Aug 8, 2022

Tips For Buying Used Motorcycle: What To Avoid

Adrianna Barrera

When buying a motorcycle for the first time, a lot of people will tell you to buy used. There are many advantages to this, but as a beginner the main three are that it will save you money, you won’t have to worry about dropping it as much and with used/slightly older bikes, it can be easy to find parts. Now, while all of this is true, there are some things to watch out for, that can cause you some trouble down the line. Here are 5 red flags to look out for when buying a used motorcycle. 

High Mileage

One of the biggest things to watch out for when buying a used bike is the mileage on the vehicle. A good rule of thumb that many motorists affirm as true is that anything over 35,000 miles is usually a bike that’s going to give you a lot of trouble. However this is not true for bigger touring cruisers. Your bigger displacement motorcycles can usually run decently up until about 60,000 miles, but even then, that is a lot. Even if the bike looks to be in good condition, but has a lot of miles, just know that you will have to invest a ton of money and time into getting a bike like that into solid running condition. 

For sport bikes, it is best to keep away from them even over 20,000 miles. That is because these bikes are usually not meant to last as long as, say, a cruiser. Additionally, you never know how a previous owner rode and handled the bike. Especially with sport bikes, you never know if it was raced or beat up and had some updates made prior to selling. 

Chain Wear

A good telltale sign that a bike was properly taken care of in its past life, is if its chain is in good condition. There are a few elements to having a decent chain and it’s not just the chain itself. A bike can have a pretty looking chain, but that usually doesn’t tell the rest of the story. Make sure you look at not only the teeth and wear on a bike chain but also the sprockets. In general, you’ll want to make sure the entire chain drive isn’t rusted or worn—if that’s the case, it is safe to say the bike was not given the right maintenance. 

Salvage Title

​​A salvage motorcycle is a vehicle that has been damaged in an accident or flood and has been declared a total loss by the insurance company. The insurance company then sells the salvage title to the highest bidder, who then can legally repair and re-register the vehicle. However, there are a number of reasons why buying a used motorcycle with a salvage title is a bad idea. 

For one, you never know what kind of damage the motorcycle has sustained. Even if it looks fine on the outside, there could be serious problems with the engine or frame that you wouldn't be aware of until it's too late. Additionally, getting insurance for a salvage titled motorcycle can be difficult and expensive. If you do manage to get coverage, it will likely be for less than the full value of the bike, which means you could be at risk of being underinsured. Finally, reselling a salvage titled motorcycle can be difficult, as many buyers will be wary of taking on a bike with a damaged history. It will do you good to do a VIN check, or rather get the history of the bike, using its vin number, to save you some peace of mind. While we’re on the topic of bike’s history, you’ll want to ask the owner for some sort of service record, and if they cannot provide that, you might be looking at a red flag. 


While a lot of vintage bikes are commonly known to have leaking issues, when you’re buying your first (used) bike, it should not. A used motorcycle with a leak is generally a bad idea for a number of reasons. The first reason is that it is likely that the leak is coming from a seal or gasket that is worn out. This means that the motorcycle is likely to have other issues as well, and it is not worth the risk. The second reason is that even if the leak can be fixed, it is likely that the motorcycle will have other issues down the road. It is better to invest in a new or gently used motorcycle that does not have any known issues. Look for any fluid leaks around and underneath the motorcycle. If the motorcycle has a radiator, look for any white residue left behind after a coolant leak on the hoses. Check the exhaust pipe for black soot – too much could be a sign of bad spark plugs or improper fuel system adjustment. Also check the forks, brakes, master cylinders, battery and transmission for any damages or leaks. 

Price Tag

If the price sounds too good to be true, 9/10 it is. If you’re not looking for a project motorcycle, this principle applies to you especially. I get it, you find a pretty bike online that checks off all your boxes and it's really cheap. You fall in love almost instantly and the price tag isn’t too bad either. Now pause and take a step back. The reality may not be as good as you think. You should go and take a look at the bike and ask the owner some questions about its history, its maintenance records and see if it’s the real deal yourself. Maybe the price is just from someone who doesn’t know better, but this is hardly the case. It’s good to be very careful and wary of something that looks too good to be true. 


There are many things to consider before buying a used motorcycle. You will want to do your research to find a reputable dealer, and inspect the motorcycle thoroughly. Make sure to test drive the motorcycle, and ask plenty of questions. It is also a good idea to get a vehicle history report. With all of this information, you will be able to make an informed decision about whether or not to purchase the motorcycle.

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