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Beginner Advice

Buying A Second Hand Motorcycle or Scooter - 5 Tips


Tony W · January 06, 2021

You’ve decided that life on two wheels is for you, and that a used motorcycle or scooter is a great option for commuting to work. Once you have completed your motorcycle CBT or Full Licence qualifications your next task is to source yourself a scooter or motorcycle!

Whilst there are many great deals for brand new bikes off of the showroom floor, buying a second hand machine can offer a lower cost option. Particularly with nearly new motorcycles or scooters where somebody else has already taken the depreciation hit.

But buying a used bike can be a bit of a minefield, so what should you be looking out for? Here are our Top 5 tips for buying a second hand Motorcycle or scooter.

General Appearance

It’s usually easy to see at first glance if a used motorcycle or scooter has been well looked after. Depending on the age of course, you should expect some wear and tear, but if the machine shows signs of damage or neglect then its best to walk away.

A dry or excessively oily and dirty chain is always a bad sign. You should also check the condition of the tyres, not just for wear but also for cracks and crazing in the tyre walls that can indicate old rubber. Upon arriving, it’s always worth touching the engine to see if the bike is warm (and had already been started). If so the seller might be trying to hide how the bike starts from cold, so worth questioning.

The obvious other areas to look over are the brakes and suspension. Check for any score marks on brake discs and if possible try to see how much material is left on the brake pads. Bounce the front and rear suspension to check how it operates. If it's too easy to compress, or inversely too hard, then further inspection will be required. If there are any signs of oil around the seals, then again treat it with caution. Suspension components can generally be serviced and/or repaired, but it’s usually a costly affair.

Some last initial checks on any second hand motorbike or scooter is to ensure the steering moves freely with no binding, grating or resistance, and check that the lights, indicators and horn all work.

Once you are happy there are no major issues you can move on, but do make a note of any small items that may need work, this will be useful later.


If the motorcycle or scooter has no documents, regardless of what story the seller offers, it's best to walk away. The V5C document has a lot of information to help you establish if the bike is genuine. Check that the frame number and engine numbers match that of the V5C, you can also double check the owner's name and address and see how many previous owners the motorcycle/scooter has had.

If the bike is over three years old it will require an MOT certificate. You can use this certificate to double check the mileage and it's also very useful to see if there were any ‘advisories’ from the testing centre. This can indicate potential problems or areas that need fixing/rectification.

It is also good to ask for any service history documents. If any of the documents raise some suspicion, again its best to walk away, there are plenty of other motorcycles or scooters out there to choose from.

For some extra peace of mind it is worth running a HPI check on the vehicle. This will show if it has been previously ‘written off’ by an insurance company, or it has been reported stolen. The seller should also have two keys including the master key for the factory immobiliser.


Another thing that a HPI check will do is show if there is any outstanding finance on the motorcycle or scooter. If you unwittingly purchase a second hand motorcycle or scooter with outstanding finance, as the new owner you could be liable for the entire debt. A basic HPI check costs £9.99 and will highlight any outstanding finance, if its stolen, been an insurance write off or that the bike has been recorded as being scrapped.

For £14.99 you can get a more comprehensive check that includes items such as clone checking, MOT history, previous owners, stolen log book check etc. It will also provide the details behind any outstanding finance, insurance write offs and mileage discrepancies.

When buying a second hand bike you will usually be looking at multiple motorcycles and scooters so HPI offer the option to buy a Multi Check package for £29.97 which allows three checks (within a two year period). HPI are so confident in their data that they offer up to £30,000 in compensation should any of the data they provide turn out to be incorrect. We think it's a small price to pay for real peace of mind.


These can often be an extra bonus when buying a second hand motorcycle or scooter. Things like top boxes, luggage or security devices, are all positives, but what else should you look out for?

The most common change made to a stock vehicle is a replacement exhaust. These tend to be the end can rather than a full exhaust system, and it is always worth asking the seller about if it is anything other than stock. Why was it changed? (maybe an accident or damage?) Do they still have the original exhaust? Aftermarket exhausts are often fitted to save weight or make more noise, and although this is more prevalent on motorcycles rather than scooters, if it has been changed it's worth investigating.

If you are buying from a dealer, it is illegal for them to sell a vehicle with a ‘not for road use’ exhaust fitted. Before you go see the item for sale, make sure you do some research on the stock specification. Any changes to this could just show an enthusiastic owner who has been ‘improving’ the motorcycle or scooter, but it could equally indicate a seller who is trying to cover up damage or abuse!

Keep an eye out for stickers, often they are there for decoration, but they can also be strategically used to cover up damage...

Doing The Deal

This can be either the fun part or the most dreaded depending on your point of view. Haggling is essential when buying a second hand motorcycle or scooter privately or via a dealer, but don’t just do it blindly by stabbing at a price in the dark. As we mentioned earlier, keeping a note of any damage, wear and tear or non-standard parts is very useful when it comes to negotiating the selling price.

Use the items that need to be worked on as a tool when haggling. It is much more effective to negotiate a price based on facts rather than saying ‘would you take £x amount for it’. Tot up a rough figure on what it would cost to fix the items and base your offer on that. Obviously you should take the motorcycle or scooter for a test ride if possible, this won’t be an issue with a dealer, but some private sellers will be wary of letting a stranger ride off on their bike!

When on a short ride, ensure that the bike ‘feels’ right under you. How is the road handling? Did it start first time? How smooth are the controls? Does it change gear easily?

If you are buying your first motorcycle or scooter this can all feel a bit alien to you, so if possible take a more experienced rider with you as a sounding board.

But having already passed your CBT or Full licence you should have a good feel for what to expect on a bike. The bikes used by RideTo training schools are maintained regularly and are well looked after, so your time spent riding them will help you spot any serious issues when buying your first motorcycle or scooter. You’ll cover the very basic of what to check on a bike as part of the CBT course.

Remember there are a lot of choices out there in the secondhand market, so if anything ‘doesn’t seem right’ with the particular bike you are looking at, just walk away and carry on your search.

You’ll feel much happier and will most likely be safer if you take your time and consider the points we have made in this guide. Happy buying!

This information is given to you as a guide to support you in your choice of licence and RideTo has made every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information provided about motorcycle licence and training requirements. However, RideTo cannot guarantee the information is up to date, correct and complete and is therefore provided on an "as is" basis only. RideTo accepts no liability whatsoever for any loss or damage howsoever arising. We recommend that you verify the current licence and training requirements by checking the DVSA website.