Scooters, mopeds and motorcycles make for fantastic commuter vehicles, often able to cut through traffic for faster journeys, all while being a lot more economical than a car.
In the current situation where using public transport can be a bit worrying, turning to a bike or scooter could be a great idea. 50-125cc bikes and scooters are especially easy to get going on, only requiring a CBT certificate to ride and with very reasonable tax, insurance and fuel costs. In fact, almost every aspect of a 2-wheel machine is going to be cheaper than its 4-wheel counterparts.
We cover a lot of brand new bikes and scooters here but not everyone wants to get a credit agreement or part with a big chunk of money. Fortunately, there are a ton of options on the used market as well. Not only will a used motorcycle or scooter be cheaper to purchase but the lower values mean cheaper insurance too!
Here are a few handy buying tips to help you get your 2-wheel journey off to a great start.
Do your research
We live in the age of the internet and with so much information at our fingertips, the first thing you want to do when thinking about finding a used scooter or motorbike is research. The fact that you are reading this means you already know to, so that's a great start!
You can search websites like ebay, AutoTrader or Gumtree and sort listings by area, age, make and model to get an idea of what is available near you and the kind of prices to expect. It's also a good idea to check out the websites of dealerships in your area too as most of them will have used models for sale and there can be distinct advantages to purchasing from a dealer which I will talk about later!
What type of bike or scooter is right for you?
Have a think about what type of machine will fit your needs. What type of journeys are you going to be going on? What kind of budget do you have?
50cc scooters and mopeds are perhaps the most easily accessible and cheapest options. Anyone aged 16 or over can ride one with a CBT (Compulsory Basic Training), however with around 30mph top speeds, they may not be suitable if you have a longer commute or need to use faster moving roads.
Next up would be a 125cc option. These can also be ridden with a CBT by anyone aged 17 and over. Still very affordable, the extra engine power can make them much more efficient at keeping up with flowing traffic, especially in urban areas with top speeds of around 60mph.
Beyond that you could consider something like a maxi scooter or small motorcycle in the 300-400cc ranges. These kinds of bikes are great for any sized commutes with a lot more power at your disposal. These types of bikes do require a full motorcycle licence however, so you will have to take that into account if you need any extra training.
Once you have an idea of what you are after, you can look up user reviews and find out things like reliability and any known issues a model may have. This can be helpful because obviously, the older a bike gets the more it devalues (generally speaking). There are plenty of manufacturers famous for reliability and build quality with bikes and scooters that remain in great condition for years, providing some excellent second hand bargains. At the same time, there may also be some models that have proven less reliable over time so once again research really is key.
Finding a bargain
OK so you've done your research and have an idea of what you are after, it's time to actually find it! As I mentioned earlier, you can check websites like ebay, AutoTrader and Gumtree for local listings as well as local dealerships. The moment a motorcycle or scooter leaves the showroom for the first time, it already devalues significantly so looking out for relatively recent models can be a good idea.
Generally speaking, anything from the last 5-8 years onwards can be a good sweet spot for used bikes. These are new enough that you can find them in excellent condition quite easily and often use recent technology and features while still being old enough to have nicely depreciated in value.
This isn't a solid rule though, there are new bikes that could have been thrashed and older bikes that have been treated with great care so looking at the mileage is another good indication of the condition of the bike. My own motorcycle is a 2007 model but had only done 10,000 miles when I purchased it and basically still performs like new.
One thing to bear in mind when searching for a used bike is your budget. Having a good idea of what you want to spend will help to narrow down which bikes are available to you. There are some great bikes out there for under £1,000. But, be aware, extremely cheap bikes are likely to have running issues that may end up costing you more in maintenance and repairs.
Some Important Checks
When you actually go to see the vehicle in person, it's a good idea to do some basic checks. Any seller will have no problem with this, if they do then it's a red flag straight away!
Firstly, make sure all documentation is present and correct. An MOT certificate (the more recent it is the better), service history and the log book or V5. Make sure the log book is up to date with the current name and address and that all the details of the bike are correct. A V5 log book will also have a watermark on it so hold it up to the light and make sure it's authentic.
Ask the seller to start up the bike, again if they are unwilling to do so or if it fails to start within a few attempts that is another bad sign straight away. Once the bike is started and ticking over, listen out for any unusual noises - particularly knocking or tapping sounds coming from the engine which could indicate big problems.
If it all sounds good, take a look over the entire bike in general. Look out for any leaks or staining, as well as any signs of rust. Make sure to check over the forks and suspension too, pushing down on the bike and letting it gently bounce will reveal any oil rings that might otherwise be hidden.
Push the bike forwards and apply each brake in turn and make sure everything is working correctly with no grinding noises. Turn the handlebars both ways to make sure there is no obstructions and it should turn smoothly with no cracking or grinding sounds.
Check the chain for rust and also check the slackness of it - an inch and a half of slack should be about right. While you're down there, look over both tyres as well. Make sure they are in good condition with at least 1mm of tread.
If it is possible to give the bike a test ride, then that is another good idea although, if you are buying privately that may not always be possible as some sellers are reluctant to let you ride away on a bike you don't yet own or have insurance for.
One last thing I will mention here are the various HPI check services out there these days. You can find these online and get your potential bike's entire history looked over. If there are any claims or accident damage, police interest or anything else that may not be accurate or mentioned in the listing, an HPI motorcycle check will find it.
Private vs Dealership
There are advantages to buying from both so really, it depends on where you can find what you are looking for. With a private sale it is often easier to get a good price since they aren't worrying so much about their profit margins. However, there is definitely some big pluses to purchasing used models from dealerships.
Firstly, going back to the research again, you can look up reviews and word on a dealership's reputation, you will get a good idea how trustworthy they are which is not possible with a complete stranger. A dealership will usually have been over the bike making far more detailed checks than you will be able to and they will make sure everything is working correctly and ready to go. They will usually make sure it's cleaned up nicely and looking its best too.
Finally, a lot of dealers will offer warranty even on used bikes which can be a great confidence statement.
Getting the best price
So you did your research, found the right bike or scooter, checked it over and now it's time to seal the deal. You should already have a good idea what kind of price is fair but don't be afraid to haggle. Most people, including dealers, will list the model at a price knowing they are likely to be talked down a little bit. Unless it is already priced at rock bottom or the advert specifically states 'no offers' it's worth a try!
Go in lower than you are prepared to pay - the worst outcome is they just say no and you can try to meet in the middle. Don't underestimate the power of having the cash with you as well. If you make a fair offer and are ready to hand over the cash there and then it can be very tempting for the seller - especially as this is a buyer's market and there are no guarantees when the next interested party may come along!
Hopefully, this guide will help you out in your search for a bargain. Once you have found your new motorcycle or scooter, remember to come back to Lexham for a great insurance quote! Good luck!