How To Choose An Excellent Used Dirt Bike

June 22, 2023

So, you’re considering buying a dirt bike. This isn’t surprising, as these off-road motorcycles supply the speed, handling, and high-performance features necessary to soar down trails, fly over hills, nimbly navigate hairpin turns, and tackle tough cross-country terrain. In other words, they’re a blast to ride.

Buying a new dirt bike is one option for satiating your thrill-seeking needs, but there are many good reasons for considering a used dirt bike. A used cheap dirt bike, for example, is a good platform for a first-time rider who’ll likely experience some spills on the way to earning his off-road chops.

A motocross racer, meanwhile, might look for dirt bikes under $500 to use for practice, saving wear and tear on his race day bike. Whatever the reason, keep the following advice in mind for choosing an excellent used dirt bike.

This 450cc 2015 Yamaha YZ450F is a good example of the type of quality used dirt bikes you’ll find for sale in auctions. 

Define Your Needs

Dirt bikes are designed to traverse demanding off-road conditions, but riders’ specific requirements can vary significantly. A motocross racer needs the best engine power, suspension, and other performance capabilities possible. A young rider just getting started, though, is probably better served with something like an electric dirt bike. A Razor dirt bike like the SX125 McGrath, for instance, limits maximum allowable speed but is still loaded with dirt bike features like knobby tires for improved traction.

Those who want a bike for both on- and off-road riding might turn to a street-legal dual-sport model that offers dirt bike functionality but adds turn signals, lights, and mirrors for street riding.

Dirt bikes with 2-stroke engines, such as this 2002 Kawasaki KX250 recently open for bidding on, are usually lighter than models with a 4-stroke engine. 

How To Inspect A Dirt Bike

Give any dirt bike you’re considering an extensive once-over for cracks, dents, bending, scratches, and other damage to the gas tank, radiator, plastics, tires, hoses, chain, frame, and other areas. Also ensure the brakes, clutch lever, engine, and other components operate properly.

Excessive exhaust, knocking, and rattling, for example, can signal engine problems. If you’re looking at a bike that’s for sale by owner, ask about repairs, parts replacements, upgrades, and accidents to the bike, and ask for maintenance records and receipts whenever they’re available. Finally, it never hurts to have a qualified mechanic inspect the bike on your behalf.

Weigh 2-stroke and 4-stroke pros and cons. One key decision you’ll need to make is what kind of engine to look for. There are pros and cons to bikes with 2-stroke and 4-stroke engines; 2-stroke dirt bikes are generally lighter and more powerful and provide quicker acceleration and deceleration.

2-stroke engines are typically louder, involve more shifting and clutching, and produce more exhaust emissions (although manufacturers have made improvements in this area in recent years). They also often require more maintenance than bikes equipped with 4-stroke engines but can be easier to work on.

A 4-stroke engine typically delivers more torque, provides consistently smoother power output, and provides better stability and traction.

Check the suspension and frame. Jarring bumps, deep ruts, and unforgiving rocks are just some of the obstacles you’ll subject your dirt bike to. Make certain the suspension system provides enough travel and damping to absorb the punishment while also providing the comfort and handling that off-road riding demands.

 In addition to inspecting the shocks, forks, and seals for damage and leaks, eyeball the frame, paying close attention to weld areas.

Although dirt bike frames are constructed of durable aluminum and steel, spills and run-ins with obstacles and debris can cause cracks and other damage that can degrade the frame’s integrity, resulting in potential safety risks.

Kick the tires. The narrow wheels and tires of dirt bikes are specially designed to provide stellar, reliable traction in sloppy, muddy, and otherwise tricky conditions.

Make sure to check the rims for bending and dents, and make sure the tires have sufficient remaining tread and aren’t cracked or punctured. If you find damage to the wheels or tires, it’s advisable to factor the cost of replacements into the price you will negotiate with the seller, or to subtract them from the maximum bid you’re willing to place on a dirt bike at auction.

KTM dirt bikes like this 250 SX-F that was up for auction on at the time of this writing are well-regarded for their attention-grabbing style and outstanding off-road performance.

Budget For Dirt Bike Modifications & Accessories

Adding aftermarket dirt bike gear to your purchase provides a means of enhancing its performance and/or its looks. For example, you might consider replacing the factory handlebar with one that better matches your riding style. Upgrading the exhaust system, meanwhile, can enhance airflow and beef up power output.

Owners also often purchase aftermarket accessories and gear like handguards, skid plates, radiator guards, riding boots, and goggles for added protection, control, and comfort. Finally, every dirt bike owner should add a toolkit to her arsenal in preparation of those inevitable repairs the bike will require out in the wild.

This electric Razor Dirt Rocket SX 500, recently available for bidding on, features graphics and design features inspired by motocross racer Jeremy McGrath and is an example of a model designed for young riders.

Top Dirt Bike Brands & Models

Whether originating from Austria, Italy, Japan, Spain, Sweden, or elsewhere, the world’s top dirt bike brands have reached their lofty positions by producing iconic models oozing terrific performance, innovation, and features.

Models like the CR250 and CRF450R have earned Honda a reputation for producing dirt bikes with powerful engines and dependable handling. As a result, used Honda dirt bikes are highly sought after. So are used Yamaha dirt bikes, as for many veteran riders, Yamaha stands atop the heap for the outstanding responsiveness and superior suspension systems that you’ll find in models like its 4-stroke YZ450F.

Another Japanese manufacturer with a stellar pedigree is Kawasaki, manufacturer of popular 450 dirt bikes like the KX450F, known for its top-notch power and agility; used Kawasaki dirt bikes are popular finds. Fellow Japanese brand Suzuki, maker of classic 125 dirt bikes like the 2-stroke RM125 and 250cc dirt bikes like the RM250, has a model lineup that includes something for every type of rider. Austrian-based KTM, meanwhile, is a favorite among many owners for the fetching designs and tech innovations that have gone into models like the 250SX-F and 450SF-X.

Dirt bikes like this Honda CRF250F come with specially designed knobby tires to provide excellent grip on off-road terrain. (Photo courtesy of Honda.)

Start Your Dirt Bike Search On HiBid

A dirt bike is your gateway to countless hours of pure, off-road bliss. When you’re ready to buy, start your search for dirt bike values in the Dirt Bikes subcategory on, as new bikes come up for sale all the time. The auction platform also has a wide variety of other motorcycles for sale, including cruisers, mopeds, scooters, and sport bikes.

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