What to Look for When Buying a Used Motorcycle

Q: I’m thinking about buying a used Harley. What kind of things should I look out for when buying a used motorcycle?

A: How do you make sure you don’t overlook something when you’re checking out a used motorcycle? Print this checklist and take it with you.

Do your research

Before you put any motorcycle through its paces, read magazine articles, website reviews and visit online enthusiast discussion forums to glean information about that model’s idiosyncrasies. For example, a BMW boxer drains the lifters when it’s shut off, so it may make quite a racket when it starts up. If you didn’t know that beforehand, you could walk away from a perfectly fine motorcycle.

Match the VINs

The VIN on the frame should match the VIN on the engine, and both should match the VIN on the title. If there’s a discrepancy, there should be a very good reason. If not, walk away.

Check the VIN

Call it into your insurance company for a real rate quote. Call it into the manufacturer for any recall info. And, if possible, call it into state authorities, to see if it has been reported stolen.

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14 Responses to “What to Look for When Buying a Used Motorcycle”
    • Dennis Santopietro
      Dennis Santopietro

      Hi Larry, Tent – not sure. Tint – there are some products out there but we have not used them enough to recommend. We’ll add it to the list.

  1. Larry

    I have a 2012 Harley CVO Altra Classic. The battery indicator light continues to stay on, even with a new battery. Where do I start in trouble shoot?

    • Dennis Santopietro
      Dennis Santopietro

      Hi Arnold, Great project! We have tons of videos to help you along the way.

  2. William Carman
    William Carman

    I bought a 2007 Harley Electra glide FLHT from the Harley dealership in Gainesville, Fl. After purchasing the bike, I noticed my cruise control did not work. I had purchased the ESP as well, so if anything happened the bike would be covered. Well, it was not covered, but upon looking at what was wrong with the cruise control, the technician said that it had water damage. Ok, no big deal I thought. One day I was checking my credit information and noticed a remark on my Harley Davidson loan. It said that my bike had been affected by a ” natural disaster,” which is something the dealership did not disclose. I’ve been having problems with my bike mis-firing and cutting off on me in areas you do not want your bike shutting down at. I have my bike since September 29, 2016, and it has been in the shop 5 times since I bought it. This is my first time buying a motorcycle, and I thought a Harley dealership would be the best route, but they’re just like any other place. They want your money, and they want you to spend money. Oh, and as soon as I got the bike, I was having all kinds of troubles, and come to find out, the O2 sensors were not even hooked up; the o-ring for my trAnsmission dip stick was deteriorating and falling into my case. Now everything seems to be vibrating loose… Please, don’t be like me. Do your research. Don’t let the salesmen push you into something like they did me. Now I’m stuck with a bad running bike and a huge loan that’s going to take me awhile to pay off. The Gainesville Harley Dealership is not an honest crew, so if you’re from this area, don’t buy anything from them.

  3. Bill

    Just installed a Daymaker headlight and two Daymaker spotlights on my 2010 Ultra Classic. Now when I ride it seems like my volt meter is reading around 15 to 15.5 volts charging almost constantly. Is this something I should be concerned with? The battery is only 2 years old and I don’t ride as often as I used to.

  4. Roger Gleidt
    Roger Gleidt

    Last used bike I bought was a 2013 tri glide. Can chain tensioners were sticking. Tensioner bodies were swollen from water. Can shafts were rusted. Dealer starts used bikes twice a day to display them outside and then put them up every night. The resulting condensation builds every day. No more used bikes for me.

  5. Frederick Alan Eames
    Frederick Alan Eames

    I have a Triglide Ultra Harley Trike and every time I start it, sounds to me like it is a hard start, in other words it doesn’t just click on over it sounds like it is having a hard time starting. Can you tell me if I need to get a better starting battery or what.

  6. ED F.
    ED F.

    This AMA hyperlink you posted is broken; won’t open. You get a 404 error message saying the link doesn’t exist. Can you guys please post one that works? Or another source for this very valuable information? Thanks, ED F.

    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Ed!

      Thank you for letting us know that the link no longer is active. We went ahead and updated the blog to get you the information needed!

      Again, thank you for getting in touch with us and have a great day!

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