10 Tips for Buying a Used Motorcycle

More Tips for Buying a Used Motorcycle

Your motorcycle assessment shouldn't stop at inspecting the parts.
Your motorcycle assessment shouldn't stop at inspecting the parts.

5: Check for Recalls

Car recalls tend to dominate the news compared to motorcycle recalls, but that's just because there are more cars on the road. Motorcycle recalls can and do happen, and you don't want to buy an unfixed motorcycle that's subject to a recall. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a database of vehicle recalls by year, make and model that you can search to find out if a motorcycle has any recalls. If it does, get documentation from the seller that the bike has been fixed. If it hasn't been fixed, you'll probably want to pass.

4: Get a Used Motorcycle Bill of Sale

If you buy a used motorcycle from a dealer, you'll get a formal bill of sale that shows how much you purchased the motorcycle for, any taxes you paid and who holds the title of the bike (if you took out a loan to pay for it). Some private sellers may not automatically give you a bill of sale and that's a problem. You'll need proof of purchase and price to file registration and other paperwork. It's easy enough to find a bill of sale template online, print it and fill it out. Insist on getting a bill of sale when you buy a used bike.

3: Make Sure the VINs Match

Like cars, motorcycles all have a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). When buying a used bike, you'll want to make sure the VIN on the bike matches the VIN in all the paperwork – otherwise, you could be buying the wrong bike. Worst case scenario, you're buying a stolen one. The VIN on the bill of sale, registration and title should all match. You'll also want to make sure that the VINs on the various parts of the bike match, so you don't end up buying a Harley with a Honda engine. Check and double check all VINs and if they don't match, walk away.

2: Get Maintenance Records

One of the risks you take when buying a used motorcycle is that the bike may not have been well maintained. Like any machine, a motorcycle needs regular upkeep. If it's been sitting during winters, you need to be sure it's been put to bed properly each time.

If you're willing to put up with not knowing how the bike was treated, you can forego getting maintenance records from the seller, but you shouldn't pay as much for a bike with no maintenance records as you would for one that has a fully documented history. Get the fullest picture of the motorcycle's maintenance history as you can.

1: Know How a Used Motorcycle Has Been Modified

Modifying and personalizing a bike is one of the main attractions to motorcycle ownership for a lot of people. Loud pipes, custom chrome and a drilled-out engine are as central to bike ownership to some people as fringe and leather. If you're buying a used motorcycle, however, you want to make sure any modifications that have been done have been done properly. A custom paint job or seat isn't that big a deal (thought the paint job could have been done to hide repairs due to an accident) but other modifications could significantly change how a bike performs or even be illegal.

Before you buy, get all of the documentation you can from the seller about modifications, and check that the modifications to the bike are legal in your community. Once the bike is yours, you'll be on the hook for any changes that have been made to it, even if they weren't made by you.

Author's Note: 10 Tips for Buying a Used Motorcycle

One of the more scenic routes to Laconia, New Hampshire runs right by my house. That means that every June, I'm treated to the sounds of thousands of motorcycles heading north to Laconia bike week, one of the biggest motorcycle rallies in the country. You see a lot of bikes for sale during bike week – after all, sellers have an interested audience. You also see a lot of the pitfalls that can come from buying a used bike during bike week, including shady sellers, modifications, and bike wrecks. I hope these 10 used motorcycle buying tips keep you upright and heading happily down the road on a new-to-you bike.

Related Articles


  • Allstate. "Used Motorcycle Shopping—What to Know." Allstate.com. (June 19, 2015) https://www.allstate.com/tools-and-resources/motorcycle-insurance/tips-how-to-buy-bike.aspx
  • American Motorcycle Association. "Used Bike Buying Checklist." AMA.com. (June 19, 2015) http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com/Riding/Street/Resources/UsedBikeChecklist.aspx
  • Dean, Paul. "Five Used Bike Buying Tips." Cycleworld.com. February 1, 2009. (June 19, 2015) http://www.cycleworld.com/2009/02/01/five-used-bike-buying-tips/
  • Kiser, Jesse. "12 Tips for Buying a Used Motorcycle." Rideapart.com. April 22, 2015. (June 19, 2015) https://rideapart.com/articles/tips-buying-used-motorcycle-kind


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