How to Buy a Motorcycle Out of State
The Internet has changed everyone’s shopping habits. It has broadened most people’s shopping horizons. Hours of operations and distance don’t have the same effect as they did years ago. This is also true when buying a motorcycle. Shoppers have access to motorcycles for sale that are sometimes many states away.
Online shopping is super convenient and enjoyable for most people. It’s also risky when the items are located far away. It’s scary to purchase an item you haven’t seen in person, especially when it’s a high ticket item like a motorcycle.
We’ve all heard horror stories of shady online sellers who defraud honest shoppers and are tough to find once they take the money. While fraud has been happening since the beginning of time, the Internet has made it easier for fraudsters to target more people. Online scammers wouldn’t be so persistent if their efforts were not paying off.
Things can get a bit more complicated when the item you’re buying is located far away. During the last 15 years of helping people buy and sell motorcycles, we’ve heard many questions about what to do when you want to buy a motorcycle located in another state.
The most important thing is to speak to the seller via telephone. It’s a red flag if they only want to communicate via text messages and claim not to have access to a phone. Something’s up. You should cease your communication at that point.
If you do speak to the seller via telephone, you should always ask the following questions:
How many people have owned the motorcycle?
Ask if the seller is the original owner. If not, how many other people have owned the motorcycle. Ask when and where the motorcycle was purchased.
Has the motorcycle ever been dropped or involved in an accident?
It’s important to find out if the motorcycle has any damage and how it was damaged. How serious is the damage? Ask the seller to send photos and videos of the damage. You can also purchase a VIN report from companies like CarFax to learn more about the motorcycle’s history. The cost is around $40.
Does the seller have a title for the motorcycle? Are there any liens on the title?
Has the motorcycle been paid off or is the seller still making payments? If it’s been paid off, the seller most likely has the title. The title still can have a lien on it, which will need to be satisfied before you can take ownership of the motorcycle.
How often has the motorcycle been maintained?
Ask if a local dealership did regular maintenance on the motorcycle. The seller may have maintenance logs, which you can request to see. If the seller did the maintenance, ask for receipts or any other available evidence. Don’t forget to ask what type of maintenance has been performed. For example, it’s a red flag if a fairly new motorcycle has had serious repairs. Ask about the condition of the tires.
Is there a photo or video footage of the current odometer reading?
It’s better to be safe than sorry. Ask the seller to send you a photo or video of the current mileage reading to make sure it matches the online listing. If there is a discrepancy, ask why. You should also ask for a video of the seller starting the motorcycle and letting it run for 30-60 seconds.
Is there another way the seller can prove possession of the motorcycle?
You can ask the seller to take a picture of a specific item next to the motorcycle and send it to you. For example, you can ask them to take a picture standing next to the motorcycle while holding a sheet of paper with something specific written on it.
Go See the Motorcycle or Have It Inspected
Seeing is believing. You should always see the motorcycle and test ride it before you buy it. A lot of people fly or drive a rented car to see a motorcycle in another state, and then ride it back home. If that’s not an option for you, you can pay a dealership in the seller’s area to inspect the motorcycle for you and let you know if it matches the seller’s description.
We recommend that you reach out to the dealership directly instead of asking the seller to make the arrangements. That way you will have a direct relationship with the dealer inspecting the motorcycle. You can explain what your concerns are and also get the dealer’s honest assessment of the motorcycle.
Read the dealer’s online reviews (Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc.) before you contact them. The last thing you want is to deal with a shady dealer who’s not looking out for your best interest. Read both the good and bad reviews, and the dealer’s responses to those reviews. That will allow you to have a fuller understanding of what the dealer is like.
Get all the Necessary Documents
Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in the state where the motorcycle is located to find what documentation you’ll need to purchase and register the motorcycle. You’ll most likely need a bill of sale, proof that the title has been signed over to you, motorcycle’s VIN, and current odometer reading. You’ll be granted a temporary registration, which you’ll have to convert into a permanent one in your home state.
If you prefer to ship the motorcycle and register it at your local DMV, you can do that as well. Just contact them ahead of time to find out what is required. If you’re buying a motorcycle from a dealership, they will be able to take care of this step at their store. You will not need to go to the DMV.
Consider Using a Broker
As more people are buying cars and motorcycles across state lines, brokers who represent buyers are becoming more popular. They represent your interest during the motorcycle buying process. According to Edmonds, brokers charge a flat fee that ranges between $200 and $1,000.
The fee amount should never be a percentage of the total price of the motorcycle. That would potentially tempt the broker to want you to spend more in order to earn a higher service fee. The broker’s service fee should be disclosed to you before you even hire them. Do some research to make sure that the person you’re hiring has a good reputation.
Use an Escrow Service.
Most motorcycles are pretty expensive. It’s important to make sure that your money is protected and that you aren’t buying a lemon. Using an escrow service is one of the best ways to protect your money. It’s also the safest option for the seller.
One of the more popular online escrow services is Escrow.com. They are headquartered in California. Escrow services are not free. The fee amount depends on the amount of the total transactions. For example, the service fee on a $15,000 transaction is $188.50.
Hire a Shipping Company
If you’re unable to go get the motorcycle, there are a lot of motorcycle shipping companies that can do it for you. They have the special crates and equipment to safely transport motorcycles. A less specialized shipping company may not have the necessary tools and is more likely to damage the motorcycle.
The average motorcycle shipping fee is around $500. You can even ask the seller to split it with you since you’re located in a different state and unable to travel to pick up the motorcycle yourself. Most sellers are reasonable and will gladly split the shipping cost with you.
Listen to Your Gut Instinct
If your gut is telling you that something is too good to be true, it probably is. Most too good to be true deals are usually online scams. If someone is selling a vintage Harley for $2,000, it’s probably not real.
If you’re getting negative vibes when talking to seller, it’s probably the best idea to walk away. There will always be more motorcycles to be bought. It’s better to play it safe with your money and not risk getting involved in a shady situation.
Buying a motorcycle located in another state can be safe. It may also be the only way to get a rare motorcycle. Sometimes, it’s the best deal in terms of money. Some people even buy motorcycles located in other countries. The most important part is to do your homework and not skip important steps. If you follow all of the suggestions mentioned in this post, you should be well on your way.
Of course, if there is anything we’ve missed, please let us know in the comments. It would help others who may be thinking about buying a motorcycle located outside of their home state.