When choosing a used motorcycle ain’t rocket science, with some common sense and a few simple guidelines, just about anyone should be able to negotiate a satisfactory deal.
For sure, we can’t provide the common sense, and also can’t help you with your negotiating skills, but what we can provide are some guidelines needed to avoid buying a problem motorcycle that needs maintenance after acquiring it so you won’t end up with a pile of scrap metal on your hands.
If this is your first motorcycle or you may have not ridden for a long time or motorcycling is just new to you, but I’m sure you probably have some idea what will the motorcycle used for, like daily communing, leisure riding or some, may just buy a motorcycle just because the whole bunch of friends are riding every weekend and you just want to join the group.
So if this is your very first motorcycle you going buy, before you test ride it, look at the check list below, and you don’t have to have mechanical skills. You needn’t be an experienced wrench to buy a used bike, but you should at least know what a worn-out sprocket looks like or how to tell if the steering-head bearings need attention. Look at the mileage, look at the chain, look at the frame for any cracks and rust around the tank.
Below just a standard checklist we came out with to start off with
• Fuel tank: general condition and paint
• Fenders and side covers: look for scratches, dents, broken side-cover tabs
• Seat: look for tears and missing trim, collapsed foam
• Paint and chrome: look for repaired areas, general condition. Chrome should be shiny and rust free
• Sportbikes: Check for cracks in the faring.
• Windshield: properly mounted, any cracks or glazing?
• Oil: the level should be correct, and the oil relatively clean. Do ask what lubricant brand and grade is used last service.
• Oil leaks: there shouldn’t be any leaks
• Starting/running: most sellers will have warmed up the engine, so this can be deceptive. The engine should start easily, even if it’s cold, and warm up within a few minutes
• Smoke: any heavy, black smoke is cause for concern and reason to move on
• Idle/throttle response: a warm engine should idle smoothly at a reasonable speed. It should also respond smoothly to the throttle. If it spits and sputters before the rpm picks up, something is wrong
• Noise: any decent engine should be fairly quiet, though some engines are by nature mechanically louder than others. Knocks, rattles and rumbles often indicate potential disasters. Minor problems can cause an otherwise healthy engine to play a few bars from the anvil chorus, but it takes a trained ear to decipher them. Anything that sounds really wrong probably is
• Transmission: gear changing are best checked during a road test, something that may not be in the cards. In general, the transmission should engage smoothly, and never, ever jump out of gear. If you can’t road test the bike, you may be able to observe the owner run it through the gears. Listen for a missed shift, which may indicate an engagement problem
• Clutch: make sure it’s properly adjusted and doesn’t drag or slip. Like the transmission, a clutch is best tested on the road
• Exhaust: look for exterior physical damage, especially rust bubbles. Look for broken hardware, particularly at the cylinder head. The system shouldn’t leak
• Levers: should be straight and properly adjusted; check the ends for scratches possibly indicating the bike was dropped
• Switches: make sure they work; a big shower of sparks when you try to use one indicates problems
• Cables: should operate freely without binding. Look for tears in the rubber covers. Check the routing, especially if aftermarket bars are fitted
Tires/Wheels and Sprockets (Most Important)
• Tires: there should be plenty of tread left, with no signs of dry rot
• Wheels: look for dents, and, if possible, give the wheel a spin. If there’s a noticeable wobble
• Spokes: should all be snug and straight. Bent spokes will have to be replaced
• Chain: should be properly lubricated and adjusted, Rear sprocket: teeth should be properly formed and straight. If they’re hooked, bent or missing both sprockets, the chain will have to be replaced
• Battery: should be capable of starting the bike without strain
• Lights: check the signal and brake lights in turn, and don’t forget the high and low beams. Make sure all the indicator and instrument lights come on
• Horn: it either works or it doesn’t
• Charging system: with the engine running, apply a brake (to turn on the brake light) and watch the headlight as the rpm rises. It should get slightly brighter as the charging system kicks in
• Instruments: these should be legible and work smoothly
• Steering head bearings: check for play and dents; indented bearings must be replaced
• Fork tubes: when viewed from the side, the tubes should appear to be perfectly straight
• Fork seals: look for leaks, torn dust covers and signs of unusual wear on
• the fork tubes where they pass through the seals
• Alignment: the fork tubes should be parallel, with the wheel centred. When the handlebars are in the straight-ahead position, the front wheel should also be straight
• Clips: make sure any securing clips for the brake hose or speedometer cables are in place
• Frame: look for indications of an accident, particularly around the steering head. Repainted areas, welds or deep scrapes indicate problems. If there’s any doubt, move on
• Rear shocks: look for leaks and loose mounting hardware
• Swingarm/suspension pivots: check the swingarm for play; if the bike uses linkage, check each pivot point
• VIN numbers/engine numbers: for any alteration
• Aftermarket parts: Most used bikes sold in the market will have accessories or performance parts included during the sale but best if the stock parts are included in the deal, particularly if you intend to use the bike as a daily ride. As far as the extra accessories are concerned, you can always take them off if you don’t like them.
• Service records: these are nice to have, but few riders keep them including us!
• Paperwork: verify that all the paperwork is complete, and that the numbers on the title and registration match the numbers on the bike. Make absolutely certain everything’s in order before you hand over that cash.
Buying from a Dealer
While the majority of used bikes change hands privately, there are certain advantages to buying one from a dealer. First, dealers generally only take trade-ins that are in first-class condition. They don’t want problems any more than you do, and they know that if they sell you a lemon, you’ll have some legal recourse. To that end, most will even give you some sort of limited warranty. (In many cases the bike may have been sold there new, which speaks well for the dealer’s ability to generate repeat business, and gives him access to the bike’s complete history.) Second, dealerships can arrange financing, registration, facilitate any applicable remaining factory warranty and insurance, making the whole buying experience a little easier on you—especially if you’re new to this. By no means am I suggesting you only shop for used bikes at a dealership, but it is an alternative, especially if it’s your first bike.