Buying a Used Bike


By Diane Ortiz – President and founder of the Big Apple Motorcycle School.

The fall/early winter has traditionally been a good time to purchase a used motorcycle. Prices are often lower since you’re facing a few months of storage before the spring riding season arrives. New motorcycle prices are often lower as well as dealers try to sell off their stock to make room for the new model year bikes.  Those looking for a bargain may hit the jackpot and find a “deal” hidden away in someone’s garage.  Before you plunk down your hard-earned cash, look at the motorcycle very closely.  Here are some tips to help you decide if the bike is a good value.

A good place to start is to check Kelley Blue Book (, a respected authority on prices for cars and motorcycles for more than 80 years. KBB lists the suggested trade-in value (what the buyer can expect to receive from a dealer for a trade-in) and suggested retail value, which is representative of a dealers’ asking price for a used unit in excellent condition. Optional equipment (custom paint, ABS, luggage, etc.) will affect the price and you can check on most of those online as well if they were manufacturer’s options. You can also check the expected accumulated average mileage by model year. Actual mileages may differ substantially because of variances in riding styles and road conditions so it is often difficult to determine accurate dollar values for mileage, but it’s a good reference point. A ten-year-old motorcycle with very little mileage may not be as good a deal as a newer one with more mileage than average. The older motorcycle may have been sitting around, unused, for years with old gas in the tank and the tires rotting away. The newer bike may have been a commuter and ridden consistently by the owner, making it a better bet that it is maintained properly. In general, overall condition will have a far greater impact on a value than the actual mileage.

A quick test ride will also reveal potential problems. If the owner won’t let you ride it, or gives excuses why they won’t ride it themselves, it may be best to walk away.  Try to have a motorcycle mechanic look at it before purchase. It will save you money in the long run.

Search the Internet for manufacturer user groups and/or forums to glean more information about particular motorcycles. Often there may be a glitch or defect in a certain model year for the bike you are interested in, but there may be an easyfix that’s well within your repair capabilities.

Look for water damage, especially if the bike has been located in an area hit by flooding. Look for the obvious – excessive rust, bent frame, cracked seals, etc.  Don’t forget to check that the VIN number on the bike matches the title.

As with any vehicle, caveat emptor. Take your time and buy smart. Do your research and whether you decide to buy new or used, make sure it’s the right bike for you.

Ride Safe!