How To Value A Motorcycle Before Buying One | 2020


Buying a used motorcycle is a fantastic way of saving a lot of money- especially if you’re not dead set on your dream motorcycle (yet).

That being said, there are thousands of people selling their motorcycles. And all of them are going to tell you about why their motorcycle is perfect for you.

Fun fact: most of those motorcycles are not.

We tend to make irrational decisions when we’re excited about things. A lot of my friends have been to the dealer/ agency/ shady guy on Craigslist with a lot of cash that they were ready to drop for a motorcycle. The difference between the ones who were happy with what they bought and the ones who weren’t is those who did their research.

We don’t want you to walk away with a lighter wallet but heavier heart- which is why we curated this article for you.

This is a guide to judging the value of a used motorcycle before you make a purchase.

Questions To Ask The Salesman Before Buying The Motorcycle

It’s always a good idea to gauge the credibility of the person selling you what you want to buy. Especially if the other party is NOT part of a sales agency or motorcycle dealership.

The following questions are a good place to start:

  • Why Are You Selling This Motorcycle?
  • What Things Are Wrong With The Motorcycle?
  • What Things Are Wrong With The Motorcycle That You Haven’t Discussed So Far?
  • What Safety/ Maintenance Issues Should I Be Aware Of Before Buying This Bike?
  • If You Were Me, How Would You Improve The Conditions On This Bike To Help Ride It Better For Another Year?
  • What Reasons Should I Not Buy This Bike For?


Grayscale image of a motorcycle
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One of the most basic criteria for evaluating a used item before buying it.

The age of a motorcycle will give you a general idea about how much wear and tear the vehicle has accumulated over the years.

Of course, people are different- and the condition of the motorcycle is as subjective as the person owning the motorcycle.


The person selling to you isn’t really selling the motorcycle- they’re selling the idea of it.

By which I mean they’re only going to discuss the positive parts.

But to know if they really know about more than just the idea of the motorcycle they’re selling, ask them the following:

  • If The Bike Has Ever Fallen Down
  • If The Bike Was Ever Raced
  • When The Oil Was Last Replaced
  • What The Service History Is
  • How Old The Tires Are
  • About The Modifications That Have Been Made To The Bike
  • How Often The Air Filters Have Been Cleaned Or Replaced
  • When The Last Time Was That The Motorcycle Got A Fresh Top End

This isn’t just to check the status of the motorcycle, but the credibility of the person selling it.


Another general guideline to abide by when evaluating the condition of the motorcycle is the number of miles it has accrued. As is with its age, it also depends a lot on how much care the owner of the motorcycle has taken.

Service history

Close-up of a motorcycle engine
Photo by <a href=httpsunsplashcomuniverdesignutm source=unsplashutm medium=referralutm content=creditCopyText>Niver Vega<a> on <a href=httpsunsplashcomutm source=unsplashutm medium=referralutm content=creditCopyText>Unsplash<a>

You have to make sure that the motorcycle you buy has had a servicing record consistent with the one specified/ recommended by the manufacturer.

If you’re not sure of whether the seller has abided by these specifications, take it to a mechanic (on your own dime) so you can be sure.

Potential damage

Go through the following guidelines to gauge how much damage the motorcycle has accrued before your purchase:

  • Deep Parallel Scratches On Engine Cases 
  • Paint Job Different From That Of The Motorcycle 
  • Metal Ground Off The Handlebar Ends 
  • Dents In The Gas Tank 
  • Dents/ Parallel Scratches In Exhaust Pipes 
  • Turn-signal Stalks Ripped Off 
  • Any Cracks In The Bodywork Over Which Stickers Have Been Placed
  • If The Brake/ Clutch Levels Have Been Bent In A Crash (Check For Differences In Color, Shape Or Reshaping) 
  • Bent/ Cracked/ Replaced Mirrors 


A modified motorcycle next to an old, abandoned train
Photo by <a href=httpsunsplashcomarteumutm source=unsplashutm medium=referralutm content=creditCopyText>Arteumro<a> on <a href=httpsunsplashcomsphotosmotorcycle customutm source=unsplashutm medium=referralutm content=creditCopyText>Unsplash<a>

Modifications are kind of a catch-22. On one hand, they serve to enhance the aesthetics and utility of the motorcycle. On the other hand, the more the number of modifications, the more it takes a toll on the engine. 

Ask your dealer about how many and what kind of modifications the bike has received prior to this.

Additional Tips

  • Bring a friend. It’ll be easier for you to have a second opinion, and reassurance when negotiating a deal.
  • Always remember to get a flashlight.
  • Ask that the bike not be warmed up until you get there. You can tell the true condition of an engine only in cold weather.
  • Ask for a test ride beforehand. Most people will allow you, but some may not for liability reasons. Either Way, get your riding gear when you meet up.
  • Make sure that the Vehicular Identification Number matches all of the records on the motorcycle. This way, you can get legally approved information from the DMV about the motorcycle.
  • Cruiser motorcycles have a much higher retention value than motorcycles like dirt bikes.
  • Limited edition motorcycles (like a Harley Davidson Dyna from 2006) generally have much higher resale values
  • The Kelley Blue Book is a fantastic source to get an approximate of the purchase you’ve made.
  • Always go for trusted, recognized and certified dealerships like the National Automobile Dealers Association.


Buying a used motorcycle is a fantastic way to save money in a passion that has a lot of recurring financial requirements. Especially if you’ve just started out riding.

That being said, you still need to know how much worth you’re getting out of the money you’re pooling. We always strive for the research we put into our articles, but we also need you to do your research outside of articles like these before you spend your hard-earned money.

So go nuts. 


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