Buying a New Motorcycle Vs. Buying a Used Motorcycle

For the sake of this article you can consider buying a used motorcycle from a dealership the same as buying a new motorcycle from a dealership. This is because every dealership i have known personally checks over and certifies every used motorcycle they sell, but don't be afraid to ask them what they have done to ensure the motorcycles reliability.

Buying New: There is something amazing about going to a motorcycle dealership and seeing a brand new motorcycle just begging to be ridden. All the lights are hitting it perfectly, the paint is shining, when they start it up it purrs wonderfully. The fact that no one else has used or abused the motorcycle makes it that much more valuable. You don't have to worry about the previous bone-head owner pulling wheelies on the freeway or revving it past the red line while riding racing his friends. If you are going to be buying a new motorcycle you should definitely research it as much as possible that way you are armed with all the information that will keep lots of money in your pocket. Researching what people think about various dealerships will also save a lot of headaches by avoiding the dealerships that have poor customer service. If you are lucky enough to have some friends that have bought motorcycles from various places then that's great, otherwise researching them on Internet forums or search engines will work well. Once you have chosen a dealership you should then choose the right motorcycle. You should realize that if you choose a motorcycle in high demand the salesman will be much less likely to negotiate on price, and you may even end up paying quite a bit more than Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). You will save money by choosing a motorcycle that is last years model, and maybe even a less popular color. Another way to save money is by knowing exactly how much the dealer paid for the motorcycle, that way you will know how much room you have to work with when pounding out a dealer. A great site to get the dealer invoice is Once you know the invoice price, add on 10-15% and you will have the dealers "ready to sell" price. Once you know the price they are willing to sell at you should tack on an additional 5-15% for all the other dealer fees that they will add on to the final sale price, they include things such as: Set up fees, taxes, assembly fees etc... When it comes to the actual payment cash is king. You will find that dealers will be able to work out quite a deal if you bring a blank cashiers check. If you need to finance though I would recommend going through your own bank or a separate credit union instead of using the dealer financing. That way you will know what you have to work with before you even step foot in the showroom.

Buying Used: I have personally purchased every motorcycle I have owned used. In my opinion the thousands of dollars that you will spend by buying a new motorcycle are not worth it, even though you do get the peace of mind of knowing that no one has mistreated the motorcycle. The first place to start now adays is on the internet. Assuming you have already done the research on picking what motorcycle you want, the next part should be fairly simple. I highly recommend especially if you live in the California Bay Area, or some other large city. You can find great deals especially from motivated sellers that just need to get rid of the motorcycle as fast as possible. This usually leads them to lower the price hundreds, if not thousands of dollars! The key to getting a great deal though is being patient and buying during the winter. Here are a list of things that you should look out for when buying a motorcycle used:

  • Salvage title: Normally motorcycles have these when the cost to repair them is more than the bike is worth. I've bought a salvage title bike once and it wasok, but it wasn't great. In my experience you should stay away from these.
  • Stunted / Great wheelie machine!: Stunting is a no no, it trashes your engine, transmission, and your suspension. If a motorcycle has been stunted STAY AWAY, unless you plan on doing some stunting of your own.
  • Bent frame: Don't buy a motorcycle with a bent or dented frame! It's just plain old unsafe!

Some things you want in a motorcycles:

  • Clean title with pink slip in hand!: That means the title is not a salvage title, and it is in their name. Some people try to sell with just a bill of sale which is legal, but can be sketchy some times. You always want to buy a motorcycle with a clean title.
  • Low Miles: Motorcycles are not like cars, 50k miles on a car may be nothing, but for a motorcycle that's A LOT!. I try and buy bikes that are below 20k, ideally they would have around 7,000 miles or less.
  • "I need to sell by Sunday because I'm moving!": A story like that indicates a motivated seller, so if they are selling your dream bike, you can probably get it for a lot cheaper than you thought.

Once you e-mail a seller and negotiate price either over the phone or through the internet, the next step is meeting them to finalize the sale. I prefer to meet in a public place because there have been some robberies and muggings done by people claiming to sell things on the internet . You should try and bring a friend and a truck with you that way you can get used to your new motorcycle at your own pace and not be forced to ride on unfamiliar roads and freeways. If you don't own a truck then try and ask someone else from the motorcycle community like or maybe even rent a u-haul. It is definitely a lot less stressful learning how to operate a motorcycle in an empty parking lot then in 3 lanes of traffic at 65mph! Once you arrive at the meeting point look over the bike. Make sure it starts up without any problems since the engine should already be warm from the seller riding it to the mutual public place. Hopefully your 'friend with a truck' is also somewhat knowledgeable about motorcycle mechanics, even the basics would be helpful. That way they can look over the motorcycle with you and make sure that the seller is telling the truth about any damage the bike may have. Once you are both satisfied, pull out the paperwork and start filling it out! You should be filling out 2 bills of sale (one for you, one for the seller), and the title. Double check that the seller has signed all the places that he needs to sign, it sucks going to the DMV only to realize the seller missed one signature so you can't register your bike for a few more days or weeks. That's basically the nuts and bolts of buying a motorcycle. I hope it has been helpful!


I am gearing up to buy my first bike and a lightly used bike is about $1000 less than a brand new one.

Can you post the paperwork here so I can make sure to get all the proper fields completed? (Signatures and other information)

I live in California (SF Bay Area). I noticed you mention the Bay Area quite a bit...

Thanks for a great site!

hi, i just bought a 2006 ninja 250r used! however, i have a question the owner did not have the title because she just finished paying it off. the bike looks great and seems well taken care of. the owner was an older lady that abrely rode it, so the gas went bad and i'm going to have it cleaned out. My question is, i read in the article "Clean title with pink slip in hand!: That means the title is not a salvage title, and it is in their name. Some people try to sell with just a bill of sale which is legal, but can be sketchy some times. You always want to buy a motorcycle with a clean title." this worried me, should i be? her reason for not having the slip was that she JUST paid the bike off and they are sending it to her. I am a young guy and this is the first vehicle i've bought, so even though im informed of the process, i am not familiar with these types of situations. any quick advice please, id greatly appreciate it! you guys seem great!

Okay this response is more for those that come across this page than the person posing the question.

This is about the only scenario between strangers (and certain less than trustworthy friends) that not having the title on-hand MIGHT be an acceptable risk. The registration usually shows both a registered and legal owner. This would support the story. If the financial instititution is local it will be easier to confirm that the bike is actually in the process of being paid off. If your purchase will pay it off, make sure that happens. Every once in a while a "trustworthy" seller "forgets" to pay off the bike and it is repo'd. Your recourse is via civil court unless you can prove criminal intent.

Never pay for anything that requires a title without being able to get that title. you should not have to wait for it, she should be able to hand it to you. If you want to wait for the title do so, just don't pay her anything yet. don't ever give someone money without getting something for it.

Well i think, from my opinion, if you are planning to get a big one but need to get the skills and experience first, better get a used one but if you are planning to keep your first bike for a quite long time, like me, get a new bike but new bikes are not good to practice on because there are lots of wears and tears and etc than the engine and whole bike has to go through. But it is not the shoes that make a football player better, but his determination and regular practice, even if he is playing bare footed. How why? I started on a 70cc and my friend on a 250 cbx honda... When he accelerates and brakes, i go to and fro. And wen it was my turn, my first time ride on this bike with him on the backseat, i drove better than him and he was sitting still. I am not flattering but try to figure out what i said..hihi

Solomolo Rider ;D

Solomolo Rider ;D

Oddly enough, it seems like there's almost no difference in price between used bikes. For example, where I live you can get a used 2007 Ninja 250 off of craigslist for about $2,500. A 2003 model? $2,500. 1995? $2,500.

I don't understand why that is, but I managed to get a 9 month old Ninja 250 for (you guessed it) $2,500 with low miles. A month later, I found a couple deals even better than that.

My advice is to be patient and wait for a good bike at a good price. Being new to motorcycling, I felt much more comfortable buying a 9 month old bike than I would have buying a 10 year old bike.

I'm 18, new to all of these. I've driven a 50cc before but that's nothing. I dont have a lot of budget but $3500 is my max. I live in Canada.

My local dealership is selling a used 91 kawasaki zx7r, 62,000km on its belt for 3500. is that a good deal?

I also saw a private owner selling a 2005 cbr600r 780 miles all stock for $3500 which sounded too good to be true to me.

or just go for a 2007-08 ninja 250 $4200 which is like a civic.. "you can't go wrong with a civic"..

that zx7r is definitely not a beginner bike. that thing is a beast. even the cbr is not a very good beginner bike. until you get some experience you are at very high risk of killing yourself on either of those bikes. prices are pretty good, but those aren't very wise bikes for a noob.

I'm looking at this 01 GS500 with 7,500 mi. on it. It is selling for $1,700. Firstly I'm not sure if this is a good deal or not, it seems reasonable when I look at NADA pricing. Second this would be my first bike if I get it and I don't want it to be too much for me. I have furiously looked for a used ninja250 near me in AL with no luck. Finding this bike is my alternative I have read enough on here that I know I should start with a 250, but that if I have to this bike is better than jumping right into a 600cc. What do you guys think? Should I hold out for a 250 or go for this one if I like it enough? Here is the link to it on craigslist thanks I appreciate your opinions.

there is a review of that bike on this website if you haven't found it already. I am a new rider and just bought a Suzuki LS650 for my first bike and I am really happy with it. If you are confident in your riding abilities and willing to take it a little slow in the beginning to get a feel for the 500 I think you will do just fine. If you go sit on it, you can at least feel if you like it. I sat on a Suzuki 500 at the dealership and it was way too huge, hated it, yet the Suzuki 650 I got is perfect for me. I also furiously looked for 250 and they were sold out at all the dealerships, no new ones, no used ones.

Sorry, I sat on a KAWASAKI 500 at the dealership that I didn't like, not the Suzuki 500. I have Suzuki on the brain, so sorry.

So the 01 GS 500 I found sold before I even got a chance to go see it in person. I found a 1994 with less miles looks better too original tires with life left on them. So is 1994 too old to buy a used bike. Here is the like would appreciate some input. Thanks.

If I've got cash spare, I would rather get a new motorcycle. Less maintenance plus longer warranties are better in the long run. The immediate savings I may get from buying a cheaper used motorcycle might not even be enough should my bike need repairs, which is more likely for used motorcycles (versus new ones)

does a dent in the fueltank count as a bent frame?

No. at least not on any of the bikes I've seen/ridden. The tank can be removed by itself from the bike.

If there's anything more important than my ego
around, I want it caught and shot now...

--- AFM #998 If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now...

There are items that you should never buy new. These are the stuff the depreciate value fast. Among them are motorcycle and car. If I can get a good deal on dealership that actually certify, that's awesome and would definitely convince me into buying a used one than a new one. And by good dealership, that should mean that maintenance cost is not compromised. Thanks for your post.

Here in Illinois, it is ILLEGAL to sell a vehicle without the title, except for two cases. Case 1: the vehicle is pre-1970 something, and no title was issued for it. Case 2: the title has a lien on it, and the person is signing it over to someone new, who must take over the payments(so there kind of is a title here)

I know people who buy a lot of salvage title bikes and don't have any trouble with them. the thing is, most of them stunt the bike, and it doesnt bother them.

And to the person buying the bike with a title on the way, only offer her half of what she wants, and tell her you will give her the other half upon you receiving the title. If she wont do that, tell her it should only take a few days to get it, and please hold the bike until the title arrives. If she won't do either, just steer clear of that bike.

and for the people on here looking to buy a bike, use your brain. If it throws any red flags, stay away.

Hi, i just bought a suzuki gsxr-600 from 2nd owner ( he only give me the title with first owner's name on it and no pink slip); however , when i went to DMV and they told me that I need a lien satisfied from HSBC Bank Nevada N A. Therefore, I called the 2nd owner and asked for lien satisfied and he told me there is no lien. do you think it is " uncleaned title"? and is that legal to sell a motorcycle without cleaned title and pink slip? What should I do now? should I let lawyer handle this case? if yes, what kind of lawyer should i looking for? Thanks,

When the time comes from Grandpa Kahn to sit the grandchildren on his lap he will tell them of a great many stories that involve adventures with thrills and spills and all will that end with a bang. This, however, will not be one of those stories I share. Now, before I get to the meat-and-veg of this particular incident I must remind your all that any tale involving me and the police has usually involved some kind of unique touch of fleeting reality. I have almost been shot by a group of officers, tarnished the reputation of another group of officers, come to the rescue of one other officer and now one of my very best friends is at the police academy becoming a representative of the law. So I have an extensive and involved relationship with a history that involves the police. They are a group of people I've always respected in theory but have had to judge on personal actions and the one thing I find most troubling is that racial profiling is the one thing I use to understand why police would suspect me of any wrong doing. Which brings me to the subject at hand; just the other day I had my license suspended for three months and handed two fines that added up to $810. FUCK! It wasn't as if I was pulled over, no, I'd unknowingly outrun the highway patrolman who suspected I'd stolen the car only to find out that my car was owned by a learner driver who was driving unsupervised.

Well I bought Used, found mine on Kijiji. I'm a bigger guy so I bought a 1985 vt750c shadow for my first bike, Frankly it was in fantastic shape and amazingly well cared for. and I was happy to pay $2G for it.
My buddy came with, long time biker.
Here's his list of things to watch for.
Sit on the bike check for handlebars that don't line up with the tire. (bent or just crooked) look at the turn signals, are they both new on just one side? probably just took a drop on that side, check for scratches on the engine bar or side of the engine.
No leaky fluids, look for caked dirty oil under seals and on the engine.
Start the bike, does it start easily? idle sound steady or sputtering? it should be nice and smooth. Next feel the exhaust coming out of the pipes (assuming there is 2 or more) is it equal pressure going into your hands or is one strong and the other weak? they should be the same.
Then check tires, not worn down, or cracked rubber along the sidewalls, same with fork seals not cracked or dried out.
I had a learners permit and had never ridden so I had him go for a ride around the parking lot, checking brakes, that they worked and didn't have any issues. that the bike tracked ok, and didn't pull to one side or the other.
that it was smooth acceleration from less than 1/4 throttle up over 1/2 throttle (bike is in tune, fuel air screws and jetting match up)

Then just take a good look, does it look cared for or beaten, this effects the price not necessarily makes it so you shouldn't buy it, if it's a 250 and everything else is good but has been beaten and has been dropped but still rides ok, it just should be cheaper than a well cared newer looking bike.

Next make sure that ownership lists the bike you've been checking out. Match up the serial number.
And if it's getting really old like mine, make sure you can still get parts for it if things break, there are some obscure models out there that are impossible to get parts for. Mine has parts all over ebay constantly, and my dealer can still get all the little parts new.

Mine hit all the good points, and people are surprised it looks so good for an 85 so I know i did well. Hell even the dealer was impressed at spring tune up time.

So I hope that helps some of you looking for the older cheaper stuff out there.

Things to check on a used bike, before even starting it; put it on the center stand (if it has one) grab the rear tire and wiggle it sideways one way then the other, if the chain (assuming it has one;) goes loose then tighter, then the swing arm bushings or bearings are cooked. Swing arm bushings will not normally show wear on a truly low milage bike or on an old one that has been properly serviced! Also note the chain adjuster position; if the wheel is moved all the way back and it's still too slack, the chain is done, ...small item to replace but it does reflect on the owners attention to maintenance or proclivity for wheelies or burnouts. Second thing; sit on the bike (off the stand), hold the front brake on, push the bike forward and backward against the resistance of the front brake, while pressing your thumb against the point where the steering head bearing connects the frame, there should be zero axial movement in the steering head bearing, also note how much fork travel there is between the top out point and where the bike sits under it's own weight only, if the bike settles a full inch or more below the stanchions maximum extension, the fork springs are worn or poorly adjusted. Now that you have pumped the forks up and down a few times, inspect the front fork stanchions for wear marks and oil transfer. These quick checks can be done, even while the bike is still in the showroom dry of fuel. ...scares the heck out of the sales person and if it fails the swing arm test or the steering head bearing test, inquire how it managed to pass vehicle certification :o Best news is; if you fix em yourself and can buy or make parts, motorcycles last a lifetime or more :) My bikes that still run fine: 1975 Suzuki TS185, 1982 Honda FT500 Ascot, 1986 BMW K100RS my competition ride a 2008 Montesa 4RT Trials Bike

I gave it a little time and went over everything I think that ill buy myself the Ninja 250R as ma first bike get a used one and then after like 6 or 12 months sell it and then get me something with more CC's. What you guys think?

I'm in the same research 'boat.' I keep going back and forth between a new Ninja, for which I can get two-year, low-interest financing, making that appealing. So many reviews have been so positive re: the Ninja 250.

I am a new rider as well, and continue to look at used bikes. I wouldn't have a clue by myself--luckily have a friend who rebuilds bikes and knows what he's looking at. Even a bike 10-20 years old is running close to $2K. . .cruiser style.

By this time you've likely already gotten your bike. . .what did you end up with, and are you happy with your choice? Going tomorrow to see a Yamaha Virago 535 ('94), then to the Kawasaki dealership to see the Ninja. Ho-hum, this part isn't as fun as learning to ride. . .


i may wait until next year....i don't much to learn...i would be better off having an expert check out any used bike i am interested in(my nephew knows some experts)...i live in chicago so i have plenty of resourceful people to help with inspecting a used bike....good luck.

i spent weeks watching craigslist like a hawk looking for a good deal on one of the bikes i was considering. by "like a hawk", i mean there were days that i'd get to a computer or web browser once every few hours to refresh the page and see what was newly posted that i could jump on first. (i lost out on a great deal for an sv650 cause someone bought it earlier the same day i was going to inspect it).

but my efforts paid off when i got my 2004 fz6 in GREAT condition for $2600. i couldn't be happier, and the bike has given me no issues (minus the battery dying once, no problems since charging it) in the time i've been riding it.

sure enough the guy was moving cross country soon and was selling off his bikes with the intent to get new ones when he got to the west coast. real nice fellow, and he cut me such a good deal. (the funny part was he was the same guy that i missed out on the sv650 from... and because of that he cut off an extra few hundred dollars for me, and i have NO regrets at all).

What if you are buying a used bike from a dealership? Which set of rules do you follow then? I found a used 2008 Versys for around $4000 at a dealership. What kind of additional fees can I expect to pay for this kind of bike. I understand that for a new bike you would have assembly fees and freight fees, but that wouldn't be the case for this bike would it? I found a new 2009 Versys "on sale" for about $500 more (I think I could talk them down to $4000 though), but then I have to pay approx $600 in extra fees. Which is the better deal?

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