How to Buy a Motorcycle Out of State

What’s up, rider? Are you considering a motorcycle deal out of state? Great idea! Now, this article covers every step regarding how to buy a motorcycle out of state without getting scammed. Trust me; I have the best package for you.

how to buy a motorcycle out of state

Recently, I bought a motorcycle 1,000 miles away from a motorcycle forum member. Although worried about the cashier’s check, he sent one later from the bank. I arranged with a shipper, and the drop-off location was 10 miles from the out-of-state seller’s house. He also rode down with a spare tire, though.


To ship the motorcycle costs $500 with insurance. If you use uShip, ensure the shipper has insurance for the truck.

On another occasion, I bought a motorcycle out of state. I took the train 230 miles and used Uber 30 miles to the seller’s location. After inspection, he signed over, I obtained a permit and rode home smiling.


How to Buy a Motorcycle from a Private Seller

In this section, I cover the steps to buy a motorcycle from a different state. Purchasing a bike out of state is easy; just be watchful during the inspection.

Below are the steps to buy a motorcycle out of state:

  1. Know the Motorcycle

Unless you search for a barn find or salvage motorcycle, you ought to research/know what motorcycle to purchase out of state.

First, do you flip motorcycles for a profit? Are you okay riding heavier motorcycles? What do you love about motorcycles, and why do you need one?


Suppose you are yet to decide what bike to purchase; you should focus on the market value, common problems of the motorcycle, the recall status, and consumer reports on the motorcycle.

You can use a resource such as Consumer Reports to research the motorcycle value. To know the common problems of a motorcycle, make a quick internet search too and check the solutions too. Finally, confirm whether the motorcycle has been recalled.

  1. Find an Out of State Seller

Suppose you found no seller yet, let me show you how to locate an excellent seller. First, decide what platform or person you prefer buying a motorcycle from. For example, whether you are buying off an online marketplace like eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace. Also, decide whether to buy the motorcycle from a private seller or dealer out of state.

Next, browse or gather information about the medium you intend to get the motorcycle. You can always buy a motorcycle with a “For Sale” sign, but most are badly damaged.

If you are OK buying a motorcycle online, consider either Craigslist, Cycle Trader, eBay, or Facebook Marketplace. Meanwhile, you may check out my eBay motorcycle buying guide and Craigslist motorcycle buying guide. Do not forget to inform the people around you that you need a bike.

  1. Reach Out to the Seller

When you find a motorcycle out of state that tickles your fancy, get in touch with the seller.

If you used an online marketplace, there are options to chat the seller up or contact them with their phone number. Meanwhile, I recommend calling a seller to strike a deal before chatting with them for more information.

When you obtain the seller’s phone number, do quick fraud research on the number online. You can search forums for reports on such a phone number or use apps like Truecaller to check for possible scam/spam reports.

If the phone number research is clean, call the seller. When the seller answers the phone, say, “What motorcycle do you have for sale?” A legit seller knows he has/listed a motorcycle for sale instantly. If the seller flips motorcycles, they may ask, “Which of them.”

If you were referred to the out-of-state seller, inform them; it could be the reason they reduce the sales price.

  1. Chat them Up

After the phone call, follow up with a chat and ask for pictures of the motorcycle and paperwork.

A motorcycle seller out of state is a typical liar. So, do not expect them to be sincere. For instance, if you ask whether the motorcycle dropped or crashed, they would say, “NO.”

Request the VIN, title, and more pictures of the motorcycle. Ask the seller to take closer shots of the various parts such as the bearings, joints, fuel tank, wheels, and engine.

As you read down, I have included the questions to ask when buying a motorcycle out of state.

  1. Check the Title

If the motorcycle is a barn find, it may not have a title or pink slip. However, recent motorcycles have titles, and the seller should send the picture to you.

If the private seller or dealer has no title, tell them to get a replacement title and sign it over to you. When a seller can’t produce the motorcycle title, especially for a well-running bike, it signifies the motorcycle was stolen (not always). The seller may be attempting to get rid of the bike without a title.

Also, make sure the title has no rebranded statement, except you are okay with a totaled or salvaged bike.

Next, check that the title information matches the driver’s license. There must be no lien on the title. If any, ensure that the lien holder signs it off. An out-of-state seller could be selling you a motorcycle to avoid lender repossession that affects credit.

  1. Inspect the VIN

Get the motorcycle VIN from the seller and confirm whether it corresponds with the title information.

Next, look up the via any VIN check service online. I recommend using at least three services because these sites may not have up-to-date data on the motorcycle.

Meanwhile, you have to pay for comprehensive vehicle history. Alternatively, you can contact the motor vehicle department to enquire about the VIN and theft status. Unfortunately, however, they may keep the information from you since you are not the motorcycle owner.

  1. Decide a Location and Date

When you are comfortable with the agreement, including the sales price, decide where to meet and fix a date.

The time should be in the morning and not on a weekend so that you can get your paperwork done and ride your motorcycle home.

Decide a time that allows comprehensive inspection because you do not want to use just 10 minutes for the examination, including a test ride.

Depending on how much you trust the seller, choose a public location. Although buying the motorbike out of state, make sure it’s not too far away.

Lastly, inform the seller that you want to meet a cold engine and not a warm engine. When the engine is warm, it conceals many problems.

Perhaps you meet a warn engine with excuses; wait at least 30 minutes before the inspection.

  1. Inspect the Motorcycle

The hardest part is inspecting the motorcycle. When you get to the location or send an inspection team down, there must be seriousness.

The first thing is to request maintenance records. The maintenance records tell whether the seller cared for the motorcycle well. Some sellers will claim they lost the records, but it does not matter since there’ll be a physical inspection.

Start the inspection from the headlight down to the taillight. Inspect whether the indicators and headlight are operational.

Inspect the odometer and electronics. Make sure the odometer has not been changed by confirming whether it corresponds with the odometer disclosure.

The next parts to focus on are the engine components and gas tank. Check the shocks, brakes, and clutch too. In the next section, I have extensively covered what parts to focus on during the motorcycle inspection.

  1. Test Ride

The seller will not deny a test ride, but if they do, do not buy the motorcycle. Have your driver’s license in handy because most sellers will not allow you to ride without it. Note that you may be responsible if the motorcycle crashes on a test ride.

During the test ride, the private seller or dealer out of state keeps the paperwork (title) and cash.

Make sure to ride on rocky areas to check how the motorcycle responds. Before you ride, rev and listen for cranks. You can always roll the motorcycle while on it with the engine off to know if it feels draggy.

While riding, hold the brakes regularly to verify their responsiveness. Have your mechanic run checks too, to enhance the deal.

What to Look for When Buying a Motorcycle Out of State

In this section, I cover the things you or the inspection team should know during the inspection test.

What to look for when buying a motorcycle out of state:

  1. Tires

Before you start the engine, roll the motorcycle backward and forward, and bend it left and right. If it is stiff, question the seller.

can you buy a motorcycle out of state

While you roll the bike, be sure that the tires are rolling straight. If they misalign, it indicates a hard collision.

Click down into the first gear. If the motorcycle rolls when you do not pull the clutch, there is a clutch or transmission issue.

Now, inspect the tire condition. Do they look old? Are there bald spots or cracking? Old tires do not mean a bad motorcycle, but the seller must reconsider the price since you must replace them.

  1. Frame

Start by inspecting the VIN plate because a thief can change the frame to make a stolen motorcycle legal. Check the frame for coated plastics.

Now, ask whether the seller changed the frame. If they admit, ask whether they titled the frame. Otherwise, the motorcycle frame should be titled since it may not have the VIN plate. You can also request the previous frame in case of future problems.

Make sure to look at the gas tank for rust and leakage too, especially when riding the motorcycle.

I recommend using a flashlight when inspecting the tank to spot new patches, rust, or weld damages. A typical old motorcycle looks excessively rusty down there, and the seller might be attempting to dispose of the old motorcycle.

  1. Drivetrain and Brakes

Inspect how the drivetrain and brakes respond. While test riding, speed up and hold the brake to confirm the responsiveness.

If you spot problems in the braking system and drivetrain, question the seller; the motorcycle could have been parked for ages or poorly maintained.

  1. Bearings

Look out for rust. Using a flashlight also helps to look closely for rust. If you have your toolbox, test some parts of the bearings to ascertain the condition.

If a motorcycle was parked for too long, the bearings seize up. Besides, newer bearings also fail without warnings.

  1. Suspension

Do not expect the seller to reveal everything about the suspension, though. Also, understand that the suspension system may be useless, although it appears to be in excellent condition.

Moreover, if the motorcycle stood for long with no use, the oil degrades and springs.

  1. Engine

Like I mentioned above, the engine must be in a cold state before the inspection. When you start the engine, check how difficult or easy it starts. If it is hard to start, question the seller; they may have a good reason. Otherwise, let your mechanic run a quick diagnosis.

Can I buy a bike from different state

When you start the motorcycle, confirm how it idles and whether it revs high or sputters. If the sound knocks, there is a problem.

While the engine is running, check for leakages, backfiring, or smoking. These could be carburetor or engine problems if you spot these signs.

  1. The Private Seller

Inspect the seller too. Can you rely on them? Do they look responsible or like someone that would still a motorcycle? Although it is judgemental to take this route, it helps when getting a new motorcycle out of state. At least, you do not end up bringing a stolen motorcycle back home.

Moreover, stealing a motorcycle is easy, and you can’t be so sure about the seller.

When buying a motorcycle out of state, look at the following to keep off a stolen motorcycle:

  • Does the VIN check information match the title?
  • Has the VIN plate been changed?
  • Is the motorcycle sales price too good to be true?
  • Can you contact the seller after buying the bike?
  • Does the title match the seller’s driver’s license?
  • Does the seller pressurize you for payment?

Questions to Ask a Private Seller When Buying a Motorcycle

How to buy a used motorcycle from a private seller out of state
  • Who is the owner of this motorcycle?

A thief will claim to be the owner, though. But do not ask a direct question like “Are you the owner?”

  • Why selling it?
  • Do you still like the bike?
  • Where did you buy this motorcycle?
  • When did you complete your payment?
  • Has it a lien on it?
  • Why did you buy it?
  • Did you repair it after it dropped the last time?

This question informs the seller that you know the motorcycle has dropped.

  • Why did it drop?
  • What did it cost you to repair it?

If it cost the seller over nearly a thousand to repair, it could be a rebuilt motorcycle, and you have to close the deal.

  • Does it pass the inspection test?
  • What are the problems you know of in this motorcycle?
  • How many miles on it?

40,000 miles is considered high mileage on a motorcycle.

  • How much money have you spent on repairs so far?
  • After you checked for theft, what was the report?

Lastly, if the seller is uncomfortable and denies a test ride, walk out of the deal regardless of your desire for the motorcycle.

What to Bring When Buying a Motorcycle Out of State

A Mechanic

You should budget at least $100 for the inspection. If you are hiring an inspection agency, budget between $100 and $150.


Bring the cash to the location, and go with a friend at least. Meanwhile, you can always pay less than the agreed amount if you spot faults that the seller did not inform you about during the phone call and chats.

Tool Box

Your toolbox is important to tie some nuts and screw stuff during the inspection. Go with a gallon of gas too for the test ride because the seller may not keep gas in the tank for your test ride. I prefer when the tank is empty for better inspection before filling it for a test ride.

What to Do After Buying a Motorcycle Out of State

Do the following after buying a motorcycle out of state:

  1. Collect the Plate

An out-of-state seller may not turn in the vanity (personalized) plate but will turn in the normal plates, depending on their state. In Texas, for example, the seller keeps the TX license plate.

  1. Get the Bill of Sale

Obtain a bill of sale from the seller and notarize it for submission at the motor vehicle department. Make sure to sign alongside the seller.

  1. Odometer Disclosure

The odometer should be disclosed in the statement.

  1. Transfer the Title

The seller should sign over the title so you can register it in your name at your home state. If the title has a lien on it, get the lienholder to sign it over (usually signed at the back of the card).

  1. Submit the Paperwork and Fee

When you return to your state, get the title, a notarized bill of sale, your photo ID, the motorcycle, and the fee, including sales tax, to the motor vehicle department. I advise you to look up the fee on the website of your local motor vehicle department.

If your motorcycle is not registered yet, you will be towing it for the change of ownership.

Note that you will receive the title by mail some days after.

Note: Register the motorcycle immediately after purchase. If you are not registering it immediately, do not enter the date of the sale. Otherwise, you will have a few days from the date of sales to register it. Depending on your state, you may have 2-30 days to put the bike in your name.

What mileage is too high on a used motorcycle?

40,000 miles. Unless you are OK buying an old motorcycle, 40,000 is considered high mileage.

How to Ride Home a Motorcycle After Buying Out of State

You can tow or ride the motorcycle home from out of state legally. Typically, you have a grace period between 2 and 30 days, but you must sign over the title, get insurance and obtain a permit in most states to ride home from a different state.

The temporary permit can be processed the same day, and I recommend buying a motorcycle from a different on weekdays. The reason is that not all vehicle agencies open on weekends. If you find one, they usually close earlier.

To get the permit or temporary tag, you will submit your proof of ownership (signed over title and bill of sale), insurance, and your photo ID (driver’s license, national ID, etc.).

You may read my article discussing whether you can ride a motorcycle home after buying it.

Should I buy a motorcycle out of state?

buying a motorcycle out of state and riding it home

Yes. You can and should buy a motorcycle out of state or from a different state and still secure the best deal. Although you may be purchasing the motorcycle ‘as is’, it is not different from buying it in your state. Besides, you are dealing with the same stranger, except you know the person. When buying a motorcycle out of state, endeavor to inspect it thoroughly, as it is the only way to secure a decent deal. You can’t trust the seller, but you can be ripped off if you are not confident and aggressive.

Meanwhile, before you buy a motorcycle out of state, learn your state and out-of-state laws regarding how they regulate riding motorcycles interstate. Call your local and out-of-state motor vehicle departments early and find out what to do after purchasing the motorcycle to ensure a swifter deal. What they will tell you is not alien to the steps in this article, though.

What is the best state to buy a motorcycle?

The best state to buy a motorcycle out of state is the state with the most motorcycle registrations. The theft problem is present in all states, and you can secure the best transaction in any state. Nevertheless, your state or the closest state to your state is the best state to buy a motorcycle. Why? You can easily meet with the seller without many expenses, inspect the motorcycle, and tow or ride it home.

Following WorldAtlas, the top 10 states with the most number of motorcycles are:

  1. California: 799,900
  2. Florida: 545,452
  3. Texas: 443,856
  4. Ohio: 402,264
  5. Pennsylvania: 400,908
  6. Illinois: 352,318
  7. New York: 345,118
  8. Wisconsin: 323,378
  9. Michigan: 267,292
  10. Minnesota: 237,259

Regardless of the state you are visiting to purchase a motorcycle, be careful not to get scammed. Always do the needful by inspecting the bike properly. Meanwhile, should you buy a motorcycle or a car out of state?

How much does it cost to ship a motorcycle to another state?

Following, it costs $200-$300 to ship a motorcycle for a short distance. Domestic motorcycle shipping $500, and long-distance over 1,000 miles costs between $400-$600. To ship your motorcycle internationally costs between $1,000-$2,000.

If you are buying a motorcycle from a different state, it will cost you $500, depending on the distance.

Final Thoughts

You’re buying a motorcycle ‘as is’ out of state, especially from a private seller.

Whether you buy the motorcycle from a dealer or private seller, find out whether you can always return it and get a refund.

Meanwhile, if you have no license yet, learn the tips to past a motorcycle road test.

Be careful when dealing with a seller out of state.

the Family Instructor
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