MCN's guide to selling your motorbike
Whether you’re upsizing, downsizing, modernising or just fancy a change, selling your motorbike is often a big part of the process of buying a new one. Here are MCN’s tips for getting the most for your old bike so you can get on with the exciting part of buying something new.
Timing is everything
If you can, consider the time of year you are selling your motorbike. If you’re selling a sportsbike or a café racer you will have much more success at the start of summer than you will in the depths of winter. If you’re selling a dirtbike it might do better in the autumn or winter. If you’re selling an appreciating classic or a very rare or exotic machine then the time of year will have less impact.
Get your paperwork in order
It’s a boring part of motorcycle ownership but keeping on top of your paperwork will really pay off when it’s time to sell it on. The V5 and MoT certificate are essential, but you will also be helped by a service history, any appropriate warranty paperwork (including evidence of any warranty work carried out) and bills for jobs you’ve had done over the years.
Make sure you fill out and send away the new keeper information promptly as you don't want to have to dispute any fines the new owner might rack up.
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Setting a price
Too high a price will obviously put buyers off, but too low will mean selling yourself short or, in extreme cases, make it look like you are running a scam. Do lots of research on as many selling platforms as possible to work out what your bike is worth. Watch auctions on ebay to see what their final selling price is rather than going by ‘buy it now’ prices alone.
Take mileages and condition into account when you are comparing your machine to others available online. If yours is the lowest mileage, best condition example you’ve seen then you can ask for top money.
You also need to be realistic. Any sentimentality you have tied up in a bike is worthless to the next owner and if you find yourself needing an extortionate sum to part with it, maybe question whether you should sell at all.
Doing this research will also guard you against buyers chancing their arm and telling you what they think the going rate is.
Clean it, really clean it and clean it again
This is a great way to make your bike more attractive to prospective buyers, and, although cleaning products cost a little, elbow grease is free. Take your fairings off and clean inside as well as all the tricky places you might skim over usually. Properly cleaned wheels make a big difference to a bike’s overall appearance, too.
Get your downpipes gleaming again, bring up your brightwork and consider replacing any rusty nuts, bolts and fastenings you find along the way. And once you’ve cleaned it, avoid the temptation to go out for ‘one last ride’. This all adds to the overall impression you give your buyer about the way you treat your bike.
Once you’ve got your house in order, you’ll need to write a description of your motorbike. Obviously you want to lead with the positive aspects but don’t be dishonest. Not mentioning a scuff or scratch might seem like a good idea but will only cause you grief down the line.
It will at the very least mean knocking money off the asking price and at the worst make your buyer wonder what else you haven’t disclosed and walk away.
Make the description punchy and fill it with info. Consider what you want to know when you’re looking at buying a bike and answer those questions.
It might seem like a waste of money to replace consumables on a bike you are about to sell, but the cumulative effect of fresh tyres, a solid chain and sprockets, discs and pads with plenty of life and even grips and seat covers that don’t look past their best can mean a considerable hike in what you get for it.
The cost of replacing a cracked indicator lens or scuffed bar end is far outweighed by the possibility of a buyer thinking you haven’t looked after the bike properly.
Standard is better
Swap any aftermarket parts you fitted back to standard where possible. Bikes with the factory exhausts, standard indicators etc will sell for more than those with aftermarket alternatives.
Even if you think your modifications are an improvement over what the manufacturer fitted, they may not be to your buyer’s taste. You can always offer the parts into the sale later during negotiations to bolster the asking price.
A picture is worth a thousand words
Nothing will put off prospective buyers like a poor image. You don’t need to be David Bailey but make sure you take the pictures in good light and preferably with a fairly plain background.
Think about what details you would want to see if you were a buyer and snap those, too. Make sure the images are displaying the right way round when you upload them, if you’re not technically minded then ask for some help.
Also make sure you haven't included anything in the image that gives away your address. If you live opposite a famous landmark or your address is printed on your wheelie bin, you could just be advertising your bike's whereabouts to thieves.
Meet away from your property
If you’ve followed this guide so far, it shouldn’t be long before you have prospective buyers getting in touch to ask questions and arrange a viewing. Sadly, some of them may be bike thieves looking to learn your address and case your bike security.
It’s best to meet for the first time in a public place like a carpark in daylight and in the dry (because your bike will look much more attractive on a bright, dry day).
It’s up to you whether you want to let a buyer take a test ride, but if you do make them prove they are insured (and have a licence) and get the full asking price in cash in your hand before you let them on your bike.
Read your buyer
If your buyer arrives foaming at the mouth with excitement and with a thick wad of cash ready in hand, you may need to calm them down a little and make sure you tell them everything they need to know.
Conversely, if they turn up with a ‘mate who’s a mechanic’ and are calmly asking all the right questions, you might need to get them a bit excited by pointing out how brilliant the bike is. The best deals are the ones where both parties feel happy with the end result, after all.
If you are unhappy with the way the other party is behaving, remember that you can walk away at any time. If you need to, have a mate of your own present for security or to act as a voice of reason if it comes to it.
Don’t get scammed
The last thing you want is to get scammed when selling a motorbike. Although rare, some criminals use an initial meeting over a bike sale as an opportunity to steal it. Meeting in public and having a friend with you could be enough to prevent this, but if a meeting does turn nasty always put your own safety before that of your bike, it’s just metal and can be replaced, unlike you.
Check large sums of cash carefully and only release the keys when you’re happy the amount is correct and genuine (a bit easier with new notes but consider having a counterfeit detector pen for fifties).
If the buyer wants to pay via bank transfer, that’s not necessarily a cause for concern but is ultimately your decision. If you’re ok with it, make sure the amount has cleared in your bank before you hand over the bike. If that means the buyer has to wait a few days then so be it.
There are a growing number of digital payment services and if you’ve never heard of something then look it up. Again, the best piece of advice is to make sure the money is in your account before you hand over the keys. Don’t accept a text or email confirmation of payment, even from recognised services like Paypal.
And finally, if it seems too good to be true it probably is; just walk away.