How to: Sell your motorcycle

Back in the day, you rolled your bike to the curb, drew up a “For Sale” sign and hoped for the best, or maybe posted an ad in your local print circular.

Now, the Internet offers the chance to sell online, but the basics are still the same. To get top dollar for your bike, make sure it’s clean, that it works well, and that it looks good in pictures. So no matter how you’re choosing to sell your ride, the following tips are relevant. 

Clean your ride

The very first step is to clean your bike. Get out the soap, water, brushes and chamois cloth; a pressure washer is good if you have it, but be careful not to blow the grease out of the bearings or otherwise force water where it doesn’t belong. It’s an even better bonus if you use some sort of polish to give the bike a shine. Canadian company Tirox has some products aimed specifically at cleaning your bike; check for them at your local dealership. Otherwise Canadian Tire, Princess Auto, Home Hardware and the like usually have some sort of car wax or other polish that works well here. And if you’ve got chrome bits you want to clean up, Naval Jelly works well, along with Nevr-Dull.

Time to go set the chain slack, check tire pressure, and take care of whatever other mechanical business you can.

Fix what you can

Change the oil. Tighten the chain. Replace that burned-out indicator bulb. Put air in the tires. Bleed the brakes. Clean the air filter. It doesn’t take long to tick off all those little routine items, and it tells the buyer that you’re a responsible bike owner who keeps on top of maintenance (Ha! If only they knew!).

Beyond that, if there are bigger things to fix, and you can repair them, you should. Nobody wants to pay top dollar for a bike that still needs fork seals replaced, is missing a speedometer cable, or has flat tires. Of course, you should do some calculations and figure out if the extra money you’ll make in the sale is worth the extra money you’ll be putting into the bike.

If motorcycles require motor vehicle inspections in your province, it’s best to get one before the sale. This way, you’ll be more likely to know about problems with the machine.

If your bike is in need of repairs, you should be honest about that in the ad.

Be honest

If there are larger mechanical issues, be up-front about them and adjust the price accordingly. There are enough sleazebags already, and the motorcycle community doesn’t need any more rip-off artists. Don’t waste people’s time by misrepresenting your bike in the advertisement, either.

Take photos

Pictures go a long way toward selling your bike. Now that it’s all cleaned up, it’s ready for a photo shoot!

Don’t take a few grainy, out-of-focus happy snaps and call it a day. If you really want to sell your bike for top dollar, take the time to get clutter-free shots, with clear backgrounds that focus attention on your motorcycle, not the other junk in your backyard.

Obviously, it’s very easy to take photos with your smartphone and upload them to the Internet, but if you have access to a decent DSLR camera or similar, all the better. Every little thing helps.

Spending some time on proper photos will go a long way towards helping you get top dollar for the bike. In this photo, you should duck down lower to drop the line of hills below the bike for a clean outline, and remove the helmet.

Set a reasonable price

Here’s a classic motorcycle sales mistake: “I paid $12,000 for this bike five years ago, when it was new, and added $2,000 worth of chrome accessories, so I figure it’s worth at least as much as it was on the showroom floor.” No. Whether or not you’ve been riding it, a new bike depreciates in value over time, and don’t ever expect to get full value for any accessories you’ve added.

Another classic mistake: “I need $6,000 for a new bike, so I’ll sell the old one for $6,000.” All sounds good, but if it’s only worth $4,500, it’s only worth $4,500.

Your best bet is to see what bikes similar to yours sell for in your specific region, and go from there. If you have a motor vehicle inspection done, you might ask the mechanic for some advice on selling price. If you’ve got a rare bike and there aren’t many for sale in your area, you can look farther abroad, but remember there can be regional variations. For instance, a Harley-Davidson Sportster tends to be worth more in Atlantic Canada and less in Quebec.

Dig out the spares

Got a spare set of wheels for the bike? Or maybe a rack, or a different windshield? If you’ve got spare parts to go with the bike, dig them out and make a note of it in the ad, if you wish to include them in the sale. If a buyer shows up, nobody wants to wait around for a half hour while you rummage in the rear of your shed.

To avoid seeing your bike wheelie off into the sunset without coming back, make sure you’ve got cash in hand before allowing any test rides.

Be smart

Here’s a classic of the Internet age: Someone will contact you, saying they’re on the other side of the country, but that they desperately want your bike, and someone will come pick it up for them after they’ve sent you a money transfer. The money transfer is for more than your asking price, and they simply ask you to refund the difference to the person picking up the bike. Once you do that, the money transfer proves fraudulent, so you’re out the difference that you paid to the person who picks up the bike, and likely your bike is gone as well.

To avoid this and similar scams, remember that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and face-to-face transactions are best.

But also remember that a face-to-face transaction can go sideways if you have a test pilot show up and take off with your bike, or crash it. It’s best practice to require cash-in-hand before you allow any test rides. That way, if it goes sideways, you’re covered. Again, be smart. Think about what could go wrong, and take steps to protect yourself.

Share the facts

A cleverly-written ad always goes a long way to selling a bike, but if you aren’t a master wordsmith, no biggie. Just make sure to include the details: mileage, any upgrades on the bike, relevant mechanical history, any trade considerations, and so on. The more information you put in the ad, the fewer questions you will have to field.

Whether or not you’ve got a cleverly written ad, you should at least include enough basic facts that a potential buyer doesn’t need to bombard you with questions.

Know the rules

Every province has specific rules for vehicle transfers—in some provinces you keep the plate, in other provinces, the buyer keeps the plate. In most provinces, it’s up to the buyer to register the bike in their name, but it’s smart for the seller to take notes and inform their motor vehicle department about the transfer — it’s best, in fact, if the transfer is done and paperwork is in the new owner’s name before the machine leaves the yard.

Every province has different rules for vehicle paperwork, so you should contact your local DMV for the exact procedure in your jurisdiction. For instance, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland actually require the seller to inform the DMV of the transfer, and Ontario recommends it. British Columbia and Quebec both recommend the seller and buyer go to the Department of Motor Vehicle together to ensure a transfer without any problems. In Ontario, sellers must include a Used Vehicle Information Package when selling a used bike. You get the idea. For more details, visit the following links for information from your Department of Motor Vehicles:

Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, NWT, Yukon, Nunavut.

3 thoughts on “How to: Sell your motorcycle”

  1. Very VERY common scam to avoid. Guy calls or emails, says he will pay you through PayPal and someone will pick the bike up. DO NOT FALL FOR IT!!

    Credit card payments through PayPal can be reversed for 30 days, all the scammer needs to do is say that the transaction was wrong (stolen card, cloned etc etc)
    Paypal has the right to take the money straight out of your account to do the reversal, and send it back to the credit card company.

    The guy showing up with a trailer isn’t the actual buyer, so he don’t care.
    Basically, 30 days after your bike is LONG gone, your bank account goes into negative, you have no idea who has the bike and no recourse against Paypal… you’re done….

    Last two bikes I sold had at least 3 guys try to pull that one on me.

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