Top tips for buying a used motorcycle

For many motorcycle enthusiasts, the winter period is an ideal time to take stock and consider whether it's time to change up and invest in a new machine that better suits their needs.

After all, with the nights being as cold, long and dark as they are, a lot of bikers have packed away their two-wheeler in storage for the time being, giving them plenty of opportunity to think about the possibility of seeing what's available on the market - a line of thinking that can often end in a shiny new bike being parked in your garage when spring finally rolls around.

In the current economic climate, it's perhaps inevitable that not as many people can afford a brand new machine as was the case in previous winters. As a result, the second-hand market could be set to become more popular than ever, as it gives consumers a chance to get their hands on a fresh set of wheels without breaking the bank.

However, there's no denying that the used marketplace can sometimes be a confusing and risky place to be if you don't know what you're doing. For every once-in-a-lifetime bargain, there's a lot of overpriced, underperforming old bangers that would have been better off on the scrapheap; worse, there's always the risk of unscrupulous chancers taking you for a ride, in the metaphorical rather than literal sense of the phrase.

Shoppers should therefore bear a few key tips and principles in mind when on the lookout for a second-hand bike, as these can help them to navigate any potential pitfalls and find the pre-owned machine of their dreams.

Research your purchase carefully

Any considered motorbike purchase should begin with a period of thorough research as you try to determine what kind of model will best suit your needs, as well as how much you might be willing to pay. By setting yourself a budget and coming up with a clear idea of what kind of bike you're after, you can make sure the model you buy is the one that's right for you.

Thankfully, the power of the internet has made this step much easier than it used to be. Once you've narrowed down what you're after, your good friend Google can help you compare prices, check out different advertisements, read reviews and road tests and find out any common problems with your chosen bike. Asking the opinions of your real-life biker friends is also advisable.

Think about who you're buying from

There are a few different options when thinking about who to buy from, all with perks and pitfalls of their own. For example, franchised dealerships are probably the most well-protected services, providing approval schemes, full service histories for each bike and part exchange options. Independent dealerships, meanwhile, offer large and varied stocks, as well as many of the same buyer protection options.
Of course, private sellers are usually responsible for offering up the biggest bargains, but buyer beware: there aren't necessarily any guarantees when purchasing privately, meaning a greater onus will be placed on you to make sure you're getting a fair and legitimate deal.

Check out the bike in person

Once you've identified a specific bike you wish to purchase, perhaps the most important thing to do is to go and check it out personally to make sure it's everything it was advertised to be. This check should be carried out in the daylight and at the seller's address, in the case of private deals, in order to ensure everything is above board.

Prospective buyers should examine the machine thoroughly, checking its mechanical integrity, functionality, maintenance levels and mileage are all as described. It's important to research the best ways of carrying out a comprehensive assessment, as unscrupulous sellers employ numerous tricks to disguise the poor condition of a bike to an unwitting customer.

A quick road test is a vital part of any effective check, as this gives you the best opportunity to really get a feel for the bike and make sure it performs well and feels good.

Make sure the paperwork is in order

Looking over paperwork is never the most pulse-pounding part of a biker's life, but that doesn't make it any less important. When buying a second-hand machine, it's essential to look over its V5C Registration Certificate, MOT certificate and the service history to make sure the bike is in good working order - and that the seller has the right to actually sell it on.

Try and get as much information on the bike as possible from the seller; if they seem reluctant or unable to provide essential documentation, that's a surefire sign that it may be best to walk away.

If in doubt, look elsewhere

Although it's true that there are a lot of dodgy deals and shady rip-off merchants out there in the second-hand marketplace, the fact is there's also a huge selection of good-quality offers from reputable vendors and honest private sellers.

That's why, if you find yourself in doubt over a transaction, it's best to look elsewhere. There's simply no need to take a chance on a dealer who may or may not be disreputable when there are so many more appealing and legitimate options out there if you just keep looking for them.