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How to Buy a Motorcycle

How to Buy a Motorcycle With No Regrets

July 18, 2019

You’ve been wanting a hog of your own for quite some time, and you’re finally ready to make that big purchase. At this point, in your excitement, it’d be oh-so-easy to make a snap decision. Honestly, though, you should probably slow your roll: It pays to know what you’re getting into before making this purchase.

Here are the basics on how to buy a motorcycle.


Tip/Trick #1 - Narrow Down the Type of Bike You Want

Bikes aren’t all-purpose. For instance, you may find the idea of buying a sportbike attractive, but, if your main thing is road tripping, purchasing one won’t satisfy you in the long run. Here’s a brief look at the types of bikes out there: 

Standard/Naked: With an upright seat and easy-to-reach handlebars, this is the quintessential beginner bike.

Touring: This is a good choice when you’re looking to rack up the miles. Plus there’s room for one more if you’re blazing trails with a passenger. These bikes come with relaxed, upright seating, are built for lasting comfort, and are the natural choice for group riding.


Harley-Davidson Motorcycle


Sport: A sport bike is made for extreme biking on paved roads. If fast, windy roads like The Tail of the Dragon are your style, this type of bike is for you.

Cruiser: This bike will pave the way to long journeys and adventure. It has more style than a touring bike and room for two. Beginners should approach this type of bike with caution, as it’s somewhat difficult to balance, and holding the handles could tire you out at higher speeds. 

Sport/Touring: This sport and touring hybrid is ideal when you’re looking for a touring bike with better performance. 

Dirt/Off Road: If you’re into all-weather riding, these types have a hardier and lighter structure than a street bike and are built to thrive in elements like mud, snow and dirt trails.  

Tip/Trick #2 - Try it on for size

Bikes come in different types of “fit.”

One of the main considerations in this area has to do with height: If you sit on a bike when it’s upright, and can’t reach the ground with your feet, that means the bike is too tall. Being able to touch the ground with your feet means you’ll feel more balanced and are much less likely to drop your bike.


Motorcycle Size or Fit

Weight is another huge factor here. You have to think of what weight you can handle, both in terms of what you can control on the road and how much weight you’ll need to lift if you drop your bike. 

And, while we’re on the subject, while you want to get a good fit to begin with, you can also make alterations to handlebars, the seat, and footpegs after you buy the bike. 

Tip/Trick #3 - Enroll in a course

Knowing how to buy a motorcycle is one thing, but you do need instructions on how to drive the thing first (along with a license to drive it!) After all, speeding down the open road is exciting, but also leaves you highly vulnerable. 


Enroll in a Motorcycle Course


To find a course in your area, call the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) at 1-800-446-9227 or use this link. If you’ve already got some experience, it still wouldn’t hurt to take a class: MSF offers classes including refresher, 3-wheeler or trail riding courses.

Tip/Trick #4 - Do your homework

This is definitely not the only resource you should be looking at on how to buy a motorcycle. You need to become an expert on the particular bike you’re buying (this includes knowing the pros and cons of the brand and model and finding out where you can buy new parts or get it serviced).


Motorcycle on Highway

Online forums are a great place to start, as they offer firsthand knowledge on the way a particular brand or bike model functions, in a way that a market guide or product write-up can’t. For example, Motorcycle Forum and Bike Talk have a wealth of information on how to buy a motorcycle (along with being an easy way to connect with the biking community). Also, during your research, don’t give up after your first Google search. Keep tweaking the search terms by combining different words until you find the information you need. 

Tip/Trick #5 - Consider buying used

This is an especially smart idea if you’re new to riding. Whether you end up hating riding or loving it, buying used will work in your favor. In the first case, it’ll likely be easier to sell the bike quickly, and, in the second, it’ll be less burdensome to upgrade. Plus, as a beginner, you’re likely to put some extra wear and tear on a bike (yep, you will drop it!)


Motorcycle and Helmet

Just keep in mind that you’ll have to inspect an older bike more closely. You’ll need to assess how the bike starts and inspect the chain, brake discs, engine and transmission. Follow this link for more thorough instructions on what you need to look for. 

On the other hand, if you’re dead set on buying new, you should still do your homework before buying at a dealership. You never know how much knowledge your salesperson will bring to the table. 

Tip/Trick #6 - Investigate Insurance Options

When eyeing a potential purchase, you should also be calculating accompanying insurance fees. Two comparably priced bikes could come with very different insurance price tags.


Motorcycle Riding Down Highway 

To knock your insurance costs down a notch, look into:

  • Bikes with lower displacement engines: Generally speaking, the smaller the bike, the lower the insurance cost. 
  • Taking MSF courses: Taking one can lead to significant insurance discounts.
  • Collecting quotes: Insurance agencies may look at your particular type of bike differently.


I hope this guide helps you find something that suits you, is good value, and also fits into your budget (bikes can range from between $5000 to $25,000). Don’t forget to leave room in your budget for extra expenses, like protective equipment, maintenance costs, or insurance for your gear. You could also consider asking a more experienced rider to help you weigh all of the pros and cons of your purchase.  

And, if you’re still left with questions on how to buy a motorcycle, please comment in the field below. 

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