One of the biggest questions facing any new motorcycle buyer is whether they should buy a new or used bike. Buying used is a great way to save money on your dream bike, especially with sites like Craigslist, eBay, and our own Classifieds section, but buying used can come with its own set of pitfalls. We're here to help you figure out which method is best for you.
Obviously, it can get pretty difficult when giving advice on used bikes. New bikes are generally the same price in all parts of the country, but a rundown 70s Honda that goes for $800-$1500 in most part of the country (and rightfully so), commands a few grand if in a hipster-filled market like Los Angeles. Pricing issues, compounded with the fact that it's impossible for us to infer anything about the quality of any specific bike you find an ad for, and "is this a good deal" is nearly impossible to answer.
What we can do, however, is help you figure out whether new or used is right for you. Here are some things to consider:
The first thing any of us consider is the price range we're able to look in. Obviously, new bikes are going to be more expensive and used bikes will have some depreciation because, you know, they've been used. Within the used segment, you can buy a bike from a dealer or an individual party, with a used bike coming from a dealer likely carrying a higher premium than something you find on Craigslist.
For example, the cheapest new 1,000 cc sportbike you can buy is the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 at $14,599, while this 2011 GSX-R1000 in Orange, California I found on CycleTrader is about half of that at $7,499. Why does the new one cost more? Well get to that in a sec.
There are also a few hidden costs in buying used that you should consider. Lots of bikes require a major service somewhere in the 10,000-15,000 mile range and, should the bike you're looking at buying need one, you can essentially add $800-$1,500 to the purchase price of the bike. Which means that this 2012 Triumph Bonneville with 13,000 miles on the clock would really cost you more like $5,900 instead of $4,900 if the service hadn't already been completed.
Finally, used bikes from a private seller almost always require the full purchasing price, cash is hand. However, if you're buying from a dealership there will be financing options with the lowest rates attached to new motorcycles. Many brands even offer as little as 0% financing.
There are two reasons to buy a new motorcycle: new features and new condition. More so than with cars, motorcyclists ride, crash, and tinker with their bikes and buying new means you get a fresh slate. Buying used means the person could have taken immaculate care of their bike or left it outside to rot. That its only blemish is a scuff on the muffler, or that the bike was crashed in a fireball of glory and then taped back together. The phrases "bike was tipped over once in a parking lot," and "needs minor cosmetic work" are used with great liberty and little accuracy in private online ads and for good reason.
You'll never really know what went on in a used bike's life before you. Never know if the owner tried to add a turbo himself and then, upon failing, put it back together himself. Nor will you know if it took the current owner 30 minutes to get it started so that it would turn over for your test. Any issues that happen with the bike are on you, as soon as you trade cash for the pink slip.
RELATED ARTICLE: Know Why That Used Motorcycle's For Sale
On the flip side, new motorcycles usually come with a 12 or 24 month, unlimited mile warranty. So, not only are they more likely to run perfect, but you're covered in the event that you got a bad one. That still won't cover you whiskey throttling into a wheelie off the line or pitching it into a lake, but anything mechanical is on the dealership.
Your Own Skills
If you're looking at buying a bike, you've likely spent a lot of time looking at bikes on the internet but now it's time to look inward. Asking yourself this one question (and answering it honestly) is huge when it comes to considering a used bike.
"Am I going to fix this thing if and when something happens?"
We've all had that friend who got a great deal on some cool old bike and it ran well and barely needed a thing. Or at least we've all heard of someone who knew a guy whose neighbor got a great deal on a cool old bike that ran great and barely needed anything. Sadly, that's a fairytale in most cases, which means you either need to budget money to fix issues, or have the confidence that you can fix it yourself or can learn to fix it yourself.
The first two bikes I bought pretty, cheap, and riddled with so many issues that I was always asking friends for help. Because, while I'm an incredibly quick study with things like computers and cameras and systems, I'm as dumb as it gets with a physical tool in my hand.
Point is, if you grew up tinkering with mechanical things or building engines or feel at home with a repair manual or YouTube walkthroughs, you can afford to take risks on cheaper bikes because you know you can work on it yourself. If you're a dummy like me, spending a little more on something with a better chance of running well will save you money and headaches in the long run.
Technology and Safety
This one is a no brainer, but new motorcycles are going to have the most current in technology and safety equipment. Each year different technologies trickle down into more attainable bikes and now even the used motorcycle market. But if things like ABS, traction control, and riding modes are important to you—you're probably looking at a new or almost new bike.
Have questions on things I missed or further tips you'd like to add? Leave them in the comments below.