Here Are Our Favorite Places to Buy Used Motorcycles
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If you’re like me, you’re always on the hunt for your next motorcycle. If there’s an empty space in your garage and a handful of cash burning a hole in your pocket, there’s nothing like browsing the classifieds, looking at helmets, strapping on a set of motorcycle boots, or taking a stroll through your local dealer. It becomes an addiction. Soon enough you’ll have 12 browser tabs open and five salespeople calling you back at all hours of the day.
With so many avenues available to find the perfect used motorcycle, where do you start? Today’s online landscape has made buying a used motorcycle pretty damn easy, but there are still some pitfalls you need to understand so you don’t end up with two wheels of locked engine and a smoking clutch.
To serve you in your mythic quest for the wind in your eyes, bugs in your teeth, rain in your pants, and good ole American freedom, I put together this guide to help you to the best places to buy a used motorcycle. I also dropped everything you need to watch out for. You’re welcome, internet. Now, let’s get into this before I go down another Ducati Hypermotard rabbit hole.
Our Favorite Places to Buy Used Motorcycles
While there are 500 to one million used-car options, motorcycles are still something of a fringe hobby/devotion, so there are really only a few outlets you need to know about when it comes to buying a used motorcycle. They are your local motorcycle dealerships, eBay, (the murderer’s favorite) Craigslist, Cycle Trader, and Facebook Marketplace. Each has their pros and cons, so we’re gonna talk about each more specifically.
A local motorcycle dealership is going to be the easiest and most common way for you to find your next used motorcycle. There are thousands of motorcycle dealerships around the country for you to choose from. What’s good about these dealerships is that there’s often a varied selection of used motorcycles, there’s no hassling with private parties online or scheduling a time to see, and best of all, a dealership makes financing a purchase extremely easy.
Dealerships routinely have finance departments where you can expedite a loan and ride away with your new pride and joy, which beats going to a bank, talking to the lender, telling them all about the motorcycle from your friend Jimmy who’s super trustworthy, and them saying no. Local dealers are one-stop shops that reduce the complications of the buying experience.
There are some issues here, however, including that very same loan department. When you don’t shop around for your loan, you might get saddled with bad terms, including six- to eight-year loans, higher interest rates, and predatory lending. It’s best to read all the fine print and go through the terms and conditions yourself. You can also use an online rate calculator to figure out what you’re willing to put down, and what it’ll cost you each month. Go in armed with information.
There’s also the issue of higher prices compared to a private seller. Sure, a dealer will offer you below market value for your trade, but they aren’t in the business of selling them below market value. Dealerships will likely have higher prices than private sellers because they need to make a healthy profit.
Pros: One-stop shop, large selection, easy financing, no need to schedule a time
Cons: Predatory lending possible, higher prices
I might be dating myself, but eBay still feels like the internet’s yard sale. I know, I know: Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are much better contenders to such a moniker, but eBay is always the last place I look. It shouldn’t be, since the site’s motorcycle listings are some of the best around.
With auctions and the Buy It Now option and everything from sport bikes to cruisers, eBay’s interface lets you choose exactly what you want to see out of your next motorcycle. It then narrows the field with a host of helpful drop-down menus. You can look not just within your ZIP code but around the country to find that perfect machine. The site even has financing and shipping options, so you can get the whole transaction done without ever getting out of your jammies. But that comes at a cost.
Without ever seeing the motorcycle in question, you lose the chance to discover its mechanical and cosmetic issues. You lose the chance to test drive it and see if it’s the right motorcycle for you. You lose the in-person experience that most of us rely on to inform our purchasing decisions.
Pros: National pool of available motorcycles, lending and shipping options, cheaper prices
Cons: No in-person checks on cosmetics or mechanical parts for issues and defects
Not just for Missed Connections between swingers and cannibals, Craigslist is a valuable tool you can use in your next motorcycle purchase. Set by geographic region, Craigslist offers you the opportunity to purchase from your local community and see the motorcycle in person before any cash is exchanged.
The site offers similar drop-down menus to narrow down your search and find the right motorcycle for your particular needs, including year range, price, make, model, and more. It’ll also give you insight into what the market in your specific area is like, what’s in high demand with high prices or lower demand and lower prices.
What’s not great about Craigslist is that it can be sketchy — extremely sketchy. And you don’t get any of the financial assistance that you do with a dealership or eBay. There’s also the issue of doing your own mechanical inspection and not always being allowed by the seller to take the motorcycle to a licensed mechanic for a full diagnostic check.
Pros: Local, in-person inspection and ride, cheaper prices than dealerships
Cons: You could be eaten alive or taken to the cleaners.
While Facebook—I mean Meta—is the place for your great aunt Edna to post cringe from all parts of the intellectual dark web, Facebook Marketplace is also a satisfying way to find motorcycles that are both local and very local to you.
With the function of mapping out those offerings within a radius of 5, 10, or more miles, Marketplace offers a lot of the same information that Craigslist does but does so in a more tactical way. You can find motorcycles in your own neighborhood, your city, or the surrounding area, making viewing, mechanical inspections, and test rides simple. It also reduces the chances of tire kickers from all over the state.
As with Craigslist, however, there are no financing options and you’ll have to do the inspection by yourself. That said, from my experience with the service, it’s less sketchy than Craigslist, people respond faster, and there are fewer murderers using it to entrap their latest victims. Now, Meta proper? Who knows.
Pros: Hyper local, easy interface, numerous options, cheaper prices, no murderers
Cons: No financing, no inspection, possibility of Nazis
One of the oldest used motorcycle classifieds around is Cycle Trader. What started as printed (yes, on real life paper in the real world that someone could touch) has since transformed those same classifieds into Web2.0 formatting for all to peruse.
Cycle Trader’s current setup is pretty similar to eBay in its interface, and you can scope out motorcycles from private and dealership parties from around the country. But whereas eBay can be both middle man and lender, Cycle Trader is just a middle man and doesn’t offer any financing or shipping additions. It’s purely classified ads. That means you’ll have all the same issues you have with eBay but none of the perks.
Pros: National and local classifieds, private and dealership sellers
Cons: No in-person checks on cosmetics or mechanical parts for issues and defects, no financing or shipping options
What Should You Look for in a Used Motorcycle?
Now that you’re up to speed on where you can find a used motorcycle and conduct a sit-down with your doctor to find out if a used motorcycle is right for you, we can get into the nitty-gritty of what you need to be watchful for when purchasing one.
Maintenance records are a look into your prospective motorcycle’s past. They tell you part of its story, part of its life, and whether or not the last owner/owners actually gave a damn about the health and well-being of the machine you’re about to drop a couple grand for. You can get away without them, but you’re doing yourself a disservice down the road when a bodgy fix turns into a pocket-draining headache.
If the bike you’re after doesn’t have its records or has only one record of an oil change five years ago, you might be better off looking elsewhere.
Damage From a Fall
Bikes fall over. It happens. And while not all falls are noteworthy—some just fall into the author’s Volvo after his father-in-law decides to move the Ducati—some falls break and damage motorcycles in real ways that the previous owner might not have fixed right or had a professional address.
When you’re looking over a motorcycle, inspect every aspect of it. Look for mismatched mirrors, scratches along the handlebar ends, chipped fairings, or internals that look suspect. It’s really up to you to do your due diligence, so bring a flashlight with you when you go looking.
Folks, one of the most important things on any motorized vehicle are its tires. And if a motorcycle’s been sitting for some time, its tires may not just be deflated, but out of spec and unworthy of road use.
All tires are stamped with the date that they were made, which is one way to know if it’s safe to use them on a public road. As tires age, the rubber compound’s chemical reaction between it and the pavement degrades. That means you lose traction and the ability to steer. It can, and has, killed people, including Paul Walker.
Before you hop on your new ride, peep the tire age and make sure you aren’t gonna end up in a ditch, on top of the car in front of you, over the car in front of you, or in a car wash.
FAQs on Places to Buy Used Motorcycles
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.
Q. What is considered high mileage for a motorcycle?
A. Well, if you scroll through Facebook Marketplace, there’s no such thing as a high-mileage motorcycle given the current prices people are looking for. It used to be that 30,000 miles was high, but motorcycles are more well-put-together than prior decades and that means longer service lifes, as long as you maintain them properly.
Q. How long should I keep a motorcycle?
A. I’m not sure I understand the question.
Q. You know, how long should I keep one before I sell it or give it up?
A. You run it until it dies or until you want a new motorcycle. But you can always just add to your collection of motorcycles and buy more and more and never get rid of any.
Q. What is the best second-hand motorcycle to buy?
A. That depends on a lot of factors. What sort of motorcycle are you in the market for? Dirt bike? Sport bike? Cruiser? Grom? What I can offer you is some advice for new riders: Get something in line with your skill level of non-existent. Buy something with a displacement of less than 500 cc that won’t kill you if you accidentally release the clutch a little too quickly.
Q. What is the safest way to sell a motorcycle?
A. Trading it in is probably the safest way to sell a motorcycle, but you won’t get nearly as much for your trade as you would by selling it yourself.
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