The Ultimate Motorcycle Checklist for Buyers

The Ultimate Motorcycle Checklist for Buyers

When you are buying a motorcycle new or used, you want to make sure that there are no outstanding problems with the engine or body of the bike. The only thing worse than purchasing a motorcycle with problems is knowing you could have prevented it from happening. Don’t let the feeling of buyer’s remorse settle in after purchasing a high ticket item you can’t return. Instead, make sure there is no outstanding damage or malfunctions with the bike before purchasing by crossing off the following items from your checklist:

1. Check the VIN.

A motorcycle’s vehicle’s identification number (VIN)  is composed of 17 characters unique to every motorcycle, which can help you learn crucial information about the bike in a matter of seconds. The VIN can tell you about the manufacturer of the bike, the model year, and where it was built. Running a background check on the motorcycle’s VIN will tell you if the bike has been in an accident, rebuilt or even stolen. Some sellers can be hesitant to share their motorcycle’s VIN because they believe it is a personal number, similar to a social security number, but disclosing the VIN of a motorcycle is perfectly safe.

Ask for the VIN prior to visiting the bike in person. Knowing the motorcycle’s history before purchasing it is the best way to ensure you are making a well informed decision. The VIN can be found on the front frame tubes of the bike. It is also located on the seller’s registration, title or insurance card. Do some research online to make sure that the VIN report you are buying is from a reputable source.

2. Asses the general condition of the bike.

The VIN will tell you about the bike’s history, but so will the motorcycle’s body. Take a good 360 degree walk around the bike to make sure it does not appear to have crash damage. Even if you aren’t concerned about small nicks or scratches, it is important to find them because you may be able to use those imperfections to negotiate the price down. Next, make sure the bike isn’t leaking any fluid. Also check that the tires have plenty of tread left, with no signs of dry rot. The spokes should all be snug and straight. And finally, make sure that the bike was cared for. Ask the seller how frequently the bike was serviced, how frequently the tires were changed and how the bike was stored. If you are buying from an online classifieds like CycleCrunch or from a dealership, most sellers will give this information willingly without you having to ask.

3. Examine the engine cold.

It is really easy to hide running problems on a hot bike. If a seller is aware that their bike has problems, they may start and run the bike before you arrive to hide any possible engine malfunctions. Before you make the trip out to view the bike, let the seller know that you want to check the bike after it has been sitting for a day. When you are examining the bike, feel the pipes to make sure the bike is ice cold. If it doesn’t sound right, there is smoke or the seller can’t get the bike to start up, walk away from the sale. Also make sure the oil level is correct and that the oil is relatively clean.

3. Check the bar ends, levers and footpegs.

If you are wondering how you can tell whether a bike has been dropped, this is it.  If the bar ends, levers or footpegs are severely damaged, it is safe to say the bike has gone down. The obvious indicator is rash. Sometimes a seller is able to buff the rash out, but levers often appear curved if the bike has been dropped. If any of these parts of the bike has been replaced with aftermarket parts, that is also a sign that the bike was dropped. This is only a major concern if the seller is withholding information. If they are upfront about the replacements, you can have piece of mind that they aren’t trying to hide major issues with you. Rather, they tried their best to fix the bike up.

4. Check the wiring.

Before you ride away with the bike, pop the seat open and examine what is underneath. Pay careful attention to the wires hooked up to the battery. If the original factory connectors are all there and nothing looks out of the ordinary, you’re golden. But if there are misplaced wires, or wires that lead to nowhere, it is typically a bad sign. Other signs for DIY wiring jobs include electrical tape, vampire connectors or a ton of wires that are all the same color. This is an indicator that the owner was too cheap to pay a professional to get the job done.

5. After a thorough check, take it for a test ride.

Some sellers may be hesitant to let a stranger take off with their bike, which is understandable. But if you are willing to put a large amount of money down on a bike, you should be able to take it for a test ride. If the seller is apprehensive, suggest meeting a public place, that way they feel safe knowing that you can’t stop by their house in the middle of the night. You can also offer some of your personal items to the seller, like your driver’s license, keys or even the cash you brought to purchase the bike, as collateral. When all is said and done, the hope is that you ride away with the bike and the seller leaves with the cash in-hand.

While riding, make sure that the signal and brake lights work. Don’t forget the high and low beams. Also make sure that the bike is comfortable to ride, meaning it is a good height and the seat foam hasn’t collapsed.

After examining the bike yourself, you may want to take it to your local dealership to double check that the bike is in good condition, especially if you aren’t confident in your motorcycle knowledge. No matter how comprehensive your checklist may be, it is always a good to get a second opinion. It is always better to be safe than sorry. If they give you the okay, it’s safe to buy the motorcycle.

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