If you want to buy a brand-new motorcycle, what should you know before you go to the dealership?
First off, you can compare models on the CMG Buyer’s Guide. This will give you a good idea of horsepower, weight, seat height, and other important differences between models. You can get a good idea of a bike’s strengths and weaknesses before you go to your local motorcycle dealer. Read our previews and reviews, too. The chances are that we’ve ridden the bikes you’re interested in, and you can rely on us to pass on our honest opinions.
Another good site to visit is cycle-ergo.com. This site will give you a good idea of how you’ll “fit” on a bike, with simulated riding position diagrams. If you’ve got further questions about certain models, search the CMG archives for model-specific reviews.
But when you’ve picked out what bike you want, what next?
Know your insurance costs ahead of time
We can’t emphasize this one enough. Don’t buy a new bike, and find out you can’t afford to insure it. Insurance costs could be very different for two bikes with similar style or performance, so before you go to the dealership, call around and see what your coveted bike will cost you to insure. Know what you’re up against before you sign on the dotted line.
Look for leftovers
Let’s face it: For many bikes in the showroom, nothing changes from year to year except paint. If you’re buying a model that’s unchanged from the year before, this is your best chance to save a significant amount of money. Unsold bikes = wasted floor space = wasted storage space in the winter, when snowmobiles move into many Canadian dealerships.
Which raises another important point: shopping the right time of year can also save you some money. Given the seasonal nature of Canadian motorcycling, it’s obviously much more strategic to purchase a motorcycle in the fall, instead of the spring. But don’t expect a dealer to just give you a bike because it’s September. And obviously, this doesn’t do you any good if you want a motorcycle in the spring.
Understand the power of cash
I’ve heard people talk about going to their local dealership, laying down a stack of bills, making a lowball offer on a motorcycle, and expecting a deal because they’re offering cash.
This might have worked in years gone by, but it doesn’t work anymore. The margin on new motorcycles is too low. A dealer is not going to give you $800 off a Ninja 300 if his margin is only $300, especially if there’s someone lined up behind you to buy it.
But even if the margin wasn’t so low, salesmen would rather set up a financing deal anyway. If the dealership is able to arrange the loan, the dealership gets a cut of the interest. That’s more profit for them.
This isn’t saying cash doesn’t have some advantages, especially on leftover stock. But, don’t expect a thick stack of twenties to be your ticket to immense savings, at least not in the dealership scene — private sales are another matter.
Understand your financing options
If you don’t have enough cash on hand to buy a motorcycle outright, then you’re going to have to finance it. There are three places to borrow money: A private loan, a direct deal with a financial institution, or a loan arranged through the dealership.
Assuming nobody is silly enough to front you a loan for several thousand dollars, then your next stop is to go to a bank or credit union, to see how much money you can borrow to buy a bike, and what your interest rate and other terms are. Get this figured out, and then when it’s time to buy at the dealership, you’ll know what your options are.
At first, you’d think that with the dealership potentially getting a cut of the interest payments, you’d pay more if the dealer arranges the loan. However, sometimes you’ll find a manufacturer offering promotions like a 0% interest rate. So, know all your options before signing the paperwork. You could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars with just a bit of investigation.
Look into other incentives
Just because your local dealer can’t/won’t move much on the motorcycle’s price doesn’t mean there aren’t other perks available. Since the margin is much greater on jackets, helmets, and other gear, maybe you can get some free swag thrown in with the bike. Maybe you don’t personally need another helmet, but it might be nice to have a spare for passengers? If you don’t need a jacket, what about a spare pair of gloves? Maybe you can get some free oil changes out of the deal.
Don’t count on a test ride
When you buy a new car, you’ll likely get a chance to test ride it before buying. That might not be the case with a new motorcycle.
Most dealerships do have a demo bike or bikes in the showroom, but staff might not be keen on letting you ride them, particularly if you haven’t held your licence for very long. There are various reasons for this, but they’ll probably blame it on insurance. And, there’s no guarantee the dealership will even have a demo for the exact same model you want to ride.
The answer here is to pay attention to the demo ride tours. Most of the major manufacturers have a fleet of motorcycles that travels the country in the back of a semi. Go to the manufacturer’s website and find out when that tour heads close to you (click here for Harley-Davidson’s demo ride site; all the big OEMs have something similar).
Of course, you’ll always be offered a chance to buy an extended warranty if you purchase a bike. Think carefully about this; the sales hook is that you get peace of mind, but look carefully at the fine print.
A warranty typically won’t cover wear parts like your brake pads, chain, tires, which are the bits most likely to need replacement in the bike’s first years of ownership. Also, warranties typically don’t cover damage if the bike’s been raced, modified, or otherwise mistreated, which is the source of a lot of breakdowns.
However, a warranty can save you from some serious headaches, particularly if you aren’t a handy wrencher yourself. If you plan to put on a lot of miles, you may need it. This is a gamble you have to take yourself, so weigh out all risks and rewards before signing up.