Critiquing the AMA’s Used Bike Checklist

It’s a pretty decent outline of the general things you want to think of when you’re buying a used motorcycle:

Before you put any motorcycle through its paces, read magazine articles, website reviews and visit online enthusiast discussion forums to glean information about that model’s idiosyncrasies. For example, a BMW boxer drains the lifters when it’s shut off, so it may make quite a racket when it starts up. If you didn’t know that beforehand, you could walk away from a perfectly fine motorcycle.

via Used Bike Checklist.

Honda RebelIf you’re searching for a “Used Bike Checklist” you should keep looking at the next results on Google. The AMA should have been much more detailed.

A lot of my motorcycle problems are due to me not going through a more thorough pre-buying routine. The Rebel I bought sight-unseen, knowing just that since it was impounded, it was running at the time of seizure. The Nighthawk, I got excited and didn’t check all of the bolts and I would up with a stripped oil pan.

I think the biggest factor you should look at when buying a used bike is the year. When you’re dealing with vintage/older bikes, which are kind of cool to have right now (from what I’ve seen), you’re spending less money out right, but you’ll be spending more money in the long run. Older bikes need new parts, they need more maintenance, and they need a lot more TLC than something that’s only a few years old.

You can get a great deal on Craigslist, only to find out that there’s some serious issues with the bike because you didn’t go through and find all the little tiny things that need fixing (or the major ones). Another benefit to going through a checklist is to be able to talk the price down. My favorite checklist is on the Honda Rebel Forum (don’t worry, it’s not bike specific), but there’s some other good ones out there, too. Print this out and check everything out.

My simplified version is here:

  1. Honda RebelBring a friend. New bikes are shiny and exciting enough on your own. Someone should be there to keep yourself calmed down.
  2. Read everything you can on the bike first. Read the most popular threads in the bike-specific forum. Go to your local motorcycle shop and talk to the person behind the counter (and buy something, even if it’s just SeaFoam). Research.
  3. Check every nut and bolt you can see on there. Don’t forget the oil drain pan. (this means bring your tools)
  4. Note any damage, maintenance, or repairs that will need to be made.
  5. Write it all down so when you talk to the seller you make sense.


Maybe the next bike I buy I’ll have learned my lesson, but for now I’m still making the mistakes from not going through a used motorcycle checklist thoroughly.

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