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5 Things to Check When Buying a Second-Hand Motorcycle

Here’s everything you should consider before buying your first second-hand motorcycle.
5 Things to Check When Buying a Second-Hand Motorcycle

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Buying a motorcycle can seem daunting if you don’t know what to expect. Like a second-hand car, there are some things you should always check to ensure you’re safe to ride on the road. Here’s everything you should consider before buying your first second-hand motorcycle.

Make sure you’re licenced for a motorcycle in New Zealand

In New Zealand, getting a full motorcycle licence involves three steps. First, you’ll need to be sixteen years or older to get your learner licence, pass the theory test, and complete the basic skills handling test.

You can apply for a restricted licence if you are over sixteen and a half years of age and have held a learner's permit for six months. To complete your restricted licence test, you can either present your competency-based training assessment or book and pass a restricted practical driving test.

You must be 18 or older to get a full motorcycle licence in New Zealand. However, completing the competency-based training assessment can get a full licence once you are 17 ½. Once you are licenced for a motorcycle, you can start looking to buy your first second-hand bike. Just make sure you consider these five things before you buy:

1. The condition of the bike

A man checking a motorcycle in a garageOne of the best things you can do before buying a second-hand motorbike is to know everything about the model you are about to buy. That way, you should be able to tell if anything is missing. On your visit to check out the bike, go over it carefully. Make sure the bike doesn’t have any visible crash damage.

There is a difference between cleaning a bike for a resell and keeping a bike in good condition. Ask the seller whether they’ve had any repairs performed on the bike. If they can point out replacement parts, that’s a good sign.

Check in the hard-to-reach places. These areas will show any signs of dirt or oil buildup. If the bike is dirty in these places, it might not be as well looked after as you think. While you can check the odometer, its’ not always the best indication of the bike's condition.

Push the bike around without starting up the engine. Take note of how easily it moves and whether any parts feel sticky or rubbed. You want to buy a secondhand motorcycle that moves freely. Avoid any bikes that have rust or dents and damage to the bike. You should also check the ground where the bike is stored for any signs of oil leakage.

2. How the bike runs

One tip for bike-buying novices is to ask the seller to leave the bike cold. You always want to start a cold bike so that you can see how easily it runs. A motorcycle that is in good condition should start on the first try without any trouble.

Once you have the bike running, listen carefully to the engine. Ask the seller if the engine has had problems in the past. Look over the bike to check the condition of the tyres.

You should also check the oil level and the brake fluid's colour and level to ensure it is yellow, not brown or black. If it’s dark in colour, you’ll have to change it yourself after you buy the bike and it could be a sign that the owner hasn’t kept up with bike maintenance.

Finally, you should always take the bike for a test run. If the seller isn’t that happy with letting you ride the bike, it could signal something is wrong. Most sellers will be happy to take a photo of your motorcycle licence before allowing you to take it for a test run.

3. Paperwork and past maintenance

Before buying a secondhand motorcycle, you should always check that the VIN matches and that the numbers haven’t been restamped. If you’re unsure what they should look like, you can bring photos of factory-stamped numbers to the seller and compare them. Some bikes, like Harley Davidsons, have very high theft rates.

Privately owned motorbikes in New Zealand need to have a warrant of fitness, and it should be attached somewhere visible on the bike. WoFs last for three years for brand new bikes, 12 months for bikes between two and three years old and for as little as six months on bikes over twenty years old.

Ask about the bike's service history and if the seller has a written record of the work completed on the bike. In New Zealand, you don’t have to keep a logbook of the work, but it is an excellent way to keep track of bike maintenance.

4. A background check

While a background check isn’t essential, it is an excellent way to check if anything is ‘off’ with the motorcycle you plan on purchasing. In New Zealand, there are sites dedicated to providing vehicle information on cars, trucks and motorbikes. While these services aren’t free, they can help you avoid buying a bike that is stolen or has a history of being scrapped, written off by insurers or if there are outstanding finances on the bike.

There are around 55,000 illegally sold vehicles in New Zealand each year. Spending a little bit of money on a background check can help you avoid any headaches and keep you safer on the road. A full background check can tell you: 

  • If there is money owing or security interests on the bike
  • Whether the bike was imported with structural damage
  • If the bike is currently registered and licensed
  • If it passed its latest WOF
  • The ownership history of the bike
  • What alerts or notices you should be aware of
  • The odometer history
  • The history of registration plates that have been issued on the bike

Remember to take your time when looking for a second-hand motorcycle. It’s always better to walk away from a sale than to settle for a bike you’re not sure is worth the money.

Need to have a motorbike shipped to you? Wise Move can help. Find door-to-door transport for your motorcycle here.

Expert motorcycle movers at low-cost

(All Covered. No Hassle.) Expert motorbike transport service. Trusted by thousands of motorbike owners across NZ.
Motorcycle type
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Communication with the office was a little hit and miss at times but Caleb did an awesome job when delivering my bike up to Auckland, keeping me well informed and taking the utmost care. Wouldn't hesitate to use them again.
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