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Buying a brand new motorcycle isn’t always possible. If you’re on a tight budget, you may need to consider a used motorcycle instead. Not only are pre-owned models less expensive, but you can also save money on tags and insurance. Even so, buying a pre-owned bike does come with risks, which is why we offer this advice on motorcycle shopping.

Inspect a used motorcycle while it’s cold

Any time you buy a used motorcycle, it is best to look at it while cold. Doing so will allow you to see whether the bike has problems starting or makes unusual noises when cranking up. Those same issues may not be obvious when the bike is warm, so you should always feel the pipes to ensure it’s stone-cold before taking it for a test drive.

After starting the engine, listen to see if it’s running smoothly. If it is a four-stroke model, the engine should not produce any smoke whatsoever; if it is a two-stroke motor, it should produce very little. There should also be no leaks coming from the engine or transmission.

Do your research

Ride Expectations recommends researching as much as you can before ever looking at any bikes. That way, you’ll have a better idea of what you can expect for your money. Use this information to know when you’ve found a great deal and when you should walk away.

They also advise against traveling too far away to look at a motorcycle. That’s because the farther you drive, the more you’ve invested in the bike even before you see it. Whether you know it or not, you’re more likely to feel an obligation to purchase it.

Look for subtle body damage

Thoroughly inspect the frame for dents, cracks, or other damage. Walk around the bike so you can view it from all angles. In particular, you should eyeball it from the front and back to see if everything is in perfect alignment. Look at the saddle to see if it is correctly positioned, and make sure the forks remain straight when the handlebars face forward.

While inspecting the frame, look at the footpegs, levers, and bar ends. If these components are damaged, it means the bike has previously been laid down. Levers with a curved appearance may reveal that the owner has tried to buff them out in order to conceal the damage. In general, make sure the levers, footpegs, and bar ends are about the same age as the bike. If they’ve been replaced, it’s likely due to damage from an accident.

Check the VIN

When inspecting a used motorcycle, RevZilla explains that the first thing you should do is check the VIN. They advise bringing along photographs of factory stamped numbers so you can tell if they have been stamped over. You should also check the title to ensure the numbers match. Mismatches could be a titling error, but they could also indicate that a stolen bike.

Inspect the tires

The tires can provide some information as to how the bike has been ridden. For example, flat tires with grooves running lengthwise may show that the owner has performed burnouts. Look for pilling, which is a series of long, narrow cracks running around the tire that often results from racing.

A thorough inspection is needed before making any used motorcycle purchase. By following this guide, you can weed out a lot of problems and ensure you get the best deal possible for your money.