Navigating the Springtime Motorcycle Market
by Lee Meyer
Spring is pretty much here and motorcycle fever is upon us. Many will be starting out on a search for new machinery to replace an old ride or better yet add another to the collection. Unfortunately spring is the worst time of the year to buy your new bike. Dealers and private sellers are quite aware of the spring feeding frenzy and take full advantage of it. Haggling for a deal will be difficult or impossible. If at all possible large dough can be saved if you can hold your horses until mid-to-late summer. More likely you will be in charge of the deal at that time; sellers get panicky when their goods are still for sale towards the end of the season. If you just can’t wait, here are a few more tips and reminders.
Buying Used: This category has the largest variety. There is a used machine for every size wallet–from the hundred dollar beater to the used 916 Duck for twelve grand. I bought an old Honda Magna for 75 bucks some years back and rode the crap out of it for two years. So what if it didn’t have fifth and sixth gears. Buying used from a private party can get you a better deal than at a dealership but may be more risky. Make sure to check the beast over thoroughly before handing over the cash.
Tires, chain and sprockets and tune-ups can add quite a bit to your purchase price. Getting the bike inspected and checked out at a trusted shop before buying is well worth the fifty or so bucks. If the seller won’t let you get it checked out just walk away. There’s always going to be another one and it may be in nicer shape. Buying used at a dealership will more likely get you a mechanically sound machine but at a price. Dealers have to make sure their used bikes are safe and have sound mechanicals. Basically, it’s the law. Prices will be up though, more overhead costs, mechanics to pay to make sure the bikes are up to par, and the profit margins on the used machines are way better than on their new ones. Of course they want to keep it that way so it’s hard dealing. With bikes less than ten years old never pay more than book value. Check your library or bookstore or look to the internet to research book values. NADA or blue books tend to lose accuracy on older bikes so research selling prices in the various trader and shopper publications as well as the internet.
Buying a new bike means you are stuck with the dealership. Here’s a big tip. Get out of town. The little dealership fifty miles away would just love to sell you a bike for quite a bit less than the huge big city dealers. They’ll pay more attention to you, give you a better deal on parts and accessories–the whole works. Do your homework and know the manufacturers suggested retail price of the bikes you are interested in. On some occasions a popular model will be priced above the M.S.R.P. This sucks in my opinion. One example is Yamaha’s New YZF1000R1–I think M.S.R.P. is $10,500, but many dealers are selling them at twelve grand or better. They add on extra freight and set up charges etc. What a rip-off. It costs about $150 to pay the setup guy to assemble a new bike, tops. If you’ve got to have the best, newest, fastest, etc., just be prepared for this kind of thing.
For some people price isn’t quite as important as good customer service and a quality repair facility. Not all service departments are equal. Check around and take your service business where you feel most comfortable. You can buy your new motorcycle from one dealership and have it serviced wherever you wish. Don’t be put off if you make on offer and the dealer won’t go for it. He’ll probably counteroffer to keep you there, but remember that they have to make a profit to stay in business. Dealers can however sell a machine for “cost” and still make a couple hundred bucks. Retail pricing is about 15% over dealer cost but there is a couple percent “hold back” the factories allow, so if a dealer does sell for cost they won’t take it in the shorts too bad. The extra couple percent can pay the setup guy and the sales person something at least. You’re probably not getting a new bike for cost in the spring–August maybe–not in the spring unless its an older year leftover or an unpopular model. If that’s what you may be looking for then haggle yourself silly, some models are a tough sell and nobody wants leftovers. Except maybe you.
Educate yourself thoroughly on the makes and models of your interest. I like to know way more than the salespeople when I check out new machinery. It kind of eliminates the possibility of the dealer misinforming you, intentionally or not.
Bike shopping is a fun thing, try and remember that. As soon as it becomes stressful or uncomfortable get out and go somewhere else. There are lots of bikes and shops in the world. Unless you’re shopping for a Vincent or maybe an Ariel square four.