Buying a used motorcycle can be a daunting task. Nobody wants to get burned buying a lemon. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of five helpful tips to ponder when buying a used motorcycle to make the process a little less intimidating.

1.       Do your research. Read motorcycle reviews. Check out online forums. Research prices using both pricing guides and used motorcycle classified ads in order to assess what is fair market value. For example, I can get an FXR a lot cheaper up here in Oregon than LA. Decide what route is best for you, buying from a private seller or a dealership. A private seller will usually offer a lower price and is more likely to negotiate but used motorcycles from a dealership are more likely to have been properly pre-inspected and serviced. Dealerships generally buy used motorcycles that are in good condition in the first place. Besides, dealerships would get a bad rep if they’re recirculating trash, so their vested interest increases the likelihood of getting a reliable, used motorcycle from the get-go. They may also come with a warranty. A couple other things to take into consideration. Transferring the motorcycle into your name and getting it registered at the DMV is another expense, as will be motorcycle insurance, so take these extra expenses into account.

2.       Check the title to ensure the motorcycle’s VIN number matches the one on its registration. If you have the VIN, you can research its history and find out if its ever been wrecked or stolen. Visually inspect the VIN number to make sure they’re legible and haven’t been tampered with. (A motorcycle’s VIN is usually located on the steering head of the frame.)A title history report will also show you how many times the motorcycle has been registered with the DMV, when it was done and how many owners it’s had. A title will tell you if a motorcycle’s been salvaged. Also make sure the seller’s name matches the one on the title. If a seller doesn’t have the title, save yourself the headache and walk away.

3.       When you go to inspect the motorcycle, make sure to do so when it's cold. A hot engine can hide starting issues that might rear their ugly head down the line. Firing it up from a cold start will let you know if the battery is in good shape, too. If it’s been sitting neglected for a long time, starting can be labored. How does it idle? Is there excessive vibrations or noise? Look back and see if it smokes when you crank it up because heavy blue smoke is not a good sign.

4.       Learn as much about the motorcycle’s history as possible from the owner. Do they have service records? Any prior owners? Has the bike been down? When motorcycles tumble over, bar ends, levers and footpegs are the first things that tend to hit the ground. If they are scuffed or scratched, ask the seller why. If they’ll fib about something as simple as a dropped motorcycle, there’s a good probability there’s more they’re hiding, too. Ask questions about the motorcycle derived from your research. I’d trust a person who’s knowledgeable about their motorcycle over somebody with hasty, vague responses because they’re more likely to have taken better care of their bike.

5.      If everything checks out pre-inspection, take it out for a test ride. Personally, I’m not buying a used motorcycle before I know how it performs. If somebody doesn’t want to let me ride it, it makes me very suspicious. Negotiate this with the seller beforehand. Bring collateral, either a stack of bills or your car keys. Shift through all the gears. Mash on both brakes independently. Listen for any knocks or rattles in the engine. How’s it feel at speed? Leaned over? Is there any head shake or wobble to the fork? How are the ergonomics? If there’s any doubts at all, trust your Spidey sense and move on.