Guide to buying a new or used motorcycle

There are many factors to consider when buying a new or used motorcycle. This guide will walk you through the process to make sure you get the bike you deserve.

How to Buy a Motorcycle


If you’re thinking about buying your first motorcycle or just looking for an upgrade, there are many factors you’ll want to consider.

You’ll want to find a bike that fits your riding style and is appropriate for your location. You’ll also want to consider if a new or used motorcycle is right for you.

Click on a topic or keep reading to find out how to buy the motorcycle that’s right for you.


Choosing the right bike

There are a lot of different motorcycle styles and models. Each style has its own unique characteristics and some bikes fit certain needs better than others. 

When looking for the right motorcycle, you'll want to ask yourself these three questions:

  1. How do you plan to use the motorcycle? Are you planning a long-distance trip, or do you want to use it for your daily commute?
  2. What is your experience level? Are you an experienced rider, or are you just starting out?
  3. Where do you plan to ride? Do you want to ride in the city or take your bike off-road?

Different types of motorcycles

Before you start shopping for a motorcycle, make sure you're looking at a style that fits your needs. Most motorcycles fit into one of the following categories. 

Standard. Standard motorcycles are characterized by their upright riding posture and lack of accessories. They’re great general-purpose bikes.

  • Good for: Beginners and commuters
  • Bad for: Long-distance and off-road riders. 

Cruisers. When thinking of a cruiser, think Harley-Davidson. These bikes have a relaxed riding position, comfortable suspension, and a high average weight, which may make them difficult to handle for small or new riders. 

  • Good for: Riders looking for comfort and stlye.
  • Bad for: Off-road riders or those looking for fuel efficiency. 

Touring bikes. Built for long rides, these bikes typically come with fairings to block the wind, saddle bags, and large fuel tanks.

  • Good for: Long-distance riders
  • Bad for: City riders and commuters

Sport or Street. These bikes are built for two things: speed and performance. They usually have large plastic fairings for aerodynamics. Their extreme forward-leaning riding position may not be for every rider.

  • Good for: Speed and performance
  • Bad for: Beginners and risk-averse riders

Dual sport bikes. Perfect for off-road riding, these bikes are lightweight with high-travel suspension and aggressive tires.

  • Good for: Off-road riders
  • Bad for: Long-distance riders, beginners, and commuters


Engine size

After you’ve decided on a motorcycle style that’s right for you, you’ll also want to think about engine size. Many bike models come in a variety of engine sizes, ranging from 250cc up to 1,400cc.

Smaller engine sizes in the 250cc to 500cc range are good low-cost options for beginners. They’re typically less expensive to insure and easier to handle.


How to buy a used motorcycle

Used motorcycles are typically much cheaper than new bikes, which makes them a great buy for beginners. But if you don’t know a lot about motorcycles, finding a safe and reliable bike can be a challenge. Don’t worry, though. We’ve got you covered.

For starters, you should avoid bikes with any of these features:

  • Salvage titles
  • Excessive wear
  • Difficulties when starting, running, or stopping
  • High mileage

One of the biggest risks with used motorcycles are mechanical issues. Older motorcycles might need frequent repairs, while newer models might need less (if any). You can help mitigate these mechanical issues by purchasing mechanical breakdown insurance. It’s like an extended warranty for your bike and can help offset the cost of certain repairs.

You’ll also want to be mindful of the mileage on the motorcycle. 40,000 miles on a used car wouldn’t be a red flag but on a bike it’s a lot of wear and tear. As a general rule, you should try to stay with bikes that have under 20,000 miles.

Buying a motorcycle from a private seller

If you’re buying a motorcycle from an individual seller, someone who posted on Craigslist or eBay for example, you’ll want to take these extra steps to make sure you ride away happy.

  • Know what it’s worth. Check the bike’s blue book value to make sure you don’t overpay.
  • Get a VIN check. Use the motorcycle’s VIN to get a vehicle history report, which will alert you to any red flags in the bike’s history.
  • Thoroughly inspect the bike. Look the bike over carefully. Leaks, rust, abnormal wear on the frame, wheels, brakes. These are all potential walk-away signs. If you don’t feel confident inspecting the bike yourself, ask to take it to a mechanic you trust. If the seller says no, this is also a bad sign.

Get as much information about the bike as you can from the seller. Here are some good questions to ask:

  • Why are you selling the motorcycle?
  • How long have you had it?
  • Any issues with the bike I should know about?
  • Do you have the title? Is it in your name?
  • Is the title clean or salvage?

Taking these extra steps can help you feel more comfortable buying a used motorcycle. You’ll feel better knowing you haven’t overpaid and you own a bike that’s safe and reliable. As always though, trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it might be best to walk away.


Buying a motorcycle from a dealership

Motorcycle dealerships can be a good option if you’re looking for a new motorcycle or a certified preowned bike. If you’re looking for a specific make and model, stopping by a particular dealership could save you a lot of time looking through classified ads.

And with certified preowned motorcycles, the dealership has already done a lot of the work we mentioned above. They’ve already looked at the vehicle’s history, mileage, and any mechanical issues.

If you don’t have the money to pay for a used motorcycle from a private seller, dealerships could be a good place to buy your motorcycle. Most offer low-interest financing which can give you some time to pay off the bike. This might not be an option if you have bad credit, though. If you’ve found yourself with bad credit, check out our article on 8 easy ways to get out of debt .

Motorcycles from dealerships come with mechanical warranties as well. These are typically included in the cost of the bike. These warranties will cover the cost of certain repairs to your motorcycle, like defective parts. Parts that need to be replaced regularly—like tires, brakes and filters—aren’t usually covered by these warranties.



Buying a new or used motorcycle can be a great way to explore the Bay Area. But if it’s your first bike or you’re looking to upgrade to a style you’re unfamiliar with, you might have questions and concerns.

If you follow the steps mentioned in this article, you should walk away confident in your purchase.

We offer competitive rates on new & used motorcycles from both private sellers and dealerships. Stop waiting. Start splitting the lane.

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