5 Things to Check When Buying a Used Motorcycle

5 Things to Check When Buying a Used Motorcycle-2

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Checklist of what to inspect when buying used motorcycle

Purchasing a used motorcycle can be an exciting endeavor, but it also requires careful consideration to ensure you get a good deal without any unpleasant surprises down the road. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned rider looking to add to your collection, here are five critical things to check before sealing the deal on a pre-owned bike.

1. The Bike’s History

Before you even lay eyes on the motorcycle, ask about its history. A transparent seller should provide you with a detailed account of the bike’s past, including its number of previous owners, service history, and any accidents or major repairs it has undergone. This information can be crucial in assessing the overall health and value of the motorcycle.

  • VIN Check: Always verify the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and match it with the official records to ensure the bike hasn’t been stolen or salvaged. Websites like NICB’s VINCheck are excellent resources for this purpose.

  • Service Records: These documents are gold when it comes to understanding how well the motorcycle was maintained. Regular oil changes, brake services, and inspections are good signs of a well-cared-for bike.

2. Overall Condition

First impressions can be telling. Inspect the motorcycle thoroughly in good lighting to check for any signs of wear, damage, or rust. Don’t overlook small details as they might indicate larger issues.

  • Body and Frame: Check for any cracks, dents, or rust on the body and frame. These could be telltale signs of past accidents or poor maintenance. Ensure that the frame is straight because a bent frame can be a deal-breaker.

  • Tires: Look at the condition of the tires. Worn-out tires might need to be replaced soon, which could add to your initial costs. Check for tread wear and any cracks or age-related deterioration.

3. Engine Health

The engine is the heart of the motorcycle, and its condition can make or break a deal. Listen to the engine when it’s running; it should run smoothly without any strange noises or excessive smoke.

  • Start-up Test: Always start the bike cold. A warm engine might hide starting difficulties or poor idling issues.

  • Exhaust: Check the exhaust for excessive smoke or odd smells. Blue smoke can indicate oil burning, while black smoke may suggest a rich fuel mixture.

4. Electrical Systems

Motorcycle electronics are crucial for safety and functionality. Test all the electrical components to ensure they are in working order.

  • Lights and Signals: Check the headlights, brake lights, and turn signals for functionality. Electrical issues can be costly to repair and may pose safety risks.

  • Battery: Consider the age and condition of the battery. A weak or old battery might need replacement, which, although not expensive, is an additional cost to consider.

5. Legal Paperwork

Last but certainly not least, verify all the legal paperwork. This includes the title, registration, and any other documents that prove ownership and legality.

  • Title: Ensure the title is clean and in the seller’s name. Avoid motorcycles with a salvage title unless you are fully aware of the associated risks and are prepared for potential registration troubles.

  • Registration: Check that the registration is current and the license plates match up with the title.

Motorcycle Ownership Costs: Budgeting Beyond the Purchase

When buying a motorcycle, the purchase price is just the beginning. The ongoing costs of ownership can quickly add up, affecting your overall budget and experience as a rider. From maintenance and parts replacement to insurance and fuel efficiency, understanding these expenses is crucial for any prospective or current motorcycle owner. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you budget effectively for the long haul.

1. Routine Maintenance

Maintaining your motorcycle is key to ensuring its longevity and performance. Routine maintenance includes oil changes, brake inspections, tire rotations, and more. Here’s what you need to consider:

  • Oil Changes: Motorcycles typically require oil changes every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. The cost can vary based on the type of oil your bike uses and whether you do it yourself or take it to a shop.
  • Brake Maintenance: Brake pads need replacement every 20,000 miles on average, but this depends on your riding style and the bike’s model. Always ensure your brake fluid is topped up and changed per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Tires: Motorcycle tires should be replaced every 5,000 to 15,000 miles. Keep in mind that high-performance tires may wear out faster.

Annual maintenance costs can range from $200 to $1,000, depending on how much work you can do yourself versus professional servicing.

2. Parts Replacement

Beyond routine maintenance, parts replacement is another cost that can affect your budget. This includes items like chains, batteries, and spark plugs, which have a limited lifespan.

  • Chains and Sprockets: These typically need replacement every 15,000 to 20,000 miles and can cost between $100 and $300.
  • Battery: Motorcycle batteries usually last about three to five years. A good quality battery can cost from $50 to $200.
  • Spark Plugs: Replacing spark plugs is a small but vital maintenance task, generally costing under $50 for most bikes.

These costs can vary based on the make and model of your motorcycle, as well as the quality of parts you choose to use.

3. Insurance

Motorcycle insurance is mandatory in most places and can vary dramatically based on several factors, including your age, riding history, and the type of motorcycle you own.

  • Liability Insurance: This covers damage you may cause to others in an accident. It’s typically the minimum required by law.
  • Comprehensive and Collision Insurance: This covers theft, damage from non-accident-related events (like weather or vandalism), and accidents. These policies are more expensive but recommended for newer or more expensive bikes.

On average, motorcycle insurance can cost anywhere from $200 to over $1,000 per year. Shopping around and comparing rates can help you find the best deal.

4. Fuel Efficiency

Fuel costs are an ongoing expense that can add up, especially if you ride your motorcycle frequently. Fuel efficiency varies widely between models:

  • Sportbikes generally have lower fuel efficiency due to their high-performance nature, often ranging from 30 to 40 miles per gallon.
  • Cruisers and touring bikes can range more widely, from 20 to 50 miles per gallon, depending on engine size and design.

Considering the type of riding you plan to do (city versus highway) will help you estimate your fuel costs more accurately.

5. Depreciation

While not a direct out-of-pocket expense, depreciation affects your motorcycle’s value over time. This is important to consider if you plan to sell the bike in the future. Some models and brands depreciate faster than others. Researching and selecting a bike that retains its value can mitigate this cost.

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Up to 40% of all used cars are manipulated. Check VIN before purchasing any used car.

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