How to judge the value of a used motorcycle?
May 3, 2007 1:15 PM   Subscribe

How do I assess the fair value of a used motorcycle?

I'm shopping on craigslist for my first motorcycle. A lot of the bikes on there seem to be priced high relative to the Kelly Blue Book value. When asked, some of the owners claim the premium is based on something like a fancy custom paint job, or the bike being an excellent condition hard-to-find classic. Not sure if I buy this. If the bike is rare and expensive, wouldn't that be factored into the blue book value?

Is there any resource I can use to assess fair value? I know has something called True Market Value (TMV) that spits out a price based on a number of variables. That has been helpful for me in car shopping and selling. Is there a similar resource for motorcycles?

If I can tack on a couple of side questions - What other resources should I be looking at in addition to craigslist? And, would it be worth it to buy a used bike from a dealership? I'm in Seattle if that makes any difference.
posted by jclovebrew to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I think you can more or less through out "fair value" when you're talking about motorcycles.

Motorcycles aren't like cars. They are way more of an emotional investment for their owners. These machines are life to many a rider. Often times, literally. They trust that machine with their life every time they mount it and take it out for a ride. The reality is that a bike is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. So decide on a price you're willing to pay and search for a bike accordingly. Don't let someone else's sentimentality rule your pocket.

You're also buying at the wrong time of year to get a deal, FYI.

Alternatives: Surely Seattle has an AltWeekly, right? Look in there. I bought mine through the Chicago Reader years ago for a very fair price. The seller was the original owner of a 15 year old bike. It was immaculate in every way. I got it for under KBB, etc. Keep looking until you find something you like in your price range.
posted by FlamingBore at 1:26 PM on May 3, 2007

Take a gander at the Used Motorcycle Evaluation Guide, it's the Encyclopedia Britannica of used bike guides.

Then visit NADA Guides' motorcycle page, Kelley Blue Books, and Motorcycle Consumer News, which has used prices as well.

I wouldn't pay extra for "customization," for the simple reason that what mattered to the previous owner doesn't necessarily matter to anyone else. In the real world, customization doesn't "add value." (AFAIK, that's why insurance companies generally don't cover add-ons.)

If you're interested in a specific model, there are tons of enthusiast forums online that are logical places to look for that Honda Dream of your dreams or whatever.

WRT used bikes from dealers, maybe ask local bikers or on Seattle-specific forums which to trust and which not to. Here in NYC, there's one that's so dodgy I wouldn't buy a newspaper from them, let alone a bike.

Happy shopping!
posted by scratch at 1:54 PM on May 3, 2007

Buying a used bike is tough. The hard part is figuring out if the bike has been down (I'd guess about half of the bikes have been dumped), and if they were down whether anything important was damaged.

So, check to see if the forks are straight and if there are any scrapes on the handlebars or sides. If there's rust it should give you pause, but also bargaining power.
posted by spork at 2:14 PM on May 3, 2007

So decide on a price you're willing to pay and search for a bike accordingly. Don't let someone else's sentimentality rule your pocket.

Yup. First know what you want (I'd argue you should even know the model you want, but at the very least know your preferred style of bike and engine size parameters) and how much you're willing to pay for it -- then be prepared to wait. I bought my motorcycle off Craigslist last December, four months after taking the MSF course. Finding the right bike at the right price was worth the wait.

As well as the ones scratch mentioned, Total Motorcycles is a pretty good guide to popular models and realistic pricing.
posted by cog_nate at 2:27 PM on May 3, 2007

Forgot to mention that I generally look at the prices in KBB, NADA, and MCNews and then average it out.
posted by scratch at 3:28 PM on May 3, 2007

So decide on a price you're willing to pay and search for a bike accordingly. Don't let someone else's sentimentality rule your pocket.

Can't say this enough. A lot of people overvalue their bikes, so just ask them if they're willing to come down on price, and if they say no, then say "here's my number, call me if you ever can come lower." But let THEM name a price, and -then- YOU name your price... base your response on the reactions.

OTOH, this is the time of year that's peak bike-buying season right now, and bikes will be priced at a premium accordingly. Buyers who want to sell their 'baby' won't be willing to deal on price because they figure that some other sucker will come in the door and buy it because they GOTTAHAVEIT. is a good resource too, but many of the ads there are at dealerships; I automatically subtract about a thousand dollars when I'm looking at bikes there.

Best place I've found for 'deals' are fliers posted on community bulliten boards at coffee shops and the like.
posted by SpecialK at 5:53 PM on May 3, 2007

something like a fancy custom paint job, or the bike being an excellent condition hard-to-find classic

These features are worth nothing to you, so don't pay any extra for them. You should expect to drop your first bike. If you buy something nice and shiny, it's unlikely that it'll stay that way.
posted by aneel at 8:43 PM on May 3, 2007

Check for leaking fork seals. Check for the steering head (where the handlebars and forks meet the chassis) looking like it's been rewelded or repainted.
posted by wilful at 10:22 PM on May 3, 2007

Second the custom paint job, especially if you don't like it. And hard to find classic is code for expensive to fix.

The best thing you can do when shopping for a bike is take a pal who's a bike mechanic so he can give you an idea of the condition of the bike because even a turd bike can get shined up real purty and can even be coaxed to run nicely for a bit.
posted by fenriq at 10:42 PM on May 3, 2007

2nd-ing if it is your first bike you will probably drop it (and/or sell it within 2 years to upgrade to something bigger) ... so farings and spiffy paint jobs will have little value ... classic is a code word for "parts/servicing are hell" ... limited editions were limited only by the number of people who were going to buy one ... racing bikes attract speeding tickets and high speed telephone poles (and give you a sore arse after a few hours).

Whilst this is a bit personal ... I absolutely loved my first two bikes ... a Kawasaki KH100 was my first bike ... an early 80's single cylinder 100cc 2 stroke ... great to learn on, ran on the smell of an oily rag, easy to fix, when I dropped it I picked it up and kept going (and replaced the rear view mirrors) Cost under $1000 and looked like new (10 years ago)! ... 2nd bike was a BMW R65 ... again early 80's 650cc easy to work on and a pleasure to ride all day (up to 145k/h).
posted by jannw at 2:26 AM on May 4, 2007

You can also look at completed motorcycle auctions on Ebay for bikes in similar condition to what you're interested in.
posted by de void at 9:07 AM on May 4, 2007

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