If you are a motorcycle enthusiast but on a budget, finding a quality ride might sound like a challenge. Instead of breaking the bank and splurging on a brand-new Harley-Davidson, consider shopping the market for used or salvage motorcycles. You can get a standard machine at an affordable price.
Yet shopping for a used or salvage motorcycle can be tricky. Plenty of scam artists are out there willing to take advantage of inexperienced buyers. So when you’re buying second-hand, here are a few factors to pay attention to.
What to look out for
First impressions count when buying a used vehicle. What’s the condition of the used motorcycle you are looking at? Is it a bit worn-down but not too shabby, or does it look like it was in an accident? A little wear and tear is fine as long as it is still in decent condition and looks well-maintained.
When buying used, examine the bike for signs of a crash, such as scrapes on the exhaust, handlebars, and pedals. When you start up the motorcycle, listen for two key sounds: a low-frequency knocking sound coming from the bottom of the engine or a high-frequency tapping sound coming from the top of the engine. The low-frequency sound could indicate a poor engine that might need rebuilding. The high-frequency sound could mean the tappets need to be replaced (an expensive job). Check to see whether dark smoke is coming from the exhaust, which could signal the piston rings need to be replaced. And check to see whether oil is coming from the cylinder head. Next, move the motorcycle forward and step on the front and rear brakes. If you hear a grinding sound, that could mean the drums need cleaning or the bike needs new pedals. Make sure the sound is smooth —not cracking or grinding — when turning the handlebars. Check to make sure that the tires are in good condition. And, of course, take the motorcycle for a test ride!
What to know before buying
When buying a salvage motorcycle, you need to consider how much the repair is going to cost you (and how much time those repairs are going to take). Make sure the bike’s price and cost to fix it are still considerably less than the value of an undamaged motorcycle.
For used motorcycles, check the legal documents from the seller. The bike should have a logbook with it. Scan the documents to make sure the information is correct and the frame and engine numbers match. Check for a watermark on the documents to signify they are official paperwork. Ask the seller if the motorcycle has been serviced according to the manufacturer’s specifications. If you feel uncertain about the bike’s condition, seek out a mechanic to inspect the vehicle. Consider purchasing a used motorcycle that is still relatively new (2 years old or less). These bikes will have less mileage and fewer problems.
Before purchasing the motorcycle, check its history. You can find a detailed report of the motorcycle’s history on any standard vehicle history check website. Consider how many owners the bike had. Too many owners and not a lot of time between owners could be a red flag.
Where to purchase
The best places to buy a salvage motorcycle are from a local breaker’s yard, motorcycle trade, small dealers, and industry salvage auctions. Both used and salvage motorcycles are offered through private advertisements, dealerships, online bidding websites, and auctions as well. Buying privately might be better if you are concerned about price. Because dealers typically charge a premium. And while you can haggle over price with both dealers and private parties, the latter might be more flexible.