the bike chugs a bit, it may be simply due to lack of use and a cold start, or it could be a sign of other issues.
Ask questions. The onus is on the seller to ensure you are comfortable buying the ride. Don't be afraid to dig into the history or the owner's riding tendencies.
The Bike Looks GREAT, Now What?
You've had a look at everything about and it all checks out to your expectations and you may have bought it in your mind already - STOP! Don't get ahead of yourself as this section can be the most important of all.
If you are buying privately there are a few things you'll want to be confident on before riding off into the sunset. These are musts - if the seller won't work with you on these, turn around and find another bike.
Lien & Vehicle History Check - This is extremely important. If the bike has a lien on it you could be out for a ride one day to find it repossessed under the previous owner's name. That is no fun at all. Purchase a CARFAX or go to your local registry to run a VIN check. If the seller has a CARFAX, make sure the date is current. Also be sure to check if there are provincial checks that may not show up on CARFAX, such as SGI Vin Search. If the bike has a lien and the seller claims they will "pay it out after you pay them" - refuse. This is simply not worth the risk. You can either have them pay out the lien first and get you a lien release, OR you can meet at the financial institution and pay out the lien yourself, giving them the difference.
Ownership Confirmation - Be sure that the person selling the ride is the legitimate owner. Request that they provide proof of registration in their name. Match it to their drivers license. Make payment solely in that person's name. There are an increasing number of stolen bike scams, so be extra cautious during your search.
Never Leave a Deposit Sight Unseen - If a seller is pushing for you to send them a deposit prior to viewing, search for another option. There is an increasing number of deposit scams happening every day.
If you are buying from a motorcycle dealer you should be covered as far as ownership and liens are concerned as the onus is on them to ensure the product they are selling is valid. I would still request a CARFAX to check for accident and service history. I would also ask about and consider getting warranty coverage as you are still buying a used bike. This is a benefit of going through a dealership versus buying from a private seller and, in some cases, may be worth the extra markup.
Getting to the Finish Line
So the bike is in great shape. You've confirmed its lien-free and that you're buying from the true owner. The final step is confirming the price. No matter if you're buying from a dealer or private seller - always ask if the price is the best possible. Some dealerships will throw in extras or incentives to help close the deal.
I hope this gives you a good basis to feel confident in your shopping. Keep in mind that these are only starting points to consider - we highly recommend having a knowledgeable mechanic or getting a motorcycle inspection done prior to payment when possible. The best advice you can get is to always stick to your plan and never deviate from it.
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Happy shopping & thanks for reading along! Your friend,
Fred *Disclaimer - This article is for entertainment and informational purposes. It should not be considered a verbatim basis for any purchase. Buyer beware when shopping.