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Buying a motorcycle: A step-by-step guide for new riders

Understand the full cost before you head to the dealership or buy from a private seller.

Buying a motorcycle is just like buying a car. There are new and used options available from dealerships and private sellers. And while financing may be a little more difficult to come by, it’s not impossible to get a loan to buy the bike of your dreams — or at least a competitively priced starter model.

Step 1: Research motorcycles and insurance costs

The model you’re interested in will influence the overall cost. When you’re looking into buying a motorcycle, it’s worth it to do some in-depth research on what will work best for your style and comfort.

Here are a few points to start your search:

Type of motorcycleDescriptionIdeal buyer
StandardStandard motorcycles feature upright seating and foot controls under or forward of the rider.New riders and general commuters
CruisersCruisers feature a relaxed riding position and heavy-duty engines.Experienced riders or those looking for classic style
TouringTouring motorcycles are intended for extended traveling and keep seating comfort at the forefront of their designs.Riders who frequently take extended trips
SportSport motorcycles are built for speed, not long distance or general commutes.Experienced riders who want a high-performance bike
Dual sportDual sport motorcycles can be ridden on or off road.Riders who off-road frequently

The motorcycle itself is a big cost, but insurance costs shouldn’t be ignored when calculating your monthly budget. Motorcycle insurance is required in almost every state, and it may be a bigger expense than you think. Insurance companies consider motorcycles more dangerous than other vehicles. Young riders in particular can end up with particularly high premiums.

In addition to the purchase price and insurance, estimate how much gear, regular maintenance, fuel and registration will cost. These should cover most of the factors that impact how much you’ll spend.

Step 2: Research average cost

Get quotes from multiple dealerships to find the one that offers the best deal in your area since not all dealerships offer the same bike at the same price. Also read customer reviews to make sure you’re dealing with a legit outfit.

Shopping online for a used bike is more complicated. You’ll want to vet the seller as much as possible before agreeing to meet in person, and always be prepared with questions about the condition of the motorcycle and its repair history.

Just like with buying a car, be prepared to haggle.

Step 3: Compare motorcycle loans

Once you have an idea of how much the bike you’re eyeing is going to cost with insurance, look into your financing options. It’s worth taking some time to compare outside lenders rather than just going with offers from your dealer.

We cover loans for motorcycles in more detail, but in general, consider prequalifying with multiple lenders to see what kinds of rates and terms you’re eligible for.

Name Product Filter Values Minimum credit score APR Loan term Requirements
PenFed Auto Loans
Starting at 1.79%
3 to 7 years
Active membership with PenFed
Low APR car loans from a well-known credit union.
No minimum credit score
3.9% to 27.9%
18+ years old, annual income of $4,000+, no active bankruptcies
Get pre-qualified for used car financing and receive competitive, personalized rates. Car Loans
Varies by network lender
Varies by lender
Must be a US citizen with a current US address and employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income.
Apply with a simple online application to get paired with a local auto lender. No credit and bad credit accepted.
CarsDirect auto loans
No minimum credit score
Varies by network lender
Varies by network lender
Must provide proof of income, proof of residence, and proof of insurance.
Save time and effort with this lending service specializing in beginner-friendly or subprime car loan.
Auto Credit Express Car Loans
Must be employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income of at least $1,500/month and be a current resident of the US or Canada.
Get connected with an auto lender near you, even if you have bad credit.
Monevo Auto Loans
3.99% to 35.99%
3 months to 12 years
Credit score of 500+, legal US resident and ages 18+.
Quickly compare multiple online lenders with competitive rates depending on your credit.
Good to excellent credit
Starting at 0.99%
Varies by lender
18+ years old, good to excellent credit, US citizen
Compare multiple financing options for auto refinance, new car purchase, used car purchase and lease buy out. Car Loans
Starting at 1.89%
550+ credit score, no open bankruptcies, $24,000+ annual income, US citizen or permanent resident, 18+ years old
Get up to four offers in minutes through one simple application. Multiple financing types available including new cars, used cars and refinancing.

Compare up to 4 providers

Step 4: Visit the seller

Even if you have the exact bike you want picked out, seeing it in person can change everything. Try sitting on a handful of motorcycles to make sure you’re happy with the seat height and handles. And don’t be afraid to ask questions about it.

Since test drives aren’t standard with motorcycles, you might want to look for a dealer that holds demo days where you can actually take a bike for a ride. You’ll have to sign up for this in advance, however, so plan ahead. If you’re buying from a private seller, ask if they’re willing to let you take it for a run.

Step 5: Negotiate

Once you find a good deal, don’t be afraid to negotiate. It helps to arm yourself with the facts by citing the prices offered by other dealerships or the manufacturer’s asking price.

This is especially useful if you’re buying from a dealership and are offered manufacturer financing. Focus on the overall cost of your loan — not just the monthly payment — and come prepared with offers from other lenders. You may be able to score a lower price on your bike or get a better interest rate if you have a backup plan for financing.

Step 6: Sign the paperwork

This step can vary depending on where you’re buying the bike and what type of financing you have — it might also involve applying for or signing loan documents if your financing through a dealer.

Make sure you understand what you’re signing on for and pay attention to any special notes or additional fees. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Step 7: Ride home — but find out how it works first

Before you drive off on your new bike, have the salesperson show you how all the essential features work. Ask how to turn the blinkers off and on and how to use any special features like traction control. It could save you time calling customer service and help you have a smooth ride home.

If you aren’t yet licensed to ride a motorcycle, you may be able to set up delivery through the dealership. If you’re buying through a private seller, see if they have a trailer to haul your bike — even if it means paying a little bit extra.

Bottom line

Putting time into research can give you peace of mind when you’re buying a motorcycle. It also cuts the risk and issues that could arise from buying a defective or unsafe bike.

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