5 Considerations When Buying A Used Bike
When you plan out a budget for a used bike, make sure to consider the extra expenses: gear, insurance, registration, taxes, storage, and the lot.
With proper budgeting, you can get awesome gear, full insurance coverage instead of the bare minimum, a rental shed to store your bike in over the winter instead of leaving it out by the curb with a cover on it, and much more.
As a general guideline, we recommend that a first bike should not cost more than $7000—including gear, registration, insurance, full maintenance (once before the riding season and once when wintering your bike), and, of course, the bike itself.
#4: POWER OUTPUT
Ah yes, the classic argument among all motorcyclists: where should you start on power?
As a general rule, we recommend staying under 600-650cc for engine displacement and keeping the power under 75 hp. This is especially true for sport bikes (new riders can sometimes handle 750cc in a cruiser without too much trouble, since these bikes are designed to be slower than sport models).
A great example of a starter bike would be something like a Suzuki SV650, which delivers 650cc of easily managed power in a very linear and controllable way.
A Yamaha YZF-R6 would be much less practical to start out on, since it’s an extremely twitchy beast—quite literally a World Superbike Championship racer with mirrors and blinkers. A bike like that requires experience and respect before you can ride it safely on the street.
To be safe, just keep it below 650cc and 75 hp for a great learning experience. As always, though, respect the throttle. Even an SV650 can throw you off violently if you go too hard or too fast.
Even bikes with the same amount of engine displacement can weigh vastly different amounts, depending on their type. We suggest looking to the light-to-middleweight bikes in your preferred style. For a naked, you’re looking at 300-400 lbs or thereabouts. For a cruiser, anything under 600 lbs is considered lightweight.
Why stay light? For the answer to that question, you can look to basic Newtonian physics. An object in motion will stay in motion if propelled with enough force. So a light or middleweight bike will give you better feel, as there is less mass dampening the effects of inertia and you can react to a small mistake much more easily.
Conversely, a heavy bike has a lot of mass dampening the feel, and you might not even realize you’re in trouble until you’re sliding along the pavement. Keep it light, kids.
#2: INTENDED USE
Are you planning to commute on your bike? A naked, sport, adventure, or cruiser bike will get you there. Are you planning on riding your bike to your friend’s farm for a fun trail ride? A dual-sport or a properly-prepared adventure bike will be perfect.
I do my all my riding in the city and on highways, so I’m a big fan of cruiser bikes. But naked and adventure bikes also make excellent choices for casual riders. For my money, a sport or supersport bike is only worth it if you’re planning a lot of track days—and as a new rider, I’m guessing you aren’t there just yet.
Riding a bike can be exhausting. Your wrists, back, neck, legs, and feet can all get surprisingly sore. I’m 6’3″ and in my 30s—that lovely chapter of life where joint pain begins to rear its ugly head. So folding myself in half on top of a bike for more than half an hour or so can get really uncomfortable.
Before you invest thousands of dollars in a bike, make sure you pick one that’s comfortable for you to ride. That means thinking about seat height, seat width, peg position, handlebar height, and access to your controls. I started my riding career on a Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic LT—a bike too big for most riders to start on, which is why it’s not on this list. But it was one of the only bikes I could find that would accommodate my lanky frame without also offering an irresponsible amount of power. The point is, get a bike that works for you.
SPECIAL MENTION: AGE
Generally, you don’t want to buy a used bike that’s more than 10 years old, although there are exceptions to every rule. If you’re handy in the mechanical department and are okay with spending a little more time and money on maintenance, I would say that 12 to 15 years old is the absolute farthest I would push.
About Our Selections
These selections considered ease of use, rideability, price, and how effective each motorcycle was in helping the beginner or newer rider learn the intricacies of riding. We are confident that any of these bikes will be superb starter or second bikes for most riders.
If you are of the big and tall variety, many of the larger steps up in the model family are just as good. For example, if you are 6' tall and 230 lbs, a Kawasaki Ninja 400 might be too small or not powerful enough, in which case the Ninja 650 would be an excellent starting point. If you are looking at a Honda CB300R, the next step up for the bigger rider is the CB500R. Just make sure that the bike you are stepping up to is of the same model family, as a CB500R and a CBR500R are two completely different bikes.