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18 May 2020
Steve Ramsey avatar Steve Ramsey

Buying the best motorbike for you


Man shopping in motorbike showroom

How do you choose which motorcycle to buy? With so many bikes available it's difficult to know where to start.

What size of engine? What frame style? What licence do you need?

If you’re looking to buy a motorbike and you’re confused as to which type to go for, read on...


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What bike are you able to ride?

First of all, you have to know what type of motorbike your licence allows you to ride. There’s no point buying a bike that you’re not legally allowed to take out on the road.

  • CBT: If you only have your CBT then you’re restricted to riding a 50cc moped and you must display L plates while you ride. You can ride for up to 2 years and then you’ll have to retake your CBT.

  • AM: If you’ve got your AM licence, you’re then allowed to remove the ‘L-plates’, but you’re still restricted to a 50cc motorbike. You’ll also be allowed to carry a pillion passenger, assuming you have the correct insurance cover.

  • A1/A2: In order to ride a 125cc motorbike you’ll need to have passed your A1 licence and be over the age of 17. The A2 licence allows you to ride bikes up to a maximum of 47bhp (brake horsepower) and you must be over the age of 19.

  • A: The full motorbike licence (A licence) allows you to ride any bike with any sized engine. You’ll need to be over 24 if you’ve never held a bike licence before, or over 21 and have held your A2 licence for at least 2 years.

UK licence showing four categories of motorbike licence

How will you use your motorbike?

The next thing to do before buying a bike is to know exactly what it'll be used for.

So buying a 2000cc Kawasaki Vulcan when all you need is a little 50cc moped to nip through city traffic might not be the best idea.

Once you know what the bike will be used for, you can narrow your options, and choosing the right motorbike becomes much easier.

Know your limits

If you fancy yourself as the next Valentino Rossi and you’re dead set on a sports bike, be aware that your motorbike insurance premium could be higher.

Insurance companies are less likely to cover a novice rider for powerful bikes, until you have proven experience on smaller, less-powerful bikes first. It’s recommended you buy a bike that you’re capable of operating safely.

Set a budget

Motorcycles can cost anything from a few hundred to tens of thousands of pounds.

If you’re on a budget, aim for a smaller, less powerful bike. These tend to be cheaper to run, cost less to tax, and have lower bike insurance premiums.

Fixing a budget also helps protect your bank balance when looking around a showroom. It’s easy for an experienced salesman to upsell expensive models to amateur bikers.

Remember that you’ll also need to tax and insure your motorbike, so make sure you budget for these costs as well.

Insuring your bike

New riders tend to pay higher premiums. The more experience and no claims bonus you build up, the lower your premium will get.

One tip that may help keep a lid on the cost of motorcycle cover is to keep the bike garaged, or at least locked up off the road overnight.

Good quality motorbike security is essential to keep your ride safe and your premiums down.

More information on motorbike insurance can be found in our beginner’s guide.

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Buying a bike is always an exciting experience for a biker. Researching your bikes and working out what you can afford, combined with the anticipation of twisting the throttle for the first time.

But should you buy a new bike or a second-hand bike? There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

New motorbikes

If you buy your bike brand new, the biggest advantage will be the warranty that comes with it. You’ll normally be covered for between 1 and 3 years if anything goes wrong from a technical or mechanical perspective.

The second advantage is that everything is shiny and new – there shouldn’t even be a single mile on the clock, and all the parts will be new. There’ll also be no chance that the motorbike has been mistreated, badly repaired, or been involved in an accident.

You should read some reviews of the dealership to make sure their after-sales service is up to scratch. Some dealers can be better than others.

You’ll also normally have the option of buying the bike on finance, although it may be worth shopping around rather than taking the finance offered by the dealership.

The main downsides to a new bike are likely to be the price and depreciation. New bikes are expensive and the moment you ride them off the forecourt, they’ll drop by up to 10% in value.

Second-hand bikes

Second-hand bikes will be cheaper than buying them new, but also come with a number of risks.

Before you consider a second-hand bike, ensure you check the bike's service history to make sure it has been properly maintained.

You should also do these things before you commit to a purchase:

  • Check if it has a valid MOT certificate.

  • If you don't know much about bikes yourself, take along a friend who does.

  • If the bike doesn't look safe to you, walk away.

  • Check the seller's ID against the name on the registration document, in case it's stolen.

  • Check the bike's history. Our vehicle history checker can tell you if a vehicle has been previously written off, damaged, stolen, or if there's any outstanding finance.

Read our guide for more information on buying a used motorcycle.

What bike to buy?

Picking the right bike for your experience and riding style is essential to avoid a costly mistake.

Now you've read about what you should consider before buying a motorbike, take a look at the different types of motorbike you may find on the roads.


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