Tips for Buying Your First Motorcycle

- Tuesday, March 19, 2024
Lallis & Higgins Insurance - Motorcycle

Consider when, how and where you’ll be riding.

To find the motorcycle that suits you best, you’ll need to think about what you want out of riding in general. Think about the key characteristics you’ll look for in a bike by asking questions such as:

  • Do you want to ride your bike as part of your daily commute? Many commuter riders choose agile bikes with smaller engines that get excellent gas mileage.
  • Do you want to test your skills on a track? A bike built for sensitive handling such as a sport bike or cafe racer might be what you’re looking for.
  • Do you want to take your bike on long road trips? Look into bikes built for long-haul comfort and extra cargo capacity such as cruisers and touring bikes.
  • Will you be riding mostly on urban streets, rural roads or a mix of both? Urban riders typically favor smaller, lighter bikes for navigating traffic, while rural riders may opt either for something a little bigger or for an adventure bike that can tackle dirt and gravel roads.

Research is your friend.

It’s a good idea to go into the buying process with a list of models you’re interested in and features you’re looking for. Do some digging on the Internet to learn about the reputations of different brands and models, including which are known to be reliable and good for beginners. There are plenty of great guides available online to help you sort out the differences between brands and models, as well as to help make sense of the complex performance specs you might encounter.

Your friends who ride motorcycles are a priceless resource here, so make sure to ask for their opinions and learn in detail about what they like about various models–and don’t be afraid to ask them to come along when you make your purchase. Motorcycle forums and social media groups are also often rich with information, and many seasoned riders are eager to share their experiences with new riders. (As always, take anything an anonymous stranger on the Internet tells you with a grain of salt.)

Make sure the bike is a comfortable fit for your body.

Your body has a much closer relationship with a motorcycle than it does with a car or truck. A motorcycle needs to be comfortable for your particular body shape, so spend some time sitting on the bike and feeling out its height and weight. Due to liability issues, you may not always be able to test drive a motorcycle (particularly if you’re buying it from a private seller), but you can at least get an idea of whether or not the bike is comfortable to sit on.

Seat height and saddle shape are particularly important, as these features are usually hard to change without significantly modifying the bike. Newer riders will usually want a bike with a low enough saddle that they can plant both feet flat on the ground at a stoplight. Even motorcycle styles with higher suspensions such as sport bikes have beginner-focused models that often include lower seats.

It’s also key to get a bike that’s not too heavy for you. Many cruisers and touring bikes are on the heavy side, making them potentially tougher to handle for beginners and easier to drop. And while any experienced rider will tell you that dropping a bike is something that will happen to you eventually, no matter your skill level, it’s really helpful to have a bike that you feel confident handling.

Make sure the motorcycle’s paperwork is in order.

If you’re buying a used motorcycle, you’ll need to do a little extra due diligence on your paperwork, particularly if you’re buying a bike directly from its owner. Take the time to ensure that all of the bike’s essential paperwork is squared away, including:

Make sure the seller can present you with a title and that the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the bike matches the VIN on the title.

Write up a bill of sale and make sure that you and the seller both sign and date it. (You can find easy-to-use motorcycle bill of sale templates online.)

Check with your state DMV to ensure that the motorcycle is legally registered to the seller. Be wary of anyone selling a bike that isn’t registered in their name, as the bike might be stolen.

Use your state DMV’s website or another VIN search engine to ensure that the motorcycle has no liens against it from creditors and that its title is not a salvage title.

If a private seller seems evasive about the bike’s history and records, stay on the safe side and move on. You don’t want the hassle and risk of buying a bike that may get you tied up in legal troubles when you try to register it, or one that’s been previously wrecked and is no longer safe to ride.

Get your new baby tuned up.

Once you’ve made your purchase, it’s always a good idea to invest in a tune-up for your new bike. You’ll want to develop a relationship with a trusted motorcycle mechanic, so now is the perfect time to find a shop you like. Ask your rider friends to recommend mechanics they trust or look up reviews online to find a great mechanic.

A good motorcycle tune-up should include an oil change, plus a check of other fluid levels and brake pads. It’s also a good time to ask the mechanic any lingering questions you have about the bike mechanically—although hopefully, you’ve gotten clarification on any major points before making the final purchase.

Insurance is a must.

Remember that you’ll need a motorcycle insurance policy on your new bike before you take it out on the road. Most major auto insurance companies also offer motorcycle insurance, so you may be able to find a great policy through the same company that ensures your primary vehicle.

Motorcycle insurance policies cover most of the same things that typical automobile policies do. At the baseline level, that will include liability insurance for bodily injury and property damage, but it can also be a good idea to get collision insurance that will help repair or replace your bike and/or underinsured motorist insurance that will protect you against drivers who aren’t carrying a sufficient insurance policy.

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