All about the Kawasaki Ninja 250


Buying a used Kawasaki Ninja 250

Kawasaki Ninja 250
Bringing it home on a trailer...parts bike

Since the 250 Ninja has been around since 1986 (1988 for 3rd generation models), there are a lot of them around and it's easy to find a used bike. Of course price depends on age, mileage and condition. Typically prices (for 3rd generation modes) range from around $2000 for a 2007 in good shape with low mileage to maybe $800 for a pre-1990 model with lots of miles but still running. Non-running bikes can be found from $200 to $500 depending on exactly why they aren't running!

For a first time buyer with limited mechanical skills I'd look at the higher end of the price range. You want a bike in good running condition that's been taken care of. What you may initially save on a cheaper bike may be eaten up by repairs quite quickly, especially if you can't do the work yourself.

As an example, take the 1990 Ninja I bought for $300. It had been running up to a couple of days before I bought it, but the chain had jumped the sprocket and it wasn't rideable when I loaded it on my trailer. The mileage on the bike was around 22,000 miles. What did it take to get the bike back into good shape? Here's a list:

  • New chain
  • New front sprocket
  • New rear sprocket
  • New front sprocket cover
  • Gas tank was leaking (rusted) and had to be repaired (solder and epoxy)
  • Both front forks required new seals
  • Steering head needed new bearings
  • Rear tire needed replacing
  • Kick stand was bent, mounting bracket was bent, had to be repaired
  • Left footpeg mount was bent. New mount fabricated
  • Front fairing stay was bent
  • Small leak from waterpump
  • Centerstand was missing so one was added
  • Cushdrive needed shimming
  • Clutch basket rattles (noise at low rpm, but works OK)
  • Radiator fan wasn't working. Replaced radiator assembly and fan switch.
  • Cracks repaired in just about every part of the fairing. Repaired with epoxy and plastic welding
  • Bottom fairing was missing a large section of plastic. Repaired with aluminum sheet.
  • Cracked turn signals
  • Had to fabricate brackets which had broken off some fairing pieces
  • Took rear suspension apart to lubricate swingarm bearings
  • Shifter lever was bent
  • Clutch lever was broken (had to be replaced)
  • Muffler (Muzzy) needed to be repacked
  • Carburettor needed rejetting
  • Valves needed adjusting. One locknut was rounded off. Rocker arm had to be removed and nut replaced
  • Choke, Clutch and Throttle cables needed lubrication
  • Part of throttle assembly was broken. Needed replacing
  • Clutch lever mechanism had to be removed and cleaned
  • Brake fluid needed to be replaced. Had to drill out screws holding reservoir cap.
  • Fork oil needed to be replaced
  • Plug gaps needed resetting
  • One plug was very difficult to remove due to plastic parts fallen down plug well and melted onto plug

"Restoration" in progess...

Working on it most days for several hours each day, it took about 6 weeks to get it back into good shape, and I haven't touched the engine yet! If this hadn't been a project bike which I could take my time with, and if I hadn't wanted a learning experience, I would have given up in frustration. If someone wanted a bike they could ride, they would have been MUCH better off buying a newer bike in better shape. It might even have worked out cheaper in the end to do that, and that's counting your own time as free and just paying for parts. When doing something like this, it's very useful to have a "parts bike" which you can canibalize when you need to replace something.

The best buy for a bike that requires little work but is still pretty cheap would be an early to mid 2000s Ninja 250 in good running condition with maybe 5,000 miles on it. You'd probably pay between $1200 and $1500 for such a bike, depending on where you live an the time of year. Prices are lower in the Winter (especially in states with cold and snow), but you see more bikes for sale in the Spring.

If you are looking for a 4th generation (2008-present) bike then you aren't going to find any "beaters" at a low price. They're just not old enough to have been abused yet! You might find a crash damaged one, but that's a whole new set of problems. You should be able to find an early 2008 model for around $2500 and a fairly recent one for maybe $3500.

So I certainly would not rule out buying a used bike (I've bought three of them!) but you'd be well advised to take an experienced, mechanically inclined, Ninja 250 rider along with you if possible to evaluate what you are buying, especially if it looks like the bike is being sold at a "bargain" price. While most sellers may be honest, I wouldn't put a whole lot of faith in what they tell you since they may not even know what's wrong with the bike themselves. Don't fall for the "it used to run, but it's been sitting for a while and the carbs just need cleaning" line. It may be true, but it may not be. If it was easy to get the bike running, why didn't the seller do it? If the bike isn't running, I'd take $300-$500 off what I'd offer for a running bike.