How to Avoid Buying a Stolen Motorcycle

Many motorcycles are stolen; thus, the need to know how to avoid buying a stolen motorcycle. When you buy a stolen motorcycle knowingly, you can be arrested and prosecuted. However, if you prove that you are unaware that the motorcycle was stolen, it’ll be seized, and you lose the purchase money, except you locate the seller.

how to avoid buying a stolen motorcycle

Detecting a stolen motorcycle is not easy. Smart criminals can create fake paperwork, get papers for stolen motorcycles, and sell it to you.


However, the tips in this article should help to know whether a used motorcycle is legit or not.

Read: Can I sell my motorcycle with no registration?


How to Avoid Buying a Stolen Motorcycle

Innocent riders get busted often for possessing stolen motorcycles, and you do not want to become a victim.

Below are the tips to avoid buying a stolen motorcycle:

  1. Ridiculous Motorcycle Price Listing

Craigslist is one of the dens for stolen motorcycles. Thieves also run Facebook ads to attract buyers, but a ridiculously low price is a sign that motorcycle ownership is illegitimate.

  1. Compare the Name on Title and Registration

First, request the title and registration from the private seller. Compare the name on the title and registration, and ensure that the name matches. Moreover, the address on the registration and title should be the same. If there are multiple names on the motorcycle title, focus on the recent name.


Do not buy a motorcycle without a title; a thief could be attempting to get rid of a stolen motorcycle with no title. You could be handed a fake title or pink slip; inspect it thoroughly.

  1. Make Sure the Seller has an Address

If a used motorcycle seller has no fixed address, place of employment, or phone number, be cautious.

Also, note that criminals can use a fake address to sell a motorcycle.

Do not buy the motorcycle in the open. Make sure the seller is in their home or workplace. If they act suspicious when you request to enter the building, call off the deal.

  1. Inspect MOT

If you reside in the UK, check the MOT certificate via check MOT service. To check the MOT history, you need the registration number and the 11-digit number from the log book (V5C) to see the test location (request from the seller).

Also, check that the motorcycle is on the V5C to the address.

  1. Inspect the Filler Cap

Suppose the lock is missing or damaged; it is a sign that it was removed forcefully.

Ensure that the lock fits properly as with the ignition. A thief could have replaced the lock as part of the steps to legalize the stolen motorcycle.

  1. Check the Steering Lock

A damaged steering lock is also a sign that a motorcycle was stolen. If the steering is absent, question the seller.

Suppose the steering lock is present, inspect it for damages to avoid buying a stolen motorcycle.

  1. Inspect VIN Plate

Inspect the VIN plate to find whether the VIN is tampered with. If you find signs of rubbing and filling, they indicate VIN alterations, and the numbers may misalign.

Confirm that the numbers stamped in the plate are the factory numbers, and the VIN plate has not been repainted.

  1. Look Up the VIN

Go to libraries such as FAXVIN and VINFreeCheck to look up the VIN.

  1. Inspect Past Financing and Insurance

Request the references about past insurance and financing on the motorcycle, and verify the information with the finance company/agent or bank.

  1. Study how the Seller Responds

Ask the seller questions and study how they respond. Do not ask if the motorcycle is stolen. Of course, no thief ever admits a stolen motorcycle.

Most registered motorcycle owners can disclose the basics of their motorcycles, including the price, the number of cylinders, and exact capacity. While the seller stands away from the license plate or dash, ask them to say the mileage of the motorcycle. If the seller can’t tell the mileage, close the deal.

If the used motorcycle has fancy pant electronics, let the seller show you how to customize stuff like ABS and the traction control. If the seller finds it challenging to navigate the menu system or set up the system, do not buy the motorcycle.

  1. Have a Photo of the Seller

Getting a photo of the seller does not stop you from buying a stolen motorcycle, but it makes tracking the seller easier.

If the seller refuses a picture of them, it is a sign that the motorcycle is illegal. However, if you want to continue in the deal, capture their faces stealthily without flash. You can wear a headcam to capture the entire transaction as evidence.

  1. Do Not Pay with Cash

One of the tips to avoid buying a stolen motorcycle is to avoid paying with cash. Use a cashier’s check or money orders if possible.

If the seller pressurizes you for cash payment, it’s a sign they plan to get rid of the stolen motorcycle soonest.

Check the Stolen Motorcycle Registries

Unfortunately, no motorcycle VIN check service contains information on all motorcycles.

Each service has limited motorcycle theft data, including top national services like NICB and Carfax.

Also, some motorcycle VIN check websites can’t guarantee up-to-date information on stolen motorcycles. So, when it comes to paying for motorcycle VIN look up on such sites, buyer beware.

Before you purchase a motorcycle, check the VIN on as many websites as possible. One of the best practices, however, is to check the engine number and VIN# with your local motorcycle agency or the law enforcement agency.

Finally, check motorcycle forums with stolen motorcycle boards. Most riders report stolen motorcycle information (VIN, engine number, photos, etc.) on forums to wade off people from purchasing them or track the motorcycle. Some forums to check are,,,, and

Make sure to search other forums within your geography to determine whether the motorcycle is stolen or not.

Read: Can you recover a dirt bike from impound?

What happens if I buy a stolen motorcycle?

When the cops discover that the motorcycle is stolen, they take it from you and return it to the owner (the owner may now be an insurance company). Moreover, you can’t dispute the case, but you can buy back the auctioned motorcycle from the insurance or police (not always the case).

If you purchased the stolen motorcycle from a dealership, contact them for a refund. Otherwise, report to the consumer protection agency to get your money back.

Regarding further actions against you for receiving a stolen motorcycle, it depends on whether you can prove that you purchased the motorcycle in good faith (e.g., a receipt or a bill of sale). If the police have a sustainable case against you for receiving stolen property or theft, it increases suspicion. Moreover, law enforcement thinks you know the motorcycle was stolen, and they can get a court to take it beyond satisfactory doubt; it will be included in your record. When a similar case occurs in the future, you might be a suspect.

Final Thoughts

When you avoid buying a stolen motorcycle, you save yourself the problem of getting caught in the future. Note that a bill of sale is not a guaranty that the motorcycle you purchased is legal because a thief can make a fake bill of sale.

You may invite a professional to assist in inspecting the used bike for theft.

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