/ Tips & Advice

What to look out for when buying a second hand motorcycle

Is a used motorcycle worth buying? Here's what you should check.

Purchasing a used motorcycle

Purchasing your next motorcycle from a dealership is something many dream about. After all, a brand new motorcycle comes out of the dealership in perfect condition, ready to be used and taken care of by the next owner in line. Despite this, new bikes are not always the best choices for a few future owners out there, and for a good number of reasons.

Used motorcycles are great options for learning a multitude of new skills on two wheels, they’re great for saving a bit of extra cash, and they also make sense for mechanically-inclined riders who are patient with wrenching and repairs. If you’re considering a used motorcycle for your next purchase, here’s a simple guide to find out if a used motorcycle for sale is worth buying.

The Owner

Motorcycle Owner

When purchasing a motorcycle, dealing with a polite, respectful, and accommodating seller could be the easiest way to gain confidence in the sale. An unavailable and dismissive owner is easily one of the last things any prospective buyer will want to deal with. If an owner treats potential buyers with a hint of disrespect, a wise mind would think twice about how the owner might treat his or her own motorcycle. When purchasing used, make sure to find an owner that is respectful and accommodating, since this may be a good sign that the motorcycle for sale was taken care of by a decent owner. Get in touch, assess the owner, and arrange for a meet up if you feel confident.

Documents and Service History

Legal documents and service history

When inspecting a second-hand motorcycle, one of the next things you should look at would be the legal documents and the service history. When checking for the validity of legal documents, make sure to ask for the original and most updated copies of the Official Receipt (OR) and the Certificate of Registration (CR). The motorcycle details, such as engine number, chassis number, and color indication should match the details found on the motorcycle itself. On top of this, it would also serve you well to check whether or not the registered owner also matches the seller’s details—and whether or not the sale documents match the indication. If any of these details don’t seem to match properly, it may be a sign to find another motorcycle to purchase.

If you’ve found that all of the important details line up properly, investigating the service history of the motorcycle could be your next best course of action. An owner with a very thorough account of all the maintenance tasks done to the bike would definitely grant a sense of confidence that the motorcycle for sale was in good hands. In case physical records cannot be found, a verbal confirmation from the owner could also help. Feel free to ask questions as you see fit and pay attention to the detail of the responses. If in any case, the owner cannot provide a detailed explanation of the service history, you may decide to check on the motorcycle’s condition yourself, which brings us to the next section.

Motorcycle Condition

Used Motorcycle Condition

If you’re looking to conduct a thorough inspection on the motorcycle for sale, there are a few key items that you should pay attention to if you want to save a bit of money on service down the line.

Engine health

Make sure that the engine is completely cold. Start the engine and pay attention to any excessive ticking sounds. Once the bike is heated to operating temperatures, also check for exhaust smoke and any persistent ticking sounds. If any of these symptoms arise, the engine may be due for a fuel system tune-up or a valve clearance and timing adjustment.


Replacing a motorcycle clutch can be costly to repair. To check if a clutch is operating properly, first make sure that the cable has enough slack and is tightened correctly. Afterward, get the motorcycle to operating temperature and take it for a drive. Cruise at about 40kph and bring the motorcycle to 4th or 5th gear, pull in the clutch, rev the motorcycle up, and release the clutch abruptly. The clutch should engage as soon as possible. If the clutch takes almost a second to return back to running RPMs, the clutch may be due for a replacement soon.


Inspect the engine and suspension components with a flashlight. If you see any heavy oil stains or fresh oil leaks, this could be a red flag. You could also use your finger to touch and inspect for oil leaks or stains around these components. Gasket and o-ring leaks, depending on location, can be very expensive to repair.

Accident damage

Another item to check would be any history of accident damage. This type of damage typically presents itself as scratches at the handlebar levers, handlebar ends, side fairings, footpegs, and even the motorcycle gas tank. If you’re not comfortable with buying a motorcycle that has an accident history, make sure to inspect these telltale signs and decide accordingly.


In general, small amounts of rust shouldn’t be harmful to the motorcycle’s general performance. However, rust on crucial areas of the motorcycle could be a cause for safety concerns in the long run. Make sure to check for rust on the motorcycle’s frame, frame welds, rear shock mounts, swing arm, fork clamps, and wheel hubs. Surface rust should be easy to fix, however, excessive rust can definitely be a headache to deal with in the long run.

Other items you may want to look at would be illegal modifications, tire condition, excessive damage to the wheels, electricals, and lights, alignment of the front and rear wheels, condition of the chain and sprockets, and unpleasant noises from the various bearings of the motorcycle.

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