How to get the best price when selling your bike

By MCN Technical Staff -

 29 November 2006 15:48

Standard bikes rule

Dealers and private buyers alike are on the lookout for standard, well cared-for machines, especially at the top end of the market. They want bikes with full and documented histories, which haven’t been tampered with or suffered a crash. Adding tat – like gaudy anodised trinkets and imitation carbon do-dahs – is likely to detract strongly from a bike’s resale value. Worthwhile modifications, ones which may actually increase resale values, tend to be practical ones rather than simply cosmetic. Quality aftermarket suspension for instance will raise a buyer’s interest, as will hard luggage and manufacturer’s optional add-ons. But before you sell a bike with it all onboard, do your sums – would you be better off selling the kit separately, or would it make better financial sense to offer it to buyers as a separate, additional sale?

Keep it tasteful

By over-personalising a machine you’re very much restricting its potential appeal to people with the same taste (or could that be lack of it?) as yourself. The same goes for custom spray-jobs, which buyers may also assume is a cover for crash damage. And murals? A very bad idea – leave the bimbos in fur bikinis and devil-snake things on the 70s album covers hidden in your attic. Things become even worse if you get into heavy modification. Specials which involve throwing many thousands of pounds at a bike will never realise anything except a weighty financial loss. However, to the right person it’ll be worth every penny – but this will invariably involve a very long wait for that person. If you want to build a true one-off, why not start with a donor wreck?

Choose carefully

It’s possible to avoid big-time depreciation by selecting the right machine in the first place. BMWs, for instance, hold their value extremely well, as do Honda Pan Europeans in the touring market. When it comes to getting top dollar for sports bikes, then if you are wise enough to buy a clear road-test victor, a bike universally considered to be the best in its class, and therefore a guaranteed future classic, then in a few years’ time it’s likely to be worth more than the opposition.


1. As important as cleaning a bike is storing it in the dry. So, if you don’t have a garage, invest in a good quality cover (not plastic, that will encourage condensation) and never cover the bike until it has fully dried. If the bike is to be left unridden for any length of time, give metal parts a decent spraying with Scottoil Protector oil.


2. Standard bikes make buyers feel confident and will generally fetch more cash than modified ones. Race pipes and other performance parts say ‘thrasher,’ and there’s always a doubt over whether that tampering has been professionally done. So keep the original parts when modifying, refit them to advertise the bike as standard, then…


3. Take off those add-on rearsets and race cans and sell them separately for about two-thirds of their original price. Cheap options for finding a buyer include advertising in dealer windows or talking to owners at bike meets. To hit a bigger audience, and sell faster, advertise in MCN.


4. There are add-ons which can help you sell. Automatic chain lubricators, clear headlamp protectors and fitted covers all speak of a caring owner and allow the price to be kept high. Hard luggage is another indication of a sensible owner, but with quality systems costing upwards of £500, make sure you recover the cost or sell them separately.


5. Keep your bike’s service record up to date, especially if selling it within its warranty period. Stick with an officially franchised dealer to keep resale high. If you’ve got an older bike and home-service it, keep a detailed record of what you’ve done and when and keep receipts of service items, like oil and air filters.


6. As well as giving peace of mind, fitting a high quality, insurance-approved alarm/immobiliser will help pay for itself in reduced premiums. It’s also a good selling point. As well as saving the buyer the hassle and expense of getting one themselves, an alarm indicates that a bike is owned by someone who likes to do things right.


7. Keep receipts for all work done to a bike – not just servicing. If it’s been Dynojetted or had a new shock fitted, then keep receipts to prove that it’s been done professionally… if it has. Receipts for bolt-ons will help you sell them, as a growing number of riders won’t buy used spares unless you can prove they haven’t come from nicked bikes.


8. Take a good long look at your bike through the eyes of a stranger. Where are its flaws? Repair those minor defects. Stone chips can be touched up with colour-matched paints or nail-varnish. Scored screens can be replaced cheaply with aftermarket items, spoiled chrome/aluminium can be brightened with a good polish.


9. A lot of everyday bike damage is caused by stone-chipping and this can be prevented by something as simple as a roll of clear plastic costing around three quid. Wrap up fork sliders and any forward facing surfaces – on naked bikes include the front edges of the tank; on faired bikes the belly pan’s leading edge and any other surface you see fit.


10. A mudguard extension may not enhance a bike’s looks, but will protect its lower front – including the radiator – from road crud and stone chips. At the rear, a hugger is usually viewed as sensible and beneficial by potential buyers. It will help keep the bike’s rear end cleaner, meaning less polishing.


11. Even on dry days road salt can find its way on to your metal parts and it only needs a bit of air moisture to kick off corrosion. So if you can’t resist the temptation of sunny winter and early spring days, make sure you rinse the bike off afterwards. Better still, if you’ve got an expensive machine, get yourself a cheaper second bike for winter riding.


12. Unless it’s important to keep your bike in concourse condition, then consider waiting to replace damaged parts until just before you sell the bike. Even if you’re claiming on insurance, you could keep running around with scuffed or second-hand parts until it’s time to sell – when you’ll have mint parts with which to wow the potential buyer.