Used Bike Shopping on the Internet

For most of us, the purchase of a new motorcycle comes around eh not often enough.  But as we gain experience, our tastes in motorcycles tend to change.  This passion of ours and the ease to garage more than a few motorcycles on “YOUR” side of the garage – has lend the possibility of purchasing more than one bike.  The cost of used motorcycles have remained somewhat affordable for most, depending on your taste.  Finding these deals were once printed classifieds ads.  And they have pretty much gone by the way of the dinosaurs.   The internet has made motorcycle shopping an interesting animal now a days.  With sources like Craigslist, Cycle Trader, Enthusiast Forums and many others – a potential buyer/seller has many options to help them do them along.

It may just be me but I tend to recycle motorcycles back into the Craigslist ether every couple of years or so.  Call it boredom or maybe just a simple phase.  Fellow riders tend to make fun of me and have running bets on how long I may keep a certain bike in my possession.  To be honest, I really do enjoy the hunt of a new (to me) bike, refreshing/refurbishing and the outfitting of a newly acquired motorcycle.  With that said, I have been lucky to have only purchase running bikes.  Basket cases or half finish projects don’t interest me much at this time.  Most that I have been able to acquire were just needing a little love and some riding time to figure themselves out.

Many folks find purchasing on Craigslist dangerous and time consuming.  It can be.  I always live by a great saying – prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  Trust your gut feeling and folks tend to show their true colors pretty plainly at the time of the deal.  With that said, If you have ever dealt with the general public in the course of your business or personal life.   You know that folks come in all types.  But that’s the magic about buying a motorcycle from a private party.  You both speak the same language and share the same passion for motorcycles.  I have found that learning about the community and history of the motorcycle you’re trying to buy helps in the softening (breaking the ice) of the communication with the seller.  Mutual admiration or shared experience with similar bikes can sometimes create even footing and a more comfortable feeling when hammering out a deal.

Online ad etiquette and expectation.  Depending on your experience, we like to see classified ads with useful information on the potential bike we my be interested in.  Some ads are very minimal and others go way out into left field.   Then there’s the scam ads.  After a while, you’re able to spot those out pretty easily.   They asking price is usually too good to be true, generic photos are used and their contact info is usually a strange email.  I hate to think of the few that have fallen to the scams.  Karma will catch up to them I’m sure.

Unfortunately, not everyone is a square dealer, so buyer beware.  Also,  you’re carrying a bit of cash on you so take precautions when meeting someone.  I try to never to meet someone after dark if possible.  For one, you can really see the true look of the bike.  Having someone with you as backup or to help with the loading of the bike and security if you’re unsure.  Try to get the VIN number or plate number of the bike prior to your visit to run it’s registration history against public databases.   Titles ,in Texas at least,  come in a few flavors.   Clean blue title, salvage/rebuilt title and the ever so common – no title at all.  I like to quote the crazy fellas from The Wheelnerds podcast “Not Stolen!”.  For the most part, folks have a title in their name and free of any liens.   But they’re some folks that have bikes with no titles at all or have a bill of sale of sorts.   Unless you are ready to put in the extra leg work and money for a bonded title, for me the process is too much to handle.   Find out from your state’s DMV what they require for title transfer with or without a title.  Where the seller should sign, what title application documents should accompany it for a smooth title transfer.  And try to have some kind of bill of sale of the transaction.  This will help prove that the transaction happen as so.  Vehicles from out of state may require special handling.  Make sure you contact your local DMV to ask.

Test riding:  Taking a strange bike for a spin comes with a lot of expectations.  Some are assumed and others are surprises.  If possible, contact your insurance carrier to find out if your motorcycle insurance policy covers newly acquired vehicles or borrowed/rented vehicles.   You may have some limitations.   Sometimes the owner may not feel terribly comfortable you test riding his baby on your lonesome.  Cash is sometimes required to be held during the test ride.   A buddy of yours can be useful in this case to hold the cash just in case.  You don’t know the history of the new bike.  Inspect the bike and remember TCLOCKS from your beginner riding class.  Tires, Controls, Lights, Oil (fluids in general), Chassis and Kickstand.  Wear your riding gear to be on the safe side and take your mobile phone.

Transportation.    If you’re lucky enough to find your next bike in the same area you live in, a simple call to your best buds will get you a ride out to the sale.   But sometimes you just have to go at it by yourself.   I really find the rental of the motorcycle trailer from Uhaul a tremendous help.   Normally a one day rental (unlimited miles) will run you under $40 for the trailer and insurance.   You can also reserve a trailer at a distant city for a one way rental if you are not entirely sure that the bike is going to turn out the way you hope.   In that case, you can reserve the trailer over the phone with your credit card and I believe you can cancel the reservation without penalty.  Terms and conditions could be different in your area.   A set of good motorcycle straps and you are set to transport your new find.   A pickup bed and a ramp is also an option.  But the height of the bed, the weight of the bike and the width of the ramp may be a scary combination in my opinion.

Well, these are just some of my thoughts from the experiences I have had in my neck of the woods.  I hope you find them useful.

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