Buying Smart: The Basics of Buying a Used Motorcycle

Buying a motorcycle is a major event for any rider. Whether you have been riding for years or you’re getting your first bike, the excitement never goes away.

That giddiness can cloud our judgment, though, masking issues that sometimes become obvious only when it is too late. Follow these tips to be sure you are buying the right motorcycle and doing it safely.


Ask the Right Questions

When you call about the bike, ask about its history.

  • Has it ever been in a wreck?

  • Are there any known mechanical issues or oil leaks?

  • Why is the owner selling it?

  • Do they have a clean title in hand?

This will give you an idea if the bike is worth looking at. This is the time when you can make an offer on the bike, although if you make an offer in person with cash in hand you will usually walk away with a better deal since the buyer sees you're serious.

In the United States, it’s often common practice to offer $1,000 less then asking price and see if they counter offer. Usually, you can walk away with the deal for around $500 under asking price. Be sure to check sites like KBB and NADA to bolster your claim and ensure you are getting a good deal.

What if there’s no title?

This is a common yet major issue deserving of its own section.

For example, many dirt bikes are sold without titles since they often don't come street legal from the factory. If the bike is not titled, do not pay the book value.

An untitled motorcycle is much less valuable then a titled one. If you come across a great deal on a bike without a title, send us the VIN and we can give you a quote on getting a title!

Make sure to run the VIN to ensure the vehicle is without liens and is not stolen BEFORE purchasing. You can run the VIN on sites such as for free, or you can call us to run the VIN for you.


Meet Somewhere Safe

Once you have decided to proceed, it is time to check out the motorcycle.

Be sure to meet in a public place during daylight hours. You may even insist on meeting at a police station — anything to lessen your risk and increase safety.

This should be no problem for any legitimate seller of a legitimate bike. We hear far too often of people being held at gun point over a motorcycle sale. If you use common sense, you can avoid that.


Bring the Right Stuff

If you are a buyer, be sure to bring someone knowledgeable to inspect the bike. If you are the seller, things are naturally a little different.

Know the laws in your state for purchasing vehicles and ensure you take all the necessary steps for purchasing a used vehicle. The DMV can help you with the parts that are up to you, but you should also ensure the seller does his part by signing the title over to you and providing a bill of sale.

It is okay to bring cash for the purchase, but make sure it stays hidden until the purchase. Do not flash cash until you feel comfortable with the seller.

Trust your intuition. If the buyer requests cash in hand for a test drive, be sure to have someone with you to avoid the seller running off while you're test riding the bike.

Do not accept anything at a later date. A buyer should get a signed-over title and/or a bill of sale. If the seller does not have a title on hand, write a detailed bill of sale and take a picture of the seller’s ID. Be sure that the VIN has not been altered or tampered with.

In some states, the seller needs to have the title notarized. At the time of this article these states are Arizona, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. If you are unsure of the titling process in your state, feel free to call us at anytime for assistance.

Mechanic Working On Cruiser


Don’t Feel Forced

Used motorcycle purchases are rife with pitfalls, but if you know what you're looking for you can come out with an amazing deal.

Although it's tough to walk away from a deal, if you aren't sure the bike is right for you, remind yourself that it’s okay to take some time to think about it. This can be challenging, especially if you have driven hours to go see the bike. But if you have any doubts, sleeping on it is better than regretting it the next day.

Once you find the right deal and make the purchase, the next step is getting the vehicle registered. You will need your driver's license, the title, and in some cases, a bill of sale. If the title is out of state, you may need to have a VIN inspection done on your vehicle. The DMV can usually do a VIN inspection on the spot or you can have the local police come out to your location by giving them a call.


No title? Here’s how to get a license plate.

Once your bike is registered and plated, you're ready to rip! If your motorcycle has an off-road title, we will make it street legal and even register it for you! Making things street legal is what we do. Just call us at 800-994-7513 or email us at For dirt bikes, visit our Dirt Bike Conversions page.

From there, we’ll send you some documents to fill out and work with the DMV to ensure that all laws are followed in making your dirt bike street legal to drive on public roads. You’ll get a license plate, title, and registration!

Just add your state’s required legal parts – blinkers, headlight, and so forth – and you’ll be legal. No hoops and no hidden clauses. Just you, your street legal dirt bike, and the open road.