The Tough Art of Selling Used Motorcycles

December 29, 2023 | By Mike Seate

Much has been written online as of late concerning the difficulties involved in selling used streetbikes. For years, proffering pre-owned machines was relatively simple; you placed an ad with, eBay or Facebook Marketplace and soon thereafter, offers came rolling in. And not just offers to buy your motorcycle, but legitimate offers from punters genuinely interested in your machine. Those days seem to have vanished faster than a Nigerian prince seeking investment partners as the most popular Internet selling sites seem to have all been overrun by scammers, hustlers and far too many people more interested in daydreaming about owning a motorcycle than actually buying one.

Frequently, we hear from CRM readers frustrated by the lack of sincere contact received though online ads, many fo which, like eBay, have pretty much ceased to function as designed. Take a look at the current crop of cafe racers posted for sale at the once popular site and most of these bikes have been listed multiple times, each posting costing the owners sizable money without soliciting any legitimate offers.

Instead of offers, each listing is awash in admiring “watchers” a strange, peanut gallery of people apparently without the means or wherewithal to bust a move.

It appears that what few actual cash-in-hand buyers still frequent eBay are determined to pay sellers only a fraction of the worth of their motorcycles. We suspect these are mostly motorcycle dealership owners and professional importers/exporters whose business revolves around buying low and re-selling at a profit. Initiate an advanced search on eBay and you’ll notice a disturbing trend; what few motorcycles actually do sell, seldom do so at anywhere near fair market value, with the community of would-be buyers united in an unspoken pledge to never pay more than $3,000 for a machine, regardless of actual worth.

CRM pal Adam Bowser of Pittsburgh’s MOTO PGH has sold over 500 (!) refurbished Japanese cafe customs through the site, but has told us his inventory enjoys a steady turnover because each bike costs just around the magic $3,000 price cut-off. “I’ve tried to do Nortons and a couple of BMW’s, but people buying on eBay just won’ pay any more than three grand,” he said.

And while there’s nothing wrong with that business model, it’s just another factor making the once-pleasurable art of selling off a used motorcycle an unnecessarily arduous process at best.

And it’s not just eBay that’s suffered.

A popular Instagram meme making the rounds these days is designed as “a video version of Facebook Marketplace” and depicts a fellow approaching the video camera on a small, two-wheeler asking “is the motorcycle still available?” before riding away without waiting for an answer. Our own resident Norton Guru Nick Coumos decided earlier this year to unload several of the classic British bikes in his collection on FBM, only to find them nearly unmarketable in today’s swampy market waters. “The contacts were either scammers working from overseas or people offering me pennies on the dollars,” Nick says.

So what’s a rider holding onto some choice machinery to do. Well, for our part, we’re shipping a few motorcycles to Las Vegas for the upcoming Mecum Las Vegas Motorcycle Suction. The event is held at the end of each January at the South Point Hotel and Casino and draws in over 1,500 classic and custom bikes – in addition to thousands of serious motorbike collectors and buyers who have better things to do with their time than “watch” on-scree images of motorcycles they’ll never actually buy. Better yet, the auctions provide a great sense of community for rare and unusual motorcycle enthusiasts (that’s the bikes, mot the buyers!) and there’s always an entertaining, thrilling atmosphere as specific machines roll onstage and the bidding escalates.

Maybe someday the ability to sell used bikes online will return t normal, but I wouldn’t bet my Google stock on it. Until then, roll up your used bikes and head to Vegas- you won’t have to list your bike more than once here.