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Pinned What to look for when buying a used motorcycle...

Discussion in 'The Pub' started by kiffsta, Feb 20, 2011.

  1. kiffsta

    kiffsta Administrator Staff Member Dirty Wheel Club Contributing Member

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    I buy and sell a few bikes in my spare time, a few people have asked me what to look for when buying a used motorcycle. Choosing where you buy your used motorcycle will largely depend on your budget, as dealerships usually charge a premium over private parties. If you buy from a dealer, take advantage of their knowledge and ask as many questions you can about the bike.  Buying from a private party can be a more personal experience, the owner may regale tales about the motorcycle in question and it can be an emotive sale, in saying that, private sellers are usually also more flexible on price as well.

    My Pre Purchase Checklist.

    1. Visual Inspection - First off have a good look at the motorcycle, look for telltale signs that the bike has been on its side. Scratches and rash on the fairings, handlebars, foot controls and handlebars are sure signs it’s been over on its side, if  a bike has been over then that’s not the end of the world, however you need to take into consideration that some insurance companies won’t insure your bike if there is existing damage. Next it’s important to inspect the engine area look for oil and fluid leaks, while some bikes have fairings; you should take a torch and peer between the gaps in the fairings looking for any signs of leaks.  The next area to check is the chain and rear sprocket, the chain should move freely and have a small amount of slack and be well coated with lubricant, the teeth on the sprocket should be clean and lubricated, check and make sure all the teeth are present and that the teeth feel blunt, sharp sprocket teeth means its well worn and will need to be replaced. A dirty chain and sprockets generally mean the bike has not been well cared for or it’s been some time since its last service. Oil levels can generally be checked by looking through the engine casing at the oil level with the bike upright, make sure the oil level is in line with the inspection lines on the glass, also check the inspection hole on the brake master cylinder and ensure there is sufficient brake fluid in there.  Finally, check the wheels and tyres; look for excess wear or flat spots.

    If there is noticeable damage or strange sounds coming from the engine, I would recommend you obtain an independent 3rd party to inspect it, this inspection should cost between $50 and $100 and will give you some piece of mind that you’re not buying a lemon.

    2. Hearing It Run – If you’re happy with the visual inspection of the motorcycle then it’s important to see it start and this is preferably done when the bike is cold, I always ask the owner or dealer if I can start it, this way I can make sure there aren’t any nuances with starting the bike. Listen for knocks and rattles and look for excess smoke from the exhaust pipes, this is sure sign of pain to come if the motorcycle is exhibiting these symptoms. If the bike starts and runs nicely then listen to idle without the choke and once again look for leaks. Once the motorcycle has warmed up, apply some throttle and make sure the engine revs freely and drops back and hold and idle.

    If you’re still keen on the bike then it’s time for a test fit.

    3. Test Fit – Try to spend more than just a couple of minutes on the motorcycle in order to see if the bike might be uncomfortable on a long ride. Try and do this with your riding gear on as this is what you will be wearing when you ride.  You need to ask yourself the following questions when considering buying a motorcycle:

    Are the handlebars and controls too far away?

    If so, can they be adjusted?

    Does the seat feel comfortable?

    Are the foot pegs too far back?

    Can get your feet down with the bike upright?

    Are the gauges easy to read?

    All of these questions should be carefully assessed before shelling out your hard earned dollars, remember just because it looks smoking hot, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the bike for you. Sports bikes can be fun but you may end up with sore wrists or a sore back after a short ride, conversely cruisers and nakeds have a more upright riding position and a lower seat, you won’t know until you sit on one. Looks can be deceiving.

    4. Test Ride - If you’re a new rider or unlicensed and looking to buy your first bike, it’s very important you take an experienced rider along who can test ride the motorcycle for you. Many private sellers won’t let you ride the bike without a valid license. Make sure you take your riding gear, ie jacket, gloves, boots and helmet, once you’re on the bike, its important  you familiarise yourself with the controls, adjust your mirrors and test the indicators, horn and brakes so you know where everything is. Start the bike and test the friction point on the clutch, you don’t want to be trying to ride away and performing jerky gear changes. Make sure you know where you’re going, have a small route in mind and ensure you can turn left and right and go through all the gears and try and get a feel for the bike at various speeds. Another good test is to check the free play in the head stem, this can be done by sitting on the bike, applying the front brake and rocking the bike side to side and up and down, it you feel there is some free play there you may be up for new head stem bearings.

    5. History – Ask the owner to provide evidence of the service history and any repairs, most newer bikes will have a service manual under the seat, if there is a book; check the dates and mileage when services were performed. Don’t be afraid to complete a Vcheck or Revs report, these can be purchased from the Department of Transport, you will need a valid driver’s license, credit card, e-mail address,  the motorcycle VIN number, engine number and rego details before ordering a Vcheck. A Vcheck report will cost you about $40 for a complete report but this will tell you if the bike has been written off or suffered from flood damage. The Vcheck report also lists the mileage each time the bike was sold and helps you confirm that the mileage on Speedo is indeed correct. Finally, a Vcheck report will let you know if the motorcycle is financially encumbered or has been stolen, I highly recommend getting this check done.

    6. Modifications – Motorcycles are easily modified and these changes can increase the performance of the bike, examples of this could be a sports exhaust, sports air filters, body kits, screens, brake upgrades and even ECU modifications that re-tune the bike to run faster. It’s very important to understand the implications of buying a modified bike, you may have to pay more for your insurance or not be covered at all if you buy a modified bike and don’t declare it. If the motorcycle has been modified, ask the owner if the original parts are included in the purchase price.

    7. Research the Motorcycle – before even considering making an offer on a bike, you must do some research and be armed with plenty of information.  The best place to research is the Internet, first place I check is the Redbook valuations, and you can find this on bikesales.com.au under the heading “Research Bikes”, while the prices quoted are indicative, it will give you an idea as to how much you should pay. Also use the likes of Google or Bing and search for known issues with the model you’re looking for. Check websites like bikesales.com.au, mcsales.com.au, tradingpost.com.au, gumtreee.com.au for similar models for sale and see how the prices differ, you should be able to get a feel for current market value on the bike. Call your local dealer and enquire how much a major and minor service would be, these can be contributing factors in determining if this is the bike for you and your budget. Finally, obtain several insurance quotes on the bike in question, for example a naked bike is generally alot cheaper than a full fairing sports bike.

    I will post up my tips for negotiating your purchase next week.

    Stay Upright

    Chris
     
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  2. Obanion

    Obanion Member

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    One thing I remember reading about to avoid sketchy dealers who warm up the engine in advance, but they tell you it hasn't been started, is to ask them to touch the engine themselves! You'll know it's sketchy when they balk at the thought of burning their hands.

    I'd avoid dealing with dishonest dealers.
     
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  3. Tim_

    Tim_ resident nutcase Premium Member Dirty Wheel Club Contributing Member

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    kudos mate.. this an awesome guide.. it deserves a bump...
     
  4. RichardR

    RichardR Member

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    Disc brakes - particularly front ones.
    The metal on the actual disc wears, not as fast as the pads but it does wear and eventually the actual discs have to be replaced. One thing to do is feel the outer edge of each disc for a lip. A big lip means lots of braking (boy racer? look further) or just many miles and possible replacement due sooner rather than later. An uneven lip (one side disc has more of a lip that the disc on the other for twin front discs) can mean a dragging set of pads on one side with again possible pad and or disc replacement and or calliper maintenance due.
    A big lip on a rear disc can mean a person who constantly rides with their foot on the rear brake but again may mean pads and/or discs need checking.

    Steering head bearings.
    Most standard bearing are crap and either fail relatively soon or are poorly adjusted but they are easy to check. Push the bike against a solid object (a wall for example) and just push down on the forks not violently but slowly. If you feel a definite click through the handlebars the bearings should at least be looked at. They may one need to ne tightened correctly.

    Rear wheel bearings
    Can be checked by putting you hand on the top of the rear tyre from beside the bike and trying to rock the wheel from side to side. See if you feel any movement in the bearing, you will know what it is once you have felt it one time. If the bike has a centre stand get somebody to hold the front down so the rear wheel is off the ground and try to rock the rear wheel with one hand on top and one on the bottom..

    Rear Cush drive
    If the bike has a rubber cush drive in the rear hub put it in neutral with the rear wheel on the ground. TURN THE ENGINE OFF AND TAKE THE KEY OUT OF THE IGNITION. Try and rotate the rear sprocket forward or backwards (gloves are handy). Any excessive movement should be checked.

    Tyre pressures.
    ALWAYS take your own tyre gauge and see what the cold pressures are before you ride the bike. It's common for dealers particularly to have way too much pressure in tyres so they down flat spot while sitting around on the showroom floor. If it's a private sale and the seller has not got the correct pressures what else have they not done?
     
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  5. Th3_Huntsman

    Th3_Huntsman Senior Member Premium Member Contributing Member

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    Addition from @Willrcr15

    Checklist
    • Get a receipt of purchase with as much detail on it as possible, Chassis, Vin No's, Rego details, name & address, Lic No, Ph No. & make sure it say's who he's selling it to being the new registered owner.. The RTA demands a receipt of sale/purchase.
    • Get the old rego papers, doesn't matter how old & check the details match the receipt, this will make life a whole lot easier.
    • If it's registered, make sure the back of the rego papers are signed over to you & still get a receipt as above.
    • Write out your own receipt before you go to collect it, leave spaces for the details & fill it in when you get there yourself, just get them to check it & sign it, all before you hand over the cash, it's theirs as soon as they put it in their pocket,impossible to get it back if it goes pear shaped at the point of sale even if the police are called.
     
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  6. Steve Manning

    Steve Manning Active Member Premium Member Contributing Member

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    I always look at what I am prepared to spend and how motivated I am to do whatever it takes to keep the bike in question on the road (the head bit). Then I ask myself how much my heart is into the bike I am looking at and if it isn't working for me I walk away.

    After all you can never know everything about what you are buying!

    Keep the riding real !!

    Steve
     
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  7. TechHeadFred

    TechHeadFred Well-Known Member Premium Member Contributing Member

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    Sound advice.

    I got a free Bill Of Sale Template online and added spaces for the relevant details. I print out two copies and leave one with the seller when I go to collect the bike.
     
  8. Darren

    Darren Well-Known Member Premium Member Dirty Wheel Club Contributing Member

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    Pin this post, very good advise
     
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  9. Joker

    Joker If you want me find Club250 on facebook. Premium Member Contributing Member

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    Couple of other thoughts on oil:

    if you can take a simple long drinking straw with you, open the top of the sum on the side of the bike and dip down to get a sample. Rub it with your fingers and check the colour (the blacker it is, the more the bike needs attention) and for any bits of grit/metal shavings. As silly as this sounds, smell it. If it smells burned, seems to contain traces of water, coolant or petrol this is an obvious indication of bigger problems.
     
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  10. swanamon

    swanamon Active Member

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    very good advice! Thanks!
     
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  11. Linkin

    Linkin The Apprentice Premium Member Dirty Wheel Club Contributing Member

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    Thought I'd add to this...

    1) Check all roadworthy items, including horn, blinkers, headlights, and brake lights. Tyres are an ovious one, as is aftermarket exhausts. Consider how hard it may be to find a standard exhaust if it fails inspection.

    2) Check the fork seals for leaks. Sit on the bike, grab front brake, rock the bike up and down. This will expose any fork seal leaks. Also listen for any noises. Creaking or squeaking means the bearings need attention. You can do the same for the swingarm.

    3) Check for a bent frame or subframe. Get the bike on a rear stand, look at it from the front & rear from slightly above. Should be easy to tell if anything is out of alignment. If so look elsewhere, or have the seller adjust their price accordingly.
     
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  12. Joker

    Joker If you want me find Club250 on facebook. Premium Member Contributing Member

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    Here's another thing I thought of, check the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) at the national govt website itself:

    https://www.ppsr.gov.au/buying-motorcycle-trailer-caravan-or-other-motor-vehicle

    It's like $3.40 to search a VIN, dirt cheap and worth it for a cup of coffee. It will tell you if another party has financial interest in it, and if there is any info from the national NEVDIS records (National Exchange of Vehicle and Driver Information System) regarding written off status/stolen status etc it should also show up.

    Forget all those private sites that want much more to essentially tell you the same thing.
     
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  13. PhoenixE

    PhoenixE Member

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    Good information. Thanks for the time to compile.
     
  14. Mymia

    Mymia Active Member

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    One other thing I'd suggest on top of everything else mentioned is to take someone who isn't emotionally involved in the purchase. I'm far too emotional about my purchases and I know it. Having someone who really couldn't care any less about the bike, only about me and whatever money pit I'll fall into by purchasing said bike has been invaluable for both not going through with a purchase and also with negotiation.

    Also, use the seller's ad info and photos against them. If they say the bike is registered, they're required to post a photo of the rego plate on reputable sites. Check the rego on their state RMS site - it's free. Got $800 off the price of Mia simply by catching that little lie. Also, I worked out, when I finally got to see her (after a 1200km round trip...not that I'm bitter), that the photos used in the ad were from the owner prior to this guy - her condition was vastly different when I actually got to her. Another $500 off the price. Save the photos from the ad to your phone before you go and remember as much of the condition from the photos that you can so you can talk about those differences off the cuff. Blatantly point out the differences, with your saved images if necessary. Super helpful with negotiation.
     
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  15. Cuda

    Cuda Guest

    Some dodgy dealers will stoop to anything to get rid of a 'dog I came across one dealer a few years back stuffing chunks of cotton wool under the fork seal rubber covers so the shot seals didn't show as the cotton wool soaks it up for a time. I came across another trying to flog a 350LC with a bent frame the bike had obviousley had a front ender it rocked on its main stand and just didnt look/stand right after inspection I found creases under the headstock and behind the rad from the front end being pushed back- would he admit to it being bent 'No .. be carefull folks.
     
  16. Linkin

    Linkin The Apprentice Premium Member Dirty Wheel Club Contributing Member

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    One more to add...

    Take off the oil filler cap with the engine running. If you get white, wispy smoke that smells funny - it's blowby and you should be prepared to walk away...

    Bought an R6 that had a cracked cylinder and lots of blowby (unknown to me)... choked out the airbox as the crank breather went there... result was an engine that locked up on me while riding it, did a big end bearing.

    Still want another R6 though...
     

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