Find a motorcycle that's right for you
"One of the biggest mistakes is buying a bike that's cool as opposed to something that properly fits your needs," says Steven Balduzzi, who has been riding motorcycles for more than 30 years and was involved in motorcycle sales, maintenance and bike assembly at two dealerships in the 1990s.
Each type of motorcycle has a different fit. Balduzzi, from Jupiter, Fla., notes that sport bikes -- high-performance machines that are built for speed and acceleration -- can become uncomfortable during a long commute. You have to lean forward to hold the handlebars and tuck your legs up high to reach the foot pegs, Balduzzi says.
On a cruiser motorcycle, like a Harley-Davidson, Basem Wasef, a Los Angeles-based motorcycle writer for About.com, explains that on this type of bike, you have much more upright posture and your legs are in front of you, giving them room to move around.
Touring bikes are meant to be ridden long distances. They're all about comfort and often have backrests, wind screens, saddlebags, radios and even speaker systems, Wasef says.
Do your research
There are many websites for researching motorcycles. You can find motorcycle reviews on NADAguides.com, Motorcycle-usa.com, Cycleworld.com and Motorcyclistonline.com. In addition, many motorcycle manufacturers, such as Harley-Davidson and Kawasaki, have forums where bike owners can share information.
Forrest Sherman, publications manager at Kelley Blue Book, recommends asking dealerships for a test ride, though most probably won't let you.
You might be allowed to test ride a bike at a motorcycle show or when manufacturers do demo days, says Wasef. Demo days are sometimes held at dealerships, race tracks and automotive museums.
If you can't do a test ride, you can at least sit on some bikes at the dealership. When you're sitting on a bike, you should have good footing, says Balduzzi. You want to be flat-footed or close to it, says Balduzzi. It's especially important to keep the bike steady, or hold it up, when you're at a standstill.
Also, Wasef says you should be able to reach the handlebars comfortably.
"I see a lot of people who are way too small for the bikes they're riding," says Balduzzi.
Find the best price
Your final price is going to include a setup or dealer-prep fee and a delivery-transportation fee, Sherman says. Some dealers also charge a premium on top of those fees.
The setup fee is for taking the motorcycle out of the crate after delivery, putting fluids in it and mounting the tires. The transportation fee is for transporting the bike to the dealership.
"In my experience of buying motorcycles, it can be several hundred (dollars) if not into the thousands for setup and delivery fees," Sherman says.
Sherman recommends shopping at more than one dealer to compare fees and extra charges. You also want to shop around because dealerships still have 2009 and 2008 models on their showroom floors and might offer them at a discount.
Sherman has found that if you pay for all or some of the bike upfront and in cash, dealers might throw in needed riding accessories at a discount.
Typically, there's not much room to negotiate on a motorcycle's price, says Sherman. If you plan to haggle, you'll have greater success if you're buying a less popular model or a motorcycle in a less desirable color.
Check rates on bankrate.com.
Factor in insurance costs
State law, except in Montana and Florida, requires motorcycle owners to purchase liability insurance coverage.
In addition, most lenders require some motorcycle insurance if you're financing the purchase, according to Marcy Gray, motorcycle product manager at Progressive Casualty Insurance Co. in Mayfield Village, Ohio.
Sport/high-performance bikes are typically the most expensive to insure partly because there are so many claims from accidents, says Progressive spokeswoman Cristy Cote.
"And larger engines are more costly to insure than smaller ones," Gray says.
Touring bikes also are high on Progressive's list of expensive bikes to insure. That's because owners ride them on long-distance trips, putting more mileage on them than other bikes. They're also expensive to repair to their pre-accident condition because owners tend to customize them, says Gray.
By comparison, motorcycle insurance costs on cruisers like the Harley Sportster, Suzuki Boulevard and Honda Shadow are less, says Gray.
Meanwhile, Gray notes that dirt bikes and on/off-road bikes are more affordable to insure, partly because they're ridden off-road and less likely to hit a car or an uninsured motorist.
Get trained properly
Wasef advises new riders as well as experienced riders who are buying a motorcycle they've never ridden to complete a Motorcycle Safety Foundation RiderCourse. There are more than 1,500 foundation course locations across the country.
"They can show you tricks for handling a bike that you might not have thought of," Wasef says.