Checklist Before Buying A Second-Hand Motorcycle

Motorcycles are a worthwhile investment and a great choice for commuting or adventuring. Owning a vehicle allows you to travel wherever and whenever you please. Although bike owners have to pay for fuel, they don’t have to wait or pay fares on the bus or taxi daily. When it comes to traveling, owning a motorcycle gives you much more flexibility. The prospect of traveling through public transport is restricted because of their operating hours, destination, and distances. A motorcycle gives you the freedom to travel without these limitations. If you want a motorcycle for a lower price, here’s a checklist for buying a second-hand motorcycle.

Research beforehand

Motorcycles are a subjective choice; the other person might not like what one person likes. Thus, you need to find the right fit for your needs. Before buying a motorcycle, research and gather information about motorcycle types, brands, specifications, average price points and safety features. This will give you a good idea of what works best for you and what you should expect from a specific bike. If your budget is enough for a standard motorcycle, but you want a good sports bike, you need to look for other financing options. If you don’t know how to ride a bike, learn it. You can test ride the motorcycle and get a better idea of it. This is also a good time to research the required paperwork while buying from a private owner.

Choose where to buy it

You basically have two options: Dealerships and private party sellers.


Dealerships are a very straightforward process. You walk in, you choose a bike, negotiate the price and sign the papers. They will have a well-maintained motorcycle collection to choose from. Dealerships will sort out the paperwork professionally and advise you with expert information. They remove the hassle of reaching an agreement on the pricing. Hence, a dealership is comparatively expensive than a private party.

Private party sellers.

Buying from a private party is not as cut and dry as buying from a dealership. First, you need to find people selling the motorcycle you want to buy. Usually, you can find them by browsing websites like eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or other local websites that sell second-hand motorcycles. Then, you have to meet up in person, inspect the bike, negotiate the price and finalize the paperwork by yourselves. The motorcycle may or may not be in good condition. Even worse, you might get ripped off. All in all, you may need to sort out all the procedures yourself, but there is more room for negotiation.


While most dealerships maintain their product to ensure good quality, it is always wise to inspect the vehicle first. Even more with the deals involving the private party. Here’s a quick look at how to inspect a motorcycle:


Is it clean? Clean bikes generally point towards a bike that is properly well maintained. Look around for any scratches, dents and rust.


First, ask the seller for the title to check the VIN. Cross-check it with the VIN present —usually— on the steering head of the frame. If the VIN doesn’t match or the seller refuses, it’s time to walk away. This could be a sign of a stolen bike.


Squeeze the clutch and observe how smooth it feels. Then release it slowly. Is it too tight, or do you feel any awkward snags? The bike should roll smoothly when the clutch is engaged in first gear.


Get seated properly and engage the front brakes as you roll the bike forward. The bike should now slow down to stop. Now, release the brake lever and observe if it smoothly returns to its rest position; the bike should also roll freely again. During this test, if you hear noise from breaks or notice dragging of the brake calipers, they need to be fixed.


Get seated and push down on the front end of the bike while you grip the handlebars. The forks should slowly return to their rest position. Any noise, oil leakage or rust on the forks indicates the time for repairment.

Chain and Sprocket:

Pull the chains away from the sprocket and look for any wear and tear, movement or looseness. If the chains move easily up and down or left and right, it needs replacement. The chain should always be firm and tight in contact with the sprocket.

Tires & Wheels:

Inspect the tires and keep an eye out for wear. Even wear is expected after use, but severe wear on the tire can be attributed to long-distance freeway riding, excessive hard braking or skidding. This calls for immediate repair. While you’re at it, examine the wheel rim for any dents or damage.


Use a stick, cloth, or other item and dip it into the oil via the engine’s filler cap. You’re looking for clean or black-looking oil. Clean means recently changed, and black means it has been used for a while. Ask the seller when was the last time the oil was changed and if it needs repairing. If you happen to see shiny metal flakes, this is a big no-no as it indicates the engine is damaged internally.

Any recent damages should be accounted for, and the pricing should be discounted accordingly. Alternatively, hiring a professional mechanic to inspect the motorcycle can be a good option as well. Professionals are expensive, but they might find more issues that you can leverage to your advantage during negotiation.

Test Ride

Once the inspection is complete, it is time to test it. Ask the dealership or selling party politely to take the bike for a test ride. Dealerships will often have a designated route you need to follow. However, if you are buying from a private party, try to drive in your regular commuting route. A few kilometers should be enough to decide whether you like the vehicle or not. Start with the ignition and see how long it takes to fire up. Ask the seller to leave the bike cold before the test ride as it’s harder to notice starting problems on a hot bike. Now, drive around. Ride at varying speeds, take sharp turns, and rough terrain if possible. Remember to observe the meters on the dashboard and check if the readings are correct as you ride. By the end of the ride, you should have a good knowledge of the condition of the throttle, clutch, brakes, suspension, tires and how it feels overall. If everything suits you fine, it’s time to start negotiating.


Dealerships will sort everything out for you; it’s your responsibility if you’re buying from a private party. RC book, two-wheeler insurance policy, Forms 28, 29, and 30, road tax certificate, address proof and passport size photos, sales receipt of two-wheeler are must when preparing the paperwork. Depending on where you live, some of the documents may vary. But if you follow the checklist while doing your research, it shouldn’t be that hard.

Red flags

Not every dealership or seller is an honest soul trying to sell you a motorcycle. There are a few things you should be aware of, mostly when dealing with a private party. If the seller restricts you from inspecting the vehicle, consider it a major red flag. An honest seller should have no problem letting you check the vehicle. They will also be willing to let you take it for a test ride. Other smaller factors can include: (i.) the owner preparing a hot bike despite being asked to leave it cold, (ii.) refusing to show VIN, (iii.) unreasonable restrictions on the test ride, (iv.) denying obvious damage to the bike, and (v.) unwilling to share important information about the bike. It’s important to learn to walk away; there is no shame in walking away. No matter how much you may like a vehicle, it’s never worth it if it has massive red flags. You don’t want to pay hard-earned money for a faulty product.