Should I Buy A Motorcycle That Has Been Dropped?

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Purchasing a motorcycle can be an exciting time, especially if you’re new to the whole motorcycle scene. It can also be a bit overwhelming if you don’t know exactly what to look for.

Buying a motorcycle is a little different from buying any other vehicle. There are additional things you’ll need to be aware of because of the type of vehicle they are and because of their susceptibilities.

Should I buy a motorcycle that has been dropped? It is okay to purchase a motorcycle that has been dropped because the main consequences are usually cosmetic related. Attempt to have the seller define their meaning of “drop” and look for signs that the motorcycle may have been dragged rather than just dropped.

Often times you’ll hear people say that a dropped motorcycle should always be avoided when looking for one to buy. This is not the case. However, having bought dozens of motorcycles myself, I have found that some sellers may be dishonest about their definition of “dropped;” there are signs you should look for that will tell if there is further damage you should be wary of.

What Happens When A Motorcycle Is Dropped And Why It’s Okay

I’d like to think of myself as a well-seasoned motorcyclist. Not only have I been riding for a while, but I’ve restored dozens of motorcycles.

Even with my experience, I have dropped a motorcycle. I was very surprised when I heard my father-in-law (who is also a well seasoned Harley-Davidson rider) has also dropped a motorcycle. And so has my brother-in-law. And so has my best friend.

My point is saying that dropping a motorcycle is actually a pretty common occurrence. A lot of people out there assume that dropping a motorcycle is detrimental to the vehicle and that it will never be the same. That is simply not the case. My father-in-law has a saying that I think holds true. “There’s two types of motorcyclists: one who has dropped their motorcycle and one who is going to drop their motorcycle.”

Assuming the motorcycle was quickly picked up after the drop, there’s actually minimal damage that happens to it. Most of the damage is cosmetic which can be easily be fixed without having to worry about the function of the motorcycle.

Some common cosmetic issues you’ll run into with a dropped motorcycle are a scratched crankcase, broken/bent mirrors, a bent handlebar, bent foot pegs, scratched/broken fairings, a dented tank, and a scratched exhaust pipe.

Though these cosmetic issues are annoying to deal with, they don’t really impact the way the motorcycle rides or hurts the mechanics going on inside. You can usually still safely ride your motorcycle after a drop if you don’t mind the few scratches that may have happened.

Most of the motorcycles I bought to restore had been dropped and I didn’t have any issues with them. The cosmetic issues weren’t much of a problem because I was planning on fixing everything anyway.

I have found that most of these cosmetic issues are pretty simple to fix yourself if you’re willing to take the time to learn. You can find almost anything online and reinstall yourself such as a new exhaust pipes and new handlebars. This is much cheaper and will teach you a new skill at the same time.

Issues such as a dented tank or scratched crankcase can also be fixed by yourself (you can click here to see my article on how to fix and repaint a motorcycle gas tank). With a little bit of bondo and some patience, you can get a gas tank looking as good as new.

Signs The Motorcycle Wasn’t Just “Dropped”

Unfortunately, some sellers’ definition of “dropped” means something completely different to what you may thing it is. Generally the term “dropped” for a motorcycle means that it was tipped over in a stationary or very slow moving pace.

Some sellers may use the word “dropped” for a motorcycle if the motorcycle was tipped during a ride at higher speeds. That way they feel like they’re not necessarily omitting the truth. Luckily there are some signs you can look for when you look at the motorcycle that can tell you whether it was simply dropped in place or if it was in a more serious accident.

I know I mentioned that a simple drop of a motorcycle can result in various types of scratches. If a motorcycle was in a more serious drop or slide, one of the obvious signs of that will be severe scratches on various parts of the motorcycle that are consistent with each other. A simple drop will not make such harsh scratches on a motorcycle like that.

Another sign that a motorcycle was in a more serious case than a simple drop is if either or both of the wheels wobble. You can easily test this by rolling it forward and backward while it’s off and paying special attention to the reaction of the wheels.

The front wheel should always be perpendicular to the handlebars. Any wobble may indicate a hard collision by either the motorcycle running in to something or someone rear-ended the motorcycle. Any wobble in the wheels is an automatic sign of a more serious accident; proceed with caution if you notice this.

Lastly, notice the overall feel of the motorcycle when you take it for a ride. If it simply doesn’t feel right, trust your gut and don’t buy it. While a drop of a motorcycle doesn’t cause mechanical damage, a more serious drop and slide or accident can result in more serious damage. Click here to see an article I wrote for more signs to look for if you suspect a motorcycle has been in a serious accident.

How Long Is Too Long For A Motorcycle To Be On It’s Side After It Was Dropped?

There is a difference between a motorcycle that was dropped and quickly picked up and a motorcycle that was dropped and left on it’s side for a while. Most people who drop their motorcycles will quickly pick it up so no harm is done. However, if a motorcycle is left on it’s side for more than several minutes, that’s when internal issues can start occurring.

The biggest possibility that can occur is a phenomenon called hydrolock. Hydrolock is often misunderstood and most people assume it can only happen with water. It can actually occur with any type of fluid involved in the situation.

Inside your engine is a small cylindrical cavity called a combustion chamber. This is where the air and gas are pushed in to and then explode in order for your motorcycle to run. While a motorcycle lays on its side for longer periods of time, oil can seep past the piston rings and settle inside the combustion chamber. If there’s a lot of oil inside the combustion chamber, the spark plug can’t ignite the gas when it gets squirted in because there’s too much material and not enough air. 

The nice thing about this is that it’s easily detectable; the motorcycle won’t start if this has happened. So if you’re looking at purchasing a motorcycle that was dropped and it starts, chances are it’s not a victim of hydrolock. Click here to see an article I wrote more about what happens when a motorcycle is laid on it’s side.


In most cases, it is completely fine to buy a motorcycle that has been dropped. Every motorcyclist will drop their motorcycle eventually if they own one long enough. But be wary of the owner’s definition of “dropped,” some sellers may use this term to cover up the fact that it was in an accident. The cosmetics of the motorcycle should be able to tell you the truth.

Having previously owned a motorcycle restoration business myself, almost every project motorcycle I bought had been dropped and I was quickly able to tell which drops were more serious compared to others because of the bike’s cosmetics. If you’re looking in to buying a motorcycle that has been dropped but have questions about it, feel free to reach out to me! I’m more than happy to help.

Related Questions

How do I keep a motorcycle from falling over? To keep the motorcycle from falling over, make sure to always use the kick stand or center stand when you’re not with it. Never lean it up against anything as support. If you are riding the motorcycle, maintain speed limits, avoid gravel or slippery areas, and avoid completely using the front brake without the back brake.

How do I pick up a motorcycle if it has tipped over? If your motorcycle has tipped over, the first thing you should do is make sure the motorcycle is turned off before attempting to prop it back up. Next, make sure the kick stand is out if possible. Lastly, make sure you and the tires will have good traction to stand up to prevent further slipping.

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. He loves restoring motorcycles, has a vast knowledge of how they work, and has sold his restoration projects to customers from all over the United States.

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