10 Used Motorcycles You Should Never Consider Buying!
Browsing the used motorcycles pages? Here are the worst motorcycles that you should avoid!
Updated August 24, 2018
Used motorcycles can be a mixed bag, and like anything from a Fender Stratocaster to a Suzuki GSX-R600, you get good ones and you get bad ones…and if that wasn’t enough, you’ve got other people’s personal opinions to contend with too. So, we’ve put together a list of 10 used motorcycles that you should never consider buying, and we’ve based it on individual reviews from a wide range of dedicated forums, rather than by recalls or what the guy in the local bar thinks he knows. Some entries will be wrong in your experience, and that’s fine. Others might make you think twice before making a sale – and that’s the main point here – if you’re buying a used motorcycle, make sure you do some thorough research before shaking hands.
When it comes to determining what a good or bad used motorcycle is, there are a number of things to consider, and before you part with your hard earned cash you should do a lot of research about the particular model and year you’re looking at. Go to specific forums and see what existing owners have to say. It’s not as straightforward as reading the mainstream motorcycle press either. On paper, Harley-Davidson have been responsible for big recalls on a regular basis. Does that make them bad used motorcycles? No. Since Harley-Davidson owners are some of the most anal when it comes to maintenance, they’re generally very well kept machines.
Conversely, that Honda sportsbike might be an attractive looking purchase. It’s a Honda after all, and you know, Honda make things that last forever, don’t they? Generally, yes, but if it was a particularly good sportsbike and its owner has a penchant for high-speed runs, wheelies, and loves a burnout or two, even a Honda can be a bad investment.
Luckily, we live in a world where technology can generally be relied upon, and in the event of a severe problem we have a thing called manufacturers accountability, which sees any major fault quickly remedied before it causes a massive headache. Most motorcycles built in the last thirty years will be fine if they’ve been maintained properly…but there are a few models that still have problems despite the previous owner’s best efforts. Some were just born with issues, and here are our top ten used motorcycles to avoid at all costs. Our criteria includes mechanical issues, handling problems, dodgy paint jobs, and even uninspiring “bang for buck” ratios.
With that in mind, keep in mind that what makes our list may not make yours. The used motorcycles category is a funny one, and there should always be room for debate. Whether you agree with us or not, if you’re about to make a purchase on a used motorcycle, make sure you do the research beforehand and get the truth from the seller…You have been warned! Click Next to view our list of 10 Used Motorcycles You Should Avoid At All Costs!
The Suzuki GS500E (1989 – 2008)
Let’s start with something controversial: the Suzuki GS500E. This should be a controversial addition to the list because to be honest, the Suzuki GS500E comes up nice and cheap compared to other used motorcycles, and they’re generally applauded as high mileage workhorses. But just because something can handle high mileage, it doesn’t make it a good choice. For a little bit more money, you could buy yourself something better. The handling on the Suzuki is absolutely appalling and it makes turning the thing a labor intensive exercise. The handling is poor, but the braking is even worse. For some reason, these Suzuki’s are touted as great learner bikes…which often translates as “they’ve been mistreated” and you should notice that as soon as you swing your leg over one and get half a mile up the road.
That is, if you’re brave enough to take one up the road on a test ride, because the Suzuki GS500E likes to coat itself in a lot of rust. The factory paintwork was pretty thin, and many of the bikes metal parts corroded pretty easily. If you’re still sold on getting one of these, we recommend you give it a thorough rust examination, particularly around the stressed areas. While we won’t be buying one soon, we would suggest getting the seller to knock the price down by pointing out some of those issues if you’re really desperate to have one in your garage.
The Kawasaki ZX-6R (1995 – 1997)
The Kawasaki ZX-6R is a great motorcycle, and a regular sight on roads all over the world, but it took a lot for the ZX-6R to get to where it is today. If you want to specifically buy a Kawasaki ZX-6R, be sure to avoid any manufactured between these years. Unless you’re willing to put the hours in and get your hands dirty, find a different year for this model, or try one of its competitors instead. In truth, it’s not a terrible bike, but compared to the Suzuki GSX-R600 of the same years, the ZX-6R is slow. Compared with the Honda CBR600 of the same era, the ZX-6R is a bag of bolts.
Even as a secondary track bike, the old school ZX-6R falls short. The original front end will leave you feeling lost and out of touch with the track underneath you because it’s too soft to be useful. The stock brakes have been known to develop warped rotors and be prepared to put some time aside giving the calipers attention on a regular basis. Or, replace both the suspension and the brakes completely…but for the extra investment you’ll have to put in, you might as well buy a newer, used Kawasaki ZX-6R instead.
And that’s before we talk about starting issues in the cold, thanks to carb-icing, and the amount of dirt that accumulates on the rear shock thanks to a design oversight, or the dated looks that really put the Kawasaki ZX-6R squarely in the mid-1990s. On the plus side, the paintwork and build quality is pretty good for the vast majority of it, but it’s really the suspension and brakes that let this thing down.
The Moto-Guzzi Centauro (1996 – 2000)
Some people absolutely love this weird monster from Moto-Guzzi, and if you would listen to them talk about how great this bike is, you’d be left wondering why anyone would ever want to sell one. And they’re regular features in the used motorcycles pages. And that’s because people do want to get rid of them. Why? Because they’re weird to look at, handle like a shopping cart, are notorious for warped brake rotors, crunch through the gears like a breakfast cereal, and suffer from more electrical faults than you would care to fix. When Guzzi were designing the Centauro, they were on to a very interesting fusion of ideas…sadly, it just didn’t deliver when the covers for pulled off.
We’re not here to judge the looks – because we haven’t got enough synonyms for “weird” to play with – so let’s talk about the major issues instead. The handling is a lot to be desired, and it’s easy to get confused trying to translate what the front end is telling you, whilst comparing it to the wandering rear. It takes some man-handling. However, it’s not easy to comfortably man-handle something when you’ve got such an uncomfortable saddle to work with. If you’re not afraid of getting bitten, then this could be a fun ride for those who like to live life dangerously. But if you must have one, take one of the later models or the Sport or GT versions. They’re marginally better, but still undesirable.
The Yamaha WR250X (2008 – Present)
Buying a used dirt bike is generally pretty straightforward. Since they’re built to last, and they’re designed to roll with whatever punches are thrown at them, most dirt bikes are pretty indestructible. However, there are models worth avoiding in the dirt bike segment. The most notorious of these isn’t some bizarre experimental model from the eighties, but a modern machine: the Yamaha WR250X. On paper, it should be an absolute dream: it’s lightweight, fun, comes with a bullet proof Yamaha motor…but it also comes equipped with an outrageous price tag (when new) and a chassis that must have been designed by an intern.
It has been noted that you could buy an FZ-03 from the same year, with a better engine, sharp handling, and more onboard technology for roughly the same price – and we would advise you to go in that direction if given the choice. The WR250X is without doubt one of the worst handling motorcycles from Japan in the last few years. Thanks to the poor suspension and ride geometry, you’ll have trouble making it do what you want it to do. And if that wasn’t enough, it comes without any decent equipment. It has Brembo brakes, but the bargain basement option, and even if it had top of the range anchors, it wouldn’t offset the handling issues. Avoid this one like the plague. Only a drunk rider could make this ride straight or successfully navigate a corner. And that’s illegal.
The Ducati 900SS (1990 – 2002)
Ah, Ducati. Don’t think Ducati were going to get away unscathed – because there’s a hell of a lot of difference between a modern Ducati and…all the others. Let’s go back to the 90s: a period where being a Ducati owner wasn’t about the riding, but more about the endless maintenance of it. As far as used motorcycles go, old Ducatis are best left alone unless you love getting your hands dirty, and if you have another reliable mode of transport in the garage as well. The 900SS is particularly bad. It was old when it was new. It’s not fast. And boy does it have issues. Buy one at your peril, because the term “money pit” will be quoted at you on a regular basis by friends who care about your financial and mental well-being.
Snapped cylinder head bolts, bent chain adjustment bolts, an awful clutch, poor quality fastenings and springs, and a terrible ride experience are all things you can look forward to dealing with after buying one of these. If you find one of these in the used motorcycles section that has never been ridden, then it’s worth the gamble providing that you have no intention of taking it for a ride. Otherwise, we recommend you to steer clear of this problem-heavy Ducati beast.
The Ducati 620 Sport (2002 – 2003)
Of course there’s more than one Ducati on this list. Now this one should be an opinion divider though – they’re not particularly bad motorcycles, but even if you find one for sale, we recommend you look for something else. Instead. While the price can sometimes be right, don’t forget that this is still one of those Ducatis from the wilderness years, and it will be plagued with those good old fashioned Italian problems. If you want something in the same category, you could probably find a similarly ages Suzuki SV650 for the same price (if not cheaper) that rides a hundred times better and won’t come with any hidden maintenance costs.
If you still want a cheap Ducati though, with all the charm that name brings, then be warned: the electrics are absolutely terrible, and you should expect to encounter more than one issue during your tenure. The starter circuit is particularly notorious, and the wiring in general could do with gutting and replacing from day one. If that wasn’t enough to put you off, then take a closer look at the fit of the trim and aesthetic parts…because they’re not good. If you want a Ducati, at the very least you want it to look nice, and more often than not the 620 Sport fails. Generally, it’s quite disappointing.
The Royal Enfield Bullet Electra (2004 – Present)
Royal Enfield. Just don’t. Why? First and foremost, for the money it costs to buy one of these, either new or used, you could buy something else. There’s no shortage of classic looking motorcycles, and since the whole retro-thing is very much in vogue, you can get something with vintage looks but powered by modern technology in one simple and affordable package. There are plenty of manufacturers who make that package. Royal Enfield ain’t one of them. If you’re really in need of a bit of nostalgia or a taste of motorcycle riding from yesteryear, then just do yourself a favor and buy something else. The Bullet Electra is just an oddball that is best avoided.
They’re not reliable. They’re not well made. The electrics are a joke. They’ve got no power nor speed. Those are the facts. We have plenty of opinions about them too, but you can probably guess them. Fortunately, in the Royal Enfield’s defense, many of the mechanical problems are easily solved with basic tools, minor technical knowledge, and patients, but it begs the question: “why was this sh*t not done before they were sold?” On top of that, the paintwork isn’t well done and rust sets in quickly. For a bike that ages prematurely, is completely gutless, and manages to maintain a high price, there are plenty of other vintage styled used motorcycles to choose from. Choose any one of them and you’ve already made a more sensible decision.
The Benelli TRK 502 (2017 – Onward)
The addition of the Benelli TRK might seem a little unfair, but hear us out. It’s a new motorcycle, but even though it’s brand new, it failed to live up to the expectations. The 500cc parallel twin engine is lackluster and doesn’t give enough acceleration to compare it against other 500s in the same class, the brakes are awful, and the suspension was all over the place. The UK’s MCN newspaper summed it up best: “It doesn’t feel like a bike built in 2017.” And the main reason for that is probably the shocking power to weight ratio. With the engine delivering 47 hp, and the bike weighing 235kg (518 lbs), it’s hardly a lightweight roadster with a powerful punch, is it?
And we magine that a lot of these will grace the used motorcycles listings in the very near future, so call this a pre-emptive warning. When it was brand new, it inspired no confidence on the road, and everything from the paintwork to the decals felt a little on the cheap side, so we’re concerned at how ropey they might look when they’re being sold second-hand. Benelli have been working in partnership with a Chinese firm, Qianjiang, and we’re not sure how the partnership’s long term reliability will be. But if the start foreshadows the end, it’s worth noting that one of these bikes got stuck in first gear at the model’s official launch. So, start as you mean to go on, eh Benelli?
The Buell XB12S Lightning (2003 – 2009)
This one is sure to be another opinion divider. We’re putting Buell on the list because of the uncertain future for current Buell owners. Since the company has gone into liquidation and all of the factories assets have been sold at auction, there’s no guarantee of a spare parts, any type of dealership support, or anything remotely useful. Those things may happen, but at the moment, we’re not sure how it’s going to pan out – so for the time being, we’d recommend any potential buyers to avoid any used motorcycles wearing the Buell name. But if we want to be specific, and for the sake of following the form of the list, avoid the XB12S Lightning.
Buell XB12S Lightnings are a strange breed. Many owners report no problems, while others have been plagued with them since day one. The most common issues are either electrical or cosmetic, but it’s not unusual to hear of snapped bolts, snapped drive belts, and more. If your local mechanic knows their way around a Buell, then should talk with them first before making a purchase. However, even if you find one in great shape, the model itself wasn’t exactly the best on the market. The fuel economy was bad, they’re not fun to ride over long distance, and traveling two-up just isn’t realistic. Overall, they’ve got plenty of problems and they’re not practical. Other used motorcycle are available…
All Chinese Motorcycles
If you’re desperate for a Chinese motorcycle, you might as well just buy one brand new. These are not the used motorcycles that you’re looking for. That’s not to say that there aren’t good ones, because there are, but you don’t want to be buying them second hand. Here’s the problem: Chinese manufacturers are great at what they do, they make cheap and cheerful motors and put them in cheap and cheerful chassis. One motorcycle from that production line can be incredible. Another one from the very same production line could be a hand grenade on two wheels. We have ridden numerous Chinese bikes, and some are great, some are not. If you want to try one for yourself, you might as well just buy one new, because they are cheap enough.
What makes them bad used motorcycles is that most people that buy them are generally new to the motorcycling scene – the kind of people who won’t be able to tell the odd one out between these variables: Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Suzuki, Lifan, Ducati, Aprilia – and that doesn’t bode well for this motorcycle’s health. A Lifan that is listed as “a great runner” is probably not such a great runner when compared with its Honda equivalent. Don’t discount the Chinese motorcycle scene though – give them time, and they’ll get there. People used to laugh at the Japanese after all…and look how that turned out.