1. Get your license
To drive, you’ll need either a motorcycle permit, motorcycle license or a motorcycle endorsement (an additional credential that supplements your regular driver’s license). Take the permit test at your local DMV. If this is your first bike, it might be worth learning how to ride properly—with a basic motorcycle safety training course. Some states require it.
States have different requirements, so contact your state’s department of motor vehicles for the most detailed information.
Besides getting a license, you’ll also need proper insurance coverage: motorcycle insurance is mandatory in every state but Florida. Rates and coverage options vary widely between motorcycle insurance companies, so be sure to compare your options to find the right balance of protection and affordability.
2. Do the research
For a new rider, choosing your bike might be the hardest part of all. Before you make a purchase, you’ll need to consider a lot of factors, such as type of bike, weight, engine size, riding position and price.
There are hundreds of models to choose from. Check out reviews and ride reports to narrow down your search. The internet is a great resource for information. It’s a good idea to learn about your options so that you’ll find a bike that fits both your budget and skill level.
Pro Tip: Google and other online search engines are valuable tools for basic research. Search for the exact model bike on Google, adding qualifiers or key terms like reliability, issues and reviews, and see what you can find. Read online forums on any model you’re interested in. Read and absorb as much as you can.
3. Grab the gear
You’ll need to factor in the costs of proper gear when buying a motorcycle—just for protection alone. You can’t ride without it, but keep in mind: it can get pricey. Besides a full-face protective helmet, jacket, gloves and boots, you may want to consider some type of storage solution, tools, and maybe a few gadgets, too. Don’t just go the route of meeting minimal standards, as you’ll end up paying more in the long run anyway.
Remember to always ride with some sort of protective eyewear and hearing protection.
Many motorcycle dealers carry a varied line of riding jackets and other gear, so tally up an estimate for all you’ll need while you’re visiting (see step 4).
4. Visit the dealer/seller
Now that you have something in mind, you’ll have to decide where to buy as well as to take the time to look at the motorcycle in-person.
There are generally two options for where to buy a motorcycle—through a dealership, or buying used from a private seller. Both have their pros and cons. Dealers promote demo ride dates that allow prospective riders to test ride the motorcycle, prior to purchase. If you’re buying from a private seller, ask if they’re willing to let you take it for a run.
Seeing the motorcycle in person can help weed out potential issues, and greatly influence your purchase decision. It’s your chance to see all of the details and every corner of the motorcycle from close up.
At this stage, you’re on a fact-finding mission. Don’t feel pressured to buy. If looking at a used bike, ask the seller to provide service records. Make sure to browse all of your options while you are there, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. At a dealership, you may have started with one model in mind, but leave with an idea of purchasing something that suits you better.
You need a motorcycle and you don’t want to pay a fortune. Sure, you want a great deal, but a smart customer understands that the seller is out to make money.
That in mind, once you find a good deal, don’t be afraid to negotiate. Use prices offered by other sellers to ask for something better. If you can’t get together on the price of the motorcycle you’re shopping for, why not see if the dealer can add some accessories, free service or a detail or two? There’s no rule that says you can’t haggle with things other than cash.
Pro Tip: Check to see if there are any incentives from the manufacturer. Sometimes a dealer will roll them into the price of the bike.
6. Obtain financing
If you can’t afford to pay cash on the nose, you’ll need to borrow money and pay with a motorcycle loan. You’ll want to compare interest rates and loan terms to get the best deal, so you don’t overpay. Make sure you can afford the monthly payments and still live comfortably.
Depending on the lender, you might want to apply for the loan before you go to a seller. However, some allow you to apply for financing directly through a dealership so you can do it all at once.
The bottom line
Early prep and upfront knowledge can give you peace of mind when you’re buying your motorcycle. If you follow the right steps, your reward is a thrilling ride on a two-wheeled machine that’s one of the most exhilarating ways to get from point A to B.
Resources: Revzilla.com, Rollick Inc., finder.com, Allstate Insurance Company, Rider Insurance, Popular Science, Gizmodo, MyRandomLife247, U.S. News & World Report L.P.