You may know all about buying a used car - the things to look for (and watch out for). But how about a used motorcycle? Lot of people who've never ridden before are turning to bikes as a way to save money on the cost of getting around. But what applies to buying used cars may not apply as much to used bikes. or, the reverse. For instance:
* Brakes - If it's a car, brake work can be a big (and expensive) deal. Potentially, a deal killer. No one with more than half a brain rattling around in his head wants to buy a $2,500 beater (car) that needs $1,200 worth of brake work.
A bike? Not so much. Basic maintenance such as changing out pads (and shoes, if the bike has a drum brake rear) is - usually - both very inexpensive and very easy. In part because the components are much more accessible. On the front end, the caliper is exposed and "right there" - minimal tools are typically required to pop out the old pads and pop in new ones. You don't have to jack anything up or remove a wheel. Often, all you have to do is remove the two bolts that hold the caliper to the fork, then pull out a little clip to get the old pads out of the caliper. In most cases, you can do the job yourself in less than ten minutes - and barely get your hands dirty in the process.
If you need to bleed the brakes, that's usually simple, too - because most bikes (except for some of the latest/newest bikes) do not have ABS. Which means, no special skills - or tools - needed. No worries about replacing $800 ABS pumps, either.
Bottom line, worry less about a bike that may need brake work.
* Tires - On a bike, there are just two (vs. four) tires, which right off the bat cuts down your replacement costs. And - unless the bike is a high-performance sport bike - the tires will be refreshingly low-cost relative to what it costs to put four new tires on almost any car. Even high-performance sport bike tires are relatively inexpensive - figure about $150 or so for the rear and a bit less for the front.
If it's just a standard touring-type tire, $75-$100 or so (each) will usually cover it.
There is a catch, though. Bike tires generally don't last as long as car tires - because there are just two of them. And because one of them - the back tire - is doing most of the work, it wears out even faster. And you can't rotate them to even out the wear - as you could (and should) with car tires - because bike tires are usually different sizes and can't be interchanged.
Sport tires have the shortest lives of all. Still, motorcycle tires are a pretty small expense relative to what cars tires cost - especially late-model cars equipped with 18, 19 and 20-inch tires that can cost $150-$200 each.
* Clutch/transmission - When buying a used car with a manual transmission, everyone knows (or ought to know) about checking for problems with the clutch - because replacing a worn-out clutch means lots of work (especially if it's a FWD/AWD or 4WD vehicle) and so, lots of money. The transmission has to be removed just to get at the clutch - and the actual replacement of the worn-our components requires skills and tools most non-mechanics don't have.