The spring is a great time to buy a used motorcycle. You’ll find one for sale everywhere you look. There is often a flood of new ads and listings from people who clean out the garage and want to get rid of an old motorcycle that is taking up space. Many of those used motorcycles are BMW R-series. If you find one that really catches your eye, the next step is to take a look at it and interview the seller. Below, we have some tips that should make your pre-purchase inspection a little smoother.

What To Bring:

  • notepad & pen
  • small flashlight
  • shop-rag
  • small socket set
  • Flat & Phillips screwdrivers



When you first start to go over any used BMW R-series, look for evidence that the motorcycle has been dropped. Usually you can see scuffs and scrapes on fairings, valve covers, exhaust pipes, bar-ends, or the handlebar levers. Also, keep an eye out for flaws like cracks in the frame and bent fork tubes. That could be a signal that the motorcycle has been wrecked. Finally, look for any fluid leaks or jerry-rigged repairs.

Even though you can check the VIN on any motorcycle you’re considering, part of buying anything second-hand is relying on the word of the seller. You’ll need to assess for yourself if the seller is trustworthy. Ask a question about a flaw on the bike that would be obvious to the owner but not to a first-time buyer, but which you already know the answer to. See if the seller lies, leaves things out, or is completely truthful. If you know that you’re being deceived about one thing, it should tell you to be wary of anything else the seller says. On the other hand, if the seller is truthful, it’s a good sign that they’re being forthright with you.

Check the VIN also and make sure it matches the one you got when you initially called the seller (you did get the VIN, right?). If you haven’t already, check it against the NICB VinCheck database to see if the motorcycle has been declared a total loss or salvage. Also, run through a VIN decoder like or to make sure that the model that it is being advertised as is in fact the model that it is and not one that has been wrecked and rebuilt as something else.

Once you’ve established the character of the motorcycle, take a few quick notes on anything that you think will affect your offer. Be detailed, but also make note of your overall impression. Once you’ve finished, it’s time for a basic safety check before you take it for a test ride. Make sure the tires, brakes, throttle, clutch, lights, and horn all work. And that nothing is loose!

Test Ride

Start the bike up and check the idle. You should notice fairly quickly if there is a sputter or rattle that shouldn’t be there. When the bike has warmed up you can take it for a ride. The test ride is probably the most important step. During the test ride you’ll have to pay very close attention to the feel of the motorcycle and the sounds that it makes. Most of the problems that are hidden during a cursory check will show up in a test ride.

Check the speedometer and tach to make sure they are functioning. Also check that all the dash lights work and that ABS on-board diagnostics have completed normally. Open up the throttle at least once in second and in third gear. See if the transmission pops out of gear or has difficulty downshifting. Look for any pulsing or pulling when you hit the brakes. Do the handlebars line up when you’re riding in a straight line? How does it run overall?

Final Inspection

When you return from your test ride, you’ll have a better idea of the condition of the BMW R-Series. Look for mechanical causes of any issues that you noticed during your test ride. Is it in a condition that you’re comfortable with? Can you fix the flaws, or should a mechanic take a look at it? Or, should you walk away entirely?

You can also take this chance to quiz the seller on some more in-depth things to find out what kind of owner they have been. What do they know about the maintenance history? Do they have records? A complete set of records can give you piece of mind. If the owner has no records for you, you’ll have to determine your comfort level with the owner and the purchase overall.

Ready To Buy

Once you’ve checked everything and asked all the right questions, you should know if the BMW R-Series sitting in front of you is worth your time or not. If you’re unsure about anything you find, take the motorcycle to a mechanic that you trust and get an expert’s opinion. If you decide to buy the motorcycle and intend to do any service needed on your own, be sure to check out the Wunderlich BMW R-Series category page for any maintenance parts, tools, and upgrades that your new BMW needs!