• Selling Your Beginner Bike

    reprinted from BB.com , March 2004
    copyright owned by author

    Selling Your Beginner Bike

    Welcome to this month's rotation of the wheels of Customarily Minded (hmm, that sounds frighteningly similar to Whizbang's column...I'll have to come up with something else next time around!). For March I'd like to deal with a topic that is a popular one for this time of the year, namely selling a used bike. Things are warming up now and folks will be getting the bike bug again, so the time is ripe for selling. This article serves more on the overall process of selling the bike, and to any potential buyers reading along, if you pay close attention you can get some tips on how to get a better deal on a used bike too.

    Determine What Your Bike is Worth

    First and foremost, we need to determine what your bike is worth. There are many price guides out there, but I would recommend going by Kelley Blue Book (http://web.archive.org/web/200407040...//www.kbb.com/) for several reasons: they're the most consistent, most recognized, and the dealerships use them. If the dealers are using it then it's safe to say that's what the market value is. If you purchased the bike new, try and realize that is has depreciated since then, and even if it hasn't you can't recover things like DOC, freight, and tax. I've seen too many 250cc bikes for sale where the owners of bikes like the 250 Rebel, 250 Ninja, and Suzuki GZ-250 that were asking $4K. Since you can buy brand new versions of those bikes at anytime for $3K plus dealership fees (which comes to $3700-$3800 depending on the area), it makes no sense to buy one for more money that has miles and less time on the warranty. However, there are a few exceptions to the rule. Harley Davidson motorcycles tend to hold their value well, in fact trade in values are often one or two thousand less than the MSRP of a new similar model. Some bikes have cult followings, such as the NT-650 Hawk from Honda that was sold here from 1988-1992. These bikes have a serious following now despite low sales numbers (which put an end to their availability), and with the advent of the naked sport bikes these days the demand for such a bike now has a secondary market as well. Speaking of bikes with low production numbers, there are limited production models out there as well such as Honda's 86 Limited Edition 250 Rebel (with additional graphics and gold valave cover and gas cap) and the 1993 Shadow VLX Deluxe test market model, the latter of which most dealerships were allocated two...so if you don't think that makes them worth more, try finding one and tell me if the search time & effort isn't worth paying more for. 1985-87 250 Rebels are another good example, back then MSRP for a new Rebel at the Honda dealer was $1595 and it isn't uncommon to find decent examples for sale with prices around $2000, and beaters can be had from $800-1200. Try selling an abused 750 Shadow for 1/2 to 3/4 of what you can buy a new one for...As far as any accessories you added along the way, try and realize that while they make the bike more enticing it doesn't translate into making it more valuable. $500 worth of aftermarket goods doesn't add $500 of value to your bike, but then again you shouldn't have to let your heavily accessorized bike go for less than retail value of a stock one either. I'll deal more on this a little later in this article. Also, pristine vintage/classic bikes tend to garner high prices too, such as museum quality samples like a 75 Gold Wing, 69 CB-750K, 1961 CB77 Super Hawk, and the mother of all vintage classics, a post-war Indian Chief. Finding such flawless bikes that look like they just rolled out of a showroom is next to impossible, so their well-over KBB price tags are justified. One scratch, ding or broken item can kill the value on such machines, so just remember if you have such a classic machine don't get too excited and think you can make a fortune off of it unless it truly is in mint condition, because there's no such thing as "a bike in mint condition with the exception of tape on the torn seat."

    Putting Your Bike On The Market

    Now we'll move on to getting your bike into the market. There are several ways to make this happen, private sale or take it to a dealership. Taking it to a dealership is the quickest way on getting some cash for it, but it's also going to net you the least amount of said cash since the dealer has to turn it around for fair market value and make a profit along the way. One option is getting a dealership to take the bike on consignment, where you can ask a fair market value for the bike and the dealer takes a fee or commission on the deal. Consignment is a good way to get your bike seen by many potential buyers, since it will be on display alongside the other used bikes the dealer is offering. One tip is to make an agreement on the side with several of the top sales associates, offer them an extra $50 or $100 if they sell the bike on top of whatever commission the dealer gives them. Private sale is the best way to get the most for your bike, but it will also take more time. If you have your bike on consignment at a dealership, running ads can also help draw buyers to see the bike in person (more on advertisements in just a bit). Finally, make sure the bike is clean and starts/runs before any potential buyers show up. If the bike is on consignment, take weekly trips down to the dealer and make sure the bike is clean and starts. They may clean it but it isn't their responsibility, and they definitely won't make sure it runs either so it's up to you to stay on top of things.

    Making The Advertisement

    Next up is my favorite, making the advertisement. You'll want to advertise the bike in any venues that are available to you, such as the local classifieds in the newspaper, Cycle Trader, E-Bay, etc. Before listing an ad in the newspaper, see what other bikes are being offered and how many overall listings there are. In my local paper there are consistently two to three columns worth of used bikes with models from every major manufacturer for sale everyday, but in the L.A. Times it's rare to see one each of Harley, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha on a given day. The point is, if bikes aren't being frequently sold in your local paper it's a waste of time and money to list yours there too. You want exposure, so find a venue that offers it.

    One other item, if your advertising venue allows for photos make sure you include some. Take some good pictures of it in the current condition, and try to take a picture from both sides in good light without much background clutter. A good picture says you care enough about taking the time and effort, which also says you cared enough to take care of the bike itself. Also, while looking into the various venues that you wish to advertise in, see what other similar models are being offered. It's good to know what the competition is and what kind of prices they're asking, so you can fit yours in without making it too high or too low. And if there is a saturation of ads with your model, you're going to have to make yours more appealing than all of them if you hope to attract any attention, so building a good ad is very important. Don't just advertise it, you have to sell it. Pretend you're a sales associate at the dealership, but at the same time try not to hype the sale either. If you use terms like "too fast/too scary" or "hot rod" this tells buyers that you rode it one way: wide open throttle, all the time. If you kept maintenance records, list them in the ad. Something to the tune of "great reliable everyday transportation, full maintenance records included." Important information you should include in the ad would be:

    1. Year, make/model, and color
    2. Mileage
    3. Contact information and price
    4. Accessories (obviously you don't want to list them all if you're paying by the word or line)
    5. Misc info and enticements, such as included gear, willingness to deliver in a given radius, etc.

    Stay away from using terms like "OBO" (or best offer) and "firm" after your price. OBO says you're desperate to sell and firm says you're a hard case. Just list the asking price, it can always be negotiated later. Finally, proofread your ad and try to read unlisted information into it. Here are some sample ads that I responded to in the past, and what can be read into them:

    "76 CB350 chopper, 10 over springer front end, custom rigid frame, sissy bar w/king & queen seat, mini brake, coffin tank, 21" front wheel, K&N filters and fishtail mufflers. $1200 obo"

    Sounds good, but kind of cheap considering all the custom stuff. This bike was in great shape and ran good, albeit with some oil seepage from a side casing and valve cover. Great all around old school chopper, but there was a catch: no title. And being a custom build project that could be a tough thing to acquire after the sale.

    "83 FLH lowered, 3" over original front end, S&S carb/Porker pipes, 86K miles 10,500"

    $10,500 seemed a little high for a Shovelhead era machine, but since a friend was interested in it I went along with him just to see it. Besides, I wanted to see what an "original 3" over front end" was all about, since original front ends are the factory 0" over stock length...it turned out to be a misprint, the bike was sporting a 3" over Paughgo Springer front end, so that pretty much sums up the higher than normal price tag. The bike itself wasn't a showbike visually, it probably hadn't seen wax since it was in the showroom but it was clean and well maintained, and the owner was a former 1%er so knowing that told me the bike was mechanically sound to say the least, since riding is the sole lifestyle of such people. My friend turned it down, but it was a great all around deal nonetheless.

    "98 Softail Custom, SE (Screamin' Eagle) cams/pipes, 180 rear kit (180 series rear tire w/aftermarket swingarm and belt drive relocation), WCC (West Coast Choppers) tank and fenders, jockey shifter/forward controls and wide glide front end. 25 miles, $20K firm"

    I knew what this was all about before I saw the bike, but the same friend wanted to check it out so I entertained myself. We found ourselves at the gates of a classy upscale community and when we finally got to the house and saw the bike my suspicions were confirmed. Sure enough, an EVO with 25 miles on the clock says it was Yuppie-owned but rarely ridden, but with all the collected soot in the mufflers I could tell despite the clean unused tires that the motor and throttle probably had 40,000 miles worth of abusive neutral revving time. Watching a drop of oil hit the driveway after it ran for five minutes confirmed everything, this was no deal despite all the custom goods and showbike quality appearance.

    Another friend who wanted a "bike just like mine" came across these two ads:

    [i]"99 VT600 Shadow, 3500 miles looks/runs great. $1500"[i]

    "95 Shadow VLX purple & white, 16,400 miles needs work $1500"

    It didn't take much reading into either ad to know that either bike had something wrong with it, one "needs work" and the other was a nearly new model priced at a fraction of the new bike price. If it's too good to be true, it probably is, but we went and looked at the 99 first anyway. When the owner opened the garage we were looking at a 99 Shadow perched on a bike lift sans forks, wheels, and bodywork. Naturally a test ride was out of the question, but we got the owner to fire it up for grins and giggles. What was left really did appear to look good and he wasn't lying about it running good either, but $1500 was too much for what was left so we asked where the wheels, forks, and tin were, and he answered that he sold them on E-Bay and didn't want the hassle of parting out the rest of the bike. My friend wanted a project bike but didn't want to spend a fortune, in my mind I calculated about $1000 and a few months time would be needed to acquire the major and obviously missing replacement parts off E-Bay alone, $2000 or more from the dealership, not to mention other miscellaneous missing parts we would discover later on. So we offered less but he wouldn't budge. That proved to be a waste of our time, so we went and looked at the one that needed work.

    First off, I noticed that the motor was tight and clean, and despite a dead battery we were able to push start it and it fired right up after the second attempt. No surprise, after all it's a bullet proof Shadow VLX, it ran like a clock (okay, I'm being biased now...). Both brakes were worn beyond their service limits, the balding tires needed replacing but weren't dry rotted, the fork seals were leaking and the fork tubes and handlebars were both out of alignment. Playing dumb, I asked the owner what kind of work it needed, and he said aside from it not starting (he didn't know about the push start trick), he proceeded to pointing out what I had already seen earlier: all the scratches and scrape marks on both sides of the tank, rear fender, and pipes as well as the broken directionals, no doubt a direct result from those lacking brakes but I kept silent. He made no mention of the fork seals or brakes, in his mind the bike was shoddy looking and didn't start so it needed work. It turned out he didn't ride the bike but acquired it from a neighbor that dumped it several times and sold it to him when they moved away. Later in the week my friend talked him down to $1200 and we went to pick it up. I have made it an effort to looking at any and every bike that "needs work" since then. For the cost of new tires, brake pads/shoes and a little rewiring of some replacement turn signals, my friend got a swell bike for a great price with little more than a few ugly marks that a new paint job couldn't fix.

    Timing And Delivery

    Okay we've covered determining the value of your bike and how to list it, now let's get into some other aspects of selling it. One important item is timing and delivery, it doesn't just work on punchlines...what time of the year is it that you are planning on selling? Forget about receiving top dollar in December, not only does the weather suck in most parts of the country (making riding conditions less than acceptable), but even in the year round riding climates most people aren't in the market for a vehicle at this time of the year. Their main concern is buying Junior that X-Box and five games for Christmas (or Hanukkah, I'm not totally biased yet), or the latest Barbie clone for their daughter, and the spouse wants something special (and often costly) too so a bike is pretty much out of the formula. Nay, only the wise single shoppers are in the market for a bike this time of year, and typically only the desperate owners are selling their bike in order to afford that X-Box/Barbie clone/special something. If you want top dollar, hold out until Spring. Summer and Autumn make for good times as well in many areas but spring brings riders out of the woodwork everywhere, and with all those bikes coming out of hibernation the bike buying bug gets all hyped up. The highest all around demand comes in spring, so the demand rules say to sell in spring.

    Another important aspect is the current market at the time of sale, what new models are coming out? Is your model being replaced or upgraded? If so you want to get it sold before these new models are released and/or everyone knows about it. If you just started reading about the new 2004 rubber mounted Sportsters and you want to sell your 2000-2003 model, you'd better move fast. I've already read about one HD dealer blowing out their remaining 03 Sporties starting at $4995, so if everyone wants the new rubber mounted one guess what that does to your solid mounted Sportster value in the coming months and years. And if your dealer is asking $4995 for a new one what does that make your used one worth? One other example that comes to mind is anyone looking to sell their Honda Shadow Spirit or ACE, the new shaft driven 750 Aero is making headlines lately, so with all the magazine hype on both models it won't take long for the value of their used predecessors to drop.

    If you have a sportbike, it gets even trickier since the typical buyer wants the most up to date technology. Look at Honda's liter entry in the superbike field, the RR model. Back in 1999 their CBR900RR was something else, although at the time Kawasaki's ZX-9R was the king of the 900-1000cc hill. Y2K brought about the 929RR which turned out to be an awesome machine, unseating Kawi's ZX-9. 2002 introduced the 954RR which kicked both the ZX-9 and the 929, and now we have their latest rendition in the form of the 1000RR. That's four generations in the past five years, which makes it a bad time to try and unload that 900RR you just paid off. But a 954 would make for an optimum price right now, before the 1000 starts stealing all the glory, but this time next year would be a different story. Granted none of these bikes make the Beginner Bike grade, it still serves as a good example about timing and the market.

    The Sale Process

    Finally up for discussion is the actual sale process. By now you should be receiving phone calls or email notifications from your ad, or the dealership should be contacting you about potential buyers reactions on your consignment. Now it's time to play the negotiating game. If your price is too high you probably weren't getting too many calls in the past few days/weeks, and if it's too low you're probably turning a lot of calls away by now since the first guy that came over already bought it and the ad hasn't been pulled yet. But if you have several parties showing up often to look at it you know you're in the ballpark, so it's time to see what they want to pay for it. Odds are it isn't what you're asking for it, because we live in a society where everyone expects something for nothing. Don't believe me? Spend an hour at a fast food restaurant and watch people's reactions when their order is wrong, see what they demand for "compensation" each time.

    Okay so we've established interest at the moment, so let's move on to keeping that interest alive. Find out how serious they are about buying, do they have cash or a blank check ready to go or are they simply here with empty pockets hoping for a free joy ride? So they've shown some degree of being serious, now what's their offer? Smart buyers will offer 10% less than the asking price, moochers will want far more deducted off the top. We can now safely say that your listed price should allow for a 10% deduction that will bring the sale price down to around what you want for it.

    Oh yeah, I mentioned accessories earlier on, now's a good time to deal with that. Are they still low-balling you? Here's your clever counter offer: accept that lower price under the condition that some (or all, depending on the severity of said low-balling) of those accessories will be removed. Of course this depends on still having the OEM parts ready to go back on, if required. The serious buyer will agree, after all perhaps they weren't interested in those items anyway and just wanted the bike itself. The moocher expects those goods and will walk away, after all if he can't get something for nothing it's not a bargain for him.

    Think about it, if you have a Y2K 250 Rebel (KBB retail value: $2200 ) and you invested another $500 in an engine guard, saddlebags and supports, backrest and rear rack, why should you let all that go for a meager $1600? Especially considering the dealership will give you $1500 in trade or straight up purchase without that gear and you don't have to waste any money on an advertising venue. On the same token, that $500 in accessories doesn't automatically make your $2200 Rebel worth $2700 either, but you can find a happy middle ground for determining your asking price. What makes accessory removal for lower sale price enticing for you is you can turn that stuff around after the sale. Face it, how difficult would it be to sell that stuff for another $200 or $300 here at the Beginner Bikes forum, a Rebel specific forum, or E-Bay?

    So here's the final scenario for selling that Rebel. Let's say a fair asking price based on all those figures in your area is $2600. Hey, it's a good bike that served you well, you haven't wrecked it and any accidental drops were repaired, the bike looks and runs good and has some very useful items on it. Other 1999-2001 Rebels in your area are fetching $2000-$2500 without those goods and a new one nets $3700 out the door at the dealership, so yours is priced accordingly. Figure at $2600 you should probably be able to fetch $2400 as it stands after taking 10% off. Your ad should read:

    2000 Honda Rebel, black and chrome, nicely equipped, 12000 miles, reliable daily transportation, garage kept, recently serviced/all records available.
    (000)555-1212 ask for Bob or email rebel4sale@bikemail.com for more info and pictures.

    (This is not an actual ad by the way, and those numbers/email info are fabricated for the purpose of demonstration)

    Naturally if your advertising venue allows for more info at no additional cost, you'll want to give out more info such as accessories, and don't forget to take some updated snapshots. You have a fair price now and a few responding potential buyers. Buyer one offers you $2000, to which you respond with the counter offer of accessory removal. He walks off infuriated, no loss to you. Buyer two comes around and offers $2300, so you counter with removing the backrest and rear rack but leaving the bags and engine guard. Not a bad shake for either of you, and you can recover some of that lost $300 by selling the sissy bar and rear rack and come out with roughly $2400 or so.

    That covers a sample sale scenario, now let's move on to some other tactics. The most often debated topic is allowing a test ride. This is up to you, but I advise against it unless a mutual agreement can be made. One option is to take potential buyers for a ride as a passenger. Barring that, draw up some contracts, even go so far as to retaining pre-paid legal help. You want to cover two things on a test ride: liability and property damage. Your contract should waive any liability from injury during a test ride and subsequent purchase, and also state that any damage from said test ride results in automatic purchase. Having a no-liability contract is still a good idea even for the passenger ride method. Make copies and have potential buyers sign both, and make the cash/title exchange before he/she rides off. If they like the bike they return for you to sign the title, if not swap title back for cash upon examination for damage and all's well for the next customer.

    Notice I say "cash". It's still the best way to do business, and I'd rather take the time to count off $2500 worth of one dollar bills than deal with a bad check after my bike is gone. If the buyer insists on using a check (be it personal or cashiers check or even a money order), go to the bank printed on the check and secure the funds prior to the test ride or signing over the title. You may have to negotiate a little less in price for this hassle but in the end it's better to lose another $50 or $100 than to lose the entire amount plus your bike. A common scam these days is a buyer will purchase a motorcycle with a bogus cashier check, take the bike and signed title and turn it around immediately for cash, convincing the next buyer that there wasn't time to transfer the title into their name. So what happens here is the original owner, after discovering he's been had, reports the bike stolen, and while the third party, who innocently believed he was buying a legitimate deal, finds out at the DMV that the bike is stolen, and some dirtag in the middle of it all is counting his free cash.

    Finally I'd like to discuss seller attitude. Be polite and answer any and all questions to the best of your knowledge, and never use the "I dunno" response. If you really don't know the answer, be diplomatic about it and ask what that means or say you never knew anything about that topic or it's new to you, but "I dunno" says "I'm stupid" and "I also didn't take care of the rest of it either". Never come across as being desperate for the sale, even if you really are and there are pressing needs to sell the bike. If the buyers are asking why you're selling, never say because you just had a child/got married/etc. Don't even say that you want something new/better, as that implies what you have isn't sufficient. Just say you want something different, tell them you want to try out the standards/sportbikes/cruisers/dual sports or whatever else your bike isn't. What you want to come across with is that you merely want to sell the bike, not that you need to sell the bike. Also offer up any additional support information, such as a model specific forum or source of OEM parts and such. Don't just sell the bike, sell the ownership experience as well. Chances are they'll look up those websites and find out what a great bike it is and come back the next day convinced.

    Now a quick recap for those wishing to buy a used bike. There's lots of info hidden here that can help you too. Before I reveal all that, let me offer my "buying used" checklist that can be found in the "Motorcycle Marketplace" section of the BB.org forum. Use that info to ascertain any potential bikes before handing over your hard earned cash. Now here's the hidden tips to help you score a better deal.

    First off is the price, you know where to find the fair market value now and where to look for identical models being sold and what they are fetching. You also know a fair amount to haggle by, asking 10% off the price isn't out of line and it never hurts (especially on ads listed as "obo"), the worst that can happen is they'll stick to their guns and demand full purchase price. You also know to watch the market, is the bike you're looking at no longer a hot item? Has it been replaced by something better yet comparably priced last year? Why should you buy the old news when you can get the new one for not much more? You also now know the best time of year to buy a bike, funds permitting: December. Sure thee isn't as much of a selection at the time, but if you're patient and find a model you want you can get a good price, especially if the owner is desparate to raise some Christmas Cash. You know what to look for, and you know what questions to ask. Read into the ads before you get there, and see what kinds of questions you can ask based on the ads. Try to read into the owner by his/her attitude and replies. Bring cash. Enough for either deal, negotiated or straight up. Remember, every pair of pants has at least two pockets, carry enough for the haggled deal in one and enough to cover the balance (or any renegotiated price) in the other. How is the bike equipped? Anything on there you can live without at a lower price if negotiations don't go well? Accessory removal works both ways. And check that name and address on the title before you ride off, make sure it matches the address you're at when looking at the bike. Here's one more tip that has worked for me, watch the ads for their entire duration. If an ad lingers for weeks and disappears, wait a day or two and then contact to see if the bike is still available. If it is and the owner didn't just have a sudden change of heart, he/she is still going to want to get rid of it and will welcome a late comer, and no doubt be eager to see it disappear after wasting his/her advertising dollars. That means less cash out of your pockets if all goes well.

    Well I believe I've succeeded in wearing out this keyboard, best wishes to all that intend on selling (or buying) their used bike. Enjoy the ride, be it a new one or old.

    When Shadow Shack isn't hustling used bike deals, he'll answer any email sent to him from his profile

    "Customarily Minded Machine of the Month"

    This month we'll March right into the custom world with a wild machine. Suzuki's Marauder is anything but mild in stock form, but the owner of this beast took it to a different level. He traded the power cruiser look in for a ton of old school cool. After lopping off the duck-tail from the stock fender and losing the pillion, solid struts replaced the OEM shocks so that new fender could hug the rear tire. Slash cut mufflers give the bike even more attitude, the front fender finds a new home on a shelf and the icing on the cake award goes out to that awesome springer front end adaptation. All in all, this machine truly is Customarily Minded by nature.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Selling Your Beginner Bike started by Shadow Shack View original post
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