New or Pre-Owned: 5 Questions to Ask Before Deciding Which is Right for You

There are a lot of articles out there with headlines like “New or Pre-Owned: Which Bike Is Right for You?” or “Why You Should Buy a Pre-Owned Motorcycle.” In reality, only you can decide whether going new or pre-owned is best for you. So rather than attempt to provide a definitive answer for you here, we’ve put together this list of questions you should ask yourself to aid in making the decision that’s right for you.

1. Do you know what you’re doing?

Or, perhaps more accurately, how experienced are you at riding a motorcycle? They say it’s not a matter of “if” you’ll drop a bike at some point in your riding career, but “when.” Often that “when” is through no fault of your own – there are countless inattentive, distracted or just plain irresponsible drivers commanding those four-wheeled behemoths alongside which you’ll be riding. But we’ve all heard stories (frequently, very funny stories) about riders dropping their bike, and many times that self-inflicted drop comes during the novice stage of the riding experience.

So you’ll need to make an honest assessment of your riding ability as well as your tolerance for the idea of dropping (and possibly damaging) a brand new bike. If you graduated summa cum laude from your basic rider training course and grew up “riding dirty” on your dad’s bike, you may feel self-assured in buying the latest model of your dream bike. But if you’re starting out with no formal training or your only experience is as a “bench rider” playing countless hours of “Tourist Trophy” or “SBKX” on PS2, you might want to steer toward the pre-owned inventory until you’re more confident.

2. What can I afford?

Despite concerns about online privacy and those pesky security breaches we’ve all heard about, we don’t have the log-in information for your bank account. Only you know your financial situation and can assess what you can responsibly afford.

How much cash do you have on hand? What payment amount can you comfortably slide into your monthly budget spreadsheet without having to steal sugar and ketchup packets from your local fast food establishment to supplement your grocery allocation?

When asking, “What can I afford?” be sure to factor in not only your initial and/or monthly loan payments, but also insurance, maintenance and repair expenses.

Insurance costs can vary wildly based not only on your driving record, but on the year and model of the bike. And properly maintaining your motorcycle won’t be expense-free either. The more you ride, the more you’ll be spending on maintenance as those miles roll up to your manufacturer’s recommended maintenance milestones. And then we have the subject of repairs, which leads us to question numero tres…

3. Would you rather pay now or pay later?

It’s hard to argue that you can’t get more bike for your buck by going with pre-owned, given the immediate depreciation on the later model the moment you roll off the lot. But there’s more to the cost of motorcycle ownership than the purchase price.

A new motorcycle will come with a manufacturer’s warranty which provides a high degree of assurance that you won’t be incurring unexpected repair costs anytime soon. A pre-owned bike won’t be accompanied by that same security blanket, especially if purchased through a private seller.

You can get a bit more of a warm and fuzzy feeling if you purchase the pre-owned motorcycle from a reputable dealership, virtually all of which inspect any pre-owned bike and correct any apparent safety-related issues before putting it into inventory, or avail yourself of their seller assist services through which you may be able to purchase an extended warranty.

But absent that warranty, the time will likely come that you’ll be asked to pay the piper for an expensive repair on that pre-owned motorcycle that looked like such a great deal on Craigslist. And that’s fine as long as you’ve factored that into your “new” vs. “pre-owned” analysis and planned accordingly.

That said…

4. How mechanically inclined are you?

Do you call in a handyman to change a light bulb or did you attend MMI? We have no way of knowing. Maybe you grew up as a little grease monkey, bonding with dad in the garage as he built a motorcycle from scratch.

If you’ve got a loaded toolbox and aren’t afraid to use it, then maybe a pre-owned bike is perfect for you. But if you have to call the kids down every time the TV input gets changed up and you can’t get back to cable, new might be the better option.

5. How concerned are you with the unknown?

Some people thrive on the thrill of the unknown. They’d think nothing of moving to a new country on a whim, they have Facebook cover photos that read, “If it’s both terrifying and amazing, then you should definitely pursue it,” and they’d gladly volunteer for a spot on the SpaceX mission to Mars.

But if you lean toward being more the cautious type (perhaps an oxymoron given that you’re buying a motorcycle), then you might fret a bit more about what you don’t know about a pre-owned motorcycle.

Has it been dropped? Did a prior owner stunt on it? Was it wrecked or raced? Are there title issues you’ll have to work through in order to get it registered?

If you purchase from an honest owner who has the full story on the bike or from a dealer with access to a motorcycle history report and the ability to check the title, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re getting yourself into from the start. Otherwise, you may find your dream bike turning into a service department nightmare.

As Clint Eastwood said, “You’ve got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky?”

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