Purchasing a pre-owned motorcycle is a great way for a rider without a huge budget to get the right bike, but only if they put in a little extra leg work. Plenty of riders take great care of their bikes, provide all the proper maintenance, then sell them to upgrade to different models. Those make fantastic pre-owned motorcycles. However, there are also plenty of lemons out there, so buyers need to know what to look for when they go to check out any bike.
What to Bring
When going to look at a used bike sold by a private party, there are some things that every potential buyer needs to bring along. They include a flashlight to look into all the nooks and crannies that might not be visible in low light, a notebook and a pen to write down the seller’s answers to questions, and money to make a deposit or buy the bike. Buying used from a dealer that offers a selection of pre-owned motorcycles means getting access to financing and greater assurances of quality.
What to Look for on the Body
The first thing a potential buyer should check is the general condition of the motorcycle’s body. Dents and scratches may not be just superficial damage. They often tell a story about what kinds of issues the bike has been through, including potential collisions. In addition to keeping an eye out for signs of past damage, drivers should also check:
- The fuel tank to be sure the oil is clean.
The chrome to make sure there aren’t signs of rust.
The seat to see if there are tears or collapsed foam.
Any aftermarket parts to make sure they were installed correctly.
Remember that any one issue could indicate other hidden problems with the bike, so attention to detail is deeply important.
How to Check the Engine
When checking a bike’s engine, make sure it’s cold. Bikes that are shown with hot engines are often lemons with starting issues that will require expensive future repairs. If the bike cold-starts well, potential buyers should also be on the lookout for:
- Engine smoke that’s heavy or unusually colored.
Strange rattling or rumbling sounds.
Clutches that drag or slip on a test drive.
Transmissions that jump out of gear.
Engine damage can be incredibly expensive to repair. Walking away from a bike if it displays any of these warning signs is the best solution, although buyers who are absolutely in love may also want to consider talking the seller down enough to get the problems fixed.
Types of Electrical Red Flags
A minor electrical issue may seem like no big deal, but they often indicate other underlying problems, and constant electrical repairs can get expensive fast. To avoid this problem, check:
- The lights
The instrument cluster
The charging system
To check the charging system, just run the engine and hit the brake. It should make the bike’s headlights brighter as the system engages.
Avoid Buying a Lemon
The best way for riders who aren’t also amateur mechanics to avoid buying a lemon is to head to a trusted dealership that offers used and pre-owned bikes. Dealerships have their own mechanics that check and fix problems before putting the bikes up for sale and some even offer warranties.