Used Motorcycle Shopping—What to Know

Purchasing any type of used vehicle carries some risk. And whether this is your first purchase of a used motorcycle or your fifth, there are some simple questions you may want to consider to help minimize that risk. By following these simple used motorcycle buyer guidelines, it can help you to better ensure that the motorcycle you are purchasing is what you are looking for—and working in the way you expect.

A close-up view of a motorcyle motor and handlebar.

Do Some Pricing Research

Before you go into negotiations with a seller, find out typical used motorcycle prices. Know what the expected fair market value of the bike you're interested in would be. You can find market values of motorcycles at www.nadaguides.com, and you can see what other people are listing similar bikes for on sites like www.craigslist.org, www.cycletrader.com, or www.ebaymotors.com. Have an idea what you are willing to offer and adjust it along the way as you inspect and test ride the bike.

Ask Questions

Find out as much as you can about the bike during your initial phone or email conversation with the seller. There are several questions you can ask that might give you an idea of how the motorcycle was maintained:

  • Did you buy the bike new?
  • Are you financing the bike, or do you own it? Do you have the title? (Note: it's more complicated to purchase a bike used when the owner doesn't have the title.)
  • Have you ever dropped your bike or been in an accident with the bike?
  • What kind of maintenance schedule have you followed? Do you have any maintenance records you can share with me?
  • Who performs your bike maintenance?
  • Where do you store the bike? Do you winterize it?
  • Why are you selling the bike?
  • How often have you used the bike, and what type of riding do you do?

Inspect the Bike

A thorough visual inspection of the bike can reveal potential problems and give you a sense of how the motorcycle was cared for and maintained. Nothing can replace a complete bike inspection from an accredited motorcycle repair shop, especially if you aren't comfortable inspecting the bike yourself.

However, if you have to inspect the bike on your own, view the Inspect the Bike page of our "Things to Know When Shopping for a Used Motorcycle" brochure. They can help you uncover potential issues.

Also, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation has developed a comprehensive checklist for pre-ride inspection that can come in handy for checking out your used bike. By the way, it's a good idea to bring a small flashlight with you when you inspect a motorcycle.

Test Ride the Motorcycle

If the seller is willing, take the motorcycle for a test ride. You can bring a friend to the inspection and leave him/her behind so the seller knows you will return.

  • Make sure to bring the appropriate gear for the ride, as well as your bike license.
  • Start slowly and get comfortable with the way the bike feels and responds.
  • Test the brakes. They should not pulsate. If they do, it is a sign of warped disks. The brakes should be smooth and even, and not grab forcefully.
  • Accelerate through the gears to make sure the transmission feels firm. It should not slip out of gear under acceleration or feel choppy.
  • On a clean patch of road, weave left and right slightly to see how the bike responds. Make sure it feels stable and easy to correct.
  • Listen for any unusual engine noises, suspension creaking or rattling, and any excessive vibrations. If you think you hear something unusual, ask the seller about it. Sometimes bikes make unique sounds that don't necessarily indicate a problem.

If You Decide to Purchase

  • Make sure to sign a Bill of Sale with the details you discussed. Most likely the seller will release all liability of the bike to you, so make sure you are comfortable with your purchase.
  • Insure the bike before you ride it. Allstate offers protection for motorcycles and other vehicles too. Plus, you might even save more when you insure your home, auto, motorcycle and more with Allstate's Multiple Policy Discounts.
To help with tips after you purchase your motorcycle, see Allstate's "New Motorcycle Buyer's Checklist" for other important things to do once you bring it home!

Links provided for convenience only. Allstate does not endorse any of these websites or guarantee the quality, accuracy or truthfulness of any content, information or services accessed through this web site. We encourage you to read the Privacy Statements of each and every web site that you visit. Motorcycle buying, selling and inspection tips are for reference purposes only.

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