How to Inspect a Second Hand E-moto to Avoid buying a Lemon

Buying secondhand to save lots!

Everyone is looking to save some hard-earned cash. I’m always on the lookout for a bargain, but is buying a secondhand e-moto worth it in the long run? Or will you run into more trouble than it’s worth? A quick Google search will instantly return with many used e-motos, from Facebook buy/sell groups, traders like CycleTrader and sometimes e-moto stores selling secondhand stock. The right bargain is out there waiting for you, the trick is to weed through the lemons to find your unicorn.

Of course, after all this research you may decide to buy brand new. At least you’ll know what you consider good value. Let’s look at what to research, what to look out for when inspecting a used e-moto like a Talaria or a Surron, and how to minimize any risk for long-term troubles. 

Facebook Marketplace is a good place to look for second-hand e-motos
Facebook Marketplace is a good place to look for second-hand e-motos

Research the Secondhand E-Moto Market

Before looking into any secondhand e-moto, find out what the cost of one brand new is. This will be a ball-park figure so you know the top price. Work out what the wait time is on a new model. In some cases, you may need to wait many months, if so, some sellers may leverage on this and ask a higher asking price. Factor in additional things like shipping costs. Write some notes down if it makes things easier. Everything is a tradeoff, we need to find out the sweet spot between what you’re willing to pay vs what is available. 

Next, look at the mods that can be completed on the model of e-moto you’re interested in. New batteries alone can be thousands of dollars. Make a list of mods on a wishlist, and look at the price of them. While this won’t necessarily be reflected in a secondhand price, consider what the cost would be if you wanted to upgrade your e-moto once you have ownership. You may be able to find a secondhand e-moto that has had many of the upgrades you want already completed, and you might save quite a bit of money in the process. On the other hand, you may find the perfect stock e-moto ready for you to customize.

Most of us have a budget to stick to. It’s recommended to look at different years and perhaps slightly different variations of the e-moto you’re interested in. Would you settle for an awesome Talaria Sting if the Surron X isn’t at a good price and visa-versa? 

Once you’ve done some research on the e-moto of your dreams, start looking at all the places secondhand e-motos are listed. Join Facebook groups that sell in your area, look at online marketplaces such as cycletrader.com, and go to your local dealer – they may have some nice secondhand or ex-demo e-motos to look at. Start by looking, simply scrolling online. Get an idea of what is being advertised – the mods, mileage, and general condition. Look at the price. You’ll start to find what is a good deal when you see one. You’ll also start to notice what is actually too good to be true (ie scams). 

Facebook Groups are a wealth of information when used correctly.

Now, I know you’ll find the e-moto of your dreams and fall in love… but, try to stay subjective.  Contact the owner and ask a few questions.

Questions to ask could be: 

  • How long have you owned it? 
  • Have you owned it from new? 
  • Where do you usually ride? 
  • What mods have you done/got done at a shop?
  • Why are you selling it?

If you’re still getting some good vibes from this e-moto, arrange a time to see it in real life. See if they can have the battery charged to 100%. Be cautious of your safety also – meet in a safe location such as a police station parking lot, and don’t bring lots of cash with you, the usual. 

Very Important: Do NOT exchange any money for something you haven’t seen and verify it exists (unless from a reputable shop). There are many scammers out there who will pretend to have the perfect item and will take your money. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is a scam. 

First things to look for

When you see the e-moto for real, there are a few things to check to give yourself the best chance of not buying a lemon. If you buy from a reputable shop, you probably don’t need to be as thorough as most secondhand e-motos from resellers have gone through the shop’s own checklist.

Not only do you need to check the quality of the bike, but you also need to take all reasonable steps to ensure it’s not stolen, has finance owing, or is actually owned by someone other than the person you’re talking to. Some later-model mainstream e-motos have VIN numbers you can check for free online, some registered e-motos may have a MSO or even a title, your research will show up which to look for. Otherwise, just use gut instinct. Does their story add up? Does the wear and tear on the e-moto feel consistent for the age/miles they say? Are they selling it for a ‘friend’ whose name they have ‘forgotten’? (Yes, it’s crazy, but it happens)

When it comes to high-powered e-motos like Surron and Talaria, one unique thing to look out for is a replaced gauge cluster. It’s relatively easy to swap out the cluster for one with lower mileage or to go in and change the mileage manually. If someone were nefarious enough to do so, you could be vastly overpaying, or more importantly, getting a bike that’s pretty much worn out.  Once you look at a few bikes you’ll get a feeling for what 1,000 miles looks like versus 10,000 and so on. Use your senses and make sure everything lines up. If you catch yourself thinking, “Wow, that must have been a rough thousand miles,” something is probably not right in the mileage department.

How to Inspect Your E-Moto

Let’s look at what to look at! While you’re inspecting the e-moto, keep the price in mind. If it looks like it’s lived a hard life, but the owner is asking peanuts for it, it could still be a good deal. The following list isn’t to work out if this e-moto is in perfect condition. It is to see if the price is reasonable for the quality. It is also to give you a good indication of what may or may not need replacing in the near future.

Inspection Checklist for a second-hand emoto purchase
Inspection Checklist for a second-hand e-moto purchase

Frame

The frame is probably the most important part to inspect, as most other parts of the e-moto can be replaced.

  • Look at the general condition. 
  • Is the frame straight? 
  • Is the wear and tear consistent with the age/mileage? 
  • Has anything been changed or upgraded?
  • Does the frame have any cosmetic damage that might prevent you from making an insurance claim in the future?

Drivetrain

  • Motor: Is it stock or upgraded? What information can they tell you – how many miles, who did the upgrade? Does it look like they did a good job? 
  • Controller: Is it stock or upgraded? What tunes have they run?
  • Battery: Is it stock or upgraded? Take the battery out (always ask first) to check the connections for any rust or damage. Check the battery housing – has it got any damage? How many cycles has it done (roughly)? How has it been maintained? Be cautious of any e-moto battery that hasn’t been stored correctly for a length of time. Ask them how closely their battery maintenance routine mirrors our suggested best practices for a long-lasting and safe battery. Click here to learn that routine for yourself.
  • Has anything been tampered with? Has any speed restriction been removed? 
  • For all of these items, if they have been upgraded ask if the original comes with the bike. Sometimes you’ll find a spare battery might come with the e-moto. Factor this into the final cost. Most of the time, however, riders sell stock parts to recoup some cost on the upgrades. You’d be surprised how often people forget they have spare parts until someone asks.
Check the condition of the battery, motor, and controller. Have they been modded?
Check the condition of the battery, motor, and controller. Have they been modded?

Moving parts

  • Forks: Are they stock or upgraded? Are they straight? Do they rebound when compressed? Play around with the adjusters (ask first – and perhaps offer to write down current settings so the seller can return them to those settings if you don’t make the purchase). Does anything appear to be leaking?
  • Rear suspension: Has it been upgraded? If so, what is the weight of the current rider? (If similar to yourself, you may not need to upgrade it later.) Look to see if anything is bent.
  • Wheels: Check general wear and tear. Check spokes. Check wear on sprockets.
  • Brakes: Check brake rotors are straight, wear on brakes.
  • Tires: Check wear. Remember tires are a usable part, so you’ll probably need to replace them soon anyway. 
  • Chain/belt (depending on model): Check for general wear and tear, both on the chain/belt itself and along its path.
Check for wear and tear that would be consistent with the age of the e-moto.
Check for wear and tear that would be consistent with the age of the e-moto.

Other parts

  • Check the display. Does it look like it is brand new compared to the rest of the e-moto? If so, does it make sense why or has it been swapped for a new low-mileage one? (ie. is there something dodgy here?)
  • Keys/tags: Make sure the keys fit and work, and that you have all of them.
  • Paperwork: Does the e-moto or upgraded parts come with a warranty still? Do you need original receipts? Instruction manual? Warranty for any modded parts? 
  • Charger: Check it is the correct charger for the e-moto.

Mods

Mods could be anything from decals to footpegs, suspension, batteries, and more. 

  • What mods have been done? 
  • Did the current owner do them, or did they get them done professionally? 
  • What condition are they in?
  • Are they selling any original parts also? 

Road legal models 

  • Are all the necessary parts on the e-moto, such as turn signals and mirrors? 
  • Are the indicators/brake lights working correctly? 
  • Is it currently road-registered? Check for the correct paperwork. This will vary from state to state, so check your current laws prior to inspecting the e-moto. 

On the test ride

  • Ask to take the e-moto for a test ride. You may want to leave them your details or something they feel comfortable with. (What would you feel comfortable doing if you were the one selling?) 
  • If possible, ask to take it for a long test ride and check where you can ride it. Be aware that if you accidentally damage the e-moto, you’ll be expected to pay to fix it or purchase it, so don’t go crazy!
  • Does the battery drain at the rate you’re expecting? 
  • Does it sound ‘normal’, or are there strange noises? 
  • Does it feel correct for an e-moto of this age?  

Exchange money

Once you’ve worked out it really is love at first sight and this e-moto is going to its ‘forever home’, it’s time to exchange money. If you think the asking price is too high, then you can offer something lower. Keep it reasonable and come up with a compromise. 

  • Write out a bill of sale.
  • Exchange money (however agreed – cash, transfer, etc).
  • Transfer the title of ownership or registration if required for the model you’re purchasing. 

This is state-dependent, so check your local laws. 

  • Get all the keys!
  • Collect anything that was agreed on, such as spare parts, charger, manuals, etc.
  • Search for, and remove, anything like GPS trackers or AirTags (use the app on your phone to make sure) and give it back to the previous owner before taking the e-moto home. 

Is Buying Secondhand Worth It? 

If reading through this rather long list of things to do before and during checking out a secondhand e-moto seems like lots of work, just look at the difference in price from new. Only you can work out if it’s worth the savings. But when it all comes down to it, just trust common sense. Is the e-moto good value, i.e. the asking price is good versus the wear and tear? Once you’ve purchased your e-moto, consider reading this article that is all about e-moto insurance to see if it’s something you may need. 

If you’re looking at joining the rapidly growing community of e-moto owners who love to mod their pride and joy, then individual parts on the e-moto you’re looking at doesn’t really matter, if you’re only going to upgrade them. And we’re always here for you at GritShift, for any parts you want or need on your new purchase. Whether you go secondhand or new, get your new ride outside and enjoy! 

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *