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Buying a New Motorcycle

2011 Kawasaki Ninja 400

Ok, so you’re thinking about a new bike. How exciting! It’s always nice to have a new bike. It’s all clean and shiny. As the first owner you don’t have to be concerned that the bike was abused, neglected, improperly serviced or modified, or in need of replacement parts due to damage, wear or removal, and a new bike means a full warranty (except perhaps competition bikes) – all things that can ease your mind. About the only major disadvantage to buying a new motorcycle is the higher cost, both upfront and the initial depreciation. Let’s cover a few items related to purchasing a new motorcycle. Let’s assume that you’ve already decided on which model you want.

What are dealer fees?

Dealer fees are the extra charges applied to a new motorcycle above the price of the bike itself. They include PDI (pre delivery inspection which usually includes assembly), freight (for shipping the bike from the distributor warehouse to the dealer), and often a documentation fee (an extra fee some dealers charge for doing the paper work when you buy a bike). Some dealers may charge an extra fee (in addition to PDI) for assembling the bike. I’ve also seen a so-called delivery fee being charged, whatever that is. So how much do these fees all add up to? It varies greatly from bike to bike and from dealer to dealer. Some dealers even try to charge fees on used bikes ($500 in one case), which is just an attempt to make the list price seem better than it actually is (they’re just playing games). I’ve been quoted $1200 in fees for a new Kawasaki KLR650. Based on my source, the dealer cost at the time was in the neighborhood of around $300 (in Canada), so this particular dealer was marking up the bike by an additional $900 or so. I’ve seen the dealer fees on a new CBR250R vary from $400 to $775, and these two dealers were located only about 80 km apart. One Suzuki dealer in Greater Vancouver, BC claimed that some other Suzuki dealers were charging up to $1500 in dealer fees on DL650 V-Stroms. I personally think that this was this particular dealer’s sales tactic to convince me that his price was better than it really was. I don’t begrudge dealers wanting or trying to make a little extra on a new bike sale by inflating their dealer fees a bit as long as it’s reasonable. The profit margin on some bikes isn’t very high. What really ticks me off is when a dealer advertises a good price on a bike, but in reality they have inflated the dealer fees, so in the end, the deal on the bike isn’t nearly as good as it first seemed. I wish all of the dealers were upfront with their prices, but unfortunately some are not. You can always try to negotiate the price though.

Should you travel to get a better deal?

I like to think that if you buy a bike at your local dealer you will get better service down the road if you have problems. Well, I have lived in a number of different cities, and I’ve bought bikes from the local dealers and from dealers further away. I’ve had some good experiences with some local dealers in the different cities that I’ve lived in, but I’ve also had some bad experiences too. I would like to stay friends with my local dealers and give them the business. However, if I find a good deal elsewhere I’ll usually ask one of the local dealers if they can match the price. If they can, or at least come close, then I’ll buy locally. If they can’t come near the price, or they can’t supply the product, then I’ll buy from the other dealer. If I can save $1000 by buying from a dealer 500 km away because they bought some leftover inventory, then to me, it’s worth making the trip, and I’m sure that my local dealer won’t hold it against me. I wouldn’t make the trip just to save $200 on an $8000 bike.

Inspect your new motorcycle

You would think that your new motorcycle would be assembled correctly and be adequately inspected by the dealer. I mean, you’re paying, in some cases, hundreds of dollars for PDI and assembly. Sadly, your bike may not have been properly assembled and inspected by the dealer. I know this from first hand experience. The issues on new bikes I have purchased have included: loose bolts, over tightened and damaged bolts, improperly adjusted drive chains, grossly under inflated tires, incorrectly routed cables and brake lines, improperly positioned and adjusted controls, idle speed set about twice as fast as it should have been, loose fenders, hand guards, loose wires and electrical connectors, incorrect fasteners and minor showroom or transport damage. So, my advice is to inspect your bike thoroughly before you leave the dealer with it. If you don’t have the knowledge to do so, have someone else who is knowledgeable to help you inspect it. A lot of things should be obvious. Read your owner’s manual. Check the controls, oil level, tire pressures, chain tension and lights. Visually check everything. The dealer should have test ridden the bike, but it doesn’t hurt to test the operation of the brakes before you get up to speed on your first ride. If, after getting your bike home you discover some problems with it, take the bike to the dealer and ask them to correct the problem.

New Bike – First Service

For most new motorcycles, the manufacturer states in the owner’s manual that the bike should be inspected and serviced after the bike has accumulated a specified number of kilometers or miles (commonly 1000 km / 600 mi). Depending on the bike, the list of items may include: oil and filter change, checking the idle speed, checking and possibly adjusting the engine valve clearance, tightening up the chassis and exhaust mounting bolts, checking the brakes and wheels, perhaps servicing the air filter (if the bike is used in dusty conditions), checking the steering, etc. This service should not be skipped because checking and or servicing these items in a timely fashion helps insure that your motorcycle performs the way it should, is as safe as it can be, limits damage or failure of certain components, and in some cases eliminates voiding your warranty. If you have the mechanical skills, knowledge and proper tools you may be able to perform most is not all of these checks and service items yourself. Be sure to read your warranty manual carefully, though, because you do not want to void your warranty. If you’re unsure about what you’re allowed to do yourself, you can contact the distributor’s customer service department. Often the owner’s manual will state what items should be serviced by an authorized dealer and what items can be performed by the owner. Things like changing the oil and servicing the chain are not difficult. Use a torque wrench to tighten up bolts correctly. For example, if the oil drain plug is not tightened enough it may loosen up and fall out, and the oil spilling out may cause you to crash, or cause serious damage to the engine. If you tighten the drain plug too much, however, you risk damaging the crankcase, and that can get expensive or at least be a big hassle getting the damage repaired. It’s a good idea to buy the service manual because many owner’s manuals don’t provide adequate information on maintaining your motorcycle. If you don’t already own some quality tools (sockets, wrenches, etc.) including a torque wrench, buy some; they’re not that expensive, especially if bought as a set.

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