Top Tips to Buying a Used Harley-Davidson Motorcycle

Posted by Lisa DiFalco on

Tips to Buying Used Harley-Davidson Diagnostica


In about two months, many bikes end up hibernating in garages across America. Right now, fellow bikers are taking advantage of October and November months to get a great deal on a used bike or trade-in a current ride for a newer model. However, buying a good, used Harley isn’t so easy.

There are important considerations to acknowledge when buying a used Harley, rather than a new bike. Prospective owners need to do a little more homework and investigation before taking ownership of a used Harley-Davidson.

What should riders know about buying used? 

Learn what you need to be on the lookout for before becoming the current owner of a used Harley-Davidson to avoid a future headache.

Get Clear on What You Can Handle

Sometimes, it’s like Thanksgiving dinner. You look around and think that you can eat a bit of everything without a problem. Hours later you are popping the pink stuff and hoping all that rumbling doesn’t spell trouble later that evening. The same goes with buying a Harley. Eyes can get wide with anticipation and a rider can believe that a more substantial model will be a breeze to ride. However, buying a ride that is more than a rider can handle can make for disappointment or potential accidents down the road.

New and inexperienced riders should be aware of the best models that they can easily handle. Those with a smaller frame may want to opt for smaller models to make it easier to stop short or handle a serious curve. In order to better understand which models may best fit one’s lifestyle, Allstate Insurance Company recommends:

  • Visiting dealerships to learn more about models and their features;
  • Attending bike rallies sponsored by Original Equipment Manufacturers, including Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Daytona Bike Week or Americade, to test drive a variety of models as offered from their manufacturer; and
  • Reading reviews and comments made by fellow riders for varying viewpoints.

Gather word-of-mouth information from friends, in addition to the recommendations above, to get a better idea of the pros and cons of available models.

Know the History

Buying used isn’t like buying new, in that owners will not be getting a warranty with their bike. When it comes to buying from a private seller, it is important to get an inspection of the bike, ask for maintenance records and see if the seller offers any resistance to such requests. Avoid purchasing from sellers who cannot provide the details needed to make an informed purchasing decision. Buying from a private seller may not offer any protection to a bike owner if they so happened to buy a lemon.

Some people who are thinking of buying used are willing to get a used bike from a Harley-Davidson seller for a little extra assurance that no outstanding repairs need to be made on a bike. A bike owner may be able to get “certified pre-owned” Harleys from a franchised dealer, along with a warranty or guarantee and complete service history. People looking to buy from a private party may get the most information on a used bike when looking to purchase a “single owner” bike with all necessary records. Before buying, prospective buyers can do a title history search using a motorcycle vehicle history report website for details on complaints, investigations and any recalls on a specified make or model of Harley-Davidson.

Can a Motorscan OBD Adapter Make It Easier to Diagnose a Used Bike?

The Motorscan smartphone diagnostic tool is designed for easy diagnosis of trouble codes and can be used as an addition to standard dashboard data when a smartphone is securely attached to a ride. Many owners of used bikes fail to get a manual with their bike and either have to purchase one from the dealership or download one from an online website. Harley owners use the manual to diagnose a ride and learn more about the features of a ride, as well as make repairs. The Motorscan OBD adapter can be used on multiple standard models for quick and easy diagnostics. If you trade in an old bike to make a new purchase, the adapter can potentially be used on additional standard and compatible models. Learn how to find out if a new or used bike is compatible here.

The Motorscan smartphone diagnostic tool can check multiple systems at one go and let riders know how systems, not easily observable using the dashboard, are operating in real-time. Use the tool immediately after buying a new used bike for an extra level of security. Share your experiences buying used with readers when you comment below or tweet @DiagnosticaNews.


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    Joe. on
  • I’m glad that you mention how riders should be aware of which models they’re able to easily handle. This could help them figure out which Harley Davidson motorcycle to buy. Once you’ve determined the model you want, you’d probably want to look online as well as visit local dealerships to find one that carries the model that you wish to purchase.

    Tiffany Locke on
  • Hi Michael Glassi. Thanks for the question. I don’t have personal experience and posted the question on our FB page to see if that community might be able to help with the question. I can only suggest getting more details somewhere like the Their online community is very supportive and may be able to quickly provide more insight from a rider’s perspective.

    Lisa DiFalco on
  • I’m glad I came across your article about buying a used Harley Davidson motorcycle. I am planning to buy a used car, but since it’s my first time, I want to be sure on what to look for. For me, the best part of your article is when you talked about the importance of getting the bike inspected and checking its maintenance record to make sure that you’d buy a motorcycle with an efficient performance. My son will graduate from college by next year, so my husband and I are looking to buy him a used motorcycle. I will make sure to remember all your useful tips.

    Sharon Wilson Smith on
  • One of the things you need to check when buying a pre-owned motorcycle is the brakes. Your safety should always be your top priority, thus, it is important to make sure that your motorcycle’s brakes are working properly. It is recommended to apply both front and back brakes and see if you hear any squeaking sound. Also, you may want to do a road test and check if you feel any vibration. If you experience any of these, it is best to have it checked by a professional mechanic and get the necessary repair. If I were to buy a pre-owned motorbike, I would make sure to take this into consideration. Thanks.

    Bobby Saint on

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