November 19 2009 by Jason Fogelson
I own two motorcycles. One I've had since 1980; the other (my new one) I bought in 1993. Recently, I've been thinking about buying a new touring bike like a Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic. If I decide to pull the trigger on a new bike purchase, my other bikes will have to go. So, researcher that I am, I've been studying up on what steps to take in order to sell my motorcycles.
First, I'm going to perform an inspection. I'm going to decide which repair items will get fixed, and which items will remain unrepaired for the new buyer. One of my bikes has a very faded paint job. It would cost about $500 to repaint the bike, but repainting the bike would not increase its value. So, I won't repaint. But, I will repair that torn seat, tidy up that loose clutch cable and polish that rusting chrome -- all necessary maintenance that will cost me little more than elbow grease but could impact the sale price significantly. I'll also remove any accessories or extra equipment that I might want to keep or sell separately -- sometimes, a bike is worth more in pieces than it is as a running whole.
Next, I'm going to give my bikes a thorough cleaning and polishing. I'm usually pretty diligent about this step anyway, but I believe that a clean bike is usually a well-maintained bike, and I want potential buyers to believe that as well.
While my bikes are clean and polished, I'm going to take great photos in good natural light. I'll find a good, neutral background to set the bikes against, and take good close-up shots that show the whole bike from a number of angles. I'll take some detail shots, including a photograph of the odometer showing the bike's mileage. These photographs will become part of my sales portfolio.
Now I'll head to the computer, and do some digging. I'll check out eBay Motors to see how many similar bikes to mine are currently listed, and what the asking prices are. I'll check Cycle Trader for similar info. I'll check prices at Kelley Blue Book, the used car reference site, which also has a motorcycle section with prices all the way back to 1970. Based on this research, I'll decide how much I think my bike is worth. And, more importantly, how much I'd be willing to sell it for -- which might not be the same number.
Next, I'll check with my local department of motor vehicles to find out what paperwork I'll need in order to transfer ownership to my buyer. I'll make sure that I have my title, insurance card and any other paperwork together. I'll also collect all of my service records and any other receipts for
Once I've decided on my bottom line, I'm ready to list my bike. I'm very comfortable with online sales, which I believe give the widest exposure and potentially the highest prices. They also come with plenty of potential hassles, with deadbeat buyers and complicated shipping procedures topping the lists. But thousands of motorcycles change hands online every year, and the sites are set up to walk both buyer and seller through the process as painlessly as possible.
At the same time, I might try to sell the bike locally, both online and the old fashioned way. I might put an ad on the free Craig's List service (http://www.craigslist.com), linking to my listing on eBay Motors or Cycle Trader. I might just draw up a nice "For Sale" sign and set my bike up in a prominent spot in my neighborhood.
The one thing that I will not allow is for any stranger to take my bike for a free test ride. I have heard too many horror stories about bikes being stolen, wrecked, or just plain thrashed by people posing as potential buyers. If someone wants to give me full cash payment, then take the bike for a ride around the block to confirm that it runs as advertised, that's okay. But no test rides without payment in advance.
The more I think about selling one of my bikes, the less I want to do it. It's not the hassle of putting my bike up for sale that holds me back. It's the memories. I know that they are inanimate objects, but each of my bikes holds a piece of my soul, and I'm having a hard time letting them go.
Maybe that new Ultra Classic will help break the bonds...