Don't want to rack up tickets on a unrideable motorcycle...
October 29, 2010 1:22 PM   Subscribe

The Mrs and I are getting a motorcycle from a kind and generous friend who doesn't want to deal with it anymore, and doesn't want to sell it for parts. It's not currently running, and insurance and registration are both expired. We're not keen to pay for it to be road-legal before the engine can even turn over. How long, if at all, can we wait?

The motorcycle in question is a Honda Shadow VLX. (We're not sure of the year-- late nineties sometime.) That's not really relevant to the question though.

It's currently not running. Our friend, to whom the bike currently belongs, says it might be something as easily-fixed as the spark plugs and a dead battery. He just hasn't had the inclination to deal with it, and now wants to offload it to someone else. He says that it's currently not insured, and he's pretty sure the registration is expired We're certainly not complaining, but since money is a bit tight*, we don't want to start pay for insurance or registration before we have to.

* Obvious question: why are we buying a motorcycle that whose maintenance and fees are a not-insignificant blow to our wallet? Well, the Mrs used to have a motorcycle, has her license, a helmet, etc, and we were already thinking another vehicle might be necessary. (I have a car as well.) A free motorcycle, even with the costs of getting it registered, insured, and a running, was too good an offer to pass up.

TL;DR: will it be okay if this bike sits in front of our house until we get it running, then we insure and register it? It obviously wasn't causing a problem in front of my friend's house, and he even had it parked on the sidewalk. I just figured I'd open it up to the hivemind to see if it's legal (which I doubt), illegal but unlikely to cause a problem, or illegal and likely to have negative consequences.

Please, no "If you can't afford registration and insurance, you can't afford a motorcycle." We can afford it, but we just don't want to pay for that stuff earlier than necessary if the bike isn't rideable.

We're in Philadelphia, PA.

posted by supercres to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
Something to keep in mind - "the most expensive motorcycle is a free one." Someone told me this when I inherited a motorcycle and it turned out to be true.
posted by valeries at 1:28 PM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

I know nothing about the legalities of this situation but trying to beat other responders to this first semi-obvious question:

Can you put it around back instead of out front? Out of sight out of mind.

I'm guessing the papertrail is still going to be an issue, but wouldn't be able to venture a guess on what happens after you sign a bill of sale (which I'm assuming you're doing for some made up amount).
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:29 PM on October 29, 2010

I wouldn't do it if you don't have a garage or at least a driveway. If you park it on the street, you can get a ticket for expired registration. You can also get a ticket for parking on the sidewalk, as well as a million other things. I suppose if you don't live on a major thru-street, and your neighbors don't care, you might get away with it for a time.
posted by cabingirl at 1:30 PM on October 29, 2010

If it is registered, then, in NY, it has to be insured. If it is sitting on private property, it has to be neither registered or insured. Or running. I can say with painful ($$) experience that if it is registered and has no insurance, you can lose your license in NY (not sure about PA) for not having insurance even if you never drive it anywhere. Wait to register it until it is running, but keep it on private property.
posted by AugustWest at 1:31 PM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mrs Supercres here!

I am very interested in motorcycle maintenance as a hobby, so I plan on doing some of the quick fixes myself over the the next year. Thanks for the advice as far as money for maintenance is concerned, but we're not really worried about that. It's not our question.

I think, more clearly, the question is: Can we transfer the title into our name and not get it registered immediately? What are the repercussions of not doing so in the state of Pennsylvania?
posted by two lights above the sea at 1:37 PM on October 29, 2010


No garage, no driveway, unfortunately. To put it on our back patio, it would have to go through the house, and (a) I'm not sure if the bars can fit through the door, and (b) the turn to get from our stoop into the front door would be tough. The closest thing to private property would be putting it on the sidewalk in front of the house, where it wouldn't block foot traffic. For better or worse, from what I've seen, a motorcycle on the sidewalk is a pretty common thing, and we're not in a heavily-trafficked area. This seems to suggest that if it's not blocking pedestrians, it's not a ticketable offense.

valeries: Believe me, that was my first thought too. If it's not a simple fix, we're not going to deal with it. We're not in any rush to get it running, especially if it's going to be expensive.
posted by supercres at 1:39 PM on October 29, 2010

If you're in the city of Philadelphia, and park it on the street, the PPA is going to come by and give you a ticket every single day. I know this because there was a motorcycle with expired registration on my street for a while, and literally every day a new ticket wound up under the bungie cords on the pannier.

I'd wager that there were at least fifty tickets under that bungie cord before the motorcycle disappeared... whether it was impounded, or if the owner retrieved it, I have no idea.

There was a similar situation on my street with a car that had no plates. It sat there for about half a year, in a 4-hour parking zone, and got a new ticket every 4 hours from about 8am to 6pm. It was bad enough that there was a kind of snowdrift of tickets on the windshield. I assume it was eventually towed, 'cause it was thoroughly abandoned.

Don't tempt the PPA. They're hardnosed bastards.
posted by Netzapper at 1:42 PM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Forgot the link. This seems to suggest that if it's not blocking pedestrians, it's not a ticketable offense.
posted by supercres at 1:43 PM on October 29, 2010

This seems to suggest that if it's not blocking pedestrians, it's not a ticketable offense.

This is not true. It is an offense that is usually overlooked, if everything else is fine. But, I've definitely known people who got tickets for parking their motorcycles and scooters on the sidewalk in front of their house--tucked up next to their stoop, even.
posted by Netzapper at 1:44 PM on October 29, 2010

In California you can declare that the vehicle is non-operable and will not be driven; you pay a much lower fee and you don't have to insure the vehicle. Maybe there is a similar option in PA?
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:55 PM on October 29, 2010

This sounds like the kind of thing where you are risking fairly steep penalties (think of the cost of even one ticket, or worse, having it towed) compared to the quite cheap cost of insurance and registration. I think I pay less than $100/year for motorcycle insurance (it might be more like $60/year; it's cheap enough that I don't even know how much it is) and from the PA DOT website the registration fee is something like $18 for a motorcycle. That doesn't address your question of whether you can title an inoperable vehicle in PA without registration and insurance, but it is important math to do before you try and fly under the radar.

My guess is that that bike is going to fairly expensive if you want it running right. At a bare minimum you'll be needing a new battery and a carb cleaning; the brakes may well need some love and attention from sitting so long; you would be extremely smart to replace the tires (the tread depth will be fine, but the rubber is old and hardened, which is bad news on a motorcycle); the fork seals might want some attention; so will the steering bearings; etc. That's just basic maintenance stuff, none of it individually expensive (especially if you do your own work) but it adds up and most of it needs to be done for the bike to be safe to ride.

If there are bigger issues (bad coils, quirky electrical issues, etc), those can be a lot more expensive. Also, don't discount the hassle and expense of dealing with rusted fasteners -- you'll be getting very familiar with your impact driver, screw extractors, Heli-coils, and all the other ways of dealing with fasteners that snap off, round over, or freeze in place.

I'm not trying to be a joy-kill, just pointing out that as was noted above, a free bike can become a lot more expensive than finding a cheap but well-maintained one instead.
posted by Forktine at 2:53 PM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

How about renting a storage locker for it, which will also give you somewhere to work on it, to store your tools, etc. Cheaper than getting a bunch of tickets!
posted by mareli at 3:07 PM on October 29, 2010

Park at a neighbor or friend's place?
posted by Ahab at 7:55 PM on October 29, 2010

Another thing to look at: how long since it's been registered? I know in CA (where I live) you're responsible not only for tags for the current year, but for all prior unpaid years.
posted by mollymayhem at 10:38 PM on October 29, 2010

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