Buying a Used Bike? This Is What You Need to Know…

Buying a used bike? This is what you need to know…

What to look out for and what to check when buying a used motorbike

So you’ve saved the big brickies and it’s time to start thinking about what to buy. If you’re like us, you’ve probably been obsessing about a particular machine while you’ve put the money together. Before you go any further, though, with used bikes it pays to check a few things first.

As with all motorcycling decisions, start with yourself. What do you want to do with the bike? If riding across the globe, then a V Strom is probably going to be better than a GSXR1000 for the job. Speaking of the high-powered stuff, do you have the correct licence and can you afford to insure the bike of your dreams?

Once you’ve established that you are prepared, it’s very easy to get way too excited and buy in hurry, only to regret it later.

Check the paperwork on the bike. Is it the correct paperwork for the bike you’re looking to buy? Is the ‘title’, as our American cousins call it, clean? Or does the bike belong to someone other than the seller, such as a finance company?

Check the paperwork on the bike. Is it the correct paperwork for the bike you’re looking to buy? Is the ‘title’, as our American cousins call it, clean? Or does the bike belong to someone other than the seller, such as a finance company?


Take a look at the service book and see when the last time the bike was serviced by a qualified technician. Does this match the odometer, and, if it does, how much ground has the bike covered since then? If the bike is missing an official service, then the question has to be why and what has to be done to bring it back up to spec?

Bear in mind that a major service costs up to $1,000 and should occur every 24,000km.

While you’re at it, take a look at the owner’s manual. Most of them are still in the wrapper, preserved for all time and never opened, so dull is the content. Some, however, tell their own tales. Look for the pages marked with oily thumbprints, read the topics covered on the relevant pages and this or these are the problems someone has had with the bike you’re thinking of buying.

Check the keys. It sounds so simple, but getting all the keys is important. Check with the original manufacturer how many keys the bike should have and don’t do the deal without getting all of them, or a very good reason as to why any of them are missing. Some manufacturers use a master key, which is essential for even the most basic of service work. Not having that key makes for a very unpleasant ownership experience. Try each key. When presented with three motorcycle keys, try them in the ignition. Even ones that have never been used will turn the barrel. If any of them don’t work, ask why. Finally, remember that a lot of keys are encrypted or coded, meaning the bike has a reader that identifies the code of the key. Most bikes are supplied with two keys, but if you lose both, you have to go through an extensive process that can cost a couple of thousand dollars, and can include changing the ECU on the bike’s computer.

Crash damage is very often ok. Bikes are surprisingly robust these days and very often are quite easy to repair. The big question is how much will it cost to get right, and does it need it all? The Street Fighter genre was huge thanks to riders binning expensive sports bikes and then not being able to afford to return them to original condition. This in turn led to a very healthy stunting scene. However, the stunting scene is, in no small way, responsible for the popularity of energy drinks.

Regardless of whether the machine you are planning to buy has seen a lot of action, it’s always worth your while getting a qualified mechanic to give it a thorough check.

Crash damage should always be declared by the seller. If the bike is being presented as being in perfect order and you find evidence of it being dropped, walk away from the deal. When purchasing a damaged bike, always make sure that you have the budget and/or skill to get it roadworthy and in the condition you want it to be in. If a seller attempts to hide damage, then presume you’re going to spend quite a bit of time discovering a host of botched repairs and looking at more and more costs that aren’t possible to budget for.

buy-used-motorcycle-melbourne-raceway-dealer-essendon-niddrie-AustraliaAlways ask for the bike to be left cold. Starting a machine that’s already run can hide a host of problems – from serious engine damage, to loose cam chains, to poor starter motors, and a whole pile of other faults.

Take a look at the consumables. Are the brake pads worn down to the backing plates? If so, have the discs been warped? How much play is there in the chain? If it’s correctly adjusted, how much is left in it and what kind of condition are the sprockets in? Are the seals on the suspension leaking? Does it need new tyres? All of these are expensive consumables and will add to the cost of ownership in the very near future.

If you want to make sure you cover all the possible downfalls of your used bike purchase, have a look at our Pre-purchase report.

Talking to the seller about the bike is always helpful. Establishing where it was used tells a lot. A bike that has been used for track days is rarely a problem if it has received great maintenance, but one that has been raced is effectively unfit for road use ever again.  A low mileage GSX R1000 that was bought new by someone who thought they were talented BUT ended up not using it can often be a bargain.

The very best thing that you can do is put down a deposit and take the bike for a test ride. Take your time with it, and, if possible, get a professional to take a look over it.

If you’re not happy with it, walk away, but if it meets your expectations, and all of your checks, then it’s time to hand over that money and say hello to your new machine!


To find out more about raceway motorcycles and services please contact us directly on 03) 9351 0055