The present study investigated how pre-drinking could be explained using a model based on dual-systems theory, incorporating measures of explicit and implicit constructs. Undergraduate students (N = 144; 44 male; 100 female; Mage = 20.1 years), completed an online survey comprising measures of pre-drinking motives, a measure of pre-drinking cost motives, and an alcohol identity implicit association test. Variance-based structural equation modelling revealed that the predictors explained 34.8 % of the variance in typical pre-drinking alcohol consumption and 25 % of the variance in alcohol-related harm. Cost, interpersonal enhancement, and barriers to consumption motives predicted higher typical pre-drinking alcohol consumption and greater alcohol-related harm. Higher situational control scores predicted lower typical pre-drinking alcohol consumption, and lower alcohol-related harm. Positive implicit alcohol identity predicted alcohol-related harm, but not typical alcohol consumption. Results indicate that a dual-systems approach to pre-drinking has utility in predicting alcohol-related harm and may inform interventions to reduce excessive alcohol consumption and associated harm.