You just got a super deal on a used motorcycle at an estate sale. You get it home, roll it into the garage and try to start it up, but all you get is a buzzing, clicking sound coming from under the seat. The seller started it and it ran fine just half an hour ago, so what gives? The seller probably charged the battery just long enough to put a “surface charge” on it, but the battery is shot and the charge is erased with one spin of the starter. If you’re not already into motorcycles, make use of the following tips to protect yourself and you have a good chance to get a great deal on a decent bike:
Start With This Checklist, Then Search the Web for More Tips
- Title / License Issues: Visually verify that the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the frame exactly matches the title. Most states require mileage on the title. Make sure the odometer reading is more than or equal to the title’s mileage. Check for liens; if it shows one or more, they should be released. Compare the seller’s ID for an exact match. If there’s more than one owner, all parties have to sign off the title, in front of a notary public.
- Starting, Running, Riding Checks: If the motorcycle won’t start; (this happens fairly often at estate / yard sales), the bike has probably been sitting up for an extended time, the battery is dead, the gas is stale and the carburetors / fuel injectors are clogged. Don’t buy that bike if it doesn’t run. Make the seller fix it at his/her expense. It needs to run in order to check engine compression, transmission function and the electrical system.
- Wearables, Consumables: Tires, brakes, battery, chain & sprockets, fork seals, bearings, steering stem, swing arm and wheels. If any of these parts are worn beyond limits, knock the replacement costs off your offer.
- Apparent Crash Damage: Look for road rash at the mirrors, grips and levers, turn signals, mufflers, foot pegs, shifter and brake pedal. Make sure the forks travel freely. If they stick when compressed, they’re bent. Check wheels/rims for dents and trueness (spin them by hand). Look carefully around the steering head and upper frame for small cracks in the welds, which can indicate a bent frame.
- Gear and Accessories: If gear is included, check to see if the seller is being truthful about the value. Write down the make and model of each helmet, jacket, bike cover, etc. and then go to online retailer BikeBandit.com to compare prices.
- Too Little, Get More: There are far more tips and details you need to learn before you buy any used bike, and there isn’t the space here to cover it all. To get more information, a good resource is MotorcycleForum.com.
Keep Your Eye Peeled for Any of These High Value Pieces
These are bikes you can score big with if you happen across one:
- 1989 Honda GB500: $3,400 to $4,500
Photo by Ulf Potschien via Wikimedia Commons
- 1972 Moto Guzzi 850GT Eldorado: $4,000 to $6,000
Photo by Age073 via Wikimedia Commons
- 1970 Bultaco Pursang Mk4: $7,000 to $10,000
Photo by El Camino Motorcycle Show
- 1975 Laverda 750GT: $7,500 to $8,500
Photo by Gerard Delafond via Wikimedia Commons
- 1986 Yamaha SRX-6: $2,500 to $3,500
Photo by Thedirtypeach via Wikimedia Commons
- 1967-’72 Norton Commando 750: $6,500 to $8,500
Photo by meriden.triumph via Wikimedia Commons
- 1975-’83 Moto Morini 3½ Sport: $3,500 to $7,000
Photo by Davide Restivo via Wikimedia Commons
- 1973-’76 BMW R90S: $6,500 to $9,500
Photo by Stahlkocher via Wikimedia Commons
- 1971 Yankee Z: $3,500 to $5,500
Photo by k4cay via Wikimedia Commons
Contributed by Justin Moore. Justin is a freelance writer and rock climber from Utah.