Guide to buying a used motorcycle

Do you want to join the world of new sensations provided by two wheels, but are thinking about buying a used model to adapt and gain experience?

Or maybe you already have some experience, but want a used model with few kilometers and opt for a smaller investment?

Many doubts arise with used models and it is natural to be afraid when purchasing. How to choose a used motorcycle? And who should I turn to – a private seller, an official dealer, a more specialized store?

The decision is not easy, but this guide will help you better define your options.

Searching for a used motorcycle

The offers and options available on the motorcycle sales market are very vast. Online, simply search for used motorcycles to find countless options on the most popular vehicle sales portals and websites. You will also find service areas selling used motorcycles in official brands, as well as in dealers or specialized stores. And, of course, you will also find many offers and advertisements from private sellers.

But what will be best for you? Read below some of the suggestions to take into account.

Who to buy from: official or private?

  • Price

If the purchase cost is an important factor for you, it is generally possible to find lower prices from a private seller than those offered by an official representative . This is because an individual does not have a sales structure, personnel or salary costs, nor a sales location and other costs associated with a business.

But while the lower price makes the option tempting, there are other issues to take into account when buying privately, as you can confirm below.

  • Quality

Purchasing from a brand dealer, official representative or specialized stand offers greater certainty of reliability and guarantee . None of these sales outlets will be interested in selling vehicles with problems, nor tarnishing their reputation.

When opting for the “official” purchase, you can count on a motorcycle in good condition, inspected, with a history of service and replaced parts, as well as access to the respective future maintenance plan.

  • Maintenance history and access to the motorcycle’s past

Sometimes, private sellers are not able to prove the maintenance, parts and services carried out throughout the history of the motorcycle. However, this is not always the case. Many owners are careful (especially with motorcycles) and have the ability to prove the vehicle’s entire history with documentation.

On the other hand, at an official dealer it is much easier to document the entire history of the motorcycle. Brands always have the possibility of using the history of their vehicles, with the possibility of knowing whether the motorcycle has been stolen or been involved in accidents. An individual may not have this knowledge and may even hide this information. Always ask for a record of the motorcycle’s history.

  • Guarantee

While a specialized seller is obliged to offer a warranty, a private seller will always sell the motorcycle as is (unless the motorcycle is still under official warranty). In the event of any problem, the official seller will accept the motorcycle for checking, unlike the private seller.

  • Repairs, maintenance and workshop

An official seller offers the advantage of providing repair and workshop services that can resolve any problems that may arise. As well as ensuring that the motorcycle has completed mandatory maintenance before being sold.

On the contrary, when purchasing the motorcycle from a private individual, even if the maintenance is up to date, it may have been carried out by the motorcycle itself or in a workshop not authorized by the brand, which may indicate that it will not have the same quality guarantee, nor assistance by specialized labor or the use of original parts.

  • Financing

A private seller may not be able to offer financing options, which require immediate payment at the time of purchase. In general, official sellers offer the possibility of financing and are able to provide other acquisition and support facilities throughout the process.

If you choose to buy from a private seller, you will have to deal with all the bureaucracy yourself, including bank loans and insurance.

  • Registrations and transfer of ownership

As with financing, if you opt for the “official” purchase, you can benefit from a much easier and faster acquisition process , as you can take care of everything for yourself.

What to check in the documentation

After researching enough about the motorcycle you are interested in, schedule the respective visit and arrive at the agreed time to have time to calmly check the motorcycle in person, as well as ask the seller any questions you may have.

Don’t forget to ask the questions below.

  • Maintenance history

Ask to see the motorcycle’s maintenance route (if available). Many owners keep a book of periodic maintenance scheduled by the brand. If it was the owner who carried out the services, it is likely that he/she provided notes about the services carried out and parts replaced. If nothing is recorded, there are often purchase receipts for material or parts that can provide some assurance of safety.

  • Chassis or frame number (VIN) and ownership registration

Request the vehicle’s VIN to be able to research possible theft or accidents. The ownership record will provide information about the owners previously associated with the motorcycle.

  • motorcycle manual

Ask to see the respective motorcycle instruction manual . All the indications and functions contained there will be extremely useful in getting to know your future motorcycle better, as well as the associated maintenance and care. If the seller does not have the manual, consider asking the brand for it.

  • Toolkit

Ask the seller about the original tool kit included with the bike . Some motorcycles have a small bag or specific area under the seat reserved for tools for small repairs or emergency interventions. If this kit is not present, it is advisable to purchase it. At an official dealer it will be easy to order a tool kit right at the time of purchase.

What to check in motorcycle mechanics

When you schedule a visit with the seller, ask to see the cold bike. A hot engine or a motorcycle that is already running can hide some problems. A cold motorcycle also allows you to see how the starting capacity is and whether the battery responds well.

Also check the list of components below.

  • Motor

Inspect the engine and look for damage or exterior wear to the covers, block or gasket leaks. Check for coolant leaks at the top of the engine and oil leaks at the seals and lower area. Investigate fluid leaks on the floor or left behind when riding the motorcycle. Look for leaks in the rubber gaskets and along the radiator. Pay attention to the smell of oil (intense smell) or coolant (sweet smell), signs that could mean potential leaks.

  • Chassis

Observe the chassis structure and check for possible paint or corrosion defects that could lead to rust. Check for cracks or missing parts , whether due to carelessness or intentionality.

  • Suspension

Look for leaks in shock absorbers, worn seals or parts that need replacing . Check for dry or cracked components.

  • Bearings

Most bearings on a motorcycle are sealed and do not require maintenance. They should not be greasy on the outside. Move the motorcycle back and forth and listen for noises that may indicate repair or replacement.

  • Chain and rack

Inspect the chain and make sure it is well lubricated . The chain lubrication should have a “waxed” appearance. The purpose of this lubrication is to stay on the chain, providing protection against dirt and moisture, and therefore it should not come off as the chain is turned.

The rack teeth must be relatively clean and free from flaws . Each tooth must be well defined and aligned with the chain, without signs of pronounced wear.

  • Cables and electrical connections

The clutch, brake or accelerator cables must not have any play and must act smoothly . If you operate a lever and feel resistance or hear a “scratching” noise, the cable needs to be replaced. Also pay attention to additional cables that indicate repairs or other non-original connections.

  • Tires

Tires have wear indicators on the treads that indicate their ability to shed water in rainy conditions. If they are worn out, it means you will soon need to invest in a new set of tires.

Also check that the rubber is in good condition. If it is dry or cracked, it means the tires may have been sitting for a long time. If you can, check the air pressure with a gauge before heading out to test the bike.

  • Exterior painting and panels

Look at the paintwork and exterior: are there any scratches? Missing components? Can you tell if there have been changes in relation to the original state? If the motorcycle already has a lot of kilometers on it, it is natural for it to show some wear and tear caused by stones or insects. If, despite the miles, the exterior is immaculate, it means that it has been replaced or painted.

Be sure to ask the seller about any replacements or repairs .

  • Grips, brake levers and footrests

When motorcycles fall, the grips, levers and footrests are generally the first areas of the bike to touch the ground. If they are dented or scratched, ask why. Was it just an accidental fall with the motorcycle stopped or did the fall happen at some speed?

  • Suspension arms

The suspension arms must be straight and free from scratches . The rubber seals must not show signs of leaks, nor be cracked or showing signs of failing soon. If they show wear and tear, they are another expense you will have to consider.

  • Battery

Check the battery date . It must show a mark or symbol on the month and year it was placed on the motorcycle. Check that there is a ventilation tube connected and directed towards the bottom and away from the battery. It is generally directed downwards, inside the motorcycle.

The battery must be clean with no insects, leaves or debris. The terminals must be equally clean, free from corrosion and well tightened to the positive and negative cables. Also check whether other connections have been made to the battery and why.

  • Brake fluid

Check the condition and level of the brake fluid. The reservoir must be translucent or allow the level to be observed. If the level is low, it may affect braking ability. Don’t go out to try the bike without the correct level.

The liquid should have a golden or copper color . Over time it will darken (dark brown) and must be replaced. The motorcycle manual should indicate when it should be replaced, depending on use and mileage.

  • Fuel tank

Inspect the fuel tank. The cap must work perfectly and seal well, without emitting fuel odors . Check the chassis support points and look for any flaws or cracks . The fuel connection pipes from the tank to the engine must be free from cuts or flaws. These must be secure and the tank must not show any leaks.

  • Lights

The main headlight (or headlights) should come on when the ignition is turned on, depending on the age of the motorcycle. If it is older, it must have a switch for manual activation. All lights must work – turn signals, function displays and warning lights, as well as the brake and license plate lights.

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