Considerations for buying a motorbike

With fuel price always on the up and South African road becoming increasingly congested, many are considering trading in, or substituting, their cars for motorbikes. Not only do bikes reduce the overall cost of fuel dramatically but the also cut down on time spent behind the wheel. No wonder the Vespa has made a comeback of note.

If you’re in the market for a cute scooter or veritable pocket rocket, then we’ve got answers to your most common questions.

Where can I buy a motorbike?

For the biggest variety when shopping around for a motorbike its best to check online portals. Use these to get an idea of the kind of motorbike you can afford to price compare for the best deals. If you’re in the market for something on the niche end, get in touch with dealerships that specialise in your preferred brand and model. Dealerships tend to volunteer as much information a they can to prospective buyers, so feel free to prod your nearest local for information on the bike you’re on the hunt for.

Can I buy a motorbike without a licence?

To legally buy a motorbike from a private seller or dealership, you’ll need a valid identification document and a learners license to operate a motorbike. The latter is known as a Code A1 license and can be obtained after completing the exam at your nearest testing centre. Be sure to prepare for the test and ace it the first time as waiting periods for exams can be long and cause you to miss out on the perfect bike.

Can I get insurance for my bike with a learners only?

Yes you can. South African insurance companies require only a learners license to provide you with cover for your motorbike. However, your learner’s license will eventually expire and keep in mind that you’re only insured when operating the motorbike without a passenger when riding with a learner’s license only.

What should I check for when buying a motorbike?

Rear suspension and forks

Inspect the suspension and forks for sufficient damping. The condition of your suspension and forks will tell you how well the seller looked after the bike. If you push down on the bikes front and rear shocks and it bounces excessively, the suspension could be worn out. Be sure to get this checked by a pro if you’re not sure.

Chains and sprockets

Unless the bike has a shaft drive, you should check the chains and sprockets thoroughly. A worn chain can cause untimely breakdowns and are usually quite expensive to replace.


Avoid bikes with aftermarket exhausts as they almost never match the quality and reliability of OEM parts. While most motorbikes are quite audible, check for any sounds that indicate holes, make sure there’s no rust anywhere on the exhaust system.


Bikes electronic are often exposed to wet weather and can degrade over time. Also, prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can also cause problems with electronic wiring. Be sure that everything works 100% and that the wiring harness hasn’t been tampered with.

What paperwork do you need to sell your motorcycle


A valid proof of identification will serve as verification of your ownership against the accompanying vehicle documentation. Be sure to keep a copy of this handy and also ensure to get a copy of the buyer’s ID document.

Proof of ownership

You should receive a copy of this when the bike has been fully paid up to confirm that you, and not the bank, is the owner. If you don't have a copy, make sure you speak to the financial institution that financed the bike initially. If you bought your motorcycle cash, then you should have been given the documentation when the transaction was first completed.

Settlement letter

If you still owe money on your bike, you’ll need a settlement letter from the financial institution. This will inform the potential buyer of the amount outstanding on the vehicle.

Change of ownership and new vehicle registration letters

You’ll need to fill out the section of the form that pertains to the buyer. You need to make that sure all is in order with respect to this form before transferring the bike onto your name. Also, you will need a completes transfer of ownership letter ready for the traffic department to get the transfer processed.

Proof of sale

The proof of sale document should include the agreed price for the motorbike, its condition and any agreements between yourself and the seller. Include the registration number, VIN number, seller/buyer contact details and addresses.

Roadworthy certificate

Be sure that the motorbike has a valid roadworthy certificate and have this with you when having the vehicle registered to your name.

Service history and receipts

Documented service history and receipts for any repairs done are a great sign that you’re buying a reliable motorbike from a responsible seller.

Never make a hasty purchase

Make sure you take every precaution when buying a motorbike as an unpredictable ride can cause serious injuries. Always take your prospective new bike for a test drive to get a feel for it and ask potential sellers as many questions you need to feel secure that your money is being well spent. You’ll thank yourself for it later.

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