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Old 08-30-2007, 09:21 AM   #1
ALANRIDER7
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Used Bike Purchase Tips

In response to another thread, I just wanted to get the word out about how to avoid some major pitfalls when buying a used bike.

It's very VERY easy to let the excitement of getting a "new" used ride to cloud your judgement. The search can be long and difficult. You think you've FINALLY found "the one". You've probably been saving up for a long time. You've been thinking about it even longer. "Man..... it's even the right color!!!" Don't let your enthusiasm scuttle your efforts. Fully understand that the bike is being sold to you AS IS. Buying a problem will ruin your afternoon.

Here are a few tips:

Ask questions about the title. Is it CLEAR? Do they have it in hand or is there a lien-holder involved? The word "Salvage" on the title changes everything. Always ask about the registration. If it's not up to date, there could be a lot owed in back registration fees. Make it clear they are not to become your responsibility.

Ask the seller about having the bike inspected. If there is ANY hesitation here, find another bike. A bona fide seller will not hesitate because there is nothing to hide. When the seller says it's already been inspected, start walking. This means nothing. Bring someone knowledgeable or a mechanic with you or bring it to a shop for evaluation.

Know your budget. Allow for needed repairs if necessary. If you empty your wallet buying the bike and don't have the $600 needed to make it roadworthy, you're going to be very disappointed. Make sure you can afford the insurance on it if you buy it.

Research the make and model you're considering. Most times, their reliability or their problems are well known.

Look carefully at the bike. NEVER do this at night. Do it in the daytime when there's plenty of light. You only get one chance to check it out, so it had better be good.

Ask some simple basic questions. Why are they selling? Are maintenance records available to look at? What problems has the owner had with it? When was it worked on last? What for? By whom? Has it been sitting for a while? Did they charge the battery once a month? Spiderwebs are a problem.

Ask them if the bike was ever crashed and if it was, how significantly. Who did the repairs?

Check the vitals. Bring a rag, flashlight, pressure gauge and other hand tools with you. Check the tire pressure and condition. If it's right on, that's good. If it's low, find out why. Inspect the tire condition. Look for the manufacture date on the tire sidewall. If the tires are 5 years old, you need to know this because they are junk. Look at the chain and sprockets. If the rear axle is all the way back in the swingarm slots, it needs a new chain and sprocket set. That's some $$$. Spin the rear wheel and see if the chain tension changes. Check ALL the fluid levels. Brown coolant is a sign of trouble. No coolant in the reservoir is trouble. Low oil is bad news. A burned smell can mean the clutch is toast.

Check the throttle, cables and control levers for smooth operation.

Look under the tail section for little balls of rubber stuck everywhere under the fender. That means the guy was into doing burnouts.

Ask if it has ever been crashed. What was the extent of the damage? Who repaired it? How long ago?

Check to see if it is stone cold. If it's warmed up before you get there, they can be trying to hide something. Ask them to start it. Watch and listen for difficulty. If it cranks slowly, check the charging voltage. Allow it to warm up and get to operating temperature. Make sure the cooling fan comes on when it's supposed to and cycles on and off. Does the idle sound smooth?

Check the neck of the fuel tank. Is there any rust showing?

Look at the lever and bar ends for scratches. Move the bars lock to lock and check to see if the gap between the grip and the tank is the same on both sides. Inspect the steering stops.

Check the electrics. Make sure there are no fix it ticket items just waiting to bite you in the ass. If the previous owner buried his plate under the tail section with no license plate light, you can be looking at a stiff bill to bring it back into compliance.

Aftermarket parts can be great and not so great. Ask what was upgraded and who did the work. Dim flushmount turn signals suck.

Use a flashlight and check to see how much brake pad material is left on all calipers. Inspect the color of the brake fluid. The darker it is, the longer it's gone without servicing.

Bounce on the suspension. If it feels like marshmallows or stiff as a brick, ask why? If you buy a bike with a blown out shock, you'll be shocked at just how much it will cost to repair/replace it. Look at the fork seal area and make sure there is no oil there. Check for rust on the fork tubes.

Spin the wheels and see if they rotate true or not. A bent rim can mean trouble.

Make a list of what will be needed (if anything) to make the bike reliable and roadworthy. Figure that cost into the negotiations and be prepared to haggle. It's part of the game. You may be able to strike a bargain. Then again, you may not. Find another bike.

Be prepared to complete the purchase when you find the right bike. Don't fuck around with deposits and a week to get the rest of the money together. If you can't pay for it then and there in full, you've got no business wasting the other guy's time.

As far as test rides go, different people have different thoughts. I recommend having somebody ride it to verify the clutch and all the gears work properly. If you're up to it, great. If you're not, have a friend or mechanic do it. The seller may want cash in hand first. Assume if there is a crash, the bike and the resultant problems are now yours.

Thorough preparation goes a long way to making this a good experience instead of a nightmare.
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Last edited by ALANRIDER7; 08-30-2007 at 03:58 PM..
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Old 08-30-2007, 09:26 AM   #2
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also add...

DO NOT check craigslist after you buy the bike for the same kind of bike for the next few weeks because there will always be a better deal out there immediately after you buy yours.
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Old 08-30-2007, 09:38 AM   #3
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this would make a great sticky in the classifieds section...
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Old 08-30-2007, 09:54 AM   #4
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That is exactly what a PPI (Pre Purchase Inspection) should look like, oh and maybe check the charging system. 14.5 is usually best. Future purchasers should print out this post and take it with them when they go to look at a bike.
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Old 08-30-2007, 10:13 AM   #5
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Here's a great Used Motorcycle Evaluation Guide.

Click HERE.

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Old 08-30-2007, 10:24 AM   #6
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If and when you can, bring someone you know who's either experienced with looking over motos, or can at least give it a better assessment than you can.

The excitement of owning your first bike (new or used) might be too much for you to get over or set aside so that you can do a proper assessment, and your pride might make you second think about bringing a printout of Alan's post up there to refer to.
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Old 08-30-2007, 12:28 PM   #7
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excellent tips. good thread. I wish I had this when I first went bike shopping
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Old 08-30-2007, 12:54 PM   #8
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Thanks Alan! You should cross-post this in the Moto section if you haven't already. Awesome thread!
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Old 08-30-2007, 01:18 PM   #9
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Thanks! should be a sticky!
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Old 08-30-2007, 01:52 PM   #10
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Thanks Alan, great write up. I agree, this is totally sticky worthy in the classified section.

Lets leave it in the General section for a while (for higher viewing) and we can move it to Classified section later.

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Old 08-30-2007, 01:56 PM   #11
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The only thing that I do not agree with, is the 'Ask the seller about having the bike inspected. If there is ANY hesitation here, find another bike. ' part.

There aren't many mechanics out there that I trust myself, and frankly, do not like to have any joe blow that shows up with joe blow2 from CG to 'inspect' my bike. I would hesitate on inspection depending on how far along the transaction we are ... if the guy has already seen the bike and is serious and leaves me a good enough deposit to make it worth my while, then I would gladly take it to a mechanic that we both can trust for any inspection.

But if the guys shows up from Craigslist to see my bike, and the first thing he is asking is to have the bike inspected, I would act differently.
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Old 08-30-2007, 02:12 PM   #12
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Thanks for the post! I've been looking at ads on Craigslist for the last couple of months considering a second bike, and this info is very helpful.
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Old 08-30-2007, 02:27 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by xgambit
also add...

DO NOT check craigslist after you buy the bike for the same kind of bike for the next few weeks because there will always be a better deal out there immediately after you buy yours.
So true. Same thing happened when buying my bike, and more recently, my car. Except I keep getting sales calls from a different car dealer letting me know of all the good savings going on right now. It sucks to hear about it, but I dont have the buyers remorse like I used to get it.
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Old 08-30-2007, 03:19 PM   #14
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Originally posted by faz
The only thing that I do not agree with, is the 'Ask the seller about having the bike inspected. If there is ANY hesitation here, find another bike. ' part.
When I read your post, I kinda agreed. But I think you might be reading more into Alan's suggestion than is there.

If I call you on the phone from a Craigslist ad, and we talk a bit, and I say "before I buy it, I'll want to have it professionally inspected." You say "Uh, I dunno. I dont' want just anybody mucking around with my bike." There's some hesitation there that would turn me off as a buyer.

On the other hand, if you said "No problem, but we'll need to agree on which shop, who pays, and how we'll get the bike there." There's no hesitation in that reply, but you also get your point across that he's not going to ride it to his buddy's place to get it looked at. i'd have no problem with that as a buyer, and I'd behave that way as a seller.

Does that make sense? I think Alan was talking about the vibe you get from the seller when you say you want it inspected. Not the particulars of who, when & how it gets inspected.
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Old 08-30-2007, 03:40 PM   #15
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The inspection question serves two purposes. One, it will identify a problem seller right away. If the bike is solid, decent and there is nothing wrong with it, why would anybody resist having the vitals inspected? You're not saying where this inspection is to take place yet. If they won't bring it to a shop, find someone to look at it at the seller's place. The seller doesn't have to comply, but if they want to sell the bike they should at least be concerned with answering your concerns and questions.

Two, you're letting the seller know you're serious. You may have a friend or a brother who is a mechanic. How does the seller know? It doesn't necessarily have to be done at a shop. It can be done in the seller's driveway.

The point is the sharper buyer will want to cover their end of things.

I do free pre-purchase inspections for BARF members here at my shop. It becomes neutral ground where the facts can come out in a low key manner where both parties can watch. If there are no issues, the deal can be completed comfortably. If a problem surfaces, the options available to handle it can be discussed as well. It's a huge advantage to get an estimate on what needs fixing prior to buying it.
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