Expert guide to buying used Kawasaki Ninjas from £1500

When it comes to sporting dynasties, one name is synonymous with performance – Ninja.

First used by Kawasaki in 1984 on the GPz900R Ninja in the US market (the same year that Mirage Studios unveiled the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), it wasn’t until a decade later that the name made it over to Europe on the side of the Ninja ZX-9R B1.

Picking our top five was tricky but we have risen to the task and if you fancy giving a Ninja a workout, here are the best used models to go for Cowabunga!

Take a ride on the wild side with one of the best Ten’s ever

Kawasaki's Ninja ZX-10R

Spec: 172bhp / 998cc / 820mm seat height / 187kg kerb weight

The 2004 Ninja ZX-10R was Kawasaki’s no-holds-barred entry into the litre class. Boasting the highest power-to-weight ratio of any sports bike, it was designed to be as small and agile as possible while also boasting a ferocious engine – a combination that often sees it become a bit of a handful, especially as it lacks a steering damper. Undeniably thrilling, its explosive power and super sport size chassis make it a bike where you need your wits about you.

Ninja ZX-10R used buying advice

● The ignition barrel is a bit weak, which can lead to the key becoming tricky to turn and eventually the whole barrel failing. Always check it functions nice and smoothly.
● Kawasaki used very thin fairing plastic on the ZX-10R in an effort to reduce the bike’s overall weight. It gets brittle with age, so check areas around the fasteners.
● The level of finish isn’t great with the brake calipers and fork lowers particularly poor. Check for flaking paint (or signs of retouching) and also that the brake caliper pistons aren’t sticking, especially on bikes used through bad weather.

2012-2017 Ninja 300 – £2,000 – £4,000

Kawasaki’s mini Ninja still packs in plenty of character

Ninja 300

Spec: 39bhp / 298cc / 785mm seat height / 174kg kerb weight

Taking over from the hugely popular Ninja 250, the Ninja 300 improves upon Kawasaki’s A2-legal parallel twin Ninja’s base to make it even more user-friendly. Featuring a rubber-mounted engine to reduce vibrations as well as enhanced handling thanks to a new chassis and fatter tyres, the Ninja 300 will merrily do 70mph and seems to fit all shapes and sizes of rider.

Ninja 300 used buying advice

● The engine is very strong but it does need its valve-clearances checking every 7500 miles, and this is often skipped on higher-mileage machines. Check the service history and factor in roughly £350 for a valve-clearance check if it is approaching this interval.
● The stock exhaust not only sounds a bit weedy it also rots through, so check for any leaks.
● If the bike has been down the road, bent brackets can make the fairings rattly. Check carefully.

2009-2012 Ninja ZX-6R – £4,500 – £6,500

Kawasaki’s stunning super sport screamer is a great buy

Ninja ZX-6R

Spec: 115bhp / 599cc / 815mm seat height / 191kg kerb weight

The Ninja ZX-6R has flip-flopped from 599cc to 636cc and back again throughout its life and in 2009, after a complete redesign, it returned to 599cc. Featuring an all-new engine, the 2009 bike has a focus on midrange and as a result is far less rev-happy than bigger capacity previous generations. A lovely bike to ride, it has an incredibly agile chassis but also a real feeling of balance thanks to Showa Big Piston Forks. It is a surprisingly good all-rounder.

Ninja ZX-6R used buying advice

● Be wary of stickers on the swingarm as they can hide scratches caused by the rider’s boots rubbing.
● Lots come with aftermarket accessories, so be very careful about how well they are fitted and if you actually want them. Loud pipes and tail tidies can cause issues at an MoT or trackday.

2000-2006 Ninja ZX-12R – £2,500 – £7,000

Huge, fast and ready to eat mega big miles for breakfast

Ninja ZX-12R

Spec: 178bhp / 1199cc / 820mm seat height / 245kg kerb weight

Powered by a truly jaw-dropping inline four, the ZX-12R is sportier than the Hayabusa (and arguably also better looking) and makes for a tremendous, and bonkers-fast, sports tourer. The engine is the star of the show with oodles of torque giving it incredible roll on performance and the unique chassis, although a bit heavy handling, isn’t bad either.

Ninja ZX-12R used buying advice

● The six-piston calipers on the first and second generation models are poor, often developing sticking pistons. Check for warped discs.
● The ZX-12R’s unique monocoque chassis makes servicing a nightmare as access is very limited. As a result the valve-clearance check, which is required every 8000 miles, is costly at around £700.
● Always check the rear for not only tread depth but also if it is squared off as that can ruin the bike’s handling.

1994-2003 Ninja ZX-9R – £1,500 – £5,000

Big, fast and comfortable Fireblade and YZF-R1 alternative

Ninja ZX-9R

Spec: 144bhp / 899cc / 810mm seat height / 210kg kerb weight

The ZX-9R was outclassed and outgunned back in the day but nowadays makes for a brilliant fast sports-tourer. Big, comfortable and still impressively fast, the ZX-9R is a really solid machine. If you are after a sports bike with a gutsy engine that can take a pillion and yet still be enjoyed solo on a sunny Sunday, the ZX-9R is well worth considering. It’s old-school but that’s not always a bad thing and you can get them from £1500!

Ninja ZX-9R used buying advice

● Pre-2000 models can suffer gearbox issues with third gear the weak point.
● Be wary of bikes that have been left standing as the carbs can become gummed up or the diaphragm inside can split.
● The ZX-9R’s six-piston calipers look cool but are troublesome. Strip and rebuild them with stainless pistons for improved reliability.