How To Buy a Motorcycle
If you've been dreaming of buying a motorcycle for years, it can be hard to know how to turn those fantasies into reality. However, there's never been a better time to get started on searching for the motorcycle that's right for you.

In many ways, the process of buying a motorcycle is similar to the steps you'd follow to buy a car. For most people, both types of vehicles are a major purchase. Therefore, you want to avoid making careless decisions.

What Do You Want?
When you're buying a motorcycle, the first thing you need to decide is what type of bike you want. This requires thinking about the riding you plan to do. Do you want to ride over dirt tracks or trails? Do you want to ride on the freeway? Obviously, there's no right or wrong answer to these questions. Just be honest with yourself.

Another key factor to consider when purchasing your motorcycle is whether or not you plan to carry passengers. Riding with a guest is a task best left to the experienced motorcycle operator. But, since you'll probably keep your motorcycle for several years, it's wise to plan ahead.

Do Your Homework
After you've decided how you plan to use your motorcycle, it's time to do some preliminary research. Visit the Web sites of Harley Davidson, Honda, Yamaha, BMW, and other motorcycle manufacturers to learn more about the newest styles. Look for information about dealer invoice prices, features, and accessories. Take careful notes or print out a packet of information to take with you to the dealer.

Reading customer reviews of various motorcycle makes and models can also be useful. While it's true that many characteristics are a matter of personal preference, these reviews should be able to give you a better idea of whether a specific bike will meet your needs.

If you have friends and family who are also motorcycle enthusiasts, ask for opinions on specific bikes and dealers. Obviously, knowing that cousin Bob thinks he got a fair price on his Harley at the dealership on the south side of town won't be the main criteria you use in purchasing your motorcycle. But, hearing that uncle Ed feels he was cheated by another local dealer might make you decide to take your dollars elsewhere.

Buying on a Budget
Many people who dream of owning a motorcycle postpone the purchase because of the expense. However, there are ways you can make buying a motorcycle more affordable. For example:

Don't be afraid to negotiate. If you're buying a new motorcycle, try to get the price as close to the manufacturer's suggested retail price as possible. Remember that you will need to pay taxes, set up fees, and documentation fees after your purchase. Use these fees in your negotiation if possible.

Look at models from the previous year. A car dealer often marks down old inventory to make room for the newest models. Motorcycle dealers are no different.

If you can swing it, offer to pay cash for your motorcycle. Many dealers will give you up to a 10% discount for this.

If you're trading in an old motorcycle to gain credit for your purchase, don't trust the dealer to give you a fair price. Do some research to find out what your old bike is really worth.

Don't overlook the benefits of buying a used motorcycle. Like used cars, used motorcycles can be a real bargain. Check out the National Auto Dealers Association price guide to learn more about the average cost of motorcycles in a specific make, model, or condition. Just remember that the price guide is published on a monthly basis, so figures can change quite frequently.

Test Drive Your Bike
Before you purchase a motorcycle, take the bike out for a test drive. You'll want to check that the seat is comfortable and make sure your feet can reach the ground. A good bike should make it easy for you to stop, speed up, and slow down. Pay extra attention to how the bike handles around corners.

If you're looking at a used motorcycle, you'll also want to pay close attention to the condition of tires, brakes, headlights, and turn signals. If you're purchasing the bike from a private individual, ask for copies of any maintenance records.

Making it Legal
After you've bought a motorcycle, you'll need to complete the registration process with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles. It is illegal to operate a motorcycle that hasn't been properly titled and registered.

If you purchase your motorcycle from a dealership, a sales representative will help you complete the necessary paperwork. If you're buying a used motorcycle, make sure that the seller provides you with a copy of the title and registration that is in his or her name. If the seller can't provide these documents, the motorcycle may be stolen.