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A Buyer's Guide for The Harley Davidson Switchback

The Harley Davidson Switchback

If you're looking for a Harley Davidson Switchback, you've made a good choice. The bike is noted for its versatility with ease of loading with all of the essentials that you'll need for longer tours. Stripping it down for more comfortable cruises around town is a breeze, but production of this member of the Dyna line ended in 2017. It's good to know how to go about getting a used Harley when you're shopping in the used market. We've prepared a buyer's guide with a few tips to help you know where to look, how to get the best deal, and what to look for in a pre-owned Switchback.

Model years available

According to Business Insider, The Harley Davidson Switchback made its debut as a 2012 model year. It was offered for a lower price than most other HD touring models by at least $2,000. The bike remained unchanged with the exception of adding the ABS brakes option as a standard feature beginning with the 2014 model. The Switchback was produced for 7 model years and this gives you plenty of options in the used motorcycle market.

Special features

What attracted most to the Harley Switchback was its comfort for taking out on the open road for a day tour, and the lightness of the bike. It weighs an average of 100 pounds less than most touring bikes. The main attraction though, was, and is, its versatility. The Switchback is appropriately named because you can add a ton of accessories to partially, or fully dress the bike in just a few moments, then strip it down to bare naked just as quickly. This includes adding or removing the saddlebags and windshield. This makes the Switchback a lot of fun for traveling and sightseeing. After you check into your room, you can strip down your travel essentials for a lighter and more agile bike to take to the city for sightseeing, or for taking her out for a stretch of the legs without concern for packing your baggage along.

A smaller bike with great economy

The Harley Davidson Switchback 1

Another factor that makes the Switchback so much fun to ride is its economy. It's a smaller bike that averages 42 mpg on premium fuel, giving you a 200 mile range on a tank of gas. It's a smaller bike that is lighter with the handlebars slightly raised and floorboards to make it a comfortable ride. The V-Twin engine may be a bit on the relaxed side, but it has all the power that's needed unless you plan to race.

Potential problem areas

According to Cycle World, a test run of a used 2012 HD Switchback, although immensely pleasurable revealed a need to check the fasteners on the saddlebags, and the stems of the rearview mirrors for tightness. The vibration tends to loosen them so this is a point to keep in mind whether you're buying a used model or riding one you owner. It seems that the biggest issues with the Switchback are traced back to vibration. The Herd Forum, further lists the factory mounts as a source of the vibration issues.

Where to find a used Harley-Davidson Switchback

There are plenty of places to find a used Harley Switchback. Private sellers list them on the internet and in local news advertisements, as do dealers. The benefit of going through a dealer is that you can more easily check out the seller reputation to confirm that there are no negative marks against the track record for honesty and fair dealing. Dealers will get the best price possible, but you can negotiate for a fair price. Still, it's wise to look at a few consumer reports to find out about the experiences others share with the seller whenever possible.

Inspect the Switchback

The Harley Davidson Switchback 2

Bartles Harley has some great tips on how to inspect a used Harley prior to signing a purchase agreement. They recommend that you bring along a flashlight with a notebook and pen to take notes.You might look at a few for comparison before you make your decision.


A visual inspection of the body should reveal a bike in the best condition possible. Look for scratches, dents, and any evidence of the bike being in an accident. These can serve as indications of a more serious collision, so if you see them, ask questions about them. This includes an inspection of the fuel tank, and check to see if the oil is clean, the fenders, side covers, seat, and chrome. Look for tears or depressions of the foam, and signs of rust and corrosion. Anything that may need repair will decrease the overall value of the bike and it can serve as a negotiation point if you're willing to have the repairs made yourself. Make sure any installed windshields have been done so correctly, and ask if it is a removable type.

Inspect the engine

You don't have to be a professional mechanic to check out the condition of the engine, but it's good to know a little bit about them. It's best to check the bike when it is cold. This lets you know if there are any problems with the ignition system. If the bike has been started previously, it's a good idea to come back later and check it out then because a warmed bike may not reveal initial starting issued. Upon first start watch for deep blue or black smoke with a heavy texturing. When the engine is running, listen for any out of place rattles or other noises that are not usual for the model. The exhaust should be free of leaks or signs of damage. Exhaust repairs can be expensive.

Check the electronics

The Harley Davidson Switchback 3

Test the lights including the headlamp with high and low beams, brake and signal lights. and make sure that the instrument and indicator lights are in good working order. Check out the battery to make sure it starts the bike easily, and test the horn. It's advised that you check out the charging system to make sure that the battery is charging as it should. You can do this by hitting the brake while the engine is running. If the headlight gets brighter, the charging system is engaging as it should. Any electronics that have been added should be checked out to ensure that they have been properly installed.

The tires

Tires are among the most important components of the bike to ensure the best performance and a safe riding experience. When examining the tires, check for tread depth as well as any spots of dry rot. While you're at it take a look at the wheels and look for any sign of damage or wobble when the wheel is manually spun. Give the spokes each a tap to ensure that they're tight. Check the lubrication and adjustment on the chain, and lastly, inspect the belt for any signs of abrasions, wear or cuts.

Test drive

The bike should have plenty of power and shift smoothly when changing gears. If it jumps gears, it's time to walk. If there is any slippage or drag of the clutch, the same applies. The repair costs will mount up quickly, even if the bike is offered at a moderate price. It's worth checking out the cost of repairs and replacement parts but the odds are against it being a good deal.

How to assess the value of a used Harley-Davidson Switchback

The Harley Davidson Switchback 4

After you've completed your initial inspection and test drive of the bike, it's time to make a reasonable assessment of its value before agreeing to buy it. Unless you're sold on the spot, you might want to take a little time to think about any notes that you made about the physical or running condition. Consider what any repairs that you noted as necessary right cost, and deduct them from the fair value of the bike and compare this figure with the asking price from the seller.

Facts about the value of the Switchback

Harley-Davidson motorcycles tend to hold their value from the original MSRP very well if they're well cared for and maintained. Mileage is a factor to consider in addition to the overall condition of the bike. According to Best beginning motorcycles, anything over 40,000 to 50,000 miles is considered to be a high mileage bike. This means that the engine has seen a lot of action, so it's a good idea to make sure to inquire about any repairs or replacements, and a schedule of maintenance on the bike.

Harley's retain their value

It's good to start with the original selling price of the model year that you're looking at. According to a piece shared by the LA Times, Harley's retain their value at a rate of 84% over the first 5 year period. This is likely to mean that you're going to shell out some serious cash if the bike that you want is in excellent condition. While there isn't a rapid rate of depreciation, it is a factor to consider, as well as any wear and tear on the bike, or notable repairs that will need to be made.

Where to find information about the value of a used Switchback

The Harley Davidson Switchback 5

The best advice that we can give for assessing the true and fair value of a Harley Davidson Switchback, is to refer to the original selling price. It's helpful to find several examples of the bike in your geographical area that are listed for sale. Compare the prices to get an idea of how much they're going for in your area. In some economically depressed regions, you may be able to pick one up for far less than in areas where the economy is booming. There are also some honest private sellers out there who are willing to give you a good deal on a beloved bike they can no longer use.

Compare the asking price of Switchback's in excellent condition to arrive at a ballpark figure before you make the first contact to show an interest. If they're all over the board, you might refer back to the formula that starts with the original MSRP, and take off 84% if it's 5 years old, or pro-rate if it's newer. After completing your inspection and test drive, make all of the calculations for the estimated cost of any repairs or restorations that will be needed, and this will help you to arrive at a fair value for the motorcycle. It's not an exact science, but you can get close, and there is always the option of negotiating for a lower price based on your notes.


There are quite a few used Harley-Davidson Switchback models available for sale. The market is strong, so you'll have plenty of choices. It can pay to shop around until you find a bike that clicks with you, and offers the best value for the asking price. The way to get the best deal is to not be in a big hurry to make the deal, or to make an offer that is really more than what the bike is worth. It pays to be a savvy consumer, so take a few moments to reflect on your strategy and prepare mentally for using the steps and recommendations in this guide. You might not find success with sellers that think they're sitting on a gold mine, but in time, you'll find the right deal that won't leave you with a case of buyer's remorse. It's worth taking the time to check out all the facts, perform the financial calculations and refuse to give in on a deal that will not be to your advantage.

Benjamin Smith

Written by Benjamin Smith

Benjamin Smith is one of the managing editors of Moneyinc. Ben's been focusing on the auto and motorcycle sector since 2005. He's written over 1000 articles in the space and continues to learn about it each day. His favorite car is "any Bugatti" and he's a die hard Harley Davidson fan.

Read more posts by Benjamin Smith

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