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✔ Article reviewed by Ethan Orenstein. Bringing motorcycles back from the dead since 2013. Learn More.

How to Buy a Used Motorcycle from a Private Seller

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If you’re looking for a used motorcycle, buying one through a private seller can be a good option.

However, you’ll want to do your homework before the sale to make sure you get all the paperwork you need to register and title it.

Beyond that, you’ll also need to know how to inspect the bike to make sure you’re getting what you want and learn how negotiate the best price.

Paperwork When Buying a Used Motorcycle

Here’s the paperwork and documents you should get when buying a used motorcycle:

When you go to register the bike and transfer the title to your name, you’ll also need:

  • Application for registration and title.
  • Insurance policy with at least the minimum coverage.
  • VIN Inspection forms (for out-of-state bikes in many states).
  • Safety inspection stickers/forms (in some states).

Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Motorcycle

Make sure to inspect the bike thoroughly as part of your purchase. Some questions you may want to ask the seller include:

  • How long have they owned the motorcycle?
  • History of previous owners and registration?
  • Maintenance history?
  • Last time it ran or was used regularly?
  • Any known issues?
  • Is the title included? And if not, will they help you track it down?

Always remember to get a Bill of Sale as part of the transaction.

Tips for Buying a Used Motorcycle from a Private Seller

The price you’ll be able to get for the motorcycle itself is going to depend on a few different factors – ones you can assess, such as the condition of the bike, KBB or NADA price estimates, and local price ranges, and factors you can’t always control – like the seller himself.

A cheap motorcycle is not necessarily an indicator of a bad motorcycle, but you typically get what you pay for. 

However, if you’re up for a challenge, a cheap rolling chassis and a box of parts might be right for you.

On the other hand, more expensive does not necessarily mean better condition either. The seller is almost always going to value the bike for more than it’s worth.

If it’s a failed cafe racer project, you can be sure he’s already dumped some money into likely unnecessary parts and is trying to get something back from it – at the end of the day, a box of junk is still a box of junk and should be priced accordingly.

The best advice is to do your homework so that you can negotiate the price of the bike to the best of your ability. If the seller has overvalued the machine and/or won’t budge on his price – you’ll be better informed to walk away.

Sometimes the time of the year can determine the best time to buy a motorcycle too. Wintertime is typically a good option for buyers looking to get the best price.

If the seller seems sketchy about the sale or the bike’s history, you may be looking at a stolen motorcycle. In this case, running the VIN can be a good idea.

Any time something doesn’t feel right, it’s best to walk away or avoid the sale altogether.

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Content Editor: Ethan Orenstein

Ethan is not just any motorcycle enthusiast. With a decade of experience riding, maintaining, and restoring a range of motorcycles, Ethan brings a wealth of knowledge to the table. Many of the tips and tricks shared on this site are born from hours spent wrenching on personal bikes. Paired with his experience as a journalist covering DMV & insurance topics, MotorcycleZombies.com is a must-visit site for any home-mechanic. Every article has been carefully reviewed and edited to ensure accuracy, authenticity, and simplicity - all to help bring your bike back from the dead and onto the road.

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