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Buying A Used Dirt Bike Checklist [BETTER]

Buying a used dirt bike can be stressful especially for a beginner rider, but due diligence, being observant, asking questions, taking your time, and going with your gut instinct are key aspects of bartering a successful deal.

buying a used dirt bike checklist

If you've never bought a used dirt bike before, it's a good idea to bring an experienced dirt bike rider along the first time you look at a used dirt bike, even if he charges a few dollars for his time. He doesn't have to be a certified mechanic; just someone who has been through the drill before and knows what to look for and which questions to ask. The more expensive the bike and the less mechanically inclined you are, the more important this becomes. Even if you don't buy that first bike, you've learned what to look for and which questions to ask so when you look at another used dirt bike, you'll feel more comfortable going it alone. When you're spending $2k - $3k and more for a (hopefully) good used dirt bike, what's another $100 for experienced advice? Who knows - he may end up being a riding buddy or know of some new riding spots nearby. It's money well spent.

Whether you plan to register the bike or not, you should look at the VIN to make sure it hasn't been defaced in any way. The VIN will be somewhere on the dirt bike's frame, usually on the handlebar stem. You can check out our Dirt Bike VIN post for more info about dirt bike VINs. Almost all DMV paperwork will require the bike's VIN in order to register the bike. The image below shows the most probable VIN location:

Every State has different regulations for registering used dirt bikes, and it only takes a few minutes to check the latest requirements before going out to look at the bike. When searching for your State's Motor Vehicle site, make sure the site is your State's official DMV site - it should have a .gov and/or your State's two-letter designation in the URL similar to California:

For example, the California DMV seems to be fairly strict when it comes to registering a dirt bike, having red and green sticker laws on top of the regular DMV laws. According to this page from the Ohio BMV, all dirt bikes sold after 7/1/1999 need to be registered. The New York DMV website says they don't register dirt bikes at all - dirt bikes need to be registered as ATVs. The Connecticut DMV website seems to require that not only do all dirt bikes need to be registered, they need to be inspected, and there appears to be only one location for the inspections. Good thing CT is a fairly small State. Researching your State's DMV requirement is part of your due diligence.

People have different personalities and lifestyles. If you pull into the driveway and see peeling paint, gutters hanging from the house, and an old lawn mower rusting away in the yard, it's a pretty good guess that the dirt bike hasn't been maintained any better. You should still keep an open mind, but be more observant as you inspect the bike.

Ask who maintained the bike. If he did the work himself and you have some doubts, ask him to walk you through changing the air filter. You're going to want to see the air filter anyway so ask him to show you how to access the air filter, which may involve removing the seat and/or a piece of plastic. He should be able to tell you which tools you'll need (usually a T-wrench), and which size socket you need for removing the plastic. It's a bit tougher if he says his "buddy" does the maintenance, but you could try asking if he has any old parts or receipts for the new parts. Finally, anyone who paid shop rates for servicing a dirt bike should have the receipts. This part of the used dirt bike buying process falls under 'going with your gut instinct'.

As mentioned earlier, if you're not mechanically inclined you should bring someone with you. You're not going to learn how to thoroughly inspect a used dirt bike by reading a website page, but here's a basic checklist of what to look for:

There are two schools of thought when it comes to buying a used race bike. Some feel a dirt bike that has been raced has taken more punishment than a bike that's been ridden casually and should be avoided. The punishment part may be true, but the guys that race dirt bikes want to win, and in order to win races the bike needs to be in top-notch condition, so the race bike has probably been maintained better than a bike that's only ridden for fun. The key to buying a used race bike is the maintenance records. If the seller can't produce parts and receipts, the race bike might not be a good choice.

In addition to running the bike's VIN through the stolen dirt bike databases, use the VIN to check if there are any safety recalls that the seller might not know about, or simply failed to mention. Here's a list of some dirt bike safety recall pages:

The good news when it comes to buying a used dirt bike is that most people are honest and will be upfront about the bike's condition and ownership papers. If you have any doubts at all, walk away from the deal no matter how good the price. There will be other used dirt bikes for sale somewhere down the road. Go with your gut instinct.

I recognize not everyone wants to be a used-bike mogul, so knowing how to avoid a bike that's a turd can be a bit more difficult for people who actually spend rational amounts of income on motorcycles. That's where this guide comes in. It's not comprehensive, but some of the items in here might save you from ending up with a junker. (And if a junker is what you are buying, I'd like to plug my recent haggling article, so at very least you won't spend much money on crap.)

Some people are baffled by how to sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to used bikes. If you are really green, remember that there's no shame in picking up a bike from a dealer. They have a vested interest in making sure the bike is in good shape! If you're hellbent on buying private party (read my checklist, if you're new to the game), generally newer is better. Maybe you're running out to look at a bike in 20 minutes, so let's start with the CliffsNotes. If the following three conditions are met, you're probably looking at a bike that's at least halfway decent. All these points are covered more thoroughly later, but here are your takeaways:

The first place that comes to mind when trying to find a dirt bike online is craigslist. Craigslist is pervasive and is often times the first place people think of when they are trying to either buy or sell used goods. In the olden days (a few years ago), craigslist was a great place to find dirt cheap items.

However, given its rising popularity, excellent deals are on there for a very short amount of time. With that in mind, if you are looking for a used dirt bike on craigslist, you should be checking the site at least daily, ideally a couple of times a day.

Depending on where you live, your mileage may vary with using mobile apps. In my area there has been a recent shift of people moving towards using mobile apps to sell dirt bikes. Apps like Letgo and OfferUp give local people a way to quickly snap a picture, put a limited description of the item they are selling, and chat with prospective buyers.

The first dirt bike I bought was sold to me as a mid-80s Honda 250. I got it cheap, and took it home. When I started looking for the parts I needed to repair it, I was having trouble finding stuff that worked. So, I did a VIN check on it. Turns out it was a late 80s Yamaha YZ125 frame with a late 70s Honda Elsinore motor stuffed in it. I promptly put it on craigslist and sold it (I was honest about what it was and ended up taking a loss on it).

If you live in an area that requires your dirt bike to have a title, then make sure it has one before you buy it. Otherwise, you will be spending a decent amount of time in the DMV trying to get that sorted out.

After the Frame is the subframe. This is the part of the bike that is under the seat. What you are looking for here is any bending or warping. Stand behind your potential used dirt bike and look from the rear fender to the handlebars. Is the rear fender cocked or twisted at all? This is indicative of a bent subframe which happens in relatively hard crashes.

Throw a leg over that used dirt bike and compress the suspension. Does it bottom out with you sitting on it? The shock probably needs either resprung or rebuilt completely. That is a 300 dollar job if you do it yourself and 500 if you take it to the shop.

While you are checking the tires out, make sure there are no cracks in the wheels. Most used dirt bikes that you are going to be looking at will run a tube instead of a bib or tubliss system. They will still hold air with a cracked rim, but the structural integrity of that rim is compromised.

Last step, I promise. If the used dirt bike you are buying has radiators make sure they are clean and not bent. A bent radiator generally means the bike was dropped at some point and can be semi expensive to repair. Expect to spend around 100 dollars for some Chinese radiators on eBay, or far more for OEM radiators from the factory.

If your used dirt bike prospect is a 2 stroke, then make sure it is hard to press over. 4 strokes might have some decompression features on the cam to make them easier to kick, but there should still be a little resistance.

As you were going over the bike, make a mental list of what needs replaced or repaired. Be sure to take that into consideration when coming up with a price, as it truly is part of your cash outlay to buy a used dirt bike.

Congratulations! Now you know how to buy a used dirt bike, what to watch out for, and how to go about making the best deal. The next thing you need to do is to do some basic maintenance on your bike to get it in tip top shape for riding. Check out my article on basic dirt bike maintenance for the steps you need to take to ensure a long life for your dirt bike and many hours of joy filled riding.

For a private sale there are much higher risks. Not only of buying a bad bike, but also of buying a bike that does not and never did belong to the person selling it. You have to trust your instincts here, so if things looks wrong, they probably are wrong. 041b061a72

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