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alan katkich

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How To Buy A Motorcycle: Practical Steps For A Smooth Transaction

Whether you are buying your first motorcycle or your fifth, buying a bike is an exciting time. You’ve likely been dreaming of this day for a while. Bikes aren’t cheap and you don’t want to make any wrong moves and have your dreams come crashing down.

We here at Moto Affliction want buying your new or used motorcycle to go as smoothly as possible. 

There are a few things you may not realize and some things you should be aware of. 

With insider knowledge together with some personal experience we put together a complete guide to buying a motorcycle. 

We will break this down into buying new and buying used. We will touch on some points that we feel are the most important so you get as stress free buying experience as possible.

 Read on and let’s go. 

Whether you are shopping for new or used bikes, the first thing you want to do is get a good idea of what bike you are looking for.

This will depend on numerous factors such as your skills, your finances and even your insurance rates. Take as much time as you need to insure you choose a bike that will make your life enjoyable, not one that will threaten your safety or put you under financial stress. Motorcycling should be a pleasurable addition to your life. Not one that causes more problems. 

Take some time, especially if you are a new rider, and read our guide on Best Motorcycles for Beginners.  This article has a lot of information about the different styles of bikes available to newer riders and the benefits they offer. 

Once you’ve decided on the bike you want it’s time to hit the dealership or the classified adds

Buying New

Moto Affliction reached out to George Ruffolo, founder and owner of Corsa Meccanica, an Aprilia and Motoguzzi dealership at the north end of Toronto Ontario Canada. They sell new and used bikes as well as offering mechanical services.

George Ruffolo
Corsa Meccenica

George has many years in the motorcycle business. There’s no better person to provide info on the new bike buying experience than someone who’s seen it all. 

Insurance and licensing 

We asked George what is the number one issue that he’s seen that causes a deal to go south. 

“Without a doubt, time and again, it’s two things,” said George. “Either they can’t get insurance on the bike they are after or they don’t realize their license is suspended or expired. We see those issues time and again”.

In order for the process to go as smoothly as possible, it’s important for you, as the buyer, to have your administrative ducks in order. There is no use dreaming of that shiny new bike if the insurance is outside your budget. Call around first. Get a few quotes. This way you can walk into the dealership confident there will be no surprises. Also as George pointed out, make sure your license is up to date. A dealership can’t put plates on your bike if your license is out of sorts.

Negotiating

We asked George what the biggest misconception buyers have when they walk through the showroom doors looking to make a deal.

“That we are out to hose them” George said. “Buying a bike is not like buying a car. We need our customers to keep coming to the store. We have gear. 95% of our customers need gear. We have a service department. The relationship we build is important and it helps us to continue to serve the riding community in our area. Trust is our bread and butter”

Getting a deal is great. And a buyer should always be on the lookout for one. But remember a good deal is one where both sides of the transaction are happy. You get the bike you want and the dealership gets to continue to service its customers. 

It’s important, if you have a choice, to find a shop you want to deal with. One you feel comfortable with. This includes Its staff and the service you get. 

When you find one, help them to help you and you will have a great relationship for years to come.

 Some shops offer discounts on gear if you purchase through them. Treat the transaction as a partnership. If you feel it’s one sided, walk away. 

On the other hand try and remember that if you and everyone else twists a dealership’s arm to get a bike, they may not be there tomorrow to help you when you are stuck at the side of the road. Not all shops are out to get you. it’s not wrong that the dealer made some money. 

Remember this going in and the transaction will likely go smoothly for both of you. Hopefully you might build a friendly relationship going forward. 

Certainly be on the lookout for a salesperson or dealership that deals in pressure tactics. If you experience this, leave.

Financing 

Finally we wanted to ask George about financing. 

“Believe it or not, if push comes to shove, financing is the easy part,” he said. “There are lenders out there that will lend anyone anything. For a price mind you” 

This brings us to our final point on buying new. Get your finances in order beforehand. Know how much you want to spend, how much you can afford and how you want to pay for your bike. This will be either cash or financing. Research different interest rates and see how the rates affect your bottom line. There are tons of online calculators for this. Arm yourself with this knowledge before walking into a dealership. 

Know before walking in how you are going to pay. And what you can afford. It might be cash. Maybe you got a loan from your bank or maybe you want to use dealership financing because the rates are better. Either way, knowing this up front allows the deal to progress smoothly. 

As George pointed out in our conversation, If a customer walks in in the morning, we can have them riding home soon after lunch when things go smoothly. 

To wrap up buying new, it’s evident from our conversation with George of Corsa Meccanica, that much of the onus lies on the customer for the deal to go smoothly. Someone like George has no problem selling the bike and getting it out the door. It’s up to us, the buyer, to make sure we are ready to buy. Research your insurance rate, be prepared to negotiate a fair deal and make sure you arm yourself with exactly how you plan to pay.

Take care of these steps and you’ll be on your brand new bike in no time flat. 

Buying Used 

You’ve hit Craigslist or another classified website and found the bike of your dreams. Or maybe your buddy knows a guy who’s selling a great used bike. Either way, some of what we talked about in buying new is still going to apply in buying used. 

Things like researching your insurance is still important in buying used so we won’t go over that again here. Some things are almost the same but a little different so we will touch on them briefly 

Financing 

With a used bike, unless you know the guy and they really trust you, you will need to present cash to the seller. 

Either you’ve saved and have the cash or you can go to the bank and get a loan for it. Those are basically your two options. Research different financial institutions and what they offer for motorcycle financing. Look at credit unions or traditional banks. Compare rates and payments and see what you feel comfortable with. Either way, have the cash in hand when you go see the bike. 

Negotiations 

I’ve sold many bikes through classified ads. One thing I don’t like doing is talking about the price before the interested party has even come to see the bike. 

Try and avoid negotiating over the phone or through text. 

As a buyer you have no idea what condition the bike is in through pictures.

You could be asking for hundreds off of a bike that is in the best condition you’ll ever find. This will only insult the seller who took pride in his bike and is offering a fair price. This could lead to you missing out on a great bike.

The opposite is true as well. The bike could have unforeseen issues that you can’t pick up through photos. You may be able to sway the seller even further in person. You could end up agreeing on a price over the phone that you will not be so willing to pay once you see it in person. 

Go see the bike you are interested in. 

Assess its condition. Determine if you feel the asking price is fair. Make an offer in person.

Low balling usually leads to resentment. It’s OK to see how low the seller will go. Just be prepared to be reasonable if you really want the bike that’s in front of you. 

Nine times out of ten if you have the cash in hand and the offer is a reasonable one, the seller will take it. The seller doesn’t want dozens of people calling and not showing up for viewings so a good offer and cash will help them avoid further headaches.

Assessing Its Condition 

If you are not a mechanic don’t sweat it. There are a few tell tale things that should determine if the price is fair and the bike is in decent condition.

My first red flag seeing a used bike in person that I found online, is if the seller didn’t even bother to clean the bike before showing it. This points to laziness. If they couldn’t even put the effort into wiping it down for a potential sale,  chances are they were too lazy to also do basic maintenance. I walk away right then and there.

If it looks well looked after, check a few simple things. 

Is the chain in good shape?

Is the sprocket still good

Check it’s oil level if it has a sight glass.

 Tip overs happen and those aren’t the end of the world. Look for clues of a covered up slide though. Things like paint that doesn’t quite match or plastics that aren’t original to the bike. 

Make sure the engine is cold to the touch when you go see it. A heated up engine could be a sign the seller is trying to hide an issue that is prevalent  on a cold start.

Start the bike and listen to hear anything that would seem unusual. See if it’s idle is smooth.

Check the tires. Look for uneven wear, shallow tread depth or mismatched tires.

Get on your hands and knees. Look to see that the front of the tire is in alignment with the rear. 

Finally, try and take it for a test ride. Be aware that most sellers will want you to fork over their asking price in cash before you leave the driveway with their bike. This is a reasonable request. 

On the ride try and assess its overall performance. Does it shift smoothly? Does it accelerate without hesitation? Try and pick up anything that may seem off.

If all these things check out, it’s likely the bike is in good enough shape to make an offer.

License and Insurance 

Getting your insurance and a plate will be up to you as the buyer on a used deal. You will likely also be responsible for any safety certification of the bike before getting your plate unless the seller already had a valid safety certificate at the time of purchase. 

Research your state’s vehicle registration requirements and follow them closely. This will ensure you get your bike on the road without any issues after you paid for it. Once the bike is out of the sellers hands, this will fall on you, as the buyer, to get your bike legal for the road.

Conclusion 

Buying a bike, new or used takes a bit of prep work on your end. Truth be told, most of the work is on the buyer. 

A dealership can help in the process but it’s still better to come prepared. As buyers we need to make sure we are licensed, insured and financially capable of completing the deal. 

If we take care of those steps, and with a little knowledge going in, we can be riding and enjoying the open road. 

Your dream has now come to reality. Congratulations! 

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