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Motorcycle Buying Guide

Don't get stuck with a lemon. Our used motorcycle-buying guide shows you the most common problems in older bikes, and what it costs to fix them.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Buying a used motorcycle

The price of used motorcycles has gone through the roof as more people buy them to save on gas. But without a good motorcycle buying guide it's easy to get burned with a lemon needing hundreds in repairs. Ryan Scott, owner of Blue Cat Motors, has been in the motorcycle repair business for 10 years. He shared with us the most commonly overlooked problems a used bike may have.

The good news is that you can spot them yourself and avoid a costly mistake with just a 15-minute look-see. Then, just as you would for any used vehicle, have it inspected by a certified mechanic (motorcycle mechanic, in this case) before you commit to buy.

First, check for engine/transmission leaks. An oil leak can easily cost several hundred dollars to repair and usually requires immediate attention. Valve and side cover leaks are the most common, so start your inspection with those two components. But don't confuse an oil weep with a leak. A weep looks like a darkened grease spot and is usually covered with dust or road grit, and it isn't a deal breaker. An oil leak, on the other hand, looks and feels wet.

If the engine is spotless, it could mean the owner keeps his bike clean. If so, the rest of the bike should be just as spotless. But if it's not, be suspicious. The owner may have degreased the engine to mask an expensive-to-repair oil leak.

The Test Ride

Check out the engine and fuel delivery systems with a “cold-start” test drive. When cold, the engine should start right up and idle smoothly. As it warms up, it should accelerate with power and without hesitation. The same goes for clutch lever operation and gear shifting—smooth, with positive engagement. And you shouldn't hear any knocking or metallic sounds coming from the engine or transmission. After the test drive, let the engine idle. It should be smooth with no coughing, idle speed variation or misfires.

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