So, You Want To Buy My Bike?

MMM’s Etiquette Guide for Buyers and Sellers

by Gus Breiland

Spring brings a bittersweet start to the motorcyclist’s season. Riding season is here, but there are a few pieces of unfinished business in your garage before you can start riding. For some it is as simple as doing the maintenance you have been putting off. For others, this is the start of a much more painful process; the sale of your motorcycle.

Many sellers are waiting for the sale of the current bike to finance the new bike. Sellers hope your spring fever will blind your critical eye and loosen your wallet. Until that happens, they must endure the selling process.

In the last few years I have bought and sold a fair amount of bikes. These true experiences are shared for humor and hopefully a little training so I don’t have to put up with you, the unclean masses, as I try to find my perfect motorcycle.

As the seller, you want the bike gone and you want the buyer’s money. As the buyer, you want to look at the bike, ask some questions and leave with a motorcycle instead of rent money. That is the short and sweet of the transaction.

Come See My Bike

The act of posting an ad on the Web is strange enough. Once you cull the herd down to the two or three serious buyers, you invite complete strangers to your house who ask all manner of annoying questions.

Sellers, control the environment. If at all possible, roll the motorcycle outside and speak with the buyer in front of a closed garage door. They don’t need to see your garage and the contents within. If you don’t want them near your home, meet them at a coffee shop or in the parking lot of the DMV.

Buyers, you are here to look at this bike and this bike alone. If the seller invites you in for a glass of water or a soda, so be it, but don’t expect a meal and don’t expect the seller to show much interest in you as a human being. They are tolerating you on their property for only so long.

Let’s Be Friends

I have come across more than one buyer who uses the want ads as a dating service. These folks are looking for a new friend and approach you with a look that says, “We could take long rides in the dark, go get a burger and maybe more?” Sorry, the cold hard truth is that the seller sees you, the buyer, as a giant walking dollar sign. The minute you turn to social conversation, the seller will start thinking about the next looky-loo who is coming in an hour.

The Test Ride

Buyer, you can ask, but don’t expect every seller to just hand you the keys. Most private transactions will go something like this: “I want to ride it”. Seller – “Hand me a check or cash and you can take it around the block.” Basically, be prepared to buy the bike with a test ride after the transaction. Don’t like the process? Go buy something from a dealer. The seller is not a dealer with heaps of insurance and a fleet of bikes to ride. If you wad the seller’s bike and hand him back the key with a sheepish grin stating “This is what’s left”, be prepared to buy the smoking crater you have just created at full price. Even if it is a simple tip over, I, as the seller, will be hard-pressed to give a damn and expect payment.

I have had many buyers complain and become indignant when I refuse a joy ride. This is the fastest way to stop the transaction and be asked to leave. I will allow the sale to fail before I let you ride my bike. Once it is yours, you are free to do as you please. A 10-15 minute ride should allow you enough time to look over the bike and hear it run.

The Time Waster

Buyer, don’t contact the Seller unless you plan on actually buying the bike. If you state you are looking at a H-D cruiser versus a Spanish trials bike versus a PW50; that tells me you don’t know what you are looking for. Therefore, you are wasting my time.

“…and then I owned…”

Great, you have owned 999 bikes and you can name them from 1 to 999 with an amusing anecdote about each one. Wonderful! Save it for your friends. As the seller, all I want is for you to make this motorcycle number 1,000.

feature103aDesperate, Firm, and OBO Sellers

Sellers, don’t ever put “desperate”, “need to sell by Friday”, or “must be gone this weekend” in your ad and expect anything but 50% offers. If you are desperate, don’t show it. You can quickly find a buyer by advertising a lower-than-normal price and make it firm. The right buyer will understand it is a deal and jump at the price. Don’t lather yourself in honey and lay down on an anthill you will be stung.

“Firm” means firm. If a Seller includes “firm” in their ad, they are going to be less receptive to the haggling game. They will be surly and put off if you start bidding. Low-balling a “firm” is about as effective as telling me I need to go on a diet.

“Or Best Offer” means they are willing to bargain. Most likely they have padded their price to allow the buyer to take them down. These sellers are willing to entertain offers, but only within reason.

I had a potential buyer try to low ball me this winter, starting at almost half. My response to their initial offer was “Thanks. Good luck finding a bike. We will most likely not come to an agreement if you start at that point.” The potential buyer then asked “Well what starting point do you think is fair? You must have some give in your price?” I responded with, “I do have some wiggle room. Not that much. At this point it is still my asking price obo. You come up with a different offer, I’ll consider. Too many low balls and I’ll start raising the price.”

Notice that I was not a complete prick, but I was not willing to be lowballed to almost half. Buyers, don’t assume every seller is desperate. It is a quick way to not buy the bike you want. Seller, you can choose to engage or ignore. Don’t be a complete ass, but let the buyer know they started on the wrong foot.

This technique also signals the buyer to not to raise their offer in increments of $5.00. Use the line the price can always go up. The duration of the interaction will be up to the seller’s patience.

Inspect and Insult

Buyers, you’re trying to get the best value for your money. Ask for records if the seller has them. Ask questions that pertain to the upkeep of the motorcycle and gauge the response. If the seller is forthcoming and free with information, keep asking. Full disclosure by the seller is nice. You may be able to exploit it in the price.

Sellers, clam up. Provide short, truthful answers without being self-incriminating. If you don’t like the direction the questions are going or if you are annoyed that you have a bolt-spotter on hand, ask the buyer if they are ready to buy or start raising the price. Buyers, if you don’t like the answers, walk away. Another will come.

Cash or Check

Seller, your call. Willing to take checks? Wonderful. Buyer, don’t be surprised if the seller says, “Great. I’ll keep the bike and check until the check clears. Call me in a week once your bank has verified funds have cleared and we can schedule an appointment to pick up the bike.”

Sellers, in this instance, leave the bike in the garage. It is no longer yours so no last-minute runs to the market. If you damage the bike or put any new dings in it, be prepared to refund the money. This is not the time to strip the bike of all the aftermarket bits, also. Buyers, take note of what you are buying. If the bike is not as it was, ask for your refund.

Title, No Title, Trip to the DMV

Minnesota has a nice new feature on their titles and web site. The buyer fills out a post card on newer titles to alert the state you have sold the motorcycle. This eliminates the requirement to take a mutual trip to the DMV.

For online reporting go to be sure to have the Title Number, VIN and New owner’s info.

Airfare, Shipping, Transportation

Seller, state in your ad whether or not you are willing to ship or help with shipping. Do not even consider overseas shipping. There are too many scams out there to even try. Meeting halfway is acceptable, so come to terms and figure out a way to get the deal done. Buyer, don’t expect the seller to jump when you ask them to pay for your lack of regional closeness. If you are in New Mexico and are calling for a bike in Florida, it is your problem on how to get there and back, not the sellers. Demanding that the seller cover your airfare is silly. Asking them to pick you up at the airport could be a reasonable request. I feel it is very arrogant of a buyer to ask if I, as the seller, will cover their travel expenses.


Sellers, get off your lazy ass and take a decent picture. There is nothing more off-putting than a seller who won’t even take a decent picture to sell their merchandise. If you want the thing gone, give me a reason to come up and buy it. For those of you who are kind enough to take a picture of your heap of junk CB350 ($1,100 firm) with faded paint and carbs not installed, at least have the common courtesy to pull the bike out of the corner of your dark, dank garage. At a minimum, take a picture of the right and left side of the bike. Give me a chance to see this diamond in the rough or polished turd. This will help me not become a time waster and maybe become a buyer. Make sure the bike is the only thing in the picture. Don’t rely on me to guess which one is for sale. Accurately describe it; pros and cons. I am a big buyer now, I can judge and see if it is for me or not. If not, I will move on (see Time Waster).

To Clean or Not To Clean

If the bike in question is a daily rider, a buyer should give the seller the benefit of a doubt. But if you want top-dollar sellers, get off your couch and clean that bike. If your bike is caked in mud but you ask a show-room price, I will quickly move on.

Ultimately, the buyer and seller have specific jobs to fulfill. The best transaction ends with the seller having cash in hand and the buyer having a new bike under seat. It is an easy process if you let it be. So, be civil and be honest. Let the used car dealers of the world wear the polyester pants.


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