Tips on buying a used dirt bike

So I mentioned in my previous article that if you are just starting out, it may make more sense to buy a used dirt bike to learn on. In this article, I will give you some tips on buying a used dirt bike.

If this will be the first dirt bike you’re looking at buying, I will strongly recommend taking a friend or family member with you, that does have some mechanical knowledge. This will not only help for your safety, but your friend can also help you stay level-headed, so you don’t make an emotional decision if you really just like the look of the bike.

Before going to look at the bike

Do your research first to see what kind of bike you can get for your budget. Don’t be in too much of a rush to get a bike. Take your time and perhaps look at a few bikes to make sure you get the best deal possible. If you find something that is within your price range, that looks good, phone the seller. It is better to talk to them over the phone, than texting.

Ask how long the seller has owned the bike for. Be wary if they did not own the bike for long and try to sell it again soon after buying it. Ask the seller why he/she is selling it. Find out if the bike has papers & if the title is in the seller’s name. Some states require that you have to register the bike. Make sure all the paperwork is in order.

Find out when last the bike had a service.  Be sure to check with the seller what the hours are on the bike. If it is a two-stroke, find out when last the top end was done, if the bike is a four stroke, find out when last the valve clearance was done.

If you get a bad feeling from the seller, go with your gut instinct & move on to the next bike that looks appealing to you.

What to look for

So you got a good feeling about the bike you saw advertised & you are pleased with what the seller had to say about the bike. The next step is to go check it out.

Look for any visible signs of damage. Start from the front and work your way towards the back. Check the triple clamps, see if the handlebars move freely and that the headstock bearing is still good. make sure that the fork seals are still in good condition and not leaking. Fork rebuilds can be quite pricey.

Have a look at all the controls to see if they work the way it should. Open the radiator cap to see if it has coolant in it. The coolant should cover the fins of the radiator otherwise there is a possibility that there could be a leak.

Inspecting controls


Have a look at the exhaust for any major dents. A badly dented exhaust will seriously affect the performance of the bike and will be quite costly to replace. A two-stroke header pipe that is dented, can be blown out and generally does not cost too much to repair. In most cases this process should not cost too much.

Have a look at the foot pegs. Broken footpegs are a safety risk and should be replaced. Have a look if the chain and sprockets are still in good condition. Check the brake rotors and brake pads. If the brake pads are worn, it is not too serious, as this is not very expensive to replace. The rotors, on the other hand, can be a bit more pricey.

Dirt bike front sprocket

Check the motor for any oil leaks or cracks.  If you notice any cracks on the cylinder, do yourself a favor and walk away. This will be expensive to replace!

If the seller tells you that the bike was serviced recently, remove the oil filler cap and stick your finger in to see the condition of the oil. If it looks black, you know that they are not being honest and question everything that they told you.

Ask to remove the seat and have a look at the condition of the air filter. This is very important. The condition of the air filter will tell you straight away how well the bike was maintained. A dirty, muddy air filter is not a good sign. Whatever dirt gets sucked through the air filter goes straight into the motor, which will cause damage or premature wear.

Push the kickstart lever down slowly to see if the bike has good compression. If the kickstart lever is very easy to push down by hand, it means that the top end will have to be done soon.

Taking the bike for a test ride

Next, you will want to take the bike for a test ride. Before you start the bike, feel if the engine is warm. Often, sellers will warm the bike up before buyers come to look at the bike, to make sure it starts easier, as some bikes may battle to start when it is cold.

Once the bike is running, listen closely if you can hear any rumbling noises. This could be an indication that the main bearings are on their way out, which will mean that the bottom end will have to be rebuilt, which is quite expensive. If you are happy that there are no strange noises coming from the motor, take it for a ride. Go through all the gears, to make sure that there are no issues with that.

The right bike for you?

If you are happy with the bike & it passed all the checks, see if you can negotiate a better price with the seller. Point out minor little issues that you may have noticed. Tell the seller that you will have to spend some money on the bike to get it back to its original condition and more often than not, the seller will agree to lower the price slightly.

Good luck!! Hope you find the perfect bike, that will last you many years to come.

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