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Jamie Gibbs

Buying a secondhand motorbike


All you need to know before forking out for a used set of wheels.

Benefits | Dealer vs private | eBay | Checks | Paperwork | Test ride

Buying a used bike

Are you chomping at the bit to get your hands on a two-wheeled dream machine, but don’t fancy parting with a ton of cash for a brand-new model?

If the answer is “yes”, then a second hand motorbike might be a more budget-friendly option.

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to used bikes, so here’s how you go about getting your hands on one.

Benefits of a used bike

The main benefit of buying a used bike over a new one is - unsurprisingly - the price.

Thanks to depreciation, new motorbikes drop in value the second they're ridden away, meaning the difference in price between new and used bikes is nothing to be sneezed at.

Bikes with a lower value also help if you're looking to keep your motorbike insurance costs down, and slightly older models may be cheaper to repair and maintain.

The down side to buying a used bike is that you often don't get the added benefits that new bikes get, like a warranty, new safety tech, and the knowledge that this bike is yours and yours alone.

If, after some consideration, you've decided that a new bike is for you after all, then you'll probably want to go here next.

Buying through a dealer vs. private sale

Your next conundrum is whether you want to go through a motorcycle dealership or get one through a private seller.

With a dealer, you usually get some kind of warranty on the motorbike, as well as some degree of legal protection under trading laws. Some dealers will also offer part-exchange for your old bike if you have one.

The downside to this extra protection is that motorbikes from dealers are often more expensive than when buying second hand from a private seller.

Dealers often have finance options available to make buying a used motorbike more affordable, though.

When buying from a private seller, you’re cutting out the middleman, meaning you’re in a better position to get the bike for a cheaper price. On the other hand, you don’t get any kind of warranty or protection if the whole thing goes sour.

Bike riding into sunset

Buying a used bike on eBay

Looking for a second-hand motorbike on eBay gives you the ability to narrow your search so that you're not bogged down by the sheer number of listings.

Having an idea of what kind of motorbike you're after e.g. engine size, colour, age or brand, can help speed up the whole process.

If you're not keen on the idea of travelling across the country to view a bike, make sure you use the "Item location" field to limit your search so that only listings near you are shown.

Once you've narrowed your list of potential bikes, pay close attention to the feedback score of the sellers. A high score might look great, but if they've started getting negative reviews in recent months, tread carefully.

Also be wary of sellers looking to get rid of the bike quickly, or listings that use stock photos rather than images of the bike itself.

These are usually accompanied by too good to be true "Buy It Now" listings with a low price to lure buyers in.

Checks to make on the bike

When you come to see the bike, here are a few things you should look out for:

  • Does the mileage on the bike match its service history?

  • Are the bodywork and tank in good condition e.g. no scratches, scuffs, dents or damage?

TOP TIPS! Take a closer look if the bike has stickers, as they’re often used to hide damage. Also, any dents to the handlebars and foot rests may mean that the bike’s been dropped.

  • Does the steering move freely?

  • Bounce the bike on the back and front tyres separately to check the suspension

  • Are the brake discs unscored? Is there plenty of material on the pads?

  • Do the lights, indicators and horn all work?

If there are any faults with any of these, you’re in a good position to haggle for a lower price – if the faults are too great or too numerous, you might be better off walking away.

You should also ask if the bike has had any modifications – anything that alters its performance or value may have an impact on your motorbike insurance premium.

Even cosmetic or superficial changes to the bike may count as a modification, so it’s best to check beforehand.

What paperwork should you check?

As well as the bike itself, you should check that all of the documentation is up to scratch:

  • Valid V5 registration – genuine documents have a watermark

  • Do the details of the bike and seller match those on the document?

  • Do the engine and frame numbers match the bike?

  • Is there a valid MOT certificate?

  • Does the bike have a service history?

You can also run a HPI check on the motorbike’s reg plate to see if it’s previously been written off, stolen, or if there’s outstanding finance on it.

Taking it for a test ride

Even if it looks in good shape, the best way to see if it’ll be a good fit for you is to take it for a spin.

As well as general road handling, be especially aware of:

  • how easily the bike starts

  • how smooth the clutch, brake and throttle controls are

  • how easy the gear changes are

  • how well the suspension works

Before you hop on and take the bike for a ride, make sure that you or the owner have the right level of insurance cover to ride it. If they say that they’re covered, ask to see their policy details to be sure.


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