A buyers guide to bikes

A buyers guide to bikes

19 November 2011
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Do you want New or Used?

It’s not an easy decision, but usually the reason on whether to buy a new machine or a used one comes down to finances. With a new bike, there are guarantees and warranties, there is no MOT to worry about and the upkeep and maintenance is lower. There are warranties/guarantees of course if you buy a second hand machine from a dealer, but these can be restrictive. For more information and options on finance, go to our ‘FINANCE ADVICE’. Try not to let your passion rule your pocket! 

What Bike

To help you decide on the different styles available why not go to our TYPES OF  BIKE SECTION’ although not conclusive and depending on what you are going to use your bike for, it provides a snapshot of the most popular types out there. For example weekend motorcycling is not as the same as buying one for ‘round the town’ commuting. Don’t forget about the insurance costs, and miles per gallon.

Other considerations should be the size and weight of the machine, for the rider that is for example only 5 foot 4” with small frame say weighing around 54 kilograms (120 pounds approx), it might not be so easy handling a multi-cylinder of 1100-1300cc and could weight up to 365kg, especially for an inexperienced rider.

Before making any decisions, try out the seating position, for comfort and to make sure you easily reach the pedals and gear shift with your knees bent. Rider’s arms should also be bent when touching the handlebars for better control.

Buying a New Bike

The majority of new motorcycles are to be found at a dealership, but don’t forget to do your research as you will find the prices can differ tremendously. Some might throw in a year’s insurance; have different guarantees and warranties. The time of year can also determine how much you pay; prices tend to be lower from September to January.

There are other ways from the dealer for example they may have an ex-demonstrator model, these can be picked up at a greatly reduced price, assess the age and mileage and go through the BIKE CHECKLIST the same as would with any used bike. Also you might be able to pick up a bike that is pre-registered, in other words one where the dealer is the first registered keeper, meaning that you will be the second. The bike should still be new and have only the delivery mileage on it. This isn’t as rare as you might think because they use it as way round the discount limits, which is a way to amass more sales.

Tips on Negotiating

Before even walking into a motorcycle dealers or a dealership, firstly do the legwork on the bike you are after. Have a look at similar bikes, types and prices. This will provide you with a guide for the bike you’re looking for and within reason, the price you are prepared to pay, always have a limit and try to stick to it!

When talking to the dealer, be polite and friendly, but not over friendly, you are there to strike a deal that you will be happy with. Don’t be afraid to ask for any extra’s you can get with the bike IE free road tax, effectively what they are going to ‘chuck in’ with a deal. The first price the seller asks; don’t accept this as usually he will have a further discount up his sleeve. Its human nature and he will try to get away with the first if he can. There is a term called ‘higher authority’ for example ‘I’m using the wife’s savings to pay for this, I’m sure you could do a little better? This can all help go towards achieving a lower price.

When negotiating have you ever heard the saying ‘have a little mouth and big ears’, when the seller comes back with a counter offer, try not to answer for ‘he who speaks loses’. This can be very difficult and you will be tempted to give a response but don’t forget, you are buying and the seller is selling. Sooner or later they will respond, even if they have no movement on the new price they maybe prepared to something else – A years free insurance, free breakdown cover, a good warranty.

For the private sellers and garages, these will need a slightly different approach. For example start by asking perhaps why they are selling the car, is there any movement on the price?

Although a little tedious, why not go down to the bank and draw out the money, cash can still be king as they say. If you are somewhere near the asking and the seller see’s you have come prepared to pay there and then this can go a long way. Try starting at a lower price and compromise unwillingly, dig out of them what they would be prepared to accept? Be patient and try not to upset the seller, there will always be another buyer out there and if you feel the car is right for you it would be a shame to have to let it go because you’ve said the wrong thing.

Sometimes a deal can be made by ‘meeting in the middle’ however if you split the price and they split it again, they have the upper hand of retaining 75% to your 25%. Negotiate by offering, half of your offer and half of the offer they have made to you. Then you will have met somewhere ‘in the middle’.

A Few Words on Your Rights (New and Used)

Motorcycles like with most items are covered by the Sale of Goods Act (SGA 1979 as amended). This has been put into place to protect your rights as a consumer. Three area’s are prominent, firstly the vehicle should be ‘fit for the purpose’ of any normal use. For example if you tell the dealer you want a bike, that’s adaptable for a sidecar and he guides towards buying a selection of bikes, because this is what they need to get rid of, you are being steered into what the salesperson wants to sell you and not what you want to buy.

Secondly, the bike should be ‘as described’. Simply put, the dealer should supply where possible a full history along with its specification. Finally, the vehicle should be of ‘satisfactory quality’. This implies it should meet a reasonable standard and not have any defects. Apart from those which are brought to the buyer’s attention (for used) before any sale is completed. If the vehicle turns out to be faulty, you are well within your rights to return it within six months

If the three points above are not complied with, you are entitled to ask for your money back. Stick to reputable dealers that are affiliated to a proper trade association and that comply with a code of practice recognised with the Office of Fair Trading.

It’s For You to Decide

With a new bike, you can chop in your old bike.                                                            

You will get a Full Manufacturers Warranty.                                                                

Some decent finance deals can be found when buying a new bike.                                

The haggling is far simpler and when the deal is done, you just simply get on and ride you brand new bike away.                                                                                             

There is no service history to scrutinize with a new bike and most dealerships offer a pre and after sales maintenance.                                                      

On the other side of the fence is that most UK vehicles tend to be higher in price than the rest of Europe.                                                                                                                

Once you have ridden the bike out of the showroom, it starts to lose money.Some sales people tend to over pressurise, and you may regret what you’ve bought.

The dealer than is non-franchised with have a bigger variety of bikes, but perhaps not the latest versions and their warranties can be expensive with less cover.

Buying a Used/Secondhand Bike

There is a lot more homework to be done when buying a used bike. Give yourself a range of models to choice from, so that you a wider selection and therefore not restricted in looking only for one particular make/model. Go on-line to have a look at test results, reviews that sort of thing. At least this will give you an idea, as to what potential or recognised faults your choice of make/models have.

Motorcycle Quick List

An older bike can easily be spotted by faded paintwork and cracked seating, irrespective of what’s on the odometer.

Always have a look at the footpegs. If they are well worn, the bike has covered a lot of mileage, and if the bottoms are worn away, which is what happens on low cornering, although acceptable may also indicate the bike could be hard ridden a lot more than you think.

Have a look at both front and rear tyres, for wear, the tread depth should be at least 1mm over ¾ of the width of the tyre.

Inspect the exhaust, to make sure the multiple pipes on either side have equal pressure.

Run your hands over the join areas with the machine running to make sure there is no gas escaping.

Take a inside the petrol tank, on old machine signs of rust are nothing to worry about but if the fuel resembles a ‘caramel’ like colour this indicates that old petrol is in the tank and should be changed.

The front wheel should be raised to check the headrace bearing, moving the handlebars fully left to right and back again, it should pass effortlessly through the centre point, if not then the  headrace needs replacing. If stiff, then a readjustment is required. At the same time check the steering for play and vibrations.

Check the handlebars for to make sure they are level and straight.

Check the console instruments are all working correctly.

Have a good look around underneath bike to make sure there are no leaks.

Make sure all the lights and switches are functioning properly, and that there no twisted and or loose cables.

Do likewise with the clutch cable, whilst also giving the clutch lever half a dozen squeezes to make sure it releases easily.

The bike should be straight down the centre-line.

The best way to check the wheel bearing is raise the wheels.

If the bike is chain-driven, make sure it is taut, but should also sag a little between 2cm-4cm in the middle of the connecting sprockets, excessive slackness could indicate the chain is stretched with possible sprocket wear.

The bike you are buying is used so you should expect minor scuff and abrasions anything more than that such deep, parallel or long scratches or chips should be scrutinised,

Taking the Bike for a Test Ride

Get on the bike and familiarise yourself with it. Make sure you can reach all the pedals easily and you are comfortable with the handlebar reach. Ease off slowly, you are not in a rush and this will help you get used to the dynamics of the bike. Cruise for a while, and starting testing the responses of the bike, accelerating and braking.

Move through the gearbox, does it change smoothly?  Be aware of how the clutch responds, beware of any slipping.

Try slow and sharp braking, is there enough bite, are they smooth. If the bike ABS test by use of the rear brake and check is does not lock up.

If the brakes pulsate on a non ABS machine, the rotors might be warped.

Take up the pace a bit, try lots of cornering be aware of all of its characteristics. If there is a pulling to one side, this could mean a bent frame, is there any wobbling if so the wheel rims may be unbalanced.

Keep your ears open, if you go over bumps any rattle or squeaking noise coming from the shocks could mean they are on their way out.

A constant whirring noise could mean the wheels bearings need replacing.

There is a possibility of worn pads and or rotors on excessive noise from warmed up brakes.

Are there strange noises coming from the exhaust system? Look out for holes, rust, or corrosion.

The above is only a guide, but try to spend as long as you can in the saddle, before making that final decision.

Don’t Forget the History

Before buying a used/secondhand bike its well worth getting a HPI and a history check carried out on the bike first. The check is definitely affordable compared to what you might pay on the price of the bike which could run into thousands. There are a variety of agencies that will carry out a car history check for you, but they can also vary as the amount covered. You will find the more common area’s that are checked by using our HPI checker on the Car Services page.

The correct amount of previous owners

The most recent, Odometer (mileage) reading, this will go towards confirming if the meter has been tampered with.

Confirmation if the motorcycle has been used for a different purpose.

It will also highlight any outstanding loans or finance agreements on the bike.

To check if their might be previous frame or structural damage, or an accident report.

Checking over the V5C (Registration Document), which should include a VIN number check (Vehicle Identification Number) and any change to the title of the bike.

A wide-ranging report might also include:

Information on the warranty agreement if applicable.

If the bike, has had a recall.

Possible ratings on reliability, safety and consumer scores or evaluations.

The bikes service records.

Other Help with Checking the Mileage

1. DVLA - http://www.dvla.gov.uk/

2. BVRLA – The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association - http://www.bvrla.co.uk/

3. RMI – The Retail Motor Industry Federation -  http://www.rmif.co.uk/

Go to our Vehicle Check

A buyers guide to bikes | A sellers guide to bikes | Types of bike

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