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Are you wanting to buy a dirt bike, but you’re not sure where to start? You don’t know where to find one, and you’re working with a budget, unsure of the expenses you’re going to have as part of the purchase? All dirt bike riders have been there.
In fact, these principles, while being great for buying a new (or used) dirt bike, are also incredibly useful for any kind of purchase where you’re planning on spending a significant amount of money, or buying something mechanical that may need some “proofing”, to make sure you are actually going to be getting what you paid for.
What to Buy
Wondering about what brands you should be looking at? Way to think ahead! There are a number of different brands when it comes to dirt bikes, and knowing which ones are typically the most reliable is a great way to make sure you have a good chance of not wasting your money on a cheap knockoff brand that you should have known to avoid.
When looking to purchase a dirt bike, you’re definitely going to want to make sure you’re getting a good, reliable brand. While this doesn’t guarantee anything as far as the condition of the bike if you are going to be buying used, it does tell you a lot if you’re buying new, and it can give you an idea of the kind of quality you can expect from the bike as far as durability, reliability, and quality goes, even if it is used.
The brands I’m going to list most certainly aren’t the only brands available, they are well-known, quality brands that should serve you well as long as you do your part when searching for a new bike.
- KTM – Once you start doing your own research and looking into the different kinds of bikes, you’re going to come to realize that KTM has built a name for itself for good reasons. I’d never heard of the brand KTM before I got into dirt bikes, so I was hesitant when I was starting out to give them a chance, but I’m more than happy that I did.
With a seat that’s easy to remove, and a VERY wide variety of bikes to choose from, it’s extremely easy to find a bike that fits YOU, if you’re willing to spend the time looking.
KTM bikes are very consistently the lightest bikes in their class, and were the first bikes to have very easily removable air filters and seats.
- Husqvarna. This brand of bikes is actually owned by KTM, and they are different from one another, but they have enough similarities that I felt like they should be placed right next to KTM.
- Yamaha bikes are a fantastic brand to go with. They’ve been producing bikes for a VERY long time, and they most certainly know what they’re doing. With a VERY long-standing reputation when it comes to motorcycles and dirt bikes, they’re a safe bet if you’re looking to purchase a bike. As the makers of the world’s first true “off-road motorcycle” in 1968, they have years upon years of experience and craftsmanship that goes into each of their products.
- Kawasaki has built itself up as the brand with the most reliable cheap bikes, while not compromising when it comes to quality. A downside to Kawasaki bikes? If you are looking for a newer model, you may not be able to find a two stroke Kawasaki that you like. They cut down on their two stroke production to focus more on four strokes.
Still make sure you check them out, as their bikes are more likely going to be in your two thousand dollar budget that you’re trying to keep, but be aware that if you’re looking for a newer two stroke, you may not be able to find one from this manufacturer.
- Honda. When it comes to small engines, Honda is the brand with the reputation you’re looking for. While their bikes may not be the most innovative out there, they are reliable, and they have a history of snatching up dirt bike racing titles to back them up. Honda is another manufacturer that has shifted it focuses more towards four stroke engines, so if that’s what you’re looking for, Honda may have produced just the bike for you!
Let’s be real. Unless you’re buying a kids bike, which you could be, or you have a “buddy in the business”, you’re not going to find a new dirt bike for less than two thousand dollars.
BUT, on the off chance that you’re a miracle worker with some fantastic resources, don’t forget you’re going to need to make sure you’ve paid for a dirt bike license (M license, required if you’re going to be riding on the road), an actual license for the bike, and the registration fee where required. There may be additional fees required depending on where you live and where you intend on riding your bike, so make sure you research the area you live and make sure you’re obeying your local dirt bike laws when it comes to registration and licensing.
You’re going to have the most luck staying under your two thousand dollar budget if you buy used, but you’re still going to have to be careful. The purchase of the bike itself is only going to be one of may monetary expenditures you’re going to be making once you actually purchase the bike.
Alone with the fees and purchases you would have to make if you purchased a new dirt bike, there are additional areas you’ll probably need to put your money (sooner or later) if you purchase a used one.
I covered this a bit earlier on, but you’re going to need to make sure you have money for repairs. If you’re buying a used dirt bike, there will more than likely be repairs and replacements that need to happen, and depending on what’s broken.
The Best Bikes Under $2,000
All that being said, here are some examples of bikes that are being sold for $2,000 or less that we found on Cycle Trader. These are throughout the US and are to give you some ideas and examples of what to expect from this price range.
|Dirt Bike||Price ($)||Youth||Adult|
|1.2005 KAWASAKI KLX 300||$2000||X|
|2. 2019 YAMAHA TT-R50E||$1699||X|
|3. 2017 OSET 12.5 RACING||$ 1050||X|
|4. 2015 KTM SX 50 PRO SENIOR LC||$1750||X|
|5. 2004 YAMAHA YZ 85||$1000||X||X|
|6.2019 SUZUKI DR-Z50||$1699||X|
|7. 2020 HONDA CRF50F||$1549||X|
|8. 2012 KTM 65 SX||$2000||X|
|9. 1984 YAMAHA IT490||$2000||X|
|10. 2017 SSR MOTORSPORTS SR140TR||$1199||X|
These bikes can be great options if you buy them smartly. These bikes are listed at this price for a reason. So, to understand what you are getting yourself into, we need to break it down.
As a general rule (though there are exceptions), kids’ bikes that are around $2,000 are probably going to be new, so just take them on a case-by-case basis. Adult dirt bikes under $2,000 however, will probably have different things wrong with them that you’re going to need to look out for.
For example, one of the bikes listed is a 1984 model that is going to need some attention and has had a lot of repairs done to it that you may want to check out before you purchase it.
It may also be hard to find a bike for this price near you that is in good condition, especially for an adult bike. So, have some realistic expectations.
How to Buy
Know Your Budget
Since this article is written with the idea of buying a bike with two thousand dollars or less, I’m going to assume, because I can, that your budget is around two thousand dollars. So why even bring this up, if it’s something that should be obvious?
First, you need to know exactly how those two thousand dollars are going to be spent. There are a couple of categories that you’re more than likely going to be putting money when you are going to purchase a used dirt bike.
This is more than likely the “slot” you imagined that two thousand dollars going when you initially pictured yourself buying a bike. Since buying the bike itself is easily the biggest part of the purchase, it’s understandable why you may have only considered this to be the only part of the purchase you needed to save for. But whether you’re buying new, or buying used, there are several other expenses you’re going to be making when you purchase a new (or new to you) dirt bike.
You need to have decided beforehand whether or not that money is going to be coming from your current two thousand dollar budget, or if that allotment is specifically for the purchase of the bike, and the other expenses will be coming from somewhere else. If you don’t make that distinction now, you may be hurting later on when things don’t go as planned, and you realize you’re short some cash.
Getting the bike checked
Especially if you are buying a used dirt bike, you are going to need to have it checked out, preferably by a professional or certified mechanic, most certainly by someone with a skill set and a current working knowledge of dirt bikes that can be trusted. If you trust yourself enough, I suppose you could do this on your own.
Buying a used dirt bike is generally either an amazing experience or a horrible one, depending on whether or not you go through with this step.
As unfortunate as it is, there are people out there who are going to try to take advantage of you and your possible lack of knowledge by selling you an inferior or damaged product that isn’t worth the price they’re trying to get you to pay. This isn’t the only reason you should have it checked out, however.
Not everyone is going to be out to get you, in fact, many people selling a used dirt bike may just be trying to make room in their garage and are willing to take a fair price. But you don’t know how long the bike may have been sitting in a secluded corner, or against the side of someone’s shed, and there may be problems with the bike that the owner just isn’t aware of, regardless of good or bad intentions.
Ask the owner if you (or they) can take the bike to a mechanic that YOU trust, in order to get it checked out, so you know the specifics of what you’re going to be purchasing.
Depending on your relationship with the mechanic, the price of this “checkup” will vary, but it is most certainly an expense that should be made, so you have a better idea of what condition the bike is in BEFORE you buy it.
More than likely, if you’re buying a used bike (which, let’s face it, if you’re going to try and buy a bike for under two thousand, it will be), there will more than likely be repairs that you are going to need to make to the bike, and depending on the condition of the bike when you purchase it, these can add up to be kind of expensive.
For example, if someone’s bike has been sitting for a long period of time, and it’s had gas sitting in the tank, you may be looking at tank damage, clogged fuel lines, and a damaged carburetor (I know, I’m being over the top to prove a point). A carburetor is going to run you over a hundred dollars all on its own.
Know Your Mechanics
This could be taken in two different ways, and I definitely meant both of them.
Knowing your mechanic is important. Having either a personal relationship with your mechanic or having a history of quality, reliable repairs from a repair shop’s business is a great way to know that you’re not going to be taken advantage of when it comes to the price of needed repairs or the existence of things that are actually wrong with your bike that needs fixing.
This is why it’s so important to make sure that, when you get the bike in question checked out, you take it to YOUR mechanic, not theirs. You need to know for yourself that you’re getting what you’re paying for, not only when it comes to the mechanic, but when it comes to the bike as well.
YOU should have at least a general working knowledge of dirt bikes as well. Unless you have an unlimited supply of cash (which you don’t, you’re trying to buy a dirt bike for under two thousand dollars), you can’t afford to take every single bike you’re interested in for a mechanic to check out and give you the green light. You’re going to need to know just enough to pass the bike through a first, less in-depth check before you take the dirt bike to a mechanic for a more thorough (and costly) one.
Here are some things you can check!
This isn’t a mechanical check, but take a second to look around the owner’s property once you get there. NO, that doesn’t mean you should get there, park your car, and water around their yard looking in their windows. When you’re going to meet them, just use your eyes while you’re talking to them to “see what you can see”.
Take in your surroundings. What state is their garage in? Does it look like they take good care of the car they drive, if they have one? This obviously isn’t a foolproof system, so don’t bank everything on it. That being said, if people are good with the upkeep of some things, that upkeep will often transfer over to other things, so at very least, pay attention. You want to get an idea of how they treated the bike you’re thinking about purchasing, and you can sometimes get a solid impression from how they’ve treated other things.
With permission from the owner, get up close to the bike and give it a good visual inspection, starting with the welding on the frame. You’re going to specifically be looking for cracks in the welding. You want to be able to confirm for yourself that the bike hasn’t been in any major crashes that may impact the functionality. You’ll be able to tell if the bike has been put any major stress if there are cracks in the welding on the frame. If you find any cracks, don’t get the bike. It has major flaws in its “foundation”, and unless it’s like…. twenty dollars or less, or you’re just wanting to use it for parts and it’s hecka cheap, you shouldn’t spend your money on it.
The Wheels. Again, assuming you have permission from the owner of the bike, take a nice, close and personal look at the wheels. You can get a good idea of the kind of shape the bike is in by looking at the condition of the wheels. The first thing you should do is give the wheels a good manual spin, looking to see if they wobble, and have a smooth rotation. Make sure to spin both the front and the back wheels. You’re going to be looking to see if the frames of the wheels themselves are bent, and if the wheels themselves wobble/are loose. If the frames of the wheels are bent, you’re probably going to have to replace them, which is another expense you are going to have to consider, and it’s not a cheap one. If the wheels are loose, that’s a good indicator of the kind of care that the original owner gave to it. If they didn’t bother tightening things up before you got there, they probably didn’t care about a lot of other things when it comes to the maintenance of the specific bike. Check the hubs as well. If the hubs are cracked, the bike has probably been in a crash or has sustained some severe wear.
Check to make sure each wheel has all its spokes. If the wheels are missing spokes, you’re going to have to replace the tires, which, as I mentioned before, is not a cheap purchase, almost always over $100. Once you’ve verified that the spokes are there, see if they are bent, and grab and wiggle them. Bent and lose tire spokes are other great indicators of some kind of bike trauma, and lack of regular maintenance being performed on the bike, which can give you an idea of what kind of shape the engine and mechanical aspects of the bike are in. Don’t feel bad having such “small” things be deal-breakers when it comes to being the deciding factor of whether or not you’re going to be purchasing the bike. Even if the two thousand dollars you’re spending does include the price of any repairs you’re going to be making to a more run-down bike once you purchase it, that’s still a lot of money to be spending, and that’s not the kind of money you should drop on a bike because “you feel bad”, or “you’re worried about hurting someone’s feelings”.
Another good tell of whether or not regular maintenance has been performed on the bike (yes, there are a lot, and you should know them all), is the air filter. ALWAYS check the air filter. If the airbox and air filter are dirty, that tells you two things. The owner didn’t care enough to clean it before you got there, which means you may be able to talk them down in price. It also tells you that they just flat out don’t clean the air filter, which is a major warning sign.
Check the Oil
Most bikes will either have a dipstick or a clear area where you can just see the oil levels without removing anything. At the bare minimum, it should be at the marking for the least amount of oil allowable. Check to see how dark the oil is. If the oil is too dark, even if the levels are good, there’s a good chance the bike has been sitting for a while, and the oil has just been sitting, which is yet another sign of poor maintenance.
Now, this is one of those things that will work in some circumstances, and not in others. For example, two-stroke vs four-stroke bikes.
If the bike is a two-stroke, the oil gets mixed in with the fuel, in which case there won’t be oil levels to check. However, if the bike has a four-stroke engine, this is something you should most certainly check. If the bike has been recently or even semi-recently used, the oil levels should be a good indicator of the kind of care the owner gives to oil checks and refills. If the oil is low, there’s a chance that this could be a regular occurrence, in which case there are engine components that may need replacing, another repair you’re going to have to pay for.
Make SURE you check the chain, and the sprockets while you’re at it. Look for rust, loose links, and pins, anything that indicates less than optimal quality, or the likelihood of a new chain in the very near future.
Start the Bike!
Last but most CERTAINLY not least, start the bike. Listen to it run, and if the owner lets you, ride it around for a bit to get a feel for what you’re purchasing. This will give you a great idea of any kinds of problems the bike COULD have, and whether or not it “feels” right to you. If everything feels good after you do all those things, ask if you can take the bike to a trusted mechanic to have them check out the engine.
One of the BIGGEST problems I’ve found when looking at used vehicles, cars, jet skis, motorcycles, ANYTHING, is the lack of posted prices. Everyone wants you to contact them for a quote, which, frankly, I think is a dumb way to try and sell something.
Cycle Trader sells used dirt bikes, complete with descriptions, the location of the seller, and the PRICE!
The best part? That link will take you specifically to the section of the website where the only bikes being listed are listed for under two thousand dollars. Exactly what you’re looking for.
Additionally, use your friends. If you’re wanting to get into dirt biking, chances are you’re wanting to do it because you have a group of people you’d be able to go with. Ask them for contacts, good people to talk to, even utilize social media to get the word out to more people. A simple Facebook post can reach lots of eyes, and the chances that some of those eyes will belong to someone who knows someone selling, or the seller themself, is good.
When NOT to buy a dirt bike:)
Look. I know the idea of buying something new is exciting, especially when it’s a purchase as “big” and exciting as a dirt bike. But if the sections talking about cost have possibly thrown you for a small loop, it may be best to wait for a little longer, save up a little more, and buy later!
You aren’t going to be hurting yourself or your chances by saving more money and taking some time to make sure you’re actually going to be able to afford the bike, and all the other expenses you’re going to have to make once you’ve brought the bike home.
In addition to the fees and repairs I mentioned earlier, don’t forget that, especially if you’re a new rider, you’re going to need to purchase a helmet, and gloves, possibly a suit, and a number of other things that nobody thinks about when you consider the purchase of a dirt bike.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not trying to talk you out of it! But make sure, no matter what you decide, that you are being financially responsible. Can a dirt bike be purchased for two thousand dollars or less? Absolutely, the dirt bike itself can, especially if you’re buying used. Just don’t put yourself in the hole financially because you didn’t think as well as you should have about the other expenses you are going to have to be making.