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First Motorcycle: Buy New or Used?


Image you're speeding around the Laguna Seca circuit as the crowd roars. Sparks fly from your knee pucks as you tackle corners on your ferocious beast. As you cross the finish line ? breaking tons of records ? you know you've just made motorcycling history. Champagne showers your screaming fans as you celebrate victory in front of your unworthy opponents.

Ok, so you're not quite there yet, but your dreams are as real as the air you breathe, and the first step towards achieving your hardcore racing fantasies is to get out there and buy yourself a bike.

The question is: do you spend your money on a brand new bike, or do you purchase a motorcycle that's already experienced life on the road?

Surely if the money's there, buying brand new is better?

In short, not always. But that's not to suggest there is a definitive correct answer. There are many things to consider.

Let's take a look at all the factors:

Experience Level

Are you a complete beginner who is just picking up riding and has practically never been on a bike? Or are you a more experienced rider looking for a 2nd (or even 3rd!) bike or replacing an old one?

If you're a completely new rider, keep in mind that you're probably going to drop your bike. Maybe even quite a lot. If this is the case, a cheap used bike (no more than $3000) is a good option to learn on. You won't get heartbroken if you scuff up the sides, and even if you decide riding isn't for you, you're not out too much money.

And the best part: if you decide you're going to stick with riding and have outgrown this first bike, you can just sell it - probably even close to what you paid for it in the first place, assuming there were no major mishaps.

Purpose / Bike Category

Now let's take a look at if what kind of riding you plan to do makes a difference:

Sportbikes: Sportbikes are all about pure power. However, all that power takes its toll on the main components of the motorcycle, and if maintenance has been neglected, a used bike might be on its last legs... errr... or wheels. If you're going down second-hand avenue, you'll need to ask questions about the upkeep of the bike ? how often was the oil changed? How often did the bike have a visit to the mechanical GP? 

The thing is, unless you're an experienced mechanic, you may not be able to see all the damages and the owner may not be as forthcoming about the vehicle history.  Because of the more stringent service requirements of sportbikes, buying a brand new one might be the best way to prevent repair work adding to the total cost.

MX/Dirt/Dual-Sport: If dirt tracks and badass ramps are more up your alley, you'll need to know your stuff if you're thinking about buying a second-hand off-road/MX bike. Given the nature of activities they're used for, engines, springs, chassis and other mechanical functions are constantly put to the test. Not to mention insurance costs that could be through the roof.

A brand new bike should be able to take quite the beating for some years, and yes, it means a larger initial purchase investment compared to a used bike, but what you'll save on repair work could very well balance the charts.

Touring: Touring motorcycles are built to last, and as long as the owner has been responsible with maintenance work, a second-hand bike could be a great way to save cash (especially since touring is one of the priciest category of bikes!). Remember that a touring motorbike isn't meant for high speeds and stunts, so make sure the owner has not misused it. A touring bike that's been continually pushed to its limits might be a day away from an expensive breakdown.

In our opinion, it's a good option to buy a well-looked-after used touring bikes. But best to buy adventure and sports bikes brand new if you really want one you can trust 100%.

Maintenance & Repair Costs

A well-maintained, second-hand bike will save you heaps on the purchase price compared to brand new models, but buying used still means a lot of unknowns. If you buy second-hand, ask the owner as many questions as you can regarding the reasons for selling, maintenance work (getting the service records is best), crash history, and number of previous owners.

When it comes to deciding whether the bike has been pushed to its limits... well, you will have to use your initiative, and check the vehicles components like an experienced detective (if you're not sure, bring along someone who understands). Carefully note what aftermarket upgrades the owner has done to the bike and if they were properly installed. Look for signs of crashes and drops.

Does the bike need a battery? Brakes? Or chains and sprockets? Are the forks rusted? Do the tires still have enough tread?

You may be getting a used bike "cheap", but all these repairs could end up balancing things out. Take stock of what repairs are necessary and that will be the "real price" of the used bike. And then think about whether that price is worth it for a bike that's already had 10k miles on it.

Also consider what your own mechanical abilities are. Maybe you're okay with buying a bike that needs some work done because you enjoy fixer-uppers. But if you're not very mechanically astute, repairs could cost a fortune. You may want to just buy a new bike with that wonderful warranty. 

See also: So How Much Does a Motorcycle Cost?

Technology

New bikes will come with the newest technology, such as ABS, traction control, auto-adjusting suspension, rider modes, etc. etc. Maybe you feel that these new features (which are there to improve the comfort and safety while riding) are worth the extra dough. If you're looking at a used motorcycle, be sure to research its specs and see what technology features it may come with.

Financing

Another major thing to consider is how you're going to pay for it.

Great financing promotions can be found at low rates for new motorcycles. Most major manufacturers will have financing incentive promotions or programs for new bikes. So you can become the owner of a shiny new bike with very little money to start.

However, used motorcycles are usually best purchased with cash on hand, as interest rates on loans for used motorcycles generally aren't as favorable. It can be difficult for some people to come up with a large sum of cash. And then also consider what extra repair fees you may have to spend on a used bike.

Another thing to consider: if you're iffy about buying used but still want a cheaper price, a very good option is to buy last year's model new. You will have a never-before-owned bike, and just the fact it's not the current model could knock $1,000 or more off the price. 

Insurance 

Insurance rates are typically higher for new motorcycles. Cheaper used motorcycles typically have lower insurance rates, but depending on your driving history and age, your rates can be pretty high no matter what. And sportbikes and dual-sports will just have high insurance no matter what, compared to say, touring bikes and cruisers. Do yourself a favor and check with your insurance company and get a quote. Here is a comprehensive list of motorcycle insurance agencies.

Conclusion

As you can see, there is no easy answer. It depends on what you want out of the bike, your financial situation, the state of the used bike, and type of riding you want to do. In general, we recommend new bikes if you want to do some serious off-roading or track racing, and used is a good option for touring. Remember, do your research carefully, ask the right questions, and something that is just too good to be true probably is. 


By Daniel Relich

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