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Motorcycling Guide: Tips For Buying A Used Motorcycle

Updated: Mar 25, 2020

While buying the latest and greatest motorcycle is something many of us aspire to, the realities of life often mean we're looking at the used market for our next pride and joy. So what should we be looking for when buying a pre-loved bike?



Look For A Service Record

While a service record is by no means a clean bill of health, having a bike's service record will give you a strong indication on how it has been looked after.

For instance, a bike with a full service history which is logged in its manual as well as receipts for any work done is a much safer bet for reliability than a bike that has been serviced by an unqualified backyard mechanic.

If the bike is still within its warranty period – always a nice bonus when buying used – you will need proof that it has been serviced correctly by a reputable shop to maintain the warranty.

Crash Damage

This is something that should be disclosed by the seller before you arrange an inspection, but the world isn't filled with genuine people so we've always got to be on our guard.

Obvious signs include scratches and scuff marks in areas such as the fairings and frame, while scratches on the forks and bar ends are a sure sign a bike has gone for a slide. Any damage to the frame of the motorcycle should be treated as serious. If potentially taking a bike to a frame straightener scares you, walk away.

Stolen/Background Check

The last thing you want is to have the boys in blue show up at your door and inform you that your new baby isn't actually yours. Do a background check on your prospective new bike to ensure you're not buying someone else's bike!

This shouldn't be a problem when buying through a reputable dealership

Start It Up

Perhaps the most obvious thing to check is how the bike runs. Make sure you start it up from cold (if the owner has already warned it up before you arrive this could be a sign they are hiding something) and check it revs cleanly with no hesitation and has a steady idle.

Test Ride It

Always test a bike before you buy it.

While the owner may want you to leave some kind of collateral while you are off with their bike it is definitely worth it as awkward as it may be.

Check the bike shifts nicely through the gears and the brakes are in good working order as well as how the engine performs under load.

Other things to be aware of on your test ride is the performance of the suspension, such as whether it bottoms out on bumps or is too hard and if the bike tracks straight and true.


Tyre Condition

When it comes to regular consumable items few have the large cost as tyres. Sure, depending on the type of bike you're looking at this mightn't be as painful, but if you're looking at a sportsbike a set of quality rubber can set you back upwards of $500 a hit.

Save yourself the extra pain in your pocket and check the condition of the tyres of your prospective new ride. In particular, you want to check for puncture repairs, tyre wear and the age of the tyres by checking the manufacture date on the sidewall.

To check the age of a tyre look at its manufacturing date on the sidewall. Old tyres have multiple potential issues such as lack of traction or in worst cases dry rot. But in general tyre tech is a rapidly advancing area of motorcycling with new tyres offering far better all-weather grip.

Final Drive Condition

This is most important for bikes with a chain, but it's also worth taking a look if your bike has a belt or shaft final drive as well.

Get up close and personal and check out the condition of the final drive, in particular look for signs of wear, rust or anything out of place.

For bikes with a chain this involves checking for stiff chain links, rust and whether the chain is set to the correct tension. A rusty and loose chain indicates the current owner isn't the most attentive to regular maintenance items.

For bikes with a belt-drive, check the condition of the belt itself as well as its tension. You don't want to find any knicks or holes in the belt as this could cause it to fail prematurely.

For a bike with a shaft drive, check the condition of all rubber parts and listen for any grinding noises when you push the bike along. Grinding or knocking coming from a shaft drive could indicate potential issues and isn't cheap to fix.


Rust is something we obviously want to avoid but isn't something we necessarily look for when checking out a used bike.

Places to check are the frame around the headstock, welded joints and lower beams of the frame.

While most rust isn't a real problem (unless it goes through the frame or swing arm), finding any could give you a reason to barter down the price.

Also, be sure to check for rust around fasteners and brake discs which could indicate the bike has spent its fair share of time parked out in the elements.

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