Buying your first bike.

It is essential to know what to know when buying a your first motorbike or scooter.

Licence Basics

  • Age 16
    An AM category motorbike licence
    Only a full AM licence will allow you to remove the L plates and carry a pillion passenger.
    Moped (defined as) with or without gears that has a maximum engine size up to 50cc
    Restricted to a maximum speed of around 30mph
  • Age 17 +
    An A1 Light Motorbike Licence holder
    You can obtain a full A1 If you are aged between 17 and 19 which can be taken on a machine between 120 and 125cc & allows you to remove the L plates & carry a pillion.
    Motorcycle up to 125cc with a maximum power output: 11kW
    Restricted to a maximum speed of around 60mph
    Can I ride on an A2 licence?
    When you have held an A1 full motorcycle licence for the minimum two years (19+) you may then upgrade to an A2 licence by taking another practical test. You will not need to take a CBT and theory test again if you choose this route.  In reality most younger bikers won’t bother with the A1 licence and wait until they are 19 when they can can do the A2 licence for the equivalent cost.
    Usually any training school motorcycle up to 500cc or restricted to a power output of up to 35kW

Insurance basics.

Most people tend to always budget on the price of the motorcycle itself & include in the budget the cost of the Helmet & motorcycle riding clobber, with a little extra set aside for any accessories such as locks or security. Often many younger riders won’t research insurance costs & once you’ve purchased the bike, then come to insure it usually thenhave a shock when they get their first quote.  Before you buy a bike it’s an idea to research & budget the insurance in your costs.  Smaller bikes tend to mean to lower insurance rates, however inexperience & young age can ramp up the price so insurance prices per bike can vary significantly, however It’s quite possible to be looking at two motorcycles of the same engine size that cost about the same to buy the bike, but one could be much more costly to insure because of the type of bike e.g sports bike, commuter bike, dirt bike etc & no 2 insurance companies will quote the same price so if possible use an online comparison site to pick the lowest price that offers the most in the package.   You can also get a notable insurance discount with proof of training courses such as pass certificates or if your bike is alarmed or security tagged.

Buying a brand new bike 

If you have the money to buy a brand new bike it has it’s advantages & disadvantages.  The hard part is financing the bike if you are buying it yourself so you may have to look at taking out credit or a loan.  For younger riders borrowing to buy your first motorcycle can help establish a credit history and boost your credit score which can help in adult life but equally comes with a degree of risk. In addition, one bonus of buying new is the bike will be reliable & covered by a warranty so although you have to keep up with the regular finance costs you shouldn’t have to worry about repair bills until the bike is paid for.  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 repayment rates or they offer 0% rates. Sometimes they even throw in a years road tax & insurance.  You may also get a good deal from a bank. In any case, look beyond the monthly payment and understand what you’re committing yourself to.
Before purchasing, you should search around. Research the dealers reputation, reliability and overall service online. It may also be an idea to spend time there when you are browsing for a bike so you can see how the employees interact with customers on a daily basis.
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 position of the handlebar, the height of the seat and such.  Dealers 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.  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 test rides are not standard practice at every dealer, so you may not get the opportunity to try before you buy, especially if you are a new rider & haven’t done your CBT yet. Despite all this, many people end up purchasing a motorcycle without getting a chance to ride it first..

If you don’t absolutely have to have the latest model year, you can generally snag some better deals on  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.  All that’s left is to get your new purchase home. this may be a problem if you haven’t passed your CBT yet, however many dealers can usually deliver your bike to the training centre or deliver it. Please ask before you sign anything as the last thing you want is the dealer to hand you the keys & expect you to ride it home if you aren’t qualified.

A word of warning….  it is possible that a new motorcycle isn’t the best option for you. Please consider if you lack experience the chances are you are going to have a spill or the odd “off” in your 1st few months on the road, so do you really want to bend a brand new bike by laying it on the road occasionally?  Bikes will also depreciate in value by around 25% the minute the bike leaves the dealership, so if after a few miles you decide to swap your bike for a different one you will not get all your money back that you have paid out.

Getting your first bike when buying second hand

Unfortunately there are many scammers out there who are looking to take advantage of inexperienced buyers, so please be aware of the pitfalls.  If possible when going to view a bike take a friend with you – preferably someone who knows about bikes.  There are benefits to buying a used motorbike, the biggest obviously, the price. The original owner takes all the depreciation costs while you pick up a fantastic low mileage bargain.  For a new rider a cheaper motorbike will usually cost less to insure than a new bike.  You usually won’t get any warranty or guarantee when buying a used motorcycle, so doing your homework is essential – if buying from a dealer they may offer a few weeks warranty out of good grace, but this will have it’s limitations so ask what’s on offer.  First impressions matter.. do you see a machine that looks like it’s been cared for or do you see a wreck?   Always look for clues that the bike has been involved in an accident e.g. scrapes on the exhaust or the ends of the handlebars or foot pedals or a lot of newly fitted parts that look out of place. If you do see scrapes, ask about them. If you feel uneasy about the answer then don’t buy it.  Ask the seller to start the bike for you. (If he doesn’t know how or want to, be suspicious). When the engine is ticking over listen for any unusual sounds coming from  the engine – this could mean worn parts that need to be replaced or they could just need adjusting. If they need replacing it’s usually expensive.  Check for oil & fluid leaks & hold a gloved hand lightly over the end of the exhaust for a few seconds to see if any worrying engine rattles stop, if they do it’s usually a good sign.
Bounce the front of the bike up and down and then look for oil rings around the shiny parts of the forks. If oil rings are there it means that the fork seals have gone and need replacing. It’s not expensive for parts but it is for labour unless you can do it yourself. Now do the same with the back of the bike.  Look also on the forks for pitted rust holes. If there are some then you’ll be forever replacing the fork seals.
Now move the bike forwards and apply the front brake. Move forwards again and apply the rear brake. If you hear a grinding noise it means worn parts or badly maintained brakes.
Checks the chain. There should be about an inch and a half of slack. If it’s any slacker make sure the  adjusters not at the furthest point, as this could indicate that a new chain and sprockets are needed.
Turn the handlebars right and left. They should be smooth with no odd noises. If you do hear them, it could mean the bearings have gone. also make sure any cables or hoses don’t restrict the movement.
Look at the tyres. The depth of the tread should be at least visible with some adequate depth. ensure the rubber is not perished.
Finally, ride the bike. Accelerate, brake front and back, turn corners, do U-turns, stop it, start it again, test the security system if it has one.
The seller should have the log book (V5 document) and, if the bike is over 3 years old, a valid MOT certificate. If he hasn’t then walk away There may also be a service history & they may have kept receipts for any new parts recently replaced.
Make sure the frame and engine numbers match and are the same as in the log book
Make sure the colour of the bike is as stated in the log book. If the bike has been painted ask to see the receipt for that job
Make sure the name and address on the log book is where the bike is now
If there’s no watermark on the V5 then don’t buy the bike

And remember, there are more bikes for sale than there are buyers, so be prepared to walk away.

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