How to get a loan for a used motorcycle

By ,
Ask a Lender
October 12, 2017 | Updated October 16, 2017


Key Points

Tips for buying a used motorcycle

  • Examine the VIN to ensure the motorcycle hasn’t been stolen or in an accident.
  • Perform a visual inspection of the motorcycle.
  • Take the motorcycle for a test ride.
  • Have the motorcycle inspected by a reputable mechanic.

When you buy a new car, experts say it may depreciate by as much as 9 percent after you drive it off the lot. That’s partly why used cars are typically a great deal.

When it comes to motorcycles, however, depreciation isn’t as straightforward. Motorcycles depreciate differently depending on multiple factors, including the brand — Harley Davidson models, for example, retain more of their value than many other brands.

Despite this variability, used motorcycles can still be a great bargain over new motorcycles. The question is whether you can get the financing necessary to purchase a used bike. You may run into challenges when financing a used motorcycle that you wouldn’t encounter when buying a new one.

Lenders consider motorcycle loans to be riskier the more miles the motorcycle has; if the motorcycle falls into major disrepair, the bank is out their collateral and may never recoup the cost of the loan. Unlike cars, lenders also consider motorcycles — used or new — to be luxury items, adding another layer of perceived risk.

Because of this added risk, you may end up paying a higher interest rate on a used motorcycle loan. You also may need to make a larger down payment to qualify for financing.

Some additional tips to consider when shopping for a used motorcycle include:

Examine the VIN

All motorcycles are required by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to display a unique 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN) on the frame. The owner’s manual can tell you exactly where on the motorcycle the VIN is located.

Take a careful look at the VIN to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with. Unscrupulous sellers may alter the original VIN to hide the fact that the motorcycle has been stolen or was involved in a major accident. You can use a motorcycle VIN-lookup service to see its accident history, although such services typically charge a fee.

Inspect the bike

Look over the entire motorcycle. Look for leaks, or any sign of past accidents, such as dents or scratched paint or chrome. Inspect the wiring to see if any custom electric work has been done that could prove problematic down the road.

Take a test ride

Taking a motorcycle for a test ride can help you feel comfortable with your purchase. Be aware, however, that some sellers won’t allow a test ride unless you have the cash for the purchase on-hand — and if you drop or crash the motorcycle during the test-ride, it may be an automatic sale.

During the ride, familiarize yourself with the bike and ask yourself if you’re comfortable riding it. Ride cautiously, but give yourself enough time to test the brakes, clutch, mirrors and other components.

Visit a mechanic

If the seller is a private party, ask permission to take the motorcycle to a reputable mechanic who can accurately assess its condition. If you noticed anything unusual during the test ride, tell the mechanic so they can look into it. If the motorcycle is in need of any significant repairs, you can cite those costs to negotiate a lower price.

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