Everything You Need To Know About Buying Used Bikes In India

I wanted to gift my younger brother a simple bike on his 19th birthday. As he is just 19, and as because he is a total newbie to the world of bikes, and a lean guy, I’ve thought that a second hand bike would do for some days. A used bike would give him a good feel of bikes.

My experience is regarding the purchase of used bike. After some decent research I went to Pune, looking for used bikes. The main reason to go there is there are plenty of showrooms and since Pune has a pleasant and dry weather the engine condition of even used bikes will be quite good.

Buy Used BikeThe main market for used bikes is in the Rasta Peth or Kasba Peth. From the Swargate Bus Depot these markets are just 15 minutes ride distance on a bike. I had spent two days inspecting 110 bikes across 25 shops. My advice is not to go to cheap and shabby-looking shops; better bet would be to go to showrooms which are located at the end of Rasta Peth.

The market is full of several brands. The vehicles here are reliable and you can get in touch with the dealers any time. To my shock I didn’t find a single good brand under the budget of 20,000. However, you can test drive the bike and even have the engine opened up if you take a mechanic with you.

I would advice going with brands Hero Honda or Bajaj, as they have a good resale value and have ample service centers. My choice had been Pulsar 150 DTSi, a 2003 model and it was up for grabs for Rs. 28,000, and a 2005 Pulsar 150 DTSi was quoted at Rs. 30,000. Hero Honda models such as Passion Plus and Super Splendor were offered in the range of Rs. 35,000.

A Pulsar 150 DTSi 2006 model had some neatly maintained looks and had a fancy number 8888. I test drove the model but found that the bike was giving a knocking while on ride. I also observed that the bike was dragged to left when driving. I believed that these problems would hardly be there once I get it serviced. The 2006 bike was priced at Rs. 36,000 and open for negotiations.

I had almost made up to pay for this and asked for the original papers. To this the guys showed me original owner, so I asked for passing proof which is a must for selling bikes. I didn’t see the reluctance on their faces when they handed me the copy, but to my horror the bike’s actual number is 5583, but the graphics on bike showed me 8888 number – a small example how buyers can con you. Make sure you take a look at original papers before closing the deal.

You can do a survey keeping some parameters as standard for any brand and model: They will be:

  1. Year of make
  2. Approximate cost
  3. Kilometers run
  4. Documents: Yes/No
  5. Insurance: Up-to-date/not paid
  6. Resale Value
  7. Looks: Good/Average/Bad
  8. Dealer Details

Keep on filling the details as and when you see and then zero down on the bikes. After making a list, relax and forget everything about bikes. Take your pet for a walk or watch your favorite star’s movie. Then erase those notions of first love about some suspicious bikes; good looks are not all in bikes.

Following is the criteria and areas to inspect while buying used bikes. I recommend that you take a print out of this list and take it with you so that you can use it as a checklist.

  1. Scratches (if any) on the bike
  2. Headlight strength
  3. Indicator lights
  4. Tail lights
  5. Neon lights if any
  6. Brakes functioning
  7. Suspension (to check this you need to test drive on bumpy road)
  8. Fuel tank (open the fuel tank lid and check for dirt and sediments inside the tank)
  9. Speedometer
  10. Wear and tear of tyres (it gives the kind of handling previous user had on the bike)
  11. Locking system
  12. Any loans, if yes how much is to be cleared
  13. Gear sound (whether gear shift is clunky or smooth)
  14. Mirrors
  15. Foot rest
  16. Seat comfort level
  17. Bike pull
  18. Abnormal sounds if any
  19. Silent firing
  20. Upper /dipper
  21. Duplicate keys (Make sure you know its not lost anytime)
  22. Grip
  23. Mud guard internals
  24. Disk brake functioning
  25. Owner’s NOC
  26. Stand/side stand operation
  27. Chassis number (verify if the number on RC book and that on the vehicle match)
  28. Engine number
  29. Chain teeth
  30. First start (a cold engine should start in 2 kicks minimum) and second start (thumb rule: it should start in 1 kick.)
  31. Rust if any and on which part of bike
  32. Smooth steering
  33. Space between brakes (this is not a big thing though)
  34. Leather and rim

I did some research online for tips on buying used bikes. These are the best tips which I found extremely useful when actually short listing a bike:

Put the bike in neutral. Roll the bike forward, and then gently apply the front brakes. They should engage (and the lever should move) smoothly although you may hear a click as the brake-light switch engages. Now release the brake lever and roll the bike. Are the brakes off, or are they dragging? Indeed they should be off if not, the brake calipers need some re-working. Stand in front of the bike with the bike in neutral. Grab the front brake lever and squeeze it hard against the handlebar. As you’re doing this, try to drag the bike forward by the handlebars (you may also want someone behind the bike to stabilize it). Do you see brakes preventing the front wheel from moving? Because they should! If you squeeze the front brake lever and it comes all the way back to the bar without much of a resistance, then something’s very wrong. Try adjusting the lever, if you know how (look for a small dial near the pivot). Check remaining brake pad material Inspect the brake hoses for nicks, cuts, dry-rot, as well as any leaks. Also check for indicators alignment. Step back and sight down the centerline of the bike. Look for holes drilled through the heads of bolts.

Check if bike starts when the engine is cold. Check if spokes are loose and clarify from the owner about the miles the bike had run after the clutch cable was changed. Check if clutch and brake cable are slack and also for any marks on fuel tank. Check the inside of the fuel tank using a light. Check for holes on the seat cover and check for tyre manufacture date. Check the shock absorbers.

Spin the front wheel and apply the brakes ever so gently. There shouldn’t be a pulsating feeling from the pads. Get someone to stabilize the front of the bike, you stand behind it. Push down on the bike’s grab rail (or passenger seat), hard. The bike should spring back up, but with a little resistance. If you don’t feel any resistance at all (like you’re just pushing down on a spring), it’s time to replace the rear shock.

Also should ask everything about bike. It is fine ask the owner why he is selling the bike to know: If there is anything wrong with this bike, wrong that you have not identified. Will there be any maintenance or safety issues that you need to be aware of should you buy the bike. What work would you need to do on the bike if you were going to keep it for another year or two? Is there any reason why you should not buy the bike?

Check if speedometer is attached to the front or back wheel and move that wheel. Get the front wheel off the ground, spin the front wheel as fast as you can and see if the speedometer registers anything. If the speedo needle doesn’t rise or move, check to see if the trip odometer’s 1/10th mile digit has moved after the wheel has spun for a while. If it has not moved either then the speedo is probably disconnected or it is not working at all.

Check if spokes are in place and note that the sprocket teeth should be absolutely symmetrical – they will tend to get hooked as they wear. Look for holes (from a crash or from any advanced rust). Sometimes you can hear exhaust leaks, usually as a sort of staccato “chuffing” sound made as exhaust pulses escape through the rust hole. Also check if the seller already warmed up the bike before you got in there.

If the bike has a center stand, put the rear wheel in the air and try shifting through the gears to make sure they all engage properly. The oil level should be visible through a sight glass or dip-stick, which is typically on the right side of the engine. If the oil has white streaks in it (look at the sight glass) then it could be water – beware! Water in the oil could be for two reasons -condensation from the air in the engine, or a leak in the coolant system that’s letting water escape into the lubrication system.

Find the radiator overflow bottle, and see if the coolant is between the “high” and “low” lines on the bottle. Again, bikes should not emit blue smoke and white smoke (as mentioned above) indicates water burning off, blue smoke indicates oil is burning. Make sure that the VIN number on the bike matches the VIN on the title.

Different areas will have different laws. For example, it may be possible to get single-day insurance and plates for a bike for the purposes of test-riding it. Ask your insurance agent and/or local government motor vehicle department to find out whether or not something like this is possible.

The hardest gear change is 1 to 2, since the change in gear ratio is the largest. So check how easily you could change it. If the bike slips out of gear (into neutral or a “false neutral”) on hard acceleration, the transmission’s dogs or shift forks are badly worn and the engine will need to be disassembled to fix the problem.

You can get the rear wheel off the ground with the center stand, start the bike, get it into the second gear, rev it up to half redline, lightly apply the rear brake to load the engine a bit, give it enough gas to maintain half-redline engine RPM, release the throttle, and firmly apply the rear brake to stop the rear wheel and stall the engine.

If, in addition to stalling, it pops into neutral it’s a bad sign indicating that the gear dogs are badly worn. Feel free to repeat this test with a little more rear brake if you went a little too light on the rear brake the first time. The bottom line is that you have a different set of priorities than others. Do not let others specifically the buyers dictate your choice or talk you into something you really don’t want. Do your own research and make your own informed decision. As far as new versus used goes, it’s probably wise for the first-time riders to start with a used bike anyway.

My tips did not end, here are a few more:

  • Always buy bikes in broad day light. Have a look at internal parts with a torch.
  • Always approach the shops with a couple of friends, if they are local guys still better. If u can catch a mechanic then it’s still smarter.
  • Always keep a casual and confident approach while buying bikes. Do not look overly interested in any bike. The shop keeper should be at your mercy not vice versa.
  • Never ever believe the sweet praises about any one bike (maybe they are tipped for doing that job). Test ride and decide for yourself.
  • On many instances the bike will be serviced to look good for test drives. Persuade the dealer for a longer test drive say 50 km on road of your choice. It does not hurt to bear petrol and time expenses.
  • Always have a couple of bike savvy buddies test drive the bike. They can give you different view points.
  • If possible get the original owner’s mobile number.
  • The mechanic at the store can give you valuable information if he is given Rs. 100 as a tip. Not bad when you have your aim to buy best bike. However, follow your intuition as well. I took the mechanic at the showroom in total confidence and he advised me to ignore some bikes.
  • In Pune the bike dealers have their cut at Rs.500 and the transfer papers cost you around Rs. 1200. So the bike price will include 1700 additionally.
  • Manage to get the cash ready before hand. Avoid using ATM since it is risky and it does not allow one to withdraw amount beyond a certain limit. I made this mistake and in the end had to spend 2 hrs in a bank for transferring the money.
  • Get all the documents properly cross checked and take the dealers card. Get proper invoices. These things are more valuable than the bike itself.
  • Ask for complementary fuel; I got around 5 liters!
  • After zeroing on a bike, take it with you immediately. If you leave the bike in the showroom, chances are that the mechanics there might replace vital spare parts. This has happened with not one but many. So, beware.
  • Anything fishy about the bike, dealer, and money transfer issues just leave the shop. There are many shops you can explore still.
  • Always quote the bike Rs.10,000 less than the price. Account for years passed, scratches and dull looks. Remember it is the original owners that are desperate to sell the bike and not the dealers. So, get in touch with the owner. Give the dealer his brokerage and finish the deal.

I would suggest the Following dealers in Pune:

  1. Venkatesh Auto Consultants.
  2. Patil Auto Consultants.
  3. Mahalaxmi Auto.

Only one bike passed my tests (after reading you know its tough for any bike to pass really), expectations and my budget. I got a Bajaj Discover 2007 model for Rs. 26,000. I did the first running of that bike from Pune to Panvel, and boy! It was smooth! My brother got a pleasant surprise for his birthday and I am completely satisfied of the good deal.

Remember guys, bike is something very special may it be new or old. So be very specific, demanding and take good care of your bike.

Now that I have shared my experience in buying a second hand bike, it is your turn to give your thoughts. Have you or your friend bought a used bike before? What do you think about buying used bikes? Did I miss any point in my article? Leave your comments!

Happy motoring friends!

– Amit