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How To Price A Bike

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  • How To Price A Bike

    So, you're trying to buy or sell a bike. How do you determine how much to pay, or how much to reasonably expect?

    There are the NADA (http://www.nada.com) and Kelley Blue Book (http://www.kbb.com) guides. Of course, these are notoriously inaccurate -- due to availability and climate, bike prices fluctuate a lot. That said, NADA usually over-estimates and KBB usually under-estimates.

    Average retail prices are for a bike that is ready to be ridden. If the bike in question needs routine maintenance (valves, oil, hoses, rust removal) or new wear items (tires, chain, sprockets, brake pads, rotors, exhaust repacking), the price should consider those. It's not fair to expect the buyer or seller to totally eat these costs, but don't expect NADA Average Retail on a bike with warped rotors, 5 year old tires, and a chain stretched past the wear limits. If the carbs need a rebuilding, the tank has rust, and the brake hoses are dry-rotted, then it's going to be hard to get low retail (that, or you're going to have an unhappy buyer on your hands. Or you'll be an unhappy buyer). Even if your bike has extremely low miles for its age, it may not be worth as much as you think, because of all the routine maintenance it will need: if you get the work done at a shop, you might be looking at $100 in hoses, $300 in valves, $300 in tires (new tires plus shop mounting work), $300 in carb work, $100 in gas tank work (rust removal and coating), and $200 in brake system work. And a bike with neglected maintenance may not be safe to ride. Maintenance is much more important, intensive, and expensive on motorcycles compared to cars. Pay now or pay later.

    Also consider cosmetics. Average retail differs here: some people consider a little bit of rash or paint damage to be average, while others expect everything to be pristine. Since even minor rash is extremely expensive to replace, finding a happy medium can be hard. Consider that paint can be upwards of $500, and replacement can easily exceed several thousand dollars. On a 5-10 year old bike, replacement of damaged bodywork with new OEM parts can easily exceed the value of a bike. Severely damaged bodywork may also indicate structural damage. Unless you know what you're doing, you don't ever want to buy a bike with obvious structural frame damage (cracks, bends, excessive rust). Without the (expensive) repair or replacement by a skilled welder or mechanic, a bike with frame damage could be a death trap.

    Finally, consider timing. During the off season (when temperatures are regularly below 55 or so), prices drop significantly. Ultimately this is up to the buyer, seller, and area.

    Your best bet is to use resources like KBB, NADA, eBay, and Cycle Trader to find out the average price of bikes in similar condition in your region. During the off-season, you'll also want to use eBay and Cycle Trader to find out the "winter depreciation": look for what bikes in the same class in your region are selling for during the winter, and compare that price to what they sold for in the summer. You might also consider asking friends or forum members what they think a reasonable price is, even if they aren't willing to buy.
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