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How to buy a new motorcycle from a dealer

Jun 24, 2017

Along with the satisfaction that comes from doing your part to boost the yearly GDP, buying a new motorcycle directly from the dealer comes with a great many benefits when compared to buying a used motorcycle from Craigslist, eBay, etc.

It also comes with it’s own set of considerations, and to be frank, costs, that can be bypassed when buying a previously owned bike. As with many things, it isn’t a matter of right or wrong, however, but rather, which option proves best for you.

Special thanks to the folks at Martin Moto for letting us film at their dealership on their day off. We have no doubt that Rob’s nomination for “Best Supporting Actor” is currently making haste to his front door courtesy of the Academy. Well done.

Taken from Spurgeon’s experience working within a motorcycle dealership, this guide to buying a new motorcycle highlights a list of seven steps you will want to pay attention to when taking this journey for yourself. For additional information, be sure to check out the accompanying video where Spurgeon himself walks you through the process at one of our favorite local dealerships.

Step 1: Get Insurance Quotes

Most people tend to focus on the price of the motorcycle itself or the multitude of awesome motorcycle gear, accessories, and parts they want to immediately outfit themselves with. However, you shouldn't wait until you've already signed on the dotted line to buy a motorcycle before you research insurance costs. If you are financing this new motorcycle, you will be required to carry full coverage. For younger riders, or those with some violations on their record, this part can get expensive in a hurry!

To keep costs lower, consider:

  • Lower displacement engines: Smaller bikes tend to equate to lower insurance rates.
  • MSF courses: You can often get a notable insurance discount with proof of training courses.
  • Shop around for competing quotes: Different companies classify different motorcycles, well, differently.

Of course you can't shop around for quotes until you know which motorcycle you want to buy. Here's where insurance can help you make a decision. It's quite possible to be looking at two motorcycles that cost about the same but one could be 50 percent more costly to insure. Finding that out early can help you make a good buying decision and will let you know the true long-term cost of ownership.

MSF Course
In addition to being one of the best ways to learn how to ride a motorcycle, passing an MSF course or other training may also get you a discount from many insurance companies. RevZilla photo.

Also, you should consider options such as accessory coverage or gap insurance to further cover your gear and your wallet. The former can be used to insure the gear you are wearing and parts you have added to the motorcycle, while the latter is designed to pay the difference between what you owe on the loan and what your insurance will pay should the motorcycle be wrecked beyond repair.

Step 2: Financing a motorcycle

There are advantages and disadvantages of financing your new motorcycle. Opinions differ, but debt does not have to be a bad thing if it is managed responsibly. For younger consumers, borrowing to buy your motorcycle (and making the payments on time!) can help establish a credit history and boost your credit score. In addition, financing reduces the likelihood that you will end up “bike poor,” by spending all of your money on the motorcycle itself and having minimal funds left to outfit yourself with the appropriate protective riding gear, insurance, parts, etc.

Motorcycle Finance Application
Whether it is through your own bank or set up by the dealership, financing a new motorcycle comes with a variety of benefits (and possible pitfalls). RevZilla photo.

Just like with insurance, it pays to shop around for financing options. Your dealer will undoubtedly offer financing, and that may well be your best deal, especially if there are incentives from the manufacturer such as low or even 0 percent interest rates. But in some cases you may also get a good deal from your bank or local credit union. In any case, look beyond the monthly payment and understand what you're committing yourself to. Three months with no payments sounds good until you realize you're being charged interest during those three months. A good reality check is to add up the total payments you'll have to make to see how much you're really paying for that motorcycle.

Look, there are strong opinions and emotions surrounding debt, so make sure you understand what you're getting into.

Step 3: Choose a dealership

A good motorcycle price doesn’t always equate to a good dealer. Before purchasing, you should search around. Research the reputation, reliability and overall service of dealerships near you. In the end, these dealerships tend to be communities unto themselves. You will want to know the village that you are buying into. Spend time there on weekends. See how the employees interact with customers on a daily basis. Show up for any events that the dealership is putting on locally.

Motorcycle Dealership Search
It's 2017. A Wi-Fi connection and a Google search is all you need to get started looking for the best dealers in your area. RevZilla photo.

Are the employees welcoming? Do the same customers come back often? Is there a sense of mutual respect? All of these can give you a sense of the type of dealership you are purchasing your motorcycle from. Of course you don't have to return for parts and service to the same dealer you bought from, but developing a long-term business relationship usually gets you the best deals and treatment.

Motorcycle Conversation at Dealership
Get to know the people around your local dealership. They offer one of the best glimpses into the support and overall riding community that you are buying into. RevZilla photo.

Step 4: Browse the motorcycles

So you've narrowed your list of potential motorcycle purchases and you've investigated financing and insurance options. You're just about ready to buy. However, it never hurts to go through another pass. Walking around the dealership floor can open your eyes to options, features, and styles that you may not have thought of previously. Also, it’s fun!

Browsing Motorcycles
Take some time to browse the dealer's showroom. It's a great way to see options you may not have considered previously. RevZilla photo.

Don’t be afraid to ask the salesperson if you can sit on the bikes. All of the research in the world can’t tell you for sure if you are going to be comfortable with the location of the handlebar, the height of the seat and footpegs, etc. The salesperson should be more than happy to have you sit on the bike anyway, as folks are much more likely to buy once they get an emotional connection to a new ride. It’s a win-win.

This is also the point when you go full-on motorcycle nerd. Ask questions. All of the questions. Bring a list if that helps. The salesperson is there to help you, so don’t be shy. You don’t get answers to questions you don’t ask, and in the end, this part will go a long way in ensuring you are happy with your purchase down the road.

Motorcycle Salesperson
A good salesperson like Rob will be able to provide valuable guidance not only for the motorcycle itself, but also for the methods of purchase available to you. RevZilla photo.

Note that unlike cars, motorcycle test rides are not standard practice at every dealer, so you may not get the opportunity, especially if you are a new rider. There are ways around this. Seek out dealer demo days as a possible way to get some ride time. Manufacturers also have demo fleets they take to events such as rallies, shows and races and list these on their web sites. Get there early to sign up for a ride on the bike you're interested in buying. Despite all this, however, in the end, many people end up purchasing a motorcycle without getting a chance to ride it first.

Dealer Demo Days
Dealer demo days are one of the best ways to get some ride time on models you are interested in. RevZilla photo.

Step 5: Determine the price

It’s a common misconception that dealers are pulling in a ton of cash on new motorcycles. In fact, for entry-level bikes with low displacement engines, the margins are actually pretty slim. For that reason, there might not be a whole lot of wiggle room on the price itself. That being said, there are ways you can stretch your dollars to get more for your money.

If you don’t absolutely have to have the latest model year, you can generally snag some notable deals on leftover models from the previous year that the dealer has on hand. In this scenario, the dealer wants to get rid of that motorcycle almost as much as you want to buy it and you can usually get out the door with substantial savings.

Leftover Motorcycle Models
If you don't have to have this year's model, you can often save quite a few bucks by buying a leftover from last year. RevZilla photo.

You can also save some coin through value adds, such as accessories, apparel, warranty plans, and prepaid service deals. Don’t be hesitant to ask about these. You’re about to buy a freakin’ motorcycle. Now is the time dealers tend to be most willing to bundle in some valuable extras to sweeten the deal.

Motorcycle Parts Wall
A good deal isn't limited to the sticker price. Dealers often have more margin to work with on accessories and parts than they do on new motorcycles. RevZilla photo.

Don't forget that addition to the price of the bike itself, there are also a few additional costs, such as a destination fee, sales tax, registration, title, etc. These are all things that the dealership will handle for you, but that doesn’t mean they are free. Make sure you understand all the costs you'll have to pay.

Step 6: Complete the sale

This is the dark before the sunrise. Paperwork. If you aren’t an accountant, you probably hate this step. Whether you are paying cash, financing through a separate bank, or securing a loan from the dealership’s team, this is the point where some dead trees get signed. It's no fun, but it's your last chance to make sure everything matches what you agreed to in Step 5.

Signing some paperwork
This is the part where you get to feel like a pro baseball player on opening day: start signing some thangz. RevZilla photo.

Step 7: Pick up the bike

At this point, you are the proud owner of a new motorcycle! Congrats. You undoubtedly just want to get to putting tracks on endless miles of tarmac ahead. However, as Juba said to Maximus at the end of Gladiator, “Not yet, not yet.” Before leaving the dealership, there are a few more things you want to be sure to do.

First, you are going to want the salesperson to walk you through all of the intricacies and features of your specific motorcycle. How do the blinkers turn off? How do you set any electronic aids, such as ride modes or traction control? Where is the tool kit? It might seem lame, but it is important. Be thorough.

Motorcycle Features Walk-through
Before leaving the dealership, be sure your salesperson walks you through the intricacies of your new motorcycle. RevZilla photo.

Second, have the salesperson introduce you to the service department. These are the folks who you will interact with most at the dealership in all likelihood, so it’s always a good idea to get to know them, and how they like to book service appointments.

Lastly, as the proud, insured owner of a new motorcycle that was purchased in a fiscally responsible way, all that’s left is to get your new purchase home! As one Zillan learned the hard way after buying a new bike in an Ohio January, only to have to ride it home afterwards, this is something that you certainly want to think through. If you are not a confident rider you will want to look into trailering the motorcycle home, asking the dealership if they are able to deliver it, or have a friend along who has a lot of riding experience who can pilot your purchase safely back to your driveway.

Motorcycle ride
Right dealership + right motorcycle + right paperwork and payment = happy riding! RevZilla photo.


While there is no sure-fire way to ensure the perfect experience for everyone, in every circumstance, every time, the outline listed above showcases a tried and true set of considerations that will help guide you along the way. In the end, everyone’s experience will be different, but, if all goes well, they all end in the same place: with a new motorcycle, a great experience, and a smile that you can’t wipe off of your face with gallon of lava soap.

Also, it is entirely possible that a new motorcycle isn’t the best option for you. In that case, be sure to check out the other articles in this series showing you how to buy a used motorcycle and how to choose your first motorcycle to begin with (regardless of how you decide to buy it).