There are a lot of potential pitfalls to buying a used motorcycle online. You have to look in the right place, know what to look for and negotiate the right price. Here’s a rough guide to doing just that.
Before the World Wide Web popped its head around the door, buying a used motorcycle was a lot simpler. You either took yourself off to the dealers and or bike shops in your area. Or, you put the word out and waited to see what surfaced.
More often than not, you had a particular make or model in mind. But when the guy down the road told you he was selling his pride and joy, you’d spend the next week convincing yourself; his ride was what you had been looking for all along.
Whatever way round, you invariably didn’t stray far from the boundaries of your hometown. Now, thanks to the web, we can cast our nets far and wide. We can be more accurate about what we want and see the object of our desire in glorious technicolor.
Well, that’s the theory anyway. In reality, there’s a whole heap of pitfalls just waiting for the inexperienced. By reading this, you will discover how to avoid them.
So, what’s first when it comes to buying a used motorcycle online? Ah yes, where to look? Obviously, the big classified ad players are Craigslist and eBay. But a speedy search also comes up with Cycle Crunch and Motorcycle.com classifieds. So, let us look at these two first.
Cycle Crunch gives you a nice easy to read selection bar running down the left side. You can choose from the usual variables such as distance from zip code, make model, etc. There are plenty of results, and the photos are nice and clear with basic info loading up on the right. However, scrolling through the first ten pages, all I could find were bikes being sold by dealers.
Ok, that’s not a particularly bad thing, at least the photos are good and descriptions detailed. But it should just say upfront if it’s a dealer-only site instead of letting you search pointlessly for private sales. On the positive side, Cycle Crunch does offer a very handy ‘buyer alert’ feature though.
Motorcycle.com classifieds look a bit basic in its search criteria, but it does have an advanced search button if you look.
Here, you can add distance from zip code, etc. Punch in the make, model and year, press enter and get a mass of results. There’s a D or P (dealer or private) sign in the right corner of each ad which is good. But looking through the first ten pages, once again, it was mostly all dealers. Worse still, after page four, all the listings were detailed but had a sold strike put through them. Why not just delete the suckers instead of pretending there are 500+ results.
Final gripe, click on a bike and what you’ll find are small photos, three lines of info on the motorcycle then six paragraphs on the dealer. You’re looking for a motorcycle here, not a trader to be your new best friend. Still worth a look though, it pays to consider every option open to you.
Craiglist Might Be The Most Popular Place For Buying A Used Motorcycle Online.
Craigslist always looks to me like the page hasn’t quite loaded correctly, but hey, it’s not a website fashion parade. The stats for this site are insane, 60 million users, 50 billion page views per month and 80 million classified ads per month. But what’s it like when you are searching for a bike?
Well, with that much traffic it doesn’t need to be fancy. Type in the make and a model list pops up. Then there is a filter for the year, mileage, engine size, miles from zip, state, city, district, etc. And as you would expect, it’s got to be one of the most popular sites on which to list a bike, so the choice is phenomenal
What isn’t so cool is trying to contact the seller. Whether it’s by email or phone, there is page after page of ‘I am not a robot,’ and ‘press on the square in the picture,’ to get through. Maybe if you like the bike, you’re more invested, but I was losing the will to live.
Can’t Forget About eBay.
eBay was started way back in 1995 in the delirious dot com bubble and has always been one of the best go-to places for used bikes on both sides of the Atlantic.
It’s easy to see why. Navigation is easy. Filtering lets you get straight to what you’re looking for and you can either get a phone number for the seller or contact them with a touch of a button.
What’s the downside? You can, ‘Buy it Now,’ but this is an auction site. Alternatively, you can bid over a few days only to see the bike get snapped up by someone else.
Also, big warning alert! It’s easy to get sucked into a last-minute bidding war so give yourself a limit and stick to it.
When you eventually find a bike you like the look of, ask yourself if all the relevant information has been listed and do you want to see any more photos of any parts of the bike. If so, make contact with the seller and tell them what you need.
If possible, load the photos onto something with a decent sized screen and not your smartphone. You want to be able to expand the pics and have a really good look at them. You can discover a whole host of things about a bike, good and bad before you ever see it in the flesh.
Just remember, big, detailed, in focus photos usually mean the seller has nothing to hide. You should be wary of photos taken at night where you can barely make out the bike let alone any details.
Do your Homework!
Before you go to see the bike of your dreams, get the VIN and run a check on it. Ensure that you have done all necessary research on the make and model, including any known faults or recalls. And also get the finances sorted because, as with everything in life, money talks and BS walks.
Also, you’re going to be crawling all over the bike, so if you haven’t got a flashlight app on your phone take a small torch. It may genuinely be the case that the seller keeps his bike in a dungeon, illuminated only by a flickering candle! So be prepared, or best of all, see it in the daylight.
With the VIN numbers checked against the paperwork and the rest of the bike’s papers in order, get out your inspection checklist and questions to ask. Don’t worry about taking your time; it’s your hard-earned cash you’re parting with, so be thorough.
If the seller is edgy and trying to hurry you up into making a decision, it could be because his old lady has just gone into labor. But it’s more likely to be a diverting tactic. Never forget, if you don’t like something, walk. Better to waste time than dollars.
Making a Deal.
Ok, so you’ve done all the physical checks, and the owner has come through the interrogation with flying colors. What’s next? Now for the scary part, you’re about to do a deal for real money.
Be as realistic as possible as to how much the bike is worth to you and what you want to pay for it. Depending on the price, your opening bid should be around 20% less than the asking price. For example, the bike is $5000, less 20% which comes down to $4000, so that’s the figure you offer.
Obviously, the owner is going to cough up a lung in shock, but hopefully, you’ll end up splitting the difference at $4500. You’ll feel like you’ve got a deal and the seller has got the price he wanted before adding on 20%, so everyone’s happy.
Also, when you’ve got that wad of notes in your hand, it’s a good time to ask if there are any extras related to the bike. And are they being thrown in to sweeten the deal, you never know unless you ask?
Don’t relax just yet. Just remember to point out that the deal is entirely dependent on the test ride. The owner will then counter with the classic. ‘if you drop it you bought it,’ speech.
Preferably, you do need to ride it yourself to make sure that everything works and sounds as it should. Also, as importantly, check that you are comfortable with the bike, not only at a standstill but also on the move.
If you’re not mechanically minded, and you haven’t got a buddy who is, don’t worry. For around $100-$150 you can get an independent company to perform a pre-purchase mechanical inspection. It could be money well spent.
Ok, now we’re on the home stretch. If you don’t want to ride your new bike home and you haven’t got a buddy with a truck. Another option is to rent one, just don’t forget to add in the cost of the rental and gas. It’s all too easy pretending related expenses don’t matter, but they all add to the overall purchase cost, which may make you bargain harder. Good luck.