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Can you still buy a usable second-hand motorbike for less than £1000?

second-hand bike headline, man sat on bike

Motorcycling is many things to many people. For some it’s a passionate hobby while, for others, it can be a relatively inexpensive form of transport.

When I was a young lad, which admittedly was a very long time ago, it was easy to pick up a cheap second-hand motorbike to run as everyday transport. A grand (or £1000 as it is officially called) would be more than enough to get a decent set of wheels. Heck, £500 would usually get you a runner with an MoT and a bit of life left in it…

Of course, the cost of most things has gone up in recent years, but we wanted to find out if it was still possible to buy a cheap runaround for £1000 or less. Trawling the major websites, we looked at what was out there. Our only real criteria was that it needed to be over 125cc, come with a valid MoT and not be what is optimistically known in ad speak as ‘a project’. What could we find?

At the time of our search, a quick scan of AutoTrader showed 133 second-hand (or should that be 15th hand?) motorbikes up for sale at £1000 or less, but filtering out everything 125cc or less gives us 84 potential bargains to choose from. That’s not too many, considering the classifieds covered every square mile of the United Kingdom. Add in our desire for an MoT and the need for not too much work, that list shrunk even more. Even so, we probably found 20 or so bikes for a shortlist. Here are some of  the highlights.

Suzuki Bandit 650

Having dismissed a tidy looking Yamaha Diversion 600, for no other reason than I never used to like them much back in the day, I’m immediately drawn to a 2006 Suzuki Bandit 650 with less than 16,000 miles showing on the clock. It’s advertised with a new chain and sprockets, and comes with what looks like a new rear tyre too. It comes with a fresh MoT and sounds too good to be true at £575, so what’s the catch? The private seller seems to be straight up in his appraisal of the bike, making no efforts to hide its cosmetic flaws. It’s down in Brighton and, looking at the pictures, it appears the Bandit lives outside and the seaside air hasn’t been kind to it. Bandits were never renowned for their great build quality (even if the old air/oil cooled motor is pretty bulletproof) and this one is very rusty. The fork stanchions are corroded and it has picked up a few battle scars although the seller says it’s a good runner. There are a few typical Bandit modifications: red rim tape, fly screen, radiator cover and aftermarket exhaust, but it seems an honest enough bike. It’s not pretty, but for £575 we’d be giving it a look…

Honda CBR600F

Over in Canterbury, there’s a 1991 Honda CBR600F on sale from a private seller for £700. These ‘jellymould’ supersport bikes were real game changers back in the day and were trailblazers for a class which was to prove so popular throughout the 1990s.

Despite having plenty of success on the racetrack, we doubt many people will hold them up as iconic motorcycles, but this H-reg CBR600F has great heritage and can now even benefit from Carole Nash’s Vintage Motorbike Insurance.

This one’s a bit tatty, as you’d probably expect at this end of the market. The original fairing has been replaced with a plain white one but, on the upside, it comes with 11 months’ MoT (and no advisories) as well as receipts for some recent work, including a new clutch, brake pads and a chain and sprocket set. In total, 12 owners have racked up a claimed 37,650 miles on the CBR, which has had a typical for the period big bore aftermarket slip-on exhaust added at some stage. These had a reputation for good reliability back in the day and might be worth a punt.

Triumph Trident Sprint 900

Up the budget to £750 and you could be riding away on a 1994 Triumph Trident Sprint.

With a few exceptions, these early Hinckley Triumphs have never really got out of banger money territory, which is a great shame as John Bloor went to great lengths to ensure the built quality of his revived brand was as good as anything else. With the exception of a sprag clutch problem, which can lead to terminal engine problems, these are pretty bulletproof bike bikes. The design is more Eighties than Nineties and the spine frame does make them feel quite big, but you get the glorious 885cc three-cylinder engine and a feeling of riding a ‘proper’ bike.

The Trident was one of Triumph’s modular launch models in 1991 and the ‘Sprint’ version came a few years later, adding a half fairing to give a more sport touring flavour. They are not exactly classics, but this example looks sound in the photos. It’s based in Teesside and has just passed its MoT, picking up one advisory related to the rear suspension.

It’s got 72,000 miles on the clock, but the owner says the engine was replaced five years ago – and that has 22,000 under its belt. It sports some common modifications, including a rear rack and an aftermarket silencer, and having just hit 30 years old it can also take advantage of vintage motorcycle insurance. 

It looks like a lot of bike for the money, and although these are regarded as true classic motorcycles, you do feel like you are riding a piece of history with these first generation ‘T300’ Triumphs. As long as you keep the battery in tip top condition (to avoid the sprag clutch issue) they’re usually strong and reliable… and a lot of bike for under a grand!

  Triumph Trident Sprint 900


Kawasaki ZZR1100

There are quite a few 30 year old survivors available for a grand or less, which can be quite a scary proposition when looking for a cheap set of wheels. Bikes of this vintage are always likely to need work done to them at some stage, and with spare part supply starting to dry up it can be a daunting prospect for some.

But then again, who’d have thought you’d get the opportunity to buy the world’s fastest motorcycle for a pound less than a grand? The Kawasaki ZZR1100 was the fastest bike of its day and, even three decades on, there’s not much quicker in a straight line. They were hugely popular and offered great comfort and effortless performance. The early Nineties ZZR was good for 170mph when it left the factory and we found several for sale under our self-imposed budget, as well as a few ZZR600s – which was the fastest and comfiest 600 of its era. Although high performance machines, ZZRs were generally pretty understressed for road use and attracted a more mature buyer than the sportier GSX-R/ZXR alternatives.

Of the examples we saw, a low mileage example in Cannock piqued our interest the most. Advertised for £999, the owner did acknowledge it needed a carb rebuild (which would cost around £300 if carried out by a mechanic) and some new tyres and brake pads wouldn’t go amiss either, these bikes really go through these consumables, which are extremely critical in light of the machine’s performance. That might nudge us over our self-imposed budget, but that still represents a heck of a lot of motorcycle for the money.




So can you buy a usable second hand motorcycle for £1000?

PCPs have changed the way people buy vehicles in recent years, with the low monthly payments being a preferred way for many riders when it comes to purchasing a new motorcycle, but for those of us who get satisfaction from running around on a bike which ‘owes us nothing’ there are still some cheap bikes out there if you look hard enough and are willing to travel.

As a quick trawl around the ads confirms, yes you can get a bike with a full MoT for a grand or less, however choices are limited and you are always likely to be buying a vehicle with decades of action under its belt. It’s a risky business, but strike it lucky and you’ll be grinning like a Cheshire cat every time you jump on board

In addition to the four bikes we highlighted, we’ve seen plenty of 500s (the Kawasaki GPZ500 and Suzuki GS500 in particular), BMW R1100s and even Honda VFR800s, Deauvilles and CBR1000Fs listed for less than a grand. If you’re just looking for a city runaround, there are loads of cheap 125s on the market too – although many look like they’ve endured a hard life in the hands of learners.

Back in the day there would be dozens of cheap bikes in every town but that’s not the case now. There are still cheap bikes to be had – if you’re willing to take the gamble!


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