Privately Sell Your Motorcycle for the BEST Price!

If you want to sell your motorcycle fast AND for the best price, you have to do more than a quick clean up and slap a for sale on it. I go over the best way to judge the market, set your price and get a quick sale at the price you want. It’s not that difficult, all you need to do is make it easy for the buyer to buy!

First, determine how fast you need to sell it – this drives a lot of decisions. Find the market price, that’s your local market price.  Set your limits for absolute lowest you’ll take for it and set a reasonable asking price with a buffer to allow for some bargaining (usually 10% ). Get it ready – go far beyond the average seller – clean, buff and wax until it sparkles. Take a lot of good revealing & appealing photos, write descriptive buy-friendly content. Go the extra mile and get a professional mechanical inspection done, have it running well (tune-up), and certified, road ready. All the buyer has to do is plate it and insure, then ride it!

Your Motivation

First off, if you are purchasing a new motorcycle check what the trade in value is. A dealer may give you a pretty decent discount off the new bike, that could net out to an acceptable “sale price”. This is the definitely the fastest and most hassle-free way to “sell” your bike. Get a dealer to value it, this will be the absolute bottom end of your selling price range.

Are you selling for immediate cash, possibly to buy another motorcycle? If so time is a factor as the riding season moves on, making it more difficult to get top price. Or maybe you are not in a rush to sell and can wait for the deal you want. There are limits to holding out though, consider if it doesn’t sell you will have to store it over the offseason, and it will be on year older next spring. Considering the title of this post I am assuming you want to sell your motorcycle fast.

Don’t forget your insurance coverage, you may end up with the older machine not covered, and unable to drive it. This will likely be the situation if you have already purchased and insured another ride. A bike that’s been off the road for any length of time is less appealing to most buyers.

Know the Local Market

Online price guides, like NADA and KBB, are convenient but are not a reliable way to set your price. Use these price guides as a starting point only. You have to know your local market. Check in with any local shops, and do online searches at sites like Kijiji, to find models similar to yours. These are the prices a buyer will have to pay, and this is your direct completion.

Switch your mindset to one of a buyer – what are they looking for, what makes up a good prospect to call up for more info and arrange a visit?  Look closely at what’s available, bikes that are the same as or similar to what you are offering. Ask yourself, what makes my motorcycle stand out and be of interest to a buyer. Take note of why the advert stands out. Is it the sparkling paint and chrome, great photos that show the entire motorcycle, the content that gives the buyer exactly what they need to know? Note how the model year, conditions and mileage impact the price.

Know What You are Selling

You should be aware of the popularity of your bike. If it is an oddball, or not too popular in general, then you will have a smaller buyer pool. On the other hand, a very popular, mass produce model (Goldwing’s) will have lots of completion. This is the time to weigh in how urgent you are to sell, and what is your bottom line.

Don’t fool yourself by thinking you have a rare model unless it is based on true rarity, not just a marketing badge like “Anniversary Edition”. Value is based on condition, mileage, features and accessories that buyer is looking for.

Be aware of any limitations your motorcycle may have. First model years typically have thee issues, that get fixed in subsequent years, almost like it was planned in.

Set Your Prices

By this point, you should have a good idea of where you fit in the range of values. I would set three values – bottom line, target price, and asking, which is usually 10% over your target price. Try not to be the highest price in the range, but near the top. If you really want to sell it, and a low-end price tag is OK, start medium-high and then reduce it after a few days. This will avoid the stigma of starting out low, and have buyers think there must be something wrong with it, or worse make even offers thinking you are desperate.

Motorcycle Prep

Get all your paperwork in order, ownership, warranty cards any government required sales & tax forms. Go online and know exactly what is currently required by law. Update if you have moved and need paperwork to show your new addresses, get this all started as soon as possible. Dig out any proof of service (unless you already keep meticulous records, unlike me). Go through and check for any personal information on service records, paid invoices, etc. that is not relevant – like previous addresses, credit card info, telephone numbers, etc. Best to physically remove or blackout and provide photocopies.

Next, get it in the best mechanical condition possible. Spend a reasonable amount versus the expected selling price. Any machine that is not operating, or running poorly is worth far less, regardless of age and shine. In most cases, a new set of spark plugs, fresh gas in the tank and new (or cleaned) air filter are worthwhile investments. Take off the odd looking & personalizing accessories like cup holders, GPS stalks, flags, and handlebar tassels. You may love them but at least half of the potential buyers will not.

I suggest these are the must-do items for a fast sale and best price.

  • Get it running – don’t be that guy….” was running great before…”
  • Get it certified, safety inspection, whatever is required to plate and ride off
  • Get a mechanical inspection done, this will absolutely close the deal!
    • Smart buyers will appreciate this!
    • Cost is minimal to guarantee a fast sale
    • Add the cost to your bottom line price
    • Use a recognized dealership, shop or mechanic
    • Have an inspection report to show the buyer
    • Clearly state in the advert a mechanical inspection report is available
    • You can do this more easily now, than the buyer
    • No one does this – this will close the deal!

A Clean Machine

Of course, you need a clean motorcycle, but get it as clean as it has ever been. Go beyond a normal cleaning, make it sparkle. Invest in good quality automotive cleaners – I am a McGuire’s fan, everything I have tried works well. Now’s the time to remove any heavy gunk from the wheels, chain areas, underside. Use grease cutter spray and consider going to the carwash spray booth if needed (don’t spray engine directly or electrical areas). If you have faded paint use a mild rubbing compound. If your paint is not too far gone it will make it look new. After rejuvenating the paint, give it a good waxing to keep it buffed and ready to show. Use a quality chrome cleaner like AutoSol, make the chrome sparkle and shine!

Warning – after you are done this intense cleaning you may not want to sell it!

Now is the time to fix up or minimize any glaring visual issues, like a ripped seat, missing emblems, cracked tail or turn signals – the stuff you have been living with up until now. If the problem will be more expensive to fix than what it will add to the overall value, you will just have to live with it. Do not try to hide it with tricky photos and do mention any big issues in the ad’s content. Why waste anyone’s time, especially if they will see it on their first inspection. Normal wear is OK, like tires, chain & guides, grips, foot pegs, etc. This is a used motorcycle, replace damaged, shabby looking and heavily worn parts only.

Understanding the Buyer

When a prospective buyer begins their search, it will take them online and probably to multiple motorcycles for sale sites. The buyer will be looking at a large number of adds, and they will likely be attracted by the first impressions of the advert. Then they will quickly skim the pics and content, and price.

Many buyers will be turned off by seller putting up unnecessary hurdles like having to call for price, only showing it for limited hours, or providing only one way to contact the seller (and then almost chastising the buyer ahead of time for even thinking of any other contact method).

Avoid the use of any negative phrasing and don’t go on about your personal list of grievances against past time wasters. Everyone knows a buyer is not interested in low baller, time wasters, joy riders, non-serious buyers, and leave out not accepting weird payment methods like PayPal. And do not tell the buyer it’s “rare” if it’s rare the knowledgeable buyer will know it. This word also puts up a wall in the buyer’s mind that you have priced it higher and will be harder to bargain with. The buyer is in a happy mindset, so do not go against it, avoid any negative words and comments.

The potential buyer is looking for that gem, that stands out from the crowd. Make it easy for the buyer to gravitate towards your well-photographed motorbike which they can see exactly what is being offered, then read the details they want to know and end at a price that is clearly stated, and they know ahead of time if its firm or negotiable.

These are some phrases absolutely, 100% avoid in the body of the advertisement.  The majority of buyers will read these and click next ad.  Or worse, the buyers you do not want to attract will see an opportunity to lowball you, after wasting your time of course,

  • Was running great last year, now won’t start
  • Just needs the carbs cleaned (this is practically a joke now)
  • Only needs “file in blank” to get it running (so why don’t you just do it?)
  • Only needs “file in blank” for road safety or certification (do you have a report or your opinion?)
  • Variation of last two, “shouldn’t take much…”
  • “Needs gone”, English was not your bestest subject, were’nt it?
  • Price goes up in x days or months, no one is motivated by this passive-aggressive tactic
  • If not sold by some date, will put back in storage – really, who cares about this!
  • “just testing the waters”, decide if you are selling it or not
  • “call for price”, this is just outright annoying
  • Leave out your medical history, new baby status seriously undermines your bargaining position
  • No comments that imply hard usage, like super-fast
  • “nothing wrong with it”, makes me think there is something actually wrong with it

  A few more tips,

  • Put the motorcycle in the correct online category. I can’t believe the number of dirt bikes, for example, that I see under the Touring Motorcycles section
  • If you state there is damage – show a picture of it
  • DO NOT USE ALL CAPS, it does nothing for your ad and looks off
  • Be accessible, don’t limit the buyer’s communications, take phone, text, and emails.
  • Don’t limit the time of day you will accept calls, for off-hours turn off the ringer & take a message
  • Do put your first name in the ad, “call Bob”, this puts you one step ahead in building a buyer-seller relationship and makes it more inviting for the buyer to call

Photos & Ad Content

Photos – take your time and make sure your photos are well done. Use the full number of photos allowed by the website you will be posting to. Take shots from all four directions, fill the frame with the motorcycle, kneel down and get direct, straight on shots. Be sure to get a rider’s POV pic. That’s point of view from the rider’s position – take it slightly back from where your eyes would be, looking down at the controls. And, once again fill the picture frame, with the handlebars included.  Also try to take one in a position where the rider would be approaching, just a few seconds before swinging their leg over – reading off – like an invitation to ride.

Use a clean uncluttered background. Rider over to a local park if you can, or find a clean, one color wall as a backdrop. Take the picture outside on a bright day, avoid indoor photos the lighting is inferior. Never, ever take them on a rainy overcast day. Make sure you load the photos in the correct orientation, and order. Select the lead or cover shot that is the best of the bunch. Remember this is your first impression, make it a great one.

Avoid these photo mistakes,

  • Fill the photo with the motorcycle, do not take the shot from 30 feet away
  • Do not take photos with other vehicles in the background
  • Never have a junkyard background (ride over to a park or green space, it makes a big difference)
  • Do not have random people or animals included – no gag, kids or glamor shots
  • Do not photograph tire treads, if tires are new, then mention it in the ad’s content
  • Do not photo manuals, spare & old parts, use all photos for the motorcycle only
  • Do not use old photos of you on a trip, loaded down with gear
  • Do not photo right after cleaning, parked in a puddle of water (it looks like a coolant or massive oil leak, really it does)

Your photos should showcase the motorcycle, bright, clean and inviting.

Ad Content – clearly state what it is – the model, year, color and variation – like “Special Deluxe Touring Pack”, give the manufactures full model designation also, such as XVA100A1. This makes a big difference to the buyer who may want to lookup features based on this model code.

Note any unusual model features, sometimes there are country-specific, mid-year changes and variations that are not obvious.  Good content states the basics, then all the relevant variables. These can include cosmetic and mechanical condition, number of owners, length of ownership, service history and records, mileage, updated parts that are known to be problematic and common maintenance items, especially tires. List all major mechanical work done, and if it has been repainted.

If you follow my advice you will have a motorcycle that is certified, roadworthy AND mechanically inspected with a report ready. Emphasize this – put it in bold letters,  don’t be afraid to repeat it in the advert. Practically no seller goes this far, so make it stand out and your motorcycle will sell fast for a top price.


The more serious the potential buyer, the quicker and more flexible I would be to show them the motorcycle. The further out in time they agree to come for a look the greater the chances are that they will cancel or be a no-show. Set a specific time for the buyer to show up, and advise them you will only be available at that time and have offer commitments. This will set a sense of urgency and limit your wasted time if they do not show up. Get a commitment from them to let you know if their plans change.

I strongly recommend that you move the motorcycle from its normal parking area before they arrive. Move it out of the garage and close the door. I have heard many stories and had it happened to me. The buyer is a thief and uses the visit to scope out targets and how to approach them. Having the motorcycle already sitting outside minimizes any opportunity to see how you lock it up, exactly where it is and if there is anything else of value nearby. This goes back to my recommendation not to have other vehicles in the photos, like your other motorcycles.

If two people show up be wary of “number two”, and where their attention is focused.  This should be about the motorcycle for sale, period. If you are including spare parts or accessories do not feel obligated to bring them out until the potential buyer has soon sincere interest in the motorcycle for sale, again this is about the bike for sale, period. No need to get paranoid, just apply the appropriate amount of caution when dealing with strangers.

Test Drive?

This is a tricky question. You want to sell, the buyer will want to drive it – what to do?  Not allowing test drives will severely limit the chance of a sale. Some thoughts on avoiding problems,

  • The person may just not fit your image of a serious buyer – just say no, get ready ahead of time
  • A valid excuse to deny an unworthy buyer a test ride is your insurance has lapsed
  • Never let anyone test drive unless they first show a valid motorcycle driver’s license
  • Hold their ID, credit cards, car keys, and vehicle or whatever you feel will guarantee they return (verify their photo ID)
  • Optionally require a suitable cash deposit prior to a test ride, and make it clear it’s for any damages
  • You can put off a test drive for a later date if they return this is a positive sign they are a serious buyer

How to Recognize and Avoid Scams

It’s hard for most normal people to view the world as thieves and criminals do. Fortunately, the vast majority of buyers are simply looking for the best deal on a used motorcycle that fits their needs. The best defense is to be knowledgeable of the telltale sign that typically precedes an attempted scam.

You may get at least one caller offering a sight unseen low ball price, they maybe semi-legitimate and operating some kind of buy-and-flip business, I would just ignore them there is no upside for you. If a caller starts playing games or goes into a long song and dance, my suggestion is to end the call, this type will likely be more trouble than anything, scammer or not.

A serious buyer asks serious questions and proceeds in a normal way. Take note of these red flags. But also trust your senses, the selling your machine doesn’t need to be complicated.

Red Flags

Any of these should be cause for concern, I would just end the interaction as soon as possible,

  • The buyer offers full price sight unseen,
  • The buyer wants someone else to pay for and or collect the motorcycle
  • Buyer operates remotely by email, not in person or by phone
  • Any form of overpayment & refund scheme discussed or offered
  • The buyer asks for your personal information not related to the sale
  • Buyer offers something in full or partial trade
Safe Practices
  • Never physically hand over or release ownership until full payment validated, cleared by your bank or you have the cash in hand
  • Do not trust a buyer’s check, money order, bank draft, on face value they could be forgeries
  • Never accept payment by PayPal or similar methods
  • Never accept online escrow or “buyer services”, typically requiring a deposit or admin fee
  • Never accept payment plans, this is what banks and rich relatives are for!
  • Do not deal with anyone you inherently do not trust or feel odd about
  • Do not provide service records or receipts with any personal information on them

Negotiation and Sale

The goal of all your preparation to this point is to make your motorcycle the “obvious” choice. You have researched the price and know the market value, you know your bottom line and how quickly you want or need to sell. In other words, you are in the strongest negotiating position possible.

It’s up to you and your personal style on how firm or flexible you are in the negotiation process and ultimately the selling price. Since there are many factors going into this process, such as how far apart is your bottom line versus asking price, the urgency to sell and how desirable your particular motorcycle it becomes highly situational.

However these are some basic negotiation tactics to help you close the deal as in your favor,

  • be calm and not appear overly concerned with making the sale
  • be friendly, but you don’t need to be best buddies
  • casually mention you have had “a lot of interest in  it”
  • let the buyer make the first offer
  • hold back on spares or accessories, counter lower price offers by including them
  • don’t be afraid to say without hesitation, “no, I can’t let it go for that”
  • if the negotiation stalls out or drags on too long, state it’s priced at well, and move to wrap it up

When you come to an agreement and a sale is made, make sure everything is in order.

  • if a deposit is given, provide a receipt only, complete the Bill of Sale on full payment
  • do not release the motorcycle or any paperwork until full payment is received
  • review and agree exactly how the buyer will pay the full sale price
  • complete a detailed Bill of Sale, use a standard downloaded form for your jurisdiction
  • note any special arrangments agreed to, such you will deliver, date of pick up, etc.
  • note any extras included, such as spares, accessories – accurately describe the lot

Make sure the Bill of Sale that stipulates the sale is final, no additional or verbal agreements such as warranties have been made or implied.

Complete all government required documentation, in duplicate (photocopy/photo as needed).

Summing it Up

To sell your motorcycle fast and at the best price requires some planning and work. But by following these steps you will maximize your net profit from the sale. Your aim is simply to present a desirable choice for the prospective buyer. Once they discover and view your well-prepared motorcycle and that you have taken the extra steps to get it roadworthy along with a mechanical evaluation report available, it will be easy for them to confidently move ahead and determine a final price. Since you know the market and what your selling motivators are the final price is a lot easier to reach. The aim is to make it as smooth as possible for the buyer. Both parties get what you were looking for, a good deal.

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