How do Motorcycle Auctions Work?

When it comes to buying and selling motorcycles, people may think they have limited options. “Should I head to the dealership? Or pursue a private sale?” many ask themselves. While these are two effective methods of buying and selling a motorcycle, auctions can be, too.

Motorcycle auctions present unique opportunities to find something rare, or get a deal you wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere. The bidding aspect can be adrenaline-inducing, but it’s important to be prepared going in. Winging it at an auction could land you in a bad deal.

So, how do motorcycle auctions work? Read on to find out!

The Basics

Motorcycle auctions are events where motorcycles are presented to an audience of buyers and then sold to the highest bidder. These auctions provide an alternative platform for people to buy and sell motorcycles. 

Many sellers with vintage or classic models choose auctions to present their motorcycle in front of the right crowd. Bargain hunters often give motorcycle auctions a run because they can offer excellent deals.

There are several different types of auction, each with its own process or focus. We’ll explore a handful of them here.

Live auctions are traditional events where buyers and sellers gather in person at a physical location. Once it begins, an auctioneer presents each motorcycle individually. They call out the starting bid and move the bidding process along until the highest bidder wins the motorcycle. Mecum Auctions host some of the biggest live motorcycle auctions in America.

Online auctions are conducted over the internet. Many allow people from all over the world to participate. The websites that host these auctions provide detailed information and photos for each motorcycle. Some may include video, which is helpful when you’re not able to see the motorcycle in person. Copart is a large online vehicle auction platform that has a focus on motorcycles.

Police auctions are held by law enforcement agencies. They typically feature motorcycles that have been abandoned, confiscated or unclaimed. These auctions can be either live or online.

Salvage auctions specialize in selling motorcycles that have been involved in serious accidents, recovered from thefts, or otherwise carry a salvage title. These motorcycles often need substantial repairs or are used for parts. CrashedToys powersports hosts salvage auctions online, with a physical location that allows shoppers to check out motorcycles before bidding.

The Process


If a seller is bringing a motorcycle to auction, they typically aim to earn top dollar for the item. In order to achieve this, preparation is necessary. 

Ensure the motorcycle is in good condition, and conduct any necessary repairs to get it in order as needed. Original paperwork and maintenance records may increase the motorcycle’s value as well.

The seller then needs to choose an auction platform. This is an important step in order to advertise the motorcycle in front of the right crowd

Researching the different types of auction to see which one suits the seller’s needs is a good first step. Then, see which auction house has the best focus. The choice can often depend on the type of motorcycle being sold, the target audience for the particular motorcycle, and geographical location.

Part of choosing a suitable auction house is understanding its fee structure. Each platform is different, but listing fees, selling commissions and marketing services are possible charges sellers will want to be aware of.

Once the seller has chosen an auction platform, they will provide information about the motorcycle. Standard information such as year, make and model are needed, but this is also a chance to make the motorcycle stand out. 

Add any unique features or modifications the motorcycle has along with any historical significance of the model or what makes it rare. High-quality photos and video are typically required in order to most effectively showcase the motorcycle.

Sellers have the option to place a reserve on their motorcycle when listing it at auction. A reserve is the minimum amount a seller is willing to accept for the item up for sale. If no bids reach this set price, the motorcycle will not be sold.

On auction day, many sellers prefer to follow along with the bidding process online or in person. If the motorcycle is sold, the seller arranges the transfer of ownership and relinquishes the motorcycle to the auction house or the individual buyer.

Once the seller receives the sale proceeds (minus any commission or other agreed-upon fees), they have successfully sold their motorcycle at auction!


People looking to buy a motorcycle at auction usually conduct research prior to bidding on an item. Many have a specific type of motorcycle they are interested in, and will search for upcoming auctions that feature the desired hog. It’s also wise to investigate the current market of the target motorcycle to understand how much it could realistically sell for.

Buyers should become as familiar as possible with the motorcycle they’re after before bidding commences. Many traditional motorcycle auctions offer a viewing period before the auction begins. This gives potential buyers an opportunity to inspect the motorcycle.

Online auction listings typically include detailed information about the motorcycle along with photos, video, and sometimes a third-party condition report. Some potential buyers choose to hire a mechanic to assess a motorcycle’s condition if they’re unable to do so themselves.

In order to participate in the bidding at an auction, buyers must first register with the auction house. At minimum, buyers are required to present valid identification and payment information. Some auction platforms may require a refundable deposit to establish serious bidders.

Auction day can be very exciting for registered participants. Things can move very quickly when a desired item is up for bidding. Setting a maximum bid for yourself before auction day can help prevent you from getting caught up in the excitement. The adrenaline can easily send some buyers to overbid and regret it later.

The winning buyer will pay the auction house according to terms, often immediately after the auction’s conclusion. Some platforms may charge a buyer’s premium on top of the winning bid amount that comes back to the auction house.

If a participant does not win the motorcycle they placed a bid on, they will receive a refund for their deposit.

After payment is exchanged between parties, the necessary paperwork in order to transfer ownership of the motorcycle should be completed. If the buyer participated in an online auction, they may need to coordinate shipping with the seller or auction house.

Once all payments and ownership documents have been finalized, the buyer has successfully purchased a motorcycle at auction!

Pros and Cons of Motorcycle Auctions

Both advantages and drawbacks can be found while buying or selling a motorcycle through an auction. Understanding both these positives and negatives can help influence people in deciding if an auction is the right choice.

The Good

As mentioned at the top, auctions are great opportunities for buyers to find a wide range of motorcycles. From enthusiasts looking for something very specific to collectors eyeing a new addition, an auction lot often has something for every rider.

Competitive pricing is also frequently found at auctions when compared to dealerships and private sales. Smaller auctions can present a great opportunity to strike a deal. On the other hand, larger auctions can help make the atmosphere more exciting.

Motorcycle auctions offer transparency. With the exception of silent auctions, everyone in the room knows what the current bid of the presented motorcycle is. This helps validate the worth and desirability of the item.

For both buyers and sellers, the expedited sale process of auctions can be a big advantage. Private sales can sometimes drag, with negotiations lasting weeks. Some long-awaited deals even fall through completely. This is all avoided with auctions. Many conclude on the same day or within days. The motorcycle immediately goes to the highest bidder at the auction’s close.

The Bad

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of auctions is the “as-is” condition in which the motorcycles are sold. Auctions typically present little to no opportunity for returns or repairs ‘on the house’ after purchase. It’s important for buyers to know what they are bidding on.

However, that can be tough depending on the setup of the auction. Buyers often need to rely on a visual inspection along with information that the auction house provides. For some buyers this may not be enough, as the information provided is not always accurate.

The competitiveness and adrenaline of auctions can lead some people to overbid on a motorcycle. Some participants get so caught up in beating out others that they end up spending more for a motorcycle than they otherwise would have in a different setting. The buyer’s premium that many auction platforms charge will increase the overall cost of a motorcycle, too.

Although the immediate payment requirement can be a positive, it can sometimes be inconvenient for those looking to arrange financing.


Motorcycle auctions present unique opportunities to buy and sell a wide range of motorcycles at fair prices. The rapid pace of an auction can be intimidating to newcomers who may feel rushed to make a decision, and that’s OK. No matter your experience level, preparation and information will help equip you for the best auction experience.

Now that you know more about motorcycle auctions, do you think you’d ever participate in one? Have you in the past? Let us know!

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