Buying a Used Dirt Bike – The Ultimate Guide

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A used dirt bike can be a great way of venturing into off-road riding without breaking the bank. The money you save can be channeled towards replacement parts and upgrades to accommodate your riding style.


Buying a Used Dirt Bike

Your job as a buyer is to do the relevant research and scrutinize a model to ensure you are not getting ripped off. You will need a certain amount of mechanical knowledge, or you can bring a friend who is savvier with dirt bikes.

Set a Budget

The first step is to estimate the money you intend to spend on the dirt bike. Evaluate the current market value and compare it against the price it is pegged at. If there is a huge difference, then you can go ahead and initiate the purchase for the used model.

You should also estimate any maintenance and repair costs as the bike has been in use. You may need to replace some components and upgrade others.

Other costs will add up along the journey, so it is best to estimate them as well. Some states include a sale tax and you need to check the purchase rate to add it in the total cost.

Title transfer and registration through the local DMV can cost you between several dollars to a couple of hundred dollars. You will also need to include insurance one you are done with the purchase.

Do Your Research

Research is necessary when buying a used dirt bike. Be clear about the brand and the models you would like and then evaluate them based on your budget, experience level, your size, and riding style. Narrow down your options after which you will gather as much insight as you can.

Forums can be very informative as you will see the review of each make and what customers had to say about them.

Look for any concerns among users and some tips and tricks other consumers have highlighted. This information will prove to be handy when you get to the testing stage since you will be aware of what exactly to look for.

Sites like Craigslist and Kelly Blue Book display recommended and average prices. Look around your locality for actual rates as well and keep up with the classifieds.

The prices may vary with jurisdictions, and you might have to travel around to get the best bargain.

Finding a Good Dirt Bike

Patience will be needed in the search for a good dirt bike. You do not want to rush and lose out on better alternatives. The local motocross track may be an excellent place to start and most riders who want to sell their models post advertisements there. Local riding clubs can also be great hubs to get connected with people selling their bikes.

Local online forums and websites like Craigslist are resourceful in finding sellers. You should be more vigilant however when transacting on such platforms. An advertisement typically includes photos and specific configurations such as the model, engine type and size, brand, and model year.

There are also dealers who specialize in buying and selling used dirt bikes. You will most likely not get a similar deal like that of an individual seller, but these dealers offer reputability and warranty.

There is no need to rush the purchase because the dirt bike market is flooded with various models and makes. Analyze what customers are saying about your preferred bike and take your time in the selection.

First Impression of the Seller

Avoid putting your safety at risk by seeking more information about the seller. If you have corresponded on messages or email, initiate a phone call and ask any queries you might have.

Are they the original owner? What ownership papers will they offer with the purchase? Who maintained the bike? Has the bike been modified?

A phone call will assist you to get a feel of who they are and if they are genuine. If in doubt, always bring a friend. Knowing the region where the seller wants to meet is a good idea. You do not want to walk blindly into a sketchy place.

It is your right to ask them to meet in a public area if you are unsure of the site they have proposed. If they refuse, take it as a warning sign and look for another seller.

Be courteous in all communication with the seller and also be mindful of their time. They will have other responsibilities to take care of so ensure you only ask relevant questions. Save the critical queries for a face to face meeting.

Inspect the Bike Thoroughly

Taking a good look might seem obvious, but it can reveal more insight than you think. Check for the condition of such components as the frame, magneto cover, chain, sprockets, and clutch cover. Check if the paint is run off as this will give you a general clue of its usage. Look for any cracks or bends.

If you have been riding for a period of time, request a ride as it will reveal if the bike is in good condition. If you are in the seller’s home, take a good look around.

Is the garage clean? Does their car look well-maintained? Can you spot some tools for repair and maintenance?

If the other belongings look properly kept, chance are they were also careful with the dirt bike. Ask the seller questions including:

  • Why is there a need to sell the bike?
  • Have you experienced major issues with the model?
  • Have you had a major accident? If yes, what damages occurred and how were they rectified?
  • How long have you had the bike?
  • What maintenance programs have you adhered to in terms of the bike? Are there records?

Listen to the answers to judge if they sound made up. If the seller fumbles through the answers, take it as a negative sign. Trust your instinct when interacting with them. Do not be sold on the general appearance of the bike and remember that the seller may exaggerate on the condition of their machine.

Used Dirt Bike Checklist

Have a checklist ready to go through when you examine the bike. The important parts include:

  1. Air Filter – Always examine the air filter of a used dirt bike. The seller should comply when you request to check the airbox. If they deny examination, chances are they are hiding something, and you should not bother continuing the purchase. A dirty air filter is a sign of poor maintenance. You do not want to buy a bike from a seller who would not be bothered to clean the air filter. As the seller to retrieve it and use a flashlight to check if there is dust and dirt in the intake tract. It is a good idea to replace the air filter regardless of the condition as it as a vital component.
  2. Oil leaks – Check for oil spills particularly at the engine’s bottom and around the front fork seals. Dirt will mostly get stuck on the oil, and this can help you identify the places to look as the seller may have cleaned the vehicle before your arrival.
  3. Radiator – Take a close look at the radiator. Are they bent or smashed? In what condition are the fins? Inspect if the coolant level has been maintained at the right level. Make sure the radiator is topped up, and it is not leaking. If it looks poorly patched up or repaired, you can forego the bike or make accommodations for buying one.
  4. Clutch and Brake Lever – Clutch and brake levers are quite easy to break or bend. Although they are relatively inexpensive, the repair costs quickly accumulate if more than one is to be replaced. The rear brake pedal and the shift lever can get broken as well. The shifter should be on tight, and a sloppy one often means that the splines are likely worn out and need replacing.
  5. Sprockets – Sprockets commonly wear with the chain. If the chain is well-maintained, you can count on a rear sprocket and two front ones out of the chain’s life. Hooked shape teeth reflect severe wear. You can pull away the chain from the rear sprocket using your fingers. If the chain comes away more than a few millimeters, it may require replacing. Look for any chunks missing in the teeth.
  6. Plastics – A dirt bike that is a couple of years old usually has some scratches on the plastic. If the bike features brand new plastic, chances are that it has been crashed into a tree. Cracked plastics behind the bike’s seat show that it has been flipped backward. Look for missing fixing screws and cracks around the fixings.
  7. Frame – The frame often shows if the bike has been in major or many crashes. Look for unusual cracks at the welds or at the area where two sections meet. You can see if the subframe is bent by looking at the model from the rear. The fender will commonly learn more to a single side. One stress point is at the welds close to the top of the rear shock.
  8. Muffler – Check if the muffler is warm before doing a test ride. It could mean that the seller ignited the bike before your arrival to hide any choking and stalling and other mechanical noises.

Ask for Dirt Bike Documents

A seller should have the documentation for any trips to the mechanic or any upgrades. Most sellers perform maintenance on their own, so you will have to rely on their accounts.

Some states necessitate registration, while others do not. Be vigilant enough to be aware of the regulations in your state. Consult the nearest DMV and ask about the paperwork necessary when buying a used dirt bike. If registration is indeed needed, acquire a title from the seller.

The seller should give a Bill of Sale receipt to finalize the sale. The term “Paid in full” needs to be marked on the receipt. This guards you in the case of a fraudster who may intend to claim that you did not pay for the dirt bike.

The more foolproof mode of payment will be a check although some sellers may insist on cash.

Get the Dirt Bike VIN

A VIN is generally used for all motorcycles. It contains 17 characters and is regarded as the ID number for a model.

A dirt bike VIN will inform you if the bike has been involved in a crash or if it has been rebuilt or stolen. Find the VIN on the bike’s steering neck and check its status.

Don’t Buy a Safety Recall Bike!

Safety recalls are common in the bike industry. Despite the fact the products undergo strict quality control practices and thorough testing, they do not sometimes follow the plan.

Motorcycle recalls are necessitated by prolonged riding by users. The brands involved often notify dealers and owners of the recalls and offer to carry out the repairs of upgrades at no cost.

This notice does not always reach the owner as they may moved or the bike was sold to another consumer who is unaware of the recalls.

The latter occurrence is quite dangerous as you may find yourself with a defective product that could potentially cause injury, not because of any action on your part, but because of a flaw in design in the bike.

There are sites that keep up with the recall information from various brands. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has an exhaustive website for recall information. You will need the VIN to check for any safety measures.

The bike’s brand will typically have any recalls reflected on their website, so it a good idea to visit.


The good news is that the dirt bike riding community is close-knit and well connected. Most people are drawn to the adventure because of its family-oriented focus.

The journey to finding a good bike will likely not be as complex as you think. You will mostly have excellent luck in finding a trusted seller.

Like with other purchases, trust your gut. Forego deals with sellers who seem untrustworthy. There will always be more alternatives and models.

If you can, enlist the counsel of a more-experienced friend.

You will need to check the internal and external parts of a particular bike and even go for a test run. The point is to get a feel of the vehicle as much as you can.

The paperwork process should be simple provided the seller is ready to give all the details about the bike in question. Good luck!

Josh Berry - MotoShark Editor
Josh Berry
I'm a off-road enthusiast, extreme sport fan and the editor of MotoShark. If you have any questions or suggestions regarding this article, please leave a comment or contact me.

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