Should you buy a non-running motorcycle? I have had a few calls on this subject and my advice has been no. A few prospective buyers told me the asking price was low and the seller said it just needs one thing to get it running. If you can’t take it for a ride and determine what isn’t working, your risk of a big repair bill goes way up.
You can try to do some detective work and figure out the last time it ran. A clue can be found by checking the date on the license plate sticker. The date on the sticker may be the last season the bike was on the road. Generally, the longer a bike sits in a non running state, the more things begin to go wrong.
If you are looking at a non-running bike:
Smell the fuel and look at the color. Check the hydraulic fluids to see if they are clear. Roll the bike and try the brakes and shifting. Battery bad? Any blown fuses or burnt wires? Oily film near the fork seals? Tires have plug repairs?
You could schedule an inspection at our shop and have us look at it before you buy.
If you end up buying a non-running bike and need professional repairs, consider:
Cost of towing to your house, then towing to a shop.
If it is the riding season, plan on a long wait for the repairs. You paid and insured a bike you aren’t riding.
If the bike has been partially disassembled and parts are in boxes, good luck finding a shop that will take it on.
The battery probably won’t hold a charge and needs to be replaced with a reliable battery.
The fuel spoils in the tank and can cause rust. You may have to drain and dispose of spoiled fuel. Possibly clean and line tank.
Fuel evaporates in the carbs/ injectors/lines/pumps and causes problems.
Brake and clutch systems require regular maintenance because it attracts moisture and dirt. Fouled fluid eventually turns to gel and requires rebuild the components.
You get a good 5 years out of a set of tires. Every year the bike sits unused is another year off the life of the tire. Old tires feel unsafe and can be dangerous.
Conclusion. No matter what the seller says, how do you really know? Is the up front savings worth the risk of professional repairs? I say just take a pass and save your energy for purchasing a bike that already runs properly.