Thursday, September 12, 2013

Buying a Used Motorcycle? What You Need to Know

Written by Attorney Edgar Snyder of Edgar Snyder & Associates

Anyone who rides a motorcycle knows that the expenses behind riding don’t stop after you buy a bike. Maintenance, insurance, and registration fees really add up, so for many, buying a used motorcycle can provide all the enjoyment that riding has to offer with a lower price tag. However, there’s a lot to consider when you’re buying a used bike, so here are some basic guidelines to help you make a responsible decision.

Before You Buy

o   First, know what type of bike you’re interested in buying—sport bike, cruiser, etc. If you’re new to riding, don’t buy a bike that’s too advanced, and don’t buy a beginner’s bike if you plan to use it for sporting purposes.
o   Set a realistic budget, and take into consideration potential repairs, maintenance, tax, registration fees, and insurance. Remember that the cheapest bike isn’t always the best deal, and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. While you might not see anything wrong with the physical bike, there’s always a reason why it’s cheap—forged title papers, fees that come with expired registration, etc.
o   Consider bikes and sellers in your area first. If you buy locally, you’re more likely to know the reputation of the seller, and it’ll be easier to inspect and test ride a bike before you commit to it.

Inspection and Test Ride

o   If you’re going to inspect and test ride a bike, be prepared. Have a valid motorcycle endorsement and current motorcycle insurance policy—you don’t want to get stuck if you run into any problems. If this is your first bike, bring an experienced friend who can help you make a good decision.
o   Review the bike’s maintenance and repair records. A bike may run fine, but if it was in an accident, a faulty part may give you trouble down the road.
o   Pay close attention to the bike’s title. Check the list of previous owners and transfers, and make sure the current owner’s license matches the name on the title. Confirm that the vehicle year, model, and VIN number on the title match the motorcycle. If something on the title doesn’t seem right, walk away.
o   Ask that the seller doesn’t warm up the bike before you arrive. Starting a bike cold will clue you in to any issues that may be masked by a warmed bike, and it’ll also allow you to safely inspect parts of the bike that become too hot to handle.
o   If you’re considering a custom bike, use extra caution. Some custom features can affect drivability and safety.
o   Consult a professional to inspect the motorcycle. If the seller is honest and legitimate, they will allow a third-party professional to take a look at it.

After You Buy

o   Always obtain a bill of sale so that the chain of ownership remains clear.
o   Of course, remember to insure your motorcycle. If you can, include it under the same insurance policy as other vehicles and request “stacking,” which allows you to multiply the number of vehicles on your policy by the per person and per occurrence coverage on each vehicle. Thanks to stacking, these higher totals then become your new entitled coverage amounts. Also keep in mind that saving a few dollars on your premium now won’t help you in the case of an accident. I recommend having Bodily Injury Liability Coverage ($100,000 per person, $300,000 per occurrence), which pays for any claims against you if you’re legally responsible for the accident, and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage ($100,000 per person, $300,000 per occurrence), which protects you if the responsible driver cannot fully compensate you for your losses. In the terms of protecting your health and finances down the road, these are both relatively inexpensive.
o   If you buy the bike in your home state, you’ll need to register it. It’s easy enough—you complete the registration process and title transfer process with your local DMV.
o   If you buy the bike in another state, you’ll need to obtain a temporary registration from the state you’re buying in as well as registration from your home state in order to ride it home. Otherwise, you’ll need to find another way of transporting the bike, like towing it.

Remember, never hesitate to consult a motorcycle professional at any point—it could protect your time, money, and, most importantly, safety later on.

For more information, visit our Motorcycle Safety Resource Center.

Attorney Edgar Snyder has over 45 years of experience helping injury victims. He founded Edgar Snyder & Associates, a Pennsylvania law firm that has represented hundreds of motorcyclists. Learn more at

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