How-To: 7 Used-Quad Buying Tips

How To, Other — on June 1, 2010 at 12:52 pm
Whether you’re looking to pick up an ATV for a spouse or kid to share fun on the trails, or you need another workhorse to make chores easier, consider picking up a used quad if money is tight right now. Here are a few tips to help make sure you buy it right.
1. Start with the basics
Appearance of things like fenders, seat cover, hand grips, racks and tires can tell a lot about the rest of an ATV’s condition. Generally speaking, if these parts are intact and show normal wear and tear, it’s almost a sure bet the guts — like engine and drivetrain components — are in the same shape and reliability should be good. If the fenders are faded and cracked, hand grips are shot or missing, the racks are bent and the tires are bald or a shiny blue color from high-speed runs on pavement, you should cross that ATV off your list because it’s probably been ridden hard and put away wet.
2. Inspect it during the day
When shopping for a used four-wheeler, you need to thoroughly inspect each candidate that might end up parked in your garage. Look behind the radiator, inside the fender and under the engine for bent parts or leaks. It’s best to make this inspection during daylight hours so you can see all of the components and have a better chance of spotting trouble. If you don’t think a perceived good deal will last until the next morning, ask the seller to pull the machine in the garage and bring a bright flashlight or portable floodlight that you can plug into an outlet.
3. Ask questions
Open-ended questions can reveal a lot about how the ATV was used and its maintenance and reliability. Here are a few questions to get your conversation started with the seller:
• Why is the ATV for sale? Ask this in your first communication and then again when you inspect the machine to make sure the seller’s story is straight.
• Are all parts original and what maintenance schedule did you follow? A lot of detail is a good sign the seller took care of the wheeler. If the person is vague, he or she probably didn’t perform much, if any, service to the machine.
• How often did you use the ATV? Compare this with what the odometer says, if it has one, to see if the seller’s claims are realistic.
4. Make sure it runs
Since the engine is the heart of an ATV and it’s one of the most costly components to repair, it’s important to evaluate a used quad’s powerplant. First and foremost, use a trusted compression gauge to check the engine’s pressure; this is most accurately measured when the engine is warm. Specifications vary, so get the rating from a dealer before you inspect the machine. How well the engine starts can reveal a lot, and in the ideal world you’d get to witness a cold- and warm-engine start. A hard-starting cold engine might be the result of fuel delivery problems. If it’s hard to start when warm, that could signal low engine compression.
5. Check for leaks
You need to get down low and inspect the underside of the ATV to check for fluid leaks and torn CV boots. Better yet, tip up the machine on its rear wheels to allow more light on the area and give you easier access. Fluids can leak from the engine (oil or antifreeze), transmission and drive systems. Use a flashlight to look on top of skid plates and wheel hubs. Dried mud will be discolored from the fluid.
6. Drive it
Take the ATV for a spin, listen for clunks from the drivetrain and be sensitive to vibrations you can feel in the footwells, seat and handlebars. Try out the four-wheel drive system. Does the machine track straight? Turn the bars from full left to full right and make sure they travel an equal distance. If they don’t, steering parts might need attention.
7. Make a
reasonable offer
Most sellers expect to receive an offer lower than their asking price, but if you’re going to really go below the belt, have justification for the price you’re willing to pay. If, for example, the tires are legitimately shot and the battery is dead on a machine that is otherwise worth $3,000, an offer of $2,200 is fair because new hoops and mounting will cost about $750 and a battery $75. If an ATV is ready to ride and needs only minor attention, expect to pay near the asking price — as long as it’s priced appropriately for your market.

Whether you’re looking to pick up an ATV for a spouse or kid to share fun on the trails, or you need another workhorse to make chores easier, consider picking up a used quad if money is tight right now. Here are a few tips to help make sure you buy it right.

ATV for sale

ATV for sale

1. Start with the basics

Appearance of things like fenders, seat cover, hand grips, racks and tires can tell a lot about the rest of an ATV’s condition. Generally speaking, if these parts are intact and show normal wear and tear, it’s almost a sure bet the guts — like engine and drivetrain components — are in the same shape and reliability should be good. If the fenders are faded and cracked, hand grips are shot or missing, the racks are bent and the tires are bald or a shiny blue color from high-speed runs on pavement, you should cross that ATV off your list because it’s probably been ridden hard and put away wet.

2. Inspect it during the day

When shopping for a used four-wheeler, you need to thoroughly inspect each candidate that might end up parked in your garage. Look behind the radiator, inside the fender and under the engine for bent parts or leaks. It’s best to make this inspection during daylight hours so you can see all of the components and have a better chance of spotting trouble. If you don’t think a perceived good deal will last until the next morning, ask the seller to pull the machine in the garage and bring a bright flashlight or portable floodlight that you can plug into an outlet.

3. Ask questions

Open-ended questions can reveal a lot about how the ATV was used and its maintenance and reliability. Here are a few questions to get your conversation started with the seller:

• Why is the ATV for sale? Ask this in your first communication and then again when you inspect the machine to make sure the seller’s story is straight.

• Are all parts original and what maintenance schedule did you follow? A lot of detail is a good sign the seller took care of the wheeler. If the person is vague, he or she probably didn’t perform much, if any, service to the machine.

• How often did you use the ATV? Compare this with what the odometer says, if it has one, to see if the seller’s claims are realistic.

4. Make sure it runs

Since the engine is the heart of an ATV and it’s one of the most costly components to repair, it’s important to evaluate a used quad’s powerplant. First and foremost, use a trusted compression gauge to check the engine’s pressure; this is most accurately measured when the engine is warm. Specifications vary, so get the rating from a dealer before you inspect the machine. How well the engine starts can reveal a lot, and in the ideal world you’d get to witness a cold- and warm-engine start. A hard-starting cold engine might be the result of fuel delivery problems. If it’s hard to start when warm, that could signal low engine compression.

5. Check for leaks

You need to get down low and inspect the underside of the ATV to check for fluid leaks and torn CV boots. Better yet, tip up the machine on its rear wheels to allow more light on the area and give you easier access. Fluids can leak from the engine (oil or antifreeze), transmission and drive systems. Use a flashlight to look on top of skid plates and wheel hubs. Dried mud will be discolored from the fluid.

6. Drive it

Take the ATV for a spin, listen for clunks from the drivetrain and be sensitive to vibrations you can feel in the footwells, seat and handlebars. Try out the four-wheel drive system. Does the machine track straight? Turn the bars from full left to full right and make sure they travel an equal distance. If they don’t, steering parts might need attention.

7. Make a reasonable offer

Most sellers expect to receive an offer lower than their asking price, but if you’re going to really go below the belt, have justification for the price you’re willing to pay. If, for example, the tires are legitimately shot and the battery is dead on a machine that is otherwise worth $3,000, an offer of $2,200 is fair because new hoops and mounting will cost about $750 and a battery $75. If an ATV is ready to ride and needs only minor attention, expect to pay near the asking price — as long as it’s priced appropriately for your market.

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  1. Tips for Selling Your Quad | ATV Sport - 7 Dec 2010