The Right Way to Buy a Used Motorcycle


There are several valid reasons for purchasing a used motorcycle. The aesthetics of new models might offend. The sticker price may be unreasonable. There may be a specific used model that has features and/or a reputation that is attractive.

A used motorcycle will typically cost less on the front end. A motorcycle purchase is a substantial investment that justifies a serious time commitment on the part of the buyer to acquire knowledge. Once that knowledge base is sufficient, proceed methodically, knowing that every bike you inspect, every seller you speak with, and every salesperson adds to your wealth of knowledge. Do not take shortcuts.

Purchasing a used motorcycle from an individual seller may cost you less upfront but there will be the cost of additional time and trouble. For those looking for an example of an experienced, reputable used motorcycle dealership, look no further than the American Motorcycle Trading Company of Bedford, Texas.

Establish Your Budget

This is the essential first step. Note there are fees beyond the purchase price: sales tax, government registration, and licensing, inspections, delivery, and dealer or financing charges. A cash buyer will know the contents of the shoebox or Robinhood account. A buyer financing a motorcycle purchase should know the amount borrowed, the down payment, interest rate, all related fees, and the amortization period. A serious buyer will obtain a written financing commitment from a specific lender.

Identify the Motorcycle and Estimated Price Range.

Some buyers know just what they want. For such buyers, the only issues are the geographical confines of their search, confirming the price range, and selecting specific bikes to inspect. The buyer without a specific model in mind will need to research and narrow the universe of possibilities. That research will include internet-based research as well as conversations with dealers, friends, and individual owners. Knowledge is power, and you must possess it to wield it. Research individual models, and read product reviews to identify common complaints or issues.

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The Timetable

Ideally, the buyer is under no time constraint and has the luxury of waiting for the right bike at the right price. The buyer who hurries is the buyer who gets burned. Patience is your best friend, but develop the knowledge and confidence to act promptly if opportunity knocks.

What Kind of Buyer are You?

Some buyers are “tire kickers,” meaning they relish inspecting and handling eligible bikes, asking endless questions, and going for test rides. Others are content buying a bike based upon seller-provided photographs and data. A more experienced rider might take the latter approach.

Where Does a Buyer Search?

The answer to this question will generally follow logically from the previous one. Buyers who want to shake hands and shoot the breeze will be looking at local bikes. Buyers willing to forego these pleasures may expand their geographic footprint. An expanded search might yield a better price, preferred features, or financing, though these may be offset by added fees for delivery, etc.

Buy from an Individual Seller?

Because buyers have different priorities, there is no single answer as to whether it is most advantageous to buy from a dealer or an individual. For the buyer, the advantages of purchasing from an individual seller might include a lower purchase price; the ability to personally meet, question, and evaluate the seller; and the ability to collect information as to how well the bike was maintained. If the seller is honest, useful information might be gained in the form of first-hand service and repair receipts, and anecdotal evidence. Some buyers place a high priority on this type of information.

Buy from a Reputable Dealer

Conversely, other buyers focus less on the purchase price and look for additional services. For example, a reputable dealer may provide financing options, optional warranty coverage, post-purchase service or maintenance packages, delivery services, and motorcycle customization services, these services are usually unavailable from individual sellers. Those buyers seeking an experienced, reputable motorcycle dealer in the DFW area would do well to consider the American Motorcycle Trading Company.

How to Evaluate Your Dealer

You have identified the bike and you are comfortable with the price. How do you evaluate the dealer? For a local dealer, ask friends, acquaintances, local social media contacts, and forums. Pay a visit to the dealer to gauge the people. Are they knowledgeable, focused, responsive? Do you feel you can trust them? How long have they been in business? It is very hard to sustain and grow a business over the long haul if it is operated by dishonest, incompetent, or unlikable people, so longevity is a meaningful measure.

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Customer reviews are useful no matter how far away the dealer is located, but tread carefully. Dissatisfied customers are more likely to leave reviews. If the dealer is not local, telephone and speak with a salesperson and evaluate them as you would in person. Does the dealer have a Better Business Bureau or another rating? Do your research and listen to your sixth sense.

Purchasing from the Individual Seller

If purchasing from an individual, you might wish to have the bike inspected(at your expense) by a competent party. With seller approval, you might take the bike for a test drive, in which case it is reasonable for them to ask to see your motorcycle license and insurance card. The seller will most likely be expecting cash. You will be responsible for determining the validity of the title and arranging for all the necessary government permissions. You turn over the money, get a written receipt that you have prepared beforehand, and receive a valid title and the keys in return. The rest is up to you.

Purchasing from a Dealer

As in any business transaction, you should closely read all documents: the contract itself, any warranty, and the financing and other documents. If you are content with the condition of the bike and the warranty terms, you might forego an inspection. It is most likely that the dealer will prepare all of the paperwork. If the seller is distant, you will have resolved the matter of delivery

The purchase of a used motorcycle is a serious commitment and warrants a serious investment of your time. Diligent research and the thoughtful questioning of sellers and salespeople serve to increase your knowledge base while decreasing your risks. Invest your time before investing your hard-earned money. Then enjoy the ride.

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