How to Buy an American Motorcycle Online
Access to the Internet and various communication devices has drastically changed the way people buy motorcycles, especially the more premium brands like Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle. Gone are the days when one would have to drive to a local dealership, pick up a copy of a local newspaper or classifieds book, or drive around town looking for motorcycles for sale in people’s yards.
None of that is necessary anymore. All you have to do is go online and start your search from the comfort of your own home. Buying a motorcycle online provides convenience and a larger selection.
Step 1: Look up Motorcycle Values
Motorcycle prices vary across the country, especially if you are buying a used one.
Once you have an idea of what type of an American motorcycle you would like to buy, you should look up its retail value using Kelley Blue Book, NADA Guides and the ChopperExchange Bike Price Report. When buying from a private seller, you can expect to pay between $500 and $1,000 below Kelley Blue Book’s suggested retail value.
If the motorcycle you are interested in has a lot of custom work or aftermarket parts, the seller may be asking more than what the standard models may be going for. The value of those extra is up to you and the seller.
Step 2: Find Reputable Websites
The Internet can be awesome and scary. It is great for finding motorcycles for sale, if you go to reputable websites and know how to spot the most common online scams. There are 1.8 billion websites in existence today. Many are fraudulent or deceptive in some manner.
You have to make sure that the website you are visiting is reputable, monitors and removes fraudulent listings, offers support, and cares about its user experience. If you come across a motorcycle listing that looks like it is too good to be true, it is most likely a fraudulent listing. You should not engage with the person who created the listing. Instead, you should report it to the owner of the website and the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3).
Not every website is what is appears to be. If you come across a website with lots of motorcycles for sale without telephone numbers and no contact information for the owner of the website, that is a red flag. There are also websites full of extremely cheap and vintage looking American motorcycles. Those are definitely fake. Stay away from them. They often copy motorcycle listings from reputable websites and lower the asking prices to trick people into sending them money.
Motorcycle Classifieds Websites
You can think of these types of websites as the online version of old school newspaper classifieds, except they are way more current, easy to search, have many more features, and offer a much larger selection. Some are free for both buyers and sellers, and some collect listing fees and/or commission from the sellers. ChopperExchange collects a one-time fee and offers sellers three different motorcycle listing options. We do not collect any commission or other fees. We review and confirm every single motorcycle listing on our website to make sure that it is not fraudulent. Buyers have the option to inquire about motorcycle via telephone or online messaging. We also offer email and telephone support to both buyers and sellers. Our website has a niche focus on the American V-twin motorcycle market. We have motorcycle listings from dealers and private sellers throughout the United States.
Auction or E-Commerce Websites
This type of website allows buyers to bid or pay for the motorcycle directly through the website. eBay Motors is a perfect example. Both dealers and private sellers list motorcycles for sale. You can contact the seller to ask questions. Once your bid has been accepted or your payment submitted, you have purchased that motorcycle.
Social Network Marketplaces and Apps
Social networks like Facebook have marketplaces that allow its members to list items for sale. The best feature of such marketplaces is the ability to see the seller’s profile. You can see if he/she is real and if you have friends in common. You should still be careful. People can create fake social media profiles and list fake items for sale. Apps like letgo and OfferUp are also worth trying, but the selection may be limited.
Step 3: Always Ask to Speak on the Phone
Online scammers almost never want to speak on the telephone because they are out of the country or not fluent in English. They have a million excuses. If you come across a motorcycle listing that only allows you to direct message the seller, you should ask for her/his telephone number. Definitely call the seller and ask as many questions as you can to make sure that the motorcycle listing is real. You can ask for additional photos and video of the motorcycle.
Step 4: Know Your Budget and Negotiate
You will notice that motorcycle asking prices are all over the board. Some are reasonable and some are too high, especially in the American V-twin market. You have to know how much you are willing to spend. You also have to negotiate. Almost every asking price is negotiable. It never hurts to ask. The worst thing the seller can say is no. Do not get discouraged if you do hear back from the seller right away. A lot of motorcycle sellers have jobs and cannot reply to inquiries right away. Give them at least 24 hours. You can follow up if you do not hear back within 48 hours.
Step 5: See the Motorcycle in Person
You or someone you trust should make arrangements to see the motorcycle in person before you buy it. This is the best way to see if it matches the online description. You should also ask to test ride it or at least start it to make sure it runs. If the seller is apprehensive about meeting at her/his house, you can offer to meet at a public place, such as motorcycle dealership, bank, or insurance agency. Do not offer to meet at a police station. It may set the wrong tone for the interaction and make the seller feel like it is some type of a police sting.
Step 6: Make Payment Arrangements
Once you are ready to buy the motorcycle, find out what forms of payment are accepted by the seller. Some sellers are very cautions and only accept cash and escrow payments. Others may be willing to take a cashier’s check as long as it is verified by their bank. Before you hand over the money, find out if the seller has the title for the motorcycle and if there are any liens on it. If the motorcycle is not paid off, contact the financing institution directly to find out what is required to pay it off and release the title to you.
Do not only rely on what the seller tells you. Do your own homework. It is better to be safe than sorry. In addition to getting the title, you and the seller should fill out and sign a bill of sale for your own records and vehicle registration. Don’t forget to ask for the motorcycle’s manual, maintenance records and spare key.
Step 7: Arrange Shipping, if Needed
If you are unable to ride or pick up your newly purchased motorcycle, you will need a reputable shipping company to transport it. Make sure to find a shipper that specializes in transporting motorcycles. Such shippers have special crates to make sure that the motorcycle does not get damaged. The shipping cost for most motorcycles is between $500 and $1,000. The seller sometimes pays the shipping fee, or it is split two ways. That is another thing that can and should be negotiated. ChopperExchange recommends three different motorcycle shipping options for our buyers and sellers, but there are many other ones out there. Always look them up online and read their reviews.
Step 8: Register and Insure the Motorcycle
Once you have taken possession of your newly purchased motorcycle, you will need to register it with your local DMV, insure it, transfer the title to your name, and pay any sales tax (if applicable). Once that is done, you are on your way. This is when the fun begins! Don’t forget to take lots of pictures of your new ride and show it off on social media. If you buy a motorcycle on ChopperExchange, most definitely tag us in your social media posts and use our hashtag, #ChopperExchange.
Let Us Help
If you have questions about any step of the motorcycle buying process, we are here to help. We have heard it all over the years and can answer any question you may have.