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How to Buy a Used ADV Motorcycle (Beginner’s Guide)

While we dream of having a new adventure motorcycle, unfortunately, a used ADV motorcycle is all we can afford right now.

And you know, there is nothing to be disappointed about it. Most motorcycles bought are actually used, with most of us only stepping inside of dealerships to purchase protective equipment. New motorcycles are often not worth the hype unless you want that new-bike feeling which doesn’t last long.

It’s a wise idea actually – let someone else lose 20% of the value via depreciation. Save that extra for fuel, gear, beer and a few nice camping spots.

In this guide, we’re going to show you how to be a pre-owned, second-hand or used ADV motorcycle without being ripped off.

Let’s begin.

How to Buy a Used Adventure Bike

Buying a used adventure bike for a weekend exploring or global touring isn’t hard. It always starts fundamentally with research.

1. Find your ideal adventure bike

Firstly you’ll want to figure out what the perfect used adventure bike will suit you best. There are practically many bikes on the market that are suitable for all types of touring.

Now that starts with what type of terrain you’ll be covering. If you’re sticking to 80% bitumen then a dirt-orientated motorcycle like the KTM690R would not be the right adventure motorcycle for you. Its suspension and tyre setup will just be uncomfortable. A BMW F800GS would be better suited.

Start searching for a used adventure motorcycle

However, both these motorcycles are heavy and not suited to the dirt tracks. If this is your style of riding, then a 250 would be better suited, with a 450 necessary for the heavier riders. The 250 wins because it’s easy to pick up when you crash, and yes, you will crash eventually.

Our recommendation is to find out what others are riding. Often dealerships are recommending heavy bikes while ADV riders who have been riding for 3+ years choose lightweight bikes without the bling. Even a 250 can reach 65 miles / 100km per hour on the highway, though they are better orientated for offroad adventures. We’ve also written a guide to trail bike riding which will be helpful for those looking for thrills and adventures offroad.

2. Decide whether to buy private or through dealerships

After you’ve transcended the biggest problem that total beginners face, it’s time to decide how you want to purchase your new bike. You can choose dealerships or private, with each having their pros and cons. We wouldn’t necessarily say that one is better than the other.

Dealerships are often preferred by total beginners. See, when you have issues with your motorcycle in the early months, then it’s easier to get protected as a buyer. They might sort out issues especially if you’ve purchased protection gear from them previously. Plus you’ll have the knowledge that there is a clear title with no finance owing.

Buying a used ADV bike through a dealership

But then again, we didn’t say these are necessarily better. If you’re buying from a dealership then they have overheads which need to be paid. As a result, you can expect to pay a couple of thousand more in overheads. For many dealerships, it’s used bikes that bring them the most profits because they are able to buy these cheap when other riders trade ’em in for a new ADV bike each year.

Private sellers are perceived to be riskier, and the truth is they actually are. Because of this, they can’t inflate their prices as highly otherwise their motorcycle sits up for sale for months. So if you’re buying privately, establish some trust with the buyer.

They should know the answer to practically everything about their used adventure motorcycle. After all – it’s theirs, right? If they are a genuine motorcyclist then they will be eager to show you everything and tell you straight up why they’re selling.

3. Check everything: Engine, Wheels, Frame, Suspension and Bodywork

Don’t simply assume everything is perfect. They may have just brought the motorcycle back from a wash so it’s looking all nice and clean for you.

Even if it is a dealership, you should be going through the motorcycle and look at it from all angles.

The engine shouldn’t be smokey with immediate throttle response. If it appears jerky or omits some strange noises, then red flags should be raised.

Any recent engine rebuilds should come with receipts. These will be handy to deal with warranty issues down the track.

Check everything on the motorcycle

Look at the wheels and tyres. The spokes should be dead straight, the brake calibres adjusted properly and the tyre wears very even.

A tricky thing to observe properly is the frame. I once sold a dirt bike that unfortunately had a twisted frame from an earlier crash, yet none of us detected it during the inspection. Luckily it was sold to a friend of mine who was able to remedy it very easily.

The suspension should compress and release very smoothly. There shouldn’t be any leaks on the seals and you can test this by sitting on the bike and jumping up and down with your backside. If the seller lets you go for a quick ride, then even better!

Our very last point is motorcycle bodywork. While it’s quite obvious, the bodywork gives tell-tale signs of prior use. If the owner has ever sustained a big crash, then this generally shows up on the bodywork unless they have had the decals recently changed. Look for scratches, dents but also signs of aftermarket parts and replacements.

It’s always wise to get a mate to come along with you for assurance.

4. Take the used ADV motorcycle for a test ride

Unlike a dirt bike or MX bike for the tracks, almost every adventure motorcycle is already registered. That is – there isn’t any reason that an owner shouldn’t let you have a ride unless you don’t have a licence already.

It doesn’t have to be a long test ride at all. 10 minutes max. It’s just a chance for you to make that final decision on whether this is your ideal ADV motorcycle or not.

Leave some equity behind for the owner. If you’ve parked your car in front of their house then simply leave your car keys with them and your licence as well. It will give them confidence knowing that you aren’t going to literally steal the bike during the inspection.

Test riding a used adventure motorbike

During the test ride, don’t be afraid to rev the bike a little and really use the clutch. You can also perform two brake tests; one each for front and rears.

Arrange this test ride before the inspection and don’t forget to bring some riding gear. A helmet isn’t enough especially for your first ride when you’re unfamiliar with the handling of an adventure motorcycle.

5. Perform online background checks

Now that you’ve found the bike and inspected it, don’t hand over your hard-earned money right away. Some background checks which you can do via your smartphone are necessary. You’ll want to check its registration history, insurance and if any finance is owing.

Depending on your country, there are various ways in which to do this. If you’re buying from a dealership then there is nothing to worry about in this regard.

Background checks before purchasing a used adv motorcycle

It’s always easier dealing with someone local in your area. If they are apart of a motorcycling group like ADV Rider with frequent contributions then it’s even better. That reputation that they have built up over time says something about their character offline and it’s something they’ll likely want to uphold.

The motorcycle should also have a logbook with detailed servicing history. Unlike dirt bikes where owners generally do their work in the garage at home, ADV riders generally get their bikes serviced at dealerships across the country. For that reason – you’ll likely find a strong history. If it isn’t there, then be warned.

While we often do it on cars, we forget often to check the VIN number and engine number on used ADV motorcycles, or in fact, any kind of 2-wheeled machine. These should correspond to the seller’s paperwork. If the motorcycle is unregistered then these are going to be harder to verify, but 98% of bikes are registered.

If you buy from auction houses, these generally don’t have any logbooks however there won’t be any financed owed after you make your purchase.

6. Transact and purchase your motorcycle

Now the time has finally come! You’ve done your research and you’re ready to make that purchase. This is where you’ll need your paperwork in order.

Purchasing a used ADV motorcycle is just the same as purchasing a car in most cases. If it’s done via a dealer then they will sort almost everything for you.

Before you ride off, you’ll want to purchase insurance. This covers you in case you crash the motorcycle on your way home and damage the bike and other property.

First ride on an adventure bike

You’ll generally need the details of yourself and the buyer. Both parties will need to supply their driver’s licence numbers and addresses on the paperwork.

Depending on your country, you may have to pay stamp duty on the purchase price. This is a marginally small amount as used ADV bikes are affordable.

Lastly – just like the test ride – don’t forget your gear! You’ll want to ride your motorcycle home successfully and confidently, so dress the part.

In summary

It’s both exciting and nerve-racking to purchase a used ADV motorcycle. If you’re too worried then pay the premium and use a dealership. They will also have affordable financing options which are hard to get privately, as well as insurance offers.

For private sales, it’s always good to bring a friend along to the inspection. Often that 3rd set of eyes can spot things that you otherwise can’t see.

Don’t forget to take it easy for the first few rides. Ease your way into it and we’ll see you out there on the trails.

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