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How to sell a motorcycle

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If you’ve had your motorcycle for any length of time, selling it can be a bittersweet—even if it means you’re upgrading to a new-to-you bike. But we have good news:

How hard is it to sell a used motorcycle?

Thankfully, selling a used motorcycle isn’t hard at all. You’ll have to watch out for scammers and make sure you have the right paperwork. But aside from that, it’s just a matter of getting your baby in shape for the upcoming sale.

To make the process as easy as possible, set clear priorities and expectations from the beginning:

  • Do you want the best price for your motorcycle?
  • Do you just need to make the sale quickly?
  • Are you looking for a certain kind of buyer, like someone who will treasure the bike as you have?

Your priorities will impact your approach to selling your motorcycle. But for the most part, you’ll likely want to follow these steps:

What is the best month to sell a motorcycle?

As you probably guessed, March, April, and May tend to be good times to put your motorcycle up for sale because riders are itching to get back out on the road after a long winter, and are looking for new bikes.

Prepare to sell your motorcycle

To get your bike ready for sale, be sure to:

  • Prep the bike for its next rider
  • Get all the bike’s paperwork together
  • Find the keys

No matter where you plan to advertise your bike, here’s how to increase your chances of getting top dollar—while simplifying the entire sales process.

Take it for a cruise

If you plan to advertise the bike as “runs great,” make sure it actually does. If you live in the northern climes, you may have had your motorcycle in storage all winter, so you shouldn’t be surprised if the battery is drained or the carburetor’s gummy, for example. Now’s the time to chase down anything preventing your motorcycle from being rideable.

You can verify whatever you plan to write in your motorcycle ad by taking the bike out for a long ride. If any issues arise, you can correct the problem before creating your ad. A little maintenance is routine anyway.

Plus, a buyer with cash in hand is much more likely to turn that cash over to you if your ad under-promises a bit and your bike over-delivers.

Finally, if the bike needs more work than you’re willing to put into it, making that clear in your ad will save you tons of time answering calls, texts, and emails from people who aren’t looking for a project bike.

Wash and inspect your motorcycle

At the very least, hook up the garden hose (if it’s not too cold), get some carwash soap, and scrub it down. A little polish won’t hurt. And consider getting some of that sticky, silly putty-like stuff that gets dust and crumbs out of crevices in your car. Use it on the various buttons and gadgets on your bike.

Perform maintenance and repairs

If you’ve kept your motorcycle well-maintained over the years, you likely won’t have any major issues to tackle. But minor maintenance projects are worth it, especially if it means asking for—and getting—a higher price for your baby.

These minor adjustments, if necessary, won’t cost you anything but your time:

  • Adjust the tension in the chain.
  • Align the rear tire.
  • Address any play in the throttle.
  • Adjust any brake play.
  • Adjust any play in the clutch.

These maintenance items might cost a little, but they can add a lot more value to your bike:

  • Lubricate the cables.
  • Replace burned-out signal bulbs and other lights.
  • Replace any missing nuts or bolts.
  • Drain the brake fluid, flush the brake system, and add new brake fluid.
  • Check the air filter. Can you clean it with your air compressor? If not, spring for a new one.
  • Drain, flush, and replace the antifreeze.
  • Check the brake pads and rotors.
  • Run a voltage test on the battery. Can it stay above 12 volts? If not, the cost of a battery is a small investment to ensure the bike starts right up for test riders.
  • Check the tires for signs of damage. Wear and tear is normal, but they should have some tread.
  • Change the oil.

Replace anything that’s:

  • Broken
  • Easy to spot
  • Inexpensive to replace

Once you’re done with the prep checklist, decide how and where you want to sell your bike.

How do you want to sell your motorcycle?

How you sell your motorcycle depends on factors such as where you plan to run the ads: online or locally in person. Here’s what to know about these options:

Selling a motorcycle online

Selling your motorcycle online offers endless possibilities for sellers like you. The whole world becomes your classifieds page.

Pros of selling your motorcycle online

Facebook Marketplace, Instagram, TikTok, and even Craigslist are great places to showcase your ad. With their image upload and editing tools, Instagram and TikTok are especially good places to start. Use these platforms’ video capabilities to capture a 360-degree video of your bike.

Have someone else grab the camera and capture you starting it up, revving the engine a little, and taking off down the road. Also, check out online forums for motorcycle enthusiasts, including Motorcycle Forum and motorcycle.com.

Cons of selling your motorcycle online

With a world of possibilities comes a world of strangers, some literally on the other side of the world and not really interested in your bike. Beware of online scammers trying to exploit your ad for their own benefit.

Never accept a check payment from someone unless you can verify the check is legitimate.

And remember, even a legitimate check can be canceled, so it’s best to deal with cash or electronic payment.

Selling a motorcycle in person

In-person sales are pretty straightforward: Write up an ad and submit it to the local paper or hang flyers in a laundromat, the local supermarket, or somewhere else in town. Selling a motorcycle in person means your prospects can come see the bike in person.

Pros of selling a motorcycle in person

Hanging up flyers costs nothing. The local newspaper may have more reach, though—and for a small fee, they’ll put your ad in the next edition. Since prospects can meet you in person to look at the bike, they can also pay you in person. If you can get cash for the sale, that’s your best option. Depending on how large or small your town is, you might even know your buyer.

Cons of selling your motorcycle in person

Keep in mind, scammers live right down the block, too. It’s totally reasonable to feel some hesitation about sharing your home address and inviting strangers to check out a nice motorcycle. Your yard may have other nice equipment and vehicles, your garage or shop might be full of tools, and your home… well, that’s where your family is!

Instead, consider meeting at the local park, grocery store, or fuel station. Some metropolitan police departments have dedicated areas for sales meetups like this.

You could even agree to meet at the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or Secretary of State office, since if the person decides to buy the bike, they’ll have to update the title and registration anyway. Plus you can ensure everything gets updated to the new owner’s information, releasing you from future liability.

Set your price

Your pride and joy means a lot to you. But how do you put a price on your years of enjoyment? Do motorcycles hold their value? Not surprisingly, it depends on a lot of factors. Start by checking out the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and Kelley Blue Book. Both are great resources to help you find out what motorcycles similar to yours sell for in your area.

If you have a relatively common bike, it’ll be easier to find an accurate estimate. If you’ve added a lot of aftermarket items or it’s not a common bike, you’ll have to do a little more digging.

How do I get fair market value when selling a used motorcycle?

How much you get for your bike comes down to how much buyers are willing to spend. How bad do they want your bike? Clever motorcycle ads can capture attention, but how can you make your ad stand out? Let’s take a look at creating that ad.

Create your motorcycle sale ad

Your motorcycle ad should be clear and easy to read, with only the most important information. You don’t need a degree in communication to write a motorcycle ad, but correct spelling and grammar with easy-to-read formatting can help improve your chances of selling your motorcycle.

What should you include in this ad? Mention:

  • Any customizations or upgrades you’ve made
  • Any major service the bike has undergone
  • If the bike has ever been involved in an accident and any subsequent major repairs
  • An accurate odometer reading
  • Any extras that you’re throwing in, such as parts, user manuals, or special tools

Motorcycle photography tips

Photos are one of the top ways to sell your bike—clear photos, that is. And lots of them.

  • If there’s any damage to the bike, make sure to include a photo of it. Don’t use fancy filters or blur tools on your phone. 
  • Take your pics in good lighting with the bike front and center.
  • If you have an uncluttered spot, like clean pavement in your driveway, that’s perfect—it won’t detract attention from the bike itself.
  • Don’t take pics of your bike while it’s still in the garage. If the garage is messy, buyers might think you haven’t taken care of the bike.
  • Be careful. If you accidentally catch expensive items in the photo, you could set yourself up as a target for thieves.
  • Take a few photos and review the pics indoors in good lighting—what will your potential buyers see?

Once you’ve got some great photos, it’s time to place your ad and start talking with and meeting interested buyers.

Meet potential buyers

In theory, offering as many ways as possible to reach you (text message, email, phone call, etc.) is great—but you might spend a lot of time answering questions instead of actually meeting interested buyers. Consider buying one of those inexpensive, pre-paid burner phones just for selling your bike and only taking phone calls.

As messages start rolling in, prepare for potential spam attempts. Some will be outright attempts to scam you, while others are just checking the temperature of the water or outright lowballing you. It’s nothing personal. Just respond promptly to messages that are actually from interested buyers.

Motorcycle test drives

Most people won’t take the time to set up a test drive if they’re not serious. But you also don’t want to risk your bike getting damaged or stolen, so how can you best protect your bike?

A good way to ensure only the most serious buyers take your bike for a ride is to collect a refundable deposit before the test drive.

One of the most important questions when allowing test drives is this: Can your potential buyer legally operate a motorcycle? A legal driver won’t have a problem providing their credentials, so don’t forget to ask about their:

Also, if your bike has any quirks, make sure you inform the potential buyer before they get on the bike. Being surprised when riding a bike for the first time can be dangerous.

Protect yourself when selling a motorcycle

Scammers and criminals are getting more sophisticated with every technological advancement. So how do you protect yourself when selling a motorcycle? Scammers and criminals are getting more sophisticated with every technological advancement. So how do you protect yourself when selling a motorcycle?

Avoid scams

Counterfeit money exists. People write bad checks. Even money orders can be fraudulent. It’s a good idea to trust your instincts. When you accept payment, obtain their driver’s license information too—a photocopy is best. A legitimate buyer won’t balk at sharing these details, but a criminal will want to get the goods and get out of there.

Is it safe to share the VIN when selling a motorcycle?

Unless you’re selling to a legitimate buyer, like a dealership, you likely won’t need to share the VIN. And the fewer people who know your bike’s VIN, the better.

Completing the sale

What are the formalities to selling a motorcycle?

Motorcycle title

Your title proves you’re the owner and you have the right to sell the property. If you can’t find your title, you’ll need to apply for a lost title and wait till it arrives in the mail.

Motorcycle sale paperwork

You’ll want to provide the buyer with a receipt for the bike sale. There are plenty of bill of sale templates online to help you create this document. You can also buy them in an office supply store. In addition, you may also need:

  • Registration: It’s possible to sell your bike without its registration if you have its title. But if there are any liens against the bike, you might need to provide a current registration. Can you sell your motorcycle with a lien on it? Yes, but it’s a different process, and you’ll have to contact the lienholder to proceed.
  • Proof of residency: Sometimes the buyer will want this information to vet you as the seller.
  • Your driver’s license: Smart buyers will want to verify that you’re on the title and have legal authority to sell the bike.

Shipping your motorcycle

Buyers who live in another state may request shipping, but so do many scammers, so it’s important to know the difference. If you decide you’re not averse to shipping, here are a few things to consider:

  • How much it costs: Price depends on weight, distance, and the shipper you hire. You can potentially pass these costs on to the buyer.
  • How it ships: This also depends on distance and cost, but the bike’s worth is also a factor. For instance, open-method or uncovered shipping means the bike is exposed on a trailer, but this costs much less than an enclosed shipment method. But if your bike is one-of-a-kind without a scratch, enclosed shipping may be the way to go, even though it costs more.
  • When it ships: If you’re shipping your bike during the winter or during the time of year when golf ball-sized hail falls in your region, enclosed shipping is your best option.

After your motorcycle sale

Selling your motorcycle can be emotionally complicated. But now you have cash in hand and can set out on the next leg of your journey. If you invest in a brand-new bike, we can help you protect your newest prized possession with the motorcycle insurance coverages you need for peace of mind.

 

Related links

Selling your motorcycle could mean you’re in the market for a new-to-you bike. Here are a few questions to ask when you’re looking to buy a used motorcycle.

Even if you sell your motorcycle in-person, you can use the power of the internet to gear up for your ride. Here are the 21 best places to buy motorcycle gear online.

The general information in this blog is for informational or entertainment purposes only. View our blog disclaimer.

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