Selling a motorcycle can be a huge hassle – fixing it up, keeping it clean, and posting a good ad are already frustrating…and that’s before you even start dealing with the low-ballers and tire-kickers! But there is a systematic way to make your bike as marketable as possible and getting top dollar for it, and we’ll show you how it’s done in this helpful guide.
Selling a motorcycle is often a sad day in the life of any real rider – whether it’s due to changes in the family, a rearranging of financial priorities, or even to put cash toward a different bike, seeing your baby ride off into the sunset to a new home is always kind of a bummer.
But what can make the whole experience a heck of a lot better is knowing you got top dollar for it, and had a smooth and easy transaction to boot. But there is a system to this, and most people don’t know what it is – instead, they take a few lousy cell phone pics of their bike wherever it’s sitting, write a crappy listing, and sit back and wait for a buyer, instead dealing with the inevitable flood of low-ballers and scammers that follows.
We don’t want your bike-selling experience to be any harder on you that it already is, so we used our expertise to put together this guide, the long-awaited partner piece to last year’s “How to Buy a Used Motorcycle.” You asked for it, now here’s your guide on How to Sell A Used Motorcycle!
Well…this is one way to get attention to your For Sale ad!
The Selling Process
Once you decide to sell your motorcycle, you have to understand one thing – selling any big ticket item is a process. There are multiple steps to it, and you will likely have to put some money and certainly a good chunk of time into it, but that’s the price you pay to get top dollar for your bike. If you don’t want to deal with the hassle, you can always trade it in, but the convenience will cost you – probably thousands! To get the most money in your pocket, you’re going to have to work for it – but it’s worth it.
Here are the 4 steps to selling your motorcycle:
- Research Phase (researching the market, looking up valuations and comparable sales)
- Bike Preparation (getting your bike, along with your records and paperwork, in selling condition)
- Photos and Ad Posting (getting high quality photos and a well written listing that will attract buyers)
- Negotiating the Deal (how to get the maximum amount from a qualified buyer with cash)
Now, we’ll get into each of these steps in more detail.
The Research Phase
When selling anything, especially a big ticket item, it is essential to research the market first. You need to do this to get a feel for what the market looks like from a buyer’s perspective, and also to determine a fair valuation for your bike in the current market in your area. Blue Book values are not generally not the best way to do this – while they create a starting point for pricing, they are too generalized, and usually, too high. Look at other bikes like yours in about a 50 mile radius, factor in the condition and miles of your own, and price accordingly.
Another thing to be conscious of with motorcycles in particular is the time of year you are selling, because motorcycle riding is a highly seasonal activity. If you live in states where freezing weather during winter makes it impossible to ride, you’ll have very hard luck trying to sell a bike in fall or winter. Here in San Diego people ride all year, but we still experience a dip in both riding and selling activity in the colder months. No matter where you are, spring is riding season in North America, and you will likely see the most activity and the best offers during that time.
Once you have a good idea of the value of your bike and how it stacks up to what else is out there, it’s time to get it ready to go on display.
Bike Preparation Phase
If you want to get top dollar for your bike and make it really appetizing to potential buyers, you’ll need your bike to be in “turnkey condition.” This means there are no apparent maintenance problems, the title and registration paperwork are in order, and the bike is clean and ready to ride. If any of these are neglected, you are going to have a hard time selling your bike, if you get offers at all.
First, you should take care of any important or obvious maintenance issues. Your bike doesn’t necessarily have to be in perfect condition, but any obvious damage should be repaired, and simple maintenance items should be up to date (things like fresh fluids, a strong battery, and a lubed chain.) Apparent crash damage will ding your bike’s value tremendously, so fix any of that if necessary. If your tire’s tread life is under 50%, it may be a good idea to replace them with a fresh set. Your bike should also be clean and spotless before it goes on sale – for a great guide on getting your bike super clean, check out our Perfectionist’s Guide to Washing your Motorcycle. You might still be riding your bike while you try to sell it, but get it spotless before you take photos, and when you have a buyer coming to look at it.
Finally, make sure your paperwork is in order. Because potential buyers will likely ask for a VIN report, you may want to run one on your own bike to make sure it looks good. Make sure you have your title and registration, and both are clear, up to date, and in your name. Any title or registration issues – or worse, if either of these are missing – will be a huge impediment to a smooth sale. A single folder with your title, owners manual, and all receipts and records is a very good look to a buyer.
Finally, if you can, consider returning your bike to OEM condition if you have modified it. You generally won’t get any additional money for aftermarket parts added to your bike (unless they are really nice, high demand stuff, and even then you won’t get much more for them.) In many cases, overly personalized modifications (like custom paint) can actually drop a bikes value, and make it very difficult to sell. (We specialize in affordable OEM parts, so check out our OEM Parts Finder if you need to find parts for your bike.)
When selling, the closer you are to OEM, the better. So to really get top dollar for your bike, pull off the nice accessories you’ve installed and sell them separately. An internet forum specifically for your model of bike is the best place to unload these items for a fair price.
Photos and Ad Posting
Think about the last time you went shopping for something second-hand online, and think about what stood out to you vs. what didn’t. More than likely, what made one product jump off the page at you compared with ones you’ve long since forgotten are beautiful, eye-popping photos.
Great photos are essential to getting a high amount of interest in your bike, which will result in more qualified buyers and, ultimately, a higher price. Unfortunately, as easy as it is to make your ad stand out with excellent photos, taking those photos is something very few sellers manage to do.
Unfortunately, you see poorly taken photos like this way too often on for sale ads. A photo like this will make it very hard for a potential buyer to be attracted to your bike.
In order to get great shots of your bike, make sure it is completely clean, and move it to a location with lots of bright light and a pleasant, but plain background. You want all the attention on your bike, not on anything else that might be in the photo. Hold the camera very still and take a large number of photos of the bike at all angles, and take the best 8-10 photos out later to use in your ad.
Show the bike in its entirely, but also show close-ups of any really nice features, and also, clearly indicate any damage in the photos (they will see it when the come to see the bike anyway, so be honest and make it clear up front.) If you don’t have an eye for photography at all, this would be the time to get some help from a pro – professional photos will make your bike unforgettable (especially if it’s photogenic to begin with.)
Using a professional camera, and if possible, a professional photographer, will really help make your bike pop off the page. You may have to spend a little money or ask for a favor to get this done, but it’s worth it.
When you post the ad, be very detailed about your bike, and don’t be shy about telling its story. People know they are buying a second hand bike, so there is no need to sterilize it’s past to make it appealing – on the contrary, talking about your experience with it and what makes it special to you may make it more memorable to buyers.
Overall, the more information you give in your ad, the better, because it will help the sales process become smoother and faster later. Lots of information and high-quality photos will show buyers that you are a serious seller, and will keep the looky-loos and tire-kickers away, while only attracting serious buyers who are genuinely interested in your bike.
Here’s a great for sale photo – clear view of the bike, well-lit, in the bike’s natural element. 5 or 6 of these from different angles and your ad will look great.
Negotiating the Deal
The nice part about being on the selling side of the bike is that you retain most of the initiative in the process – the buyer is coming to you, and if they want you to budge off the price you’ve listed, they have to convince you of it. Nevertheless, you still want a deal to go through, and both parties walking away from a deal empty handed doesn’t help anyone.
First of all, you are likely to get a lot of “would-ya-takes” over the phone and in emails. Often, these are just dreamers wasting your time, or vultures looking for a desperate seller who will take a low-ball offer. Someone who is genuinely interested and has means will ask about the bike, and want to see it, and that should be your goal – negotiating in person.
Avoid making any commitments to come off your price over the phone – anyone who expects you to take a lowball offer over the phone when they haven’t even seen your bike is probably not a real buyer anyway. Serious negotiation takes place in person, with cash in hand. As a seller, you will likely get a lot of calls, texts, and emails that just waste your time, but you only need one real buyer to make a deal happen.
As we mentioned in our guide to How To Buy a Used Motorcycle, if you plan to make a low offer, it helps to do your homework and show justification for your low price (such as other similar bikes for sale for less money.) As the seller, this works as well. To support your price, don’t be afraid to show how the market supports it with comparable listings. Or, because you’re the seller, you can also just say “no” to a low offer – that works too!
When you sell a bike to the right buyer, it usually won’t be such a terrible ordeal – after all, the buyer should be thrilled to get a new ride, and passing on a bike you don’t want anymore to someone who cherishes it is a good feeling (and so is walking away with a pocket full of cash.) If you do all your homework and preparation up front as a seller, you can make selling your bike a great deal, rather than an ordeal!
When all else fails, you can always post a real attention-getting ad like this legend from the web!
Do you have any great tips on selling a used motorcycle that have worked well for you in the past? Share them in the comments below!